yoga dorc

life and times of a modern day yogini (named dorcas)


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Smile at Fear

” When you are frightened by something, you have to relate with fear, explore why you are frightened, and develop some sense of conviction. You can actually look at fear. Then fear ceases to be the dominant situation that is going to defeat you. Fear can be conquered. You can be free from fear, if you realize that fear is not the ogre. You can step on fear, and therefore you can attain what is known as fearlessness. But that requires that, when you see fear, you smile.”

Chogyam Trungpa


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4 months in a minute.

Time has evaporated.

Middle august – middle december, just gone.

Solo parenting 3 kids at home full time in a pandemic is a bit like a game of wack-a-mole. Hit the rising problem then on to the next one.

Always alert. Never resting.

I hope I look back on this time and think, ‘wow, that was crazy.’

Because right now, I can barely think.

Let alone write.

Contemplation, I miss you.


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Hips Don’t Lie

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what happens when i try to get on my mat

There is a reason I haven’t been doing much yoga asana (postures) lately.

I could say its because I don’t have time because it’s a pandemic and I’m covered in kids all day everyday.  Which is true.

I could say its because I am filling any ‘spare’ non-kid time trying to save small business (and my salary) from being eaten by the pandemic shut down. Which is true.

I could say its because I’m working a double shift everyday and I’m tired.  Which is true.

But that’s not why I’m not doing yoga (asana).  I’ve been making time for my practice every single day, come hell or high water, for almost a decade.  There is always a way.

The truth is, it just hurts.  And it reminds me of what hurts.  And I am afraid to feel that part of me right now.

The rigors of the daily life of a mother, let alone a solo mother, are busy.  The life of an entrepreneur are also busy.  And I generally handle busy well.  I’m a busy body.  It’s a great escape.  A (bad) habit I’ve been raising my awareness to and curbing for decades.

Stillness, on the other hand, is a portal to whatever is real.  And what is real has both edges.  The edge of deep joy and bliss and its counterpart, suffering, grief, pain, loss, sadness. Love and fear.

For decades, yoga has been relative stillness for me. It has been my portal to what is real.

And I say relative stillness because when you are a busy body, a vigorous vinyasa practice is stillness.  As I’ve shed that busy-body part of me, and stopped running from feeling, my practice has slowed as well.  The stillness has become more still. The access to real takes less vinyasa’s, less miles, less digging, less sweating.

Now, when I drop into my body, its just real.

For the most part, me and my body have had a good run. Its been fit, strong, nimble and quick for 40 years.  Thanks to my parents, I’ve been in physical arts since I was 6.  Whatever I’ve thrown at this body, it could physically handle.  Karate tournaments, soccer, running, diving, navy seal training, rock climbing, rollerblading, diving, ice hockey, anything.  I was a decent athlete.  Not a star, but I was always in training and could always hang with anything physically and process the challenge.

But little did I know that throwing emotions and emotional triathlons at your body also requires training and processing.  But instead of processing emotions in a healthy way,  I just (unconsciously) decided to open a little self storage unit, a locker, where I stuff my emotions.  All of them –  joy, excitement, conflict, grief, sadness, anger, injustice.  The self storage center is called ‘my hips.’  Its a five star facility.  Really secure. Easy to fill up and kind of forget about until its overflowing.

Mine started overflowing in high school.  A snap and pop here, a pulled muscle there and the beginning of the instability and chronic pain.

But I lived by a some (misunderstood) Navy Seal (maybe Marines?) quote.

“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

I was so invested in this philosophy, I made it one of my senior yearbook quotes.  My body did what my brain told it to do.  It was not a two way message system.  There was no listening to my body unless it told me to workout, eat more pasta or study longer so I could run faster, bench press more and get straight A’s. The more pain, the better.

But, there were subtle lessons.  Athletics was also responsible to some degree for introducing me to the holistic approach to vitality and success. Coaches and athletes know it isn’t just about the body – its a mind, body, spirit package.   And the (athletic) system pushes to keep the human at peak performance.

In preparation for a big game or a tournament, athletes prep for the call to warrior action.  Contemplation, mind clearing, pre-game stretching, getting with your team, do some ra-ra-re-ing, praying even.  Then you go into battle (against yourself or others).  The body contracts, sweats, fights, flees, does its thing.  Then after, you take time to re-hydrate, stretch, get a massage, have a little post game review, maybe even thank your team or god for the support.

Yesterday, my 7 year old daughter and I were in the middle of Costco. A huge warehouse of stuff, stuff and more stuff and people with carts. And now, masked people armed with carts.  I hadn’t noticed my heavy breathing or my stupidly, not calm pace until my daughter nearly pleaded with at me in an concerned tone:

“Mom, why is everyone is a hurry?!”

I paused and everything whooshed by.  Literally.  People pushed past in all directions, stuff went flying off shelves.  Things went a little blurry and I was left with a zoomed out view of this chaos.  It was weird.

And assaulting on my nervous system for sure!  When did grocery shopping become like a war zone?

It seems like the pace of everyday-life as a grown up is a bit like the once in a while big-game or tournament day of adolescence.  At least my nervous system thinks so.  I feel like this grown-up body needs a pre-game and post game routine for every day life.

I guess this is why I’ve been pulled to a daily yoga practice.  For 20+ years its been an all in one stop – pre and post game for me.  It shifted a little after having 3 kids.  I didn’t have quite as much time, and my physical body has been shared with 3 other humans for so long between birthing and breastfeeding, and bed sharing that I’ve been leaning more heavily on a 30 minute daily meditation practice to get me by.  I always thought I’d ‘get back to a daily asana practice when my life opened back up – you know, when your kids go to school. But no, thank you covid-19, life is not at all more spacious.

But my achy, extra padded, extra saggy, over 40, over tired body wants (to want) more asana.

And yet, I’m avoiding it.

It hurts more than ever.  I find a tired mom in there. A painful old joint or two.   A sad (almost-x) wife.  A distraught citizen. A worried employer.  But, if I’m honest, what I also find in there is a victim, a judger –  those insidious, pervasive, eroding, subtle forces of psychological nature that will take me down.

And, I’ve surrendered.  I’ve let it take me down for a while. About a year really.  I fallen into long yin or restorative yoga sessions (with a weekly vigorous one thrown in for good measure).  Or even more yin in nature,  I love to lay on a table and receive bodywork or acupuncture instead. Someone else, moving my body (or my energy) for me.  How much more passive (and delightful) can it get?!

Perhaps too much studying, learning and investigation about trauma and how it lives in the body has given me loads of permission to be still in this time.

“How many mental health problems, from drug addiction to self-injurious behavior, start as attempts to cope with the unbearable physical pain of our emotions? If Darwin was right, the solution requires finding ways to help people alter the inner sensory landscape of their bodies. Until recently, this bidirectional communication between body and mind was largely ignored by Western science, even as it had long been central to traditional healing practices in many other parts of the world, notably in India and China. Today it is transforming our understanding of trauma and recovery.”
― Bessel A. van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

Bidirectional communication you say? Yes, that’s what I’m working on when I’m flopped in pigeon pose on my yoga mat for an extremely long time, sitting on my couch meditating or laying on a massage table.  All of these practices help me ‘alter the inner sensory landscape.’   I’m not asleep.  I’m listening.  Looking. Witnessing.  Feeling.

Mostly this work is done alone, but I find it infinitely more potent (and scary) to do with another human being.  A skilled practitioner that can hold space in a movement (or stillness) practice to help untangle some of the faulty wiring in my bidirectional communication system.  And just to be seen during this exposure can be deeply healing.  Bessel van der Kolk talks about what ‘we hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.’  Apparently, the science shows that we, as humans, need to be SEEN (by an empathetic witness) to help move trauma through the body.

I find that piece phenomenal  –   that I need another human to process my own shit.  That being ‘in relationship’ is hardwired into our biological needs to thrive.

And I’m not talking about being seen, or ‘liked’ on social media, or even blogging.  Thats all calculated, protected, one way vulnerability.   And I don’t think any of those people in Costco were ’empathetic witnesses’ to ‘see’ that my daughter and I were being traumatized behind our masks as we got herded through the aisles.  And I don’t think I’m even brave enough to be that exposed with some of my closest friends.  That vulnerability piece that Brene Brown has brought to the world’s attention is always easy in theory, hard in practice.

Anyway, the yoga alone on my mat is a primer for the intimacy in relationship. The sharing, the exposure that comes in a tandem therapy session, a deep connect with a girlfriend or partner and for me, many a ‘trainings’ and ‘groups’ have brilliant capacity to create space for being witnessed.

Obviously, I’ve come to the soft side.  I hear you hips. I see you pain. I’m listening.

AND, there is space in my physche to still like a little hard core go-getter like author David Goggins. He sings the song of the good old fashioned notion that a dose of daily suffering makes us stronger.

“It’s a lot more than mind over matter. It takes relentless self discipline to schedule suffering into your day, every day.” David Goggins

We can embrace the suck. Yes. We. Can.  But it doesn’t ONLY have to come in the form of ultra-marathon running. It can come in the form of bubbling over tears in pigeon pose or the awkward exposure of a vulnerable sharing.

My grown up choice for yearbook quote might be something more inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt. Not the ‘do one thing that scares you everyday,’ quote that isn’t her, but this expanded version.

In 1960 Eleanor Roosevelt published “You Learn by Living” with a chapter titled “Fear—the Great Enemy” in which she discussed the problems she experienced due to her excessively fearful temperament: 8

Fear has always seemed to me to be the worst stumbling block which anyone has to face. It is the great crippler. Looking back, it strikes me that my childhood and my early youth were one long battle against fear.

As she matured Roosevelt consciously attempted to reduce her fears by successfully accomplishing tasks that caused her apprehension: 9 10

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.

You are able to say to yourself, “I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”

The danger lies in refusing to face the fear, in not daring to come to grips with it. If you fail anywhere along the line it will take away your confidence. You must make yourself succeed every time. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

So there it is.  I must do the thing I think I cannot do.  Somedays I do not think I can still, so I go sit in my little meditation spot and face the stillness.  Right now, I do not think I can bear the idea of moving quickly around the yoga mat, drill sergeant style, but I will go.  This weekend, I will go to 4 yoga classes and make up for lost time.  I’ll start with Gentle, run thru a Slow Flow on Saturday, peak at Power Hour on Sunday morning and cap it off with Restorative in the afternoon.

But above all, I will listen to my hips. They do not lie.

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Now Is The Time…

now is the time

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country…

It was 1991.  Inside our 24′ Prowler Travel Trailer house I sat at the kitchen table that turned into my bed and typed that sentence over and over and over and over and over again.  Nearly a century before, in January 1889, Frank E. McGurrin, an expert on the early Remington typewriter, used it in demonstrating his touch typing abilities.  Now, it’s offered as common drill when learning to type.

The sentence was meaningless to me at the time.  Just a goal. Letters to type faster.  But today, it landed with a thud and inspired dormant (or just scared) citizenship and activism in me.

My 10 year old daughter is ever at the root of so many awakenings and she has a small role here too.  She abandoned her ‘own’ room in favor of moving into my room recently.  It’s regression by all normal standards, but we have had the smoothest bedtimes in years.  So I surrender.  We need each other.  Fuck the judgement.  We are living our best life and going where the love is.

As a result, we now have a spare small room.  Which I delighted in claiming.   I moved in

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a little loveseat, a weighted blanket, soft pillows and voila.  It’s a serene quiet calm room bathed in natural light, fresh air and inspiration.  I’ve found myself there early every morning doing my meditation and devotions and if the kids are still sleeping, the inspiration to write is spilling out. There’s a tiny writing desk in the corner, in perfect view from my loveseat perch. After sitting one morning, I stared at that spot and it begged to be a little inspirational ‘writing’ vignette.  The interior designer in me got right up and grabbed the old Smith Corona Typewriter we discovered at the Goodwill six months ago that the kids have tired of.  I placed it in the vignette, loaded in a sheet of fresh white paper and instinctively pounded out ‘Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country‘ to test it out.

Whoa.  Seeing the faded typewritten letters on the white paper gave me pause.  My past, this unprecedented moment in time now and our collective future collided together.

Now   is   the    time    for    all    good    men    to    come    to    the    aid    of    their country. 

Could that be any more relevant?  Now in 2020.

I’ve been living out of America for the past 6 years.  Abroad in a far flung country.  And coming home has been a great pleasure.  I love it here.  So much comfort, ease, familiarity, freedom and opportunity for me. As a white middle class woman, I am safe and free.  Even without a husband.

But I’m also horrified by the degradation of civility in public affairs.  Horrified by the hypocrisy of our leadership. Horrified by the health care system. Horrified by the mental health and addiction crisis that seems to be unnoticeable to most. Horrified by the profound level of consumerism and generally shocked by the sheer quantity of products, services and information available, but the lack of transparency and unbiased truth and guidance.  Horrified that so much of modern life has no contact with the natural world at all.  Surprised by the weak public academic curriculum and resources.  I’ll stop there.

Maybe I’m being super judgmental.  Maybe I’m suddenly awake because my kids are old enough to be impacted by this.  Maybe I’m spoiled by living like an expat for 6 years. Or maybe, I should be horrified.

From a distance, it all seemed like a funny little phase America was going through, but inside here is a joke.  It’s a fucking mess.  A bunch of self absorbed narcissist wackos in pretty powerful positions playing some kind of game with the plastic zombie people. The general direction we seem to be headed all around is deeply saddening when I think about how I to raise my kids.  But the worst, is how I’ve just gotten sucked right back into all of it, and been complacent, in the year I’ve been home, or better yet, for the past 20 years.  Shame on me.

It all sounds especially harsh, as I see it on paper. The outer and inner critique.  I’m tempted to delete it.  Veil my opinion more gently and be nicer.  The need to please is strong.

I clearly vacillate between being grateful for what is and expecting more.  I think the ‘expecting something more is useful at times.  And I know I can’t be alone with the bubbling under the surface of disgust.  And the challenges are so big and so complex and run so many generations deep that the band-aid reactionary short term gain style of fixing things is making everything worse. 

I just want to scream.  Again, I usually veer toward peace and settle for just shaking my head and saying I don’t know.  But I feel disgusted with myself now!

I’ve heard myself say out-load in conversation, that “I just don’t know WHAT to do.”  But that’s not really all that true.  It’s just another escape.  A way to bury my head in another book, or article about what is happening. Any way to keep the inquiry going on longer so I can avoid what is necessary.

What is necessary is to be exposed.  Not that my voice needs to be in the mix so much as my skin needs to be in the game.  And that’s scary.

I was selectively mute as a child.  I’m not now, but there is a deep river of fear that runs in me. Some deep conditioning that keeps me quite.

For my whole life I’ve had this experience of being talked AT, not with or to. Mostly men, but women too.  So often, I’ve had the experience of being underestimated (and using it to my advantage often). I usually just politely nod and listen.

I was about 8 or 9.  My father sat me down one day to tell me about being a ‘follower’ and how that was dangerous.  From his perspective, I was a follower.  His voice droned on and on as I gazed past the window to the landscape beyond.  I had just come in from playing with my friend in the sandbox.  I was running THE sandbox restaurant for God’s sake. He had no idea how bossy I was.  Inside my head, I was thinking: you have no idea, do you?

Being a good listener was revered and I was quick to note that compliance wins in my household.  And that worked for the most part and even seemed to be rewarded, so I carried on.

“Girls and women…want to be liked. We want to be trusted. so we downplay our strengths to avoid threatening anyone and avoiding distain. We do not mention our accomplishments. We do not accept compliments. We temper, qualify and discount our opinions. We walk without swagger and yield incessantly. We step out of the way. We say, ‘I feel like’ instead of ‘I know.’ We ask if our ideas make sense instead of assuming they do. We apologize for everything.”  Untamed, by Glennon Doyle

I had a friend in middle school. She was popular, wore makeup and had sex way before I ever did.  She was in public high school.  I was homeschooled.  We met at the karate studio a couple times a week.  When I confided in her that I wanted to go to public school, she laughed at me.  Then her friend, who was also in public high school joined the assault.  They assured me I would have SUCH a hard time.  Socially and academically.   They made faces and were sarcastic and condescending.  I played along.  I allowed them to explain to me all the reasons why it was so hard.  Inside my head, I was thinking: you people have no idea.  A few years later, I was a straight-A, honor society student with no problem making friends.

As a female entrepreneur for over 20 years, the frequency with which I play clueless or dumb is utterly embarrassing.  The amount of mansplaining I’ve sat doe eyed for is nauseating.   The times I’ve bitten my tongue entirely or presented my thoughts as a timid question is innumerable.  How often do I take responsibility for something that I know damn well was not mine just to keep the peace?  Every single day.

I’m outed now.  And its embarrassing.

“Playing dumb, weak and silly is a disservice to yourself and to me and to the world. Every time you pretend to be less than you are, you steal permission from other women to exist fully. Don’t mistake modesty for humility. Modesty is a giggly lie. An act. A mask. A fake game. We have no time for it. ”  Untamed, Glennon Doyle

So, really this is just a pep talk to myself and anyone like myself.  Being mute at this point, selectively or not, is not an option.  Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. 

“I was diagnosed with selective mutism. That basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary. Now is one of those moments.” — Greta Thunberg, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, in her TEDx Talk Stockholm, November 2018[1

Not that we all have the gift to be an activist like Greta Thunberg and talking isn’t so much required as just doing the work.   I’ve been a staunch advocate for the inner work for years. I tell myself that counts.

“Modesty is a learned affectation. You don’t want modesty, you want humility.  Humility comes from the inside out. ” Maya Angelou

On health.  My nervous system and my immune system are my responsibility.  And so are my children’s.  If we can’t fight off basic germs, we are super screwed.  If we can’t regulate our nervous system under stress, we will be dis-eased before we know it.  So, there is that.  Much of my work is in feeding my mind, body and spirit (and my children’s) exceptional nourishment.  This is a long game.  We need stamina.  We need steadiness in the face of despair.  Stamina and steadiness come from within.

matthew 7-12On religion, spirituality and divinity.  Do to others what you would have them do for you. That sums it up for me.  Putting this into practice is always the work.

On race and racism.  I honestly don’t know and this is new inner work for me.  I like the work of Resmaa Menakem.  He is a Trauma therapist and author of ‘My Grandmother’s Hands‘ talks honestly and directly about the historical and current traumatic impacts of racism in the U.S., and the necessity for us all to recognize this trauma, metabolize it, work through it, and grow up out of it. Only in this way will we at last heal our bodies, our families, and the social body of our nation. So, I’ve read the book and am in a white-body-supremecy group to help unravel the bits that lie in me.  I also like the heady approach of Sam Harris – Podcast #207, Can We Pull Back from the Brink?  That one proposes quite a few uncomfortable suggestions that we are falling into a trap of hysteria and hype and by giving racism so much attention, we are validating its existence.

On Parenting. Beyond helping them build good physical, mental and emotional habits, I  think my job is to keep my kids awake and aware.   To have a good childhood filled with generous amounts of play and the luxuries we are privy too, but not shielded from their own suffering or the suffering of others.

So great job Dorcas.  You do a lot of inner work.  Lots of mindful contemplation.  But today,  I can see thats not enough. Or maybe it’s served it’s purpose AND its time to advocate.

Ibram X. Kendi—the number one New York Times–bestselling author of How to Be an AntiracistStamped from the Beginning, and Antiracist Baby—is a historian of change and speaks on the Goop Podcast about Building An Antiracist World about this.

“(It’s important for people to) recognize we need transformed people in order to transform the society.  Its critically important that we do do the personal work, but only so we can clearly see the problems, only so that we can clearly see the origins of those problems. only so we can see the policy and powerful forces that have caused those problems.”

I still can’t see the problem with perfect clarity.  But I do see part of it and that lies with me.  The inner work is never done, the activism and citizenship is like that too.  It’s never done.  Living in community with other humans has responsibility to oneself and one another.

I have been staring at this quote for many, many years.  It moves me every time I read it. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking and being ruled by fear.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love

Thank you Ivy for needing to sleep in my room. It freed up space our home for a quiet space to create and birth and connect dots.  Thank you boredom in 1991 for forcing me to learn to type.  Thank you mother for being a closet writer the fastest typer ever.  Thank you typing for helping me free my muted soul.  And thank you life for being so good to me.

I have no idea what I will do with this awareness and willingness to participate more in outward work, citizenship and activism, but if it is meant to be, the work will arrive.  Did you hear that universe?  I am open.

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I will not steal your boredom.

dorcas' ipad dump october 2015 282

Dear Children of Mine,

This will not be a popular or well received proclamation. Not now anyway.

I am not afraid of your discomfort. I will not rush to relieve you of all of your suffering.  Some, yes.  But not all.

Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I cannot feel your pain, or boredom in this case, but I will not be easily swayed to make it go away.

I’m pretty convinced Being Bored can be Good for You, just like this senior psychology lecturer suggests.  And that Boredom is a Cauldron of Creativity as suggested by author Nancy Blakey.

I want you to create, imagine, come up with inventive, even messy ways to engage in life. I want you to manage your emotions when you are bored to tears, not by complaining you are bored, running to the snack drawer, pestering your sibling or zoning out on a screen. You’ll have to find something to do.  There is a closet full of junk to turn into crafts, toys for days, the great outdoors, loads of books and jeez, the best thing, that space inside your head that allows imagination!

But research also suggests boredom may not inspire creativity in ALL people.  There are indeed certain types of people that tend to respond better to periods of boredom than others and there is a common belief that some people tend to ‘get into trouble,’ if allowed to be bored.

I’ve seen this happen.  Plenty of sibling harassment rises from the depths of boredom.

“We are rightfully fearful of boredom and its negative consequences. Too much time and money, little purpose, and boredom are a lethal combination.”

Nancy Blakey, parent educator and author

So I will remain vigilant.  I will keep my eye on you, my children.  This too will not be well received in phases of your life, but i’m committed to talking to you, listening to you, spending time with you and paying attention to you so I can see how that boredom lands.

I know this is possible – to survive boredom.  I didn’t have TV growing up. No Nintendo, no cell phones for sure.  We played in the dirt and my mother took us to the library a lot.  And lucky for us, she is still championing creative play and live connection as our Nana.  She sent me this wonderful article, full of suggestions for what TO DO when you kids says, “Mom, i’m bored!”

I love the idea of a Boredom Buster Jar! Having your kids come up with ideas of things they can do when the boredom strikes.  Here’s a supportive list of age-by-age guide to screen-free activities to keep children under the age of ten busy, with minimal supervision from you.

But the struggle is real.  The outside forces many.  A long summer ahead plus a long pandemic as a lead in doesn’t make this easy on kids or parents.  The omnipresence of technology is ever tempting.  This could be the kind of proclamation that gets totally lost in the dog days of summer, or well before.  Perhaps that is partly why I’m writing it down.  To give myself reinforcement.

It’s birthday season in our house.  Everyone child wants technology.  They all pine for their own phones.  Lots of their friends have phones.  There is real pressure from everywhere for this endless (or limited) access to the internet.  It is veiled as a ‘need,’ for safety.  A need to connect with friends and family without any effort at all.  I am wary.

“We’re trying to swipe and scroll the boredom away, but in doing that, we’re actually making ourselves more prone to boredom, because every time we get our phone out we’re not allowing our mind to wander and to solve our own boredom problems,” Mann says, adding that people can become addicted to the constant dopamine hit of new and novel content that phones provide. “Our tolerance for boredom just changes completely, and we need more and more to stop being bored.” 

Dr. Sandi Mann, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K. Mann is the author of The Upside of Downtime: Why Boredom Is Good 

Not only am I wary,  but I’m not sure what NEED it actually solves besides making my life easier as a parent.  Which, don’t get me wrong, matters.  I love the freedom screens afford me.  I can almost forget I have kids.  I can work, take a bath in quiet, do yoga, think in peace.

And there are PLENTY of high quality screen time activities that are awesome.  Entertaining brilliant movies, educational apps, inspirational stories, good video games, etc.  And we have those.

And it might also be a good place to proclaim that this isn’t a critique on kids that watch a lot of screen time or parents that have good results with it.  It could just be my kids.

But the hell that follows a screen binge in my house makes me question if any amount of screens is worth it.  The transition from the stimulation of screens to the doldrums of real life are too painful for kids.  Their poor little brains are in withdraw. It not rational or reasonable and there are always tantrums.

Furthermore, our whole lives start to revolve around SCREEN TIME.   It becomes the currency with which we live our lives.  The barrage of question like this never end:

“When am I going to get screen time?’

“I didn’t get enough screen time.”

“How can I earn more screen time?”

“I should have more screen time because the internet was slow.”

and on and on and on.

They often try to make the argument that if I just let them watch as much as they wanted they would get tired of it.  NOPE.  I’ve never seen the bottom of it.  Not on 15 hour plane flights, not on long weekends with no limits, not ever.

What I get instead, is kids that hold their pee, sneak shitty snack food in front of the device or eat a super fast meal so they can get back to their screens, shirk all responsibilities and turn into zombies that can never fall asleep at the right time of night.  And whenever I take a responsible look over their shoulders they are watching some dumb video on youtube with kids opening toys.  NO WONDER THEY ARE MISERABLE AFTER BINGING ON THAT SHIT.

I admit, I’ve been known to watch perhaps the dumbest TV on earth – The Bachelorette and eat a bag of salt and vinegar chips.  We all need to indulge and space out.  And everyone would agree I should probably hang up my Sam Harris Podcast for more junk reality TV once in a while. It would balance me out.  But the truth is, I feel like shit when I watch crappy TV.  I stopped years ago and once in a while i’ll enjoy a good movie to flush out some emotions, and I love a documentary.

And I don’t need my kids to be just like me.  But I refuse to be ruled by screen time.

We had to stop cold turkey last week.  Things were getting out of control around the house.  With pandemic distance learning coupled with virtual dad and friend calls, our screen time had creeped into the morning, the afternoon and before bed.  Somehow no one was grateful, or well behaved or sane.  People were off the hook with crazy every time I said it was time to shut it down. And the house was a disaster with only 1 human out of 4 trying to keep it sane.

What happened was painful, then beautiful.  For about 2.5 days, the kids were zombie like, depressed and clawing at me for screen time all day.  And just like fog burning off in the late morning, their little creative brains woke up. They started PLAYING with each other.  Coming up with the strangest imaginary games and clever ideas. My big kid started doing magic tricks.  The girls built forts and turned tomato cages into formal dresses. They noticed how shitty the house was and started cleaning up.

But none of this happened until I completely took the screen time OFF the table with a hard boundary.

I want to find the happy medium, and I think we’ll get there.

But in the meantime, its summer and we are going outside.   We went camping for 3 nights.   They laughed hard, ran around endlessly, played with fire and black snakes, sat around under a big full moon and the second their heads hit the pillow, they were out.

So, kids, we might live in the modern world, in the city and surrounded by all things virtual.  But I will not steal your boredom or your childhood.  And if you are in (virtual) therapy complaining about this in 30 years, I am sorry.

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Anger

IMG_1109Even just the word is hard for me to write.  If I’m honest, I feel shame in exploring the topic of anger.   It feels dirty.  NOT positive.  NOT productive. NOT nice.  NOT controlled.  NOT welcome.

And so, I’ve never mucked around in it.  It’s always been a short lived, very controlled (or suppressed) wave for me.  So uncomfortable, unacceptable and squelched.

That was the first 40 years.

But now, I get to learn about it.  And WE get to learn about it.  And anyone other Pollyanna (White) Peacemakers like myself are gonna get a tough lesson.

My daughter angrily poured a glass of water on me this week.  I was stunned by my own visceral reaction.   And as I searched for tools to help me with parenting, I asked google to to define a ‘wave of rage.’  I got this news by the same title.

As it turns out, rage is playing out on the streets of America. People are protesting out there.  And my little person is protesting in here.  Whats happening outside is happening inside.

When my daughter rages (a more acceptable term is tantrum), I marvel at her capacity to express.  As I child, I was terrified of expression.  I would have NEVER, EVER, EVER even thought about letting go like she does.  But she refuses to go quiet.

She is teaching me.  Not a popular parenting policy if you grew up in my household. There, the grown ups taught the kids and we followed a very clear top down chain of command.

But somewhere along the way I came across the work of Dr. Shefali Tsabary and it changed my parenting.

“When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me,” but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is.”  ― Dr Shefali Tsabary

Perhaps this Super Soul talk she offered landed so hard in my soul because she specializes in the integration of Eastern philosophy and Western psychology.  I’ve been studying Tang So Do since 6 and yoga-ing since 20.   The old eastern practices are deep in my bones.  Or perhaps it landed because she is stunningly beautiful and her delivery magical. Or perhaps there is something I know in my bones too that the me in me was silenced long ago.  I’m curious who I am.  And I’m curious who the little souls that travel through me are meant to be.

But this parenting style presents a real problem: it’s real messy. Disorganized even.

Wikipedia defines Rage (also known as frenzy or fury) is intense, uncontrolled anger that is an increased stage of hostile response to a particularly egregious injury or injustice.[1]

Whoa.  Scary stuff.  That’s whats on the news.  People that are pissed that George Floyd died on May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes while he was handcuffed on the ground. (full video here). Its not just George Floyd, its the underlying “egregious injury or injustice,” that has gone on for far too long.

But we know anger is a secondary emotion. (link)

“Feeling fear and sadness is quite uncomfortable for most people; it makes you feel vulnerable and oftentimes not in control.  Because of this, people tend to avoid these feelings in any way they can.  One way to do this is by subconsciously shifting into anger mode.  In contrast to fear and sadness, anger can provide a surge of energy and make you feel more in charge, rather than feeling vulnerable or helpless.  Essentially, anger can be a means of creating a sense of control and power in the face of vulnerability and uncertainty.”

My daughter is angry.  But she’s actually sad under there.  She’s lost a lot this year and its been traumatic.  And we have been working so hard to learn to regulate emotions without suppressing them.  And I say ‘we’ because its a relationship.  We have to do this together.  If I can’t digest my own emotions, how can I ask her too. If I can’t FEEL things in real time and navigate vulnerability with grace, how can she learn that?  How can I possibly hold space for her to run the range of rage if I don’t do my own work?

Influenced heavily by my study of the effects of how trauma lodges in the body (Interview with Bessel van der Kolk) and a profound body of scientific work produced by the Trauma Research Foundation, and with skilled support of therapists, we are learning.  We are getting to the heart of the matter.

But some days, its literally bananas.  I was driving this week, and a banana came flying at me from the back seat.  Rage arrived.  And the destruction was real and messy and uncomfortable.  I’m pretty human in these moments.  When someone throws a banana at the back of your head while you are driving, what might your reaction be?  Exactly.

The rage raged for about 20 minutes. In the back seat. At her brother. At me. In the church parking lot we pulled off in.  Every bit of me wanted to abandon my daughter.  Leave her on the curb for a ‘lesson.’ I wanted to shout the most ridiculous ‘consequences’ I could think of.

But I know her Amygdala is ‘Hijacked,’ and we just have to ride this out. Preferably, without me losing my mind too.

Knowing the biology, I can shift to compassion.  I think of how BIG and SCARY the feelings of sadness, anger and rage are.  And how little she is.  I said to her, as I always do,  “I have no problem with your anger.  In fact, I can understand why you are angry and I think you have every right to be.  AND, that anger is causing destruction right now.  You’ve got to get that anger out, I get it. AND,  I’m not your punching bag.  In fact, I’m on your team and I’ll be right here with you while you have these big emotions.”   And then I just wait.  (sometimes I field off some swings, assaults or protect her siblings.)

“The trick to ending a tantrum, the scientists concluded, is to get the child over the anger peak as quickly as possible and the trick to that was … doing nothing. Even intervening to ask what was wrong appeared to prolong the process.” (The Guardian)

After a while, she put down her weapons (her arms and legs and bananas), grabbed a blanket that was sitting in the front seat and squeaked out a ‘leave me alone.’  There was a shift in her voice.  Within 5 more minutes, she moves beyond the anger and into the sadness.

I think of the sadness like the heart of the artichoke.  Its soft and tender.  It needs to be handled with care. If she will let me, I will touch and hold her delicately (and sometimes rub her with butter).  I always cry.  Its so painful in there with her.  The depths of sadness are profound.

Meanwhile,  I also have two other kids and we are sitting in the middle of a church parking lot with the car doors open and banana peels all over.  They don’t know what to think of this, or really couldn’t give a rats ass that their sister is angry or sad. My little one copes by wandering around the parking lot in her fluffy unicorn slippers, singing like a pop star.

My older one try’s to UNDERSTAND with his head, with logic. He tries to help and solve the problem through negotiation or shaming his sister.  Further, he is particularly angry (read sad) because his sister is (once again) derailing our plans and getting ALL the attention.  When I turn to and look him straight in the eyes and say “I see you too. I KNOW you are angry in there too but you would NEVER act like this because you are afraid people would see your anger. ”

His eyes well up with crocodile tears.

I continue. “And I see that you don’t understand how she can do this and get away with it.  I know it feels like an injustice to you that she gets attention for this.”

He smiles. He does this when I read his mind.  He cries more.

I continue. “And I want to remind you both that its okay to be angry and to get it out. I will be here for you.  Whether you want to hold it in our let it out.  Lets SUPPORT each other in that ok?.”

“Ok, lets just go Mom,” he says.   “Can we please go now.  Its been 5 minutes.  And can you guys just NOT TALK to each other please.”

And we drive off.  The wave of irritation, to rage to sadness, thru repair, back to stable took about an hour in all.

Who has time for all that?  Get it together, control your emotions, don’t cry, all things I am tempted to say.  Its so messy, so inconvenient, so uncontrolled and so unpredictable.

All I can hope is that its the right thing to do.  I hope EQ (emotional intelligence) continues to matter in the digital age.

…emotional intelligence predicts future success in relationships, health and quality of life. Psychologist Daniel Goleman

And I hope these micro moments of flying bananas and church parking lot rage sessions in our tiny little family yields compassion that spreads in our much needed world.   I hope it yields a broader understanding and the capacity to feel feelings and leave space for others to do the same.

When I watched the video of George Floyd getting the life squeezed out of him slowly, I felt profoundly sad.  And then angry.  I felt itchy inside my skin. I imagined what it would be like to stand there in person and watch it.  To be the bystanders that were screaming at the police officers to stop.

I’m not black.  I’m white and privileged.  I don’t know what its like to feel like this all the time. But there are people that do.  Young inspired women particularly, like Austin Channing Brown who are leading the way to inspire racial justice.

The stage has been set for protest. The world is reeling in the face of a pandemic. Isolation, lack of work, financial doom and lack of soothing human connection and contact are devastating for humans mental health.  COVID-19 has changed the face of American Activism.

My little white girl turns 10 this week.  I’m grateful for her anger.  It gives me hope.  She has more courage than I have ever had in my four decades combined.   In time, she will learn who to throw her bananas at and how to harness and direct her transformative firepower.

Some things need to burn. And some people were born to not let us turn our eyes from the suffering.


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my yearly post

warrior 2 new cal

Its 2am.

Wide awake with words.

This blog is a bit like a long lost journal.  Every year or so, i rediscover it and crack the code. I’m notorious for forgetting my passwords.  But today, I figured it out and I’m back in.  I feel giddy. Writing makes me feel whole.

There is a compulsion to update.  The passage of time has yielded big shifts in this most recent pause in ‘blogging.’   I’ve never stopped writing, but things got messy.  Real messy.  The kind of messy that must be mucked around in before its revealed.

In March 2018 I wrote that blog about my love.  And my marriage.  Honest. Committed. And little did I know, hanging on by a thread. Or maybe even a faux thread.  My intuition knew what my mind would not accept.  It was over.

But marriages can be over and go on.  And on. And on.

And I would have been A-ok with that.  I’m a stayer.  I really believed in the ending of Love Warrior.

I begged, borrowed and got scholarship money for the $4500 to do a life changing 7 day program almost exactly a year after that post.  I knew why I was going.  But I hoped I was wrong. My whole body knew it (marriage) was over long before, but my mind and beliefs were so strongly clinging to an idea, dangerous hope and obligation.

Letting go of all that meant running head first into a wall of fear.  Path of Love was helpful for this.  Its like running with scissors into the Wall of Fear, but doing it with a whole hearted army of support and fellow scissor runners.

What happened in the container of Path of Love is secret.  In fact, its designed that way.  To really let oneself be exposed, we need deep security.  And it was there.  Lots of silence.  Coupled with lots of thrashing.  All infused with deep listening.  From the outside and the inside.  Some people describe it as years of therapy condensed into a week.  There is no hiding.

In hindsight, it was the birth, the passage way of a new being. I was reborn.

And having given birth three times and witnessed it too, birth is fucking hard work.  But, birth is also easy compared to whats to come.

I would need to learn how to live as this new me.  I came out of there exposed, raw and deeply re-connected to an inner truth that had been screaming so loud for so long.  But this connection is tender.  Its hard to maintain in our modern world.  The assault of invitations to silence your own divinity are omnipresent.

It so easy to push the easy button and choose doubt, indifference, distraction, complacency, addiction or being a victim.  And there are more options.  Its 2020, we have loads of ways to escape the uncomfortable.  Yoga and meditation are my easy button in many ways.  They take the edge off uncomfortable for me.  They hold my hand through it.  And writing.

The anniversary of that re-birth passed not long ago.  What happened between then and now is a bit blurry (and excruciatingly clear), but with nerve endings exposed and big babies on my back, the New Caledonia chapter ended unexpectedly and abruptly in August 2019.

There are many words to fill the space and the passage of time, but they are still messy, ungraceful, edgy.  They can be spoken, but not shared.  The permanency of recordation is too risky.

The marriage is over, but it also lives on.  As love does.

I was listening to Glennon Doyle speak recently. She’s a New York Times Bestselling author of a few books, including Love Warrior and a more recent exposure, Untamed.  She gets asked the question alot; “how do you know you are a writer?”  She answers it circuitously, by sharing a story about being an alcoholic but trying to deny it and later lands on her answer to the question.  “If you deeply long to write, then you are probably a writer.”

I’ve been thinking about words since 9th grade, when I discovered I could string words together to express my introverted inner terrain.  “Descriptive writing,’ as it was called was instantly nourishing.  And also terrifying.

And that is my kind of home.  Nourishing with a slight edge of scary.

And with that, I click publish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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choose love again. (and again)

Its not a secret that my sweethart and I fight.  There is a lot of static in the day to day relationship.  This is what happens when you’ve got two number 1’s in the same house, as my friends joke.

BUT.

when I go global, when I zoom out, when I’m in my higher mind as you might call it, I like what we create.

Today is our wedding anniversary.  And this won’t be popular to say, but it’s not really that special of a day to be honest.  We had been together 10 years and I got pushy and decided we needed to get married.  Really romantic.  Now, the coming together of people, the surprise ceremony, the magic of the story is indeed nice.  But the day was just the only Sunday when people could be there.

I remember more about the dress I wore, than the vows.  More about Claire’s (my maid of honor) shoes than what A wore.  More about how my dad was going to take the surprise than the fact that I was committing MY LIFE to this man.

So in many ways, I would like a redo.  One where I consider the magnitude of marriage.  One where I get some therapy or marriage counseling up front so I know who to go to when shit gets hard and we can’t hear each other.  A wedding where I’m focused on the sanctity of our vows and actually hear and mean what I say.

But nonetheless, here we are. Slugging it out somedays for better or worse. And from what I hear, I’m not alone.   Most couples that have been together for 20+ years have been thru a round of two of heavy hitting. There are valleys and there are peaks.  And they come and go, and come and go.  At least I believe this is true.

And if time is any indicator, the details get fuzzy, the day to day forgotten and the poignant memories are what makes the cut on the reel of our life story.

So, today, on this here anniversary, I’m proud.  I’m proud of us.  I appreciate you baby.  I appreciate us.  And most of all, I appreciate what we ultimately, have created together.  So much you contribute that I just can’t, or wouldn’t.  And same for me.

We come together nicely.  And love always wins.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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a cowboy to my left, astronaut to my right

I’ve never flown 15hours and 30 minutes on one flight before.  its a first for me.  but as a warm up for the long one, I had a 3 hour flight from Dulles to Dallas.  I was disappointed to have a middle seat.  mainly because I always have to pee and I feel embarrassed asking to get up all the time.  so I always hit the bathroom on the plane and wait to sit down until the last minute.

by the time I got back to my seat just before takeoff, I discover that the seats that were empty before I went to the bathroom are taken by young men.

to my left is a 20 something fresh faced polite young man with a trim physique and chiseled jaw.   sunburned with shiny, vasolined lips, his voice is deep and his accent foreign.  he’s got rugged hands and an old G-shock watch.

to my right is a round, soft early thirties American lad with a constant light chuckle with every response and a smart demeanor.

I never talk to people on planes.

not until last year anyway.   I started a practice of just opening up.  assuming that there was a reason I was bumping into people. assuming there was a purpose in the ‘assignment’ of this seat, in this moment.

and since, I’ve had some of the most amazing and interesting encounters.

but today, I’m drawn.  I’m pulled.  pulled by attraction to my left.

I know that accent.

He’s a New Zealander.  there aren’t that many in the world really.

and I’m right.  indeed.  a tiny little town in the South Island that I’ve driven through a few decades ago.

I feel the imbalance, and the waining ear of the guy on my right.

I turn to talk to him a bit.  lots of education. PHD something.  something about an interview in washington DC.  theres a light tone of smug and condecension, but not enough to turn me off.  I live with an intellect. high IQ doesn’t scare me.

as I’m listening, I’m checking with myself.  how long until I can go back to the left.

ok, its time.

what is this New Zealander doing on a flight from DC?

of course, he’s a cowboy.  he comes to Loudon county, Virginia for the summer to ride rich people’s show horses.

anyone that knows me well, knows I’m obsessed with horses.  since I was a little girl, I wanted one.  I begged for lessons. I want to ride.  I feel like its part of my past.  long ago perhaps.  a cowgirl.

so I’m drawn in deeper.  I want to know more.

I keep bouncing. from boy to boy. right to left.  gentle organic conversation with long pauses.

I leave the left too long and he falls asleep.  he’s been partying all night. right, of course, thats what hot young New Zealand cowboys do on their last night in America.

conversation goes on with mr. right.  he’s nearly an astronaut.  sort of humble, sort of full of himself.  the conversation is intelligent but I’m bored to be quite honest.  its all brain.  ughhhhh.  I’m over it.

at some point I feel my dreams on the left, the wild qualities of a horse, the chivalry of old times, and  my reality on the right, science, brain, ego, worldly success, modern times.

I watch my physical ques, my emotional longings, my thoughts as they bounce, awake, back and forth from left to right.

I’m not sure what the purpose of the ‘assignment’ was, but it sure was more fun that sitting there in silence.  but interestingly, I was never asked 1 question.  is the art of conversation dead?  is it just men? was I in control of the conversation?

cowboy woke up.  we traversed the Dallas airport and made our way to the long flight to Sydney and parted ways.

there was no assignment on the long 15 hour flight.  just a wide open row of seats and a good 8-10 hours of sleep.

one more flight to go till I’m home to my young men. no cowboys or astronauts, but  the one that stole my heart 22 years ago, and the little one that makes me see the old one with new eyes.

 

 

 

 


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just post.

I had to take a break from writing.  not because i was tired of it, but because it was distracting. i caught myself daydreaming about words and sentences I would use to describe a situation, thought or place, rather than just being in the moment.  I knew this distracted state from another distracted state.  Taking pictures.  Angling for the right spot or waiting for the perfect moment means i either completely miss the moment, or just see it through a very small screen.  And ultimately, I know these distracted states at all from my life as a mommy.  Constant divided attention.

But this is a critical time for me to be paying attention.  Whether its to my kids, my self, politics, my business or the traffic on the street in front of me, monumental things are happening on a daily basis.  Its hard enough to make good decisions when i’m IN THE MOMENT, but when i’m caught up trying to re-create, re-package, or re-frame that very moment, i’m bound to cheat someone.

Potency has been a word I’ve been obsessed with for a few years now. And more than the word, i want it.  i want potency. i admire it.  i long for it.  i love the way it feels when i have it.  that feeling of utter effectiveness, delivered with grace and finesse.  And so juggling, in my life, or in my mind makes me feel like a hose with a bunch of pin holes in it.  I’m watering a bunch of seeds, but my full power is diminished. I’m growing a lot of things, but i’m not all that potent.  And so i’m cutting things out.  Less is more.

But the hardest thing about not writing is trust.  Trust that the words will come again. Sometimes they zoom through me with such vigor and brilliance that I feel obligated, compelled even, to get them on paper. But if I don’t they are usually gone. If I wait until later in the day, its a painful jumbled mess of me trying to re-create the memory of the words that arrived so easily and flawlessly.  Liz Gilbert speaks of this phenomenon in ‘Big Magic.’

“Ideas are driven by a single impulse; to be made manifest. And the only way an idea can be made manifest in our world is through collaboration with a human partner…  …When an idea thinks it has found somebody, say, you – who might be able to bring it into the world, the idea will pay you a visit.  It will try to get your attention.”

What i love about this notion in her book is that it makes sense of something that happens to me all the time.  Ideas fly in.  Words appear.  And they are like visitors.  Sometimes live in visitors, sometimes passer-throughs and sometimes like family that just keep showing up over and over and over again.

What i don’t love about this notion is, according to Liz, if you don’t act on the ideas, they’ll move on to someone else.  So, here in lies the anxiety.  The very reason why its hard to TRUST that i can just be present to the moment.  TRUST that if i’m meant to document it at some point, that the worthwhile words will visit another time.  That i don’t need to save, store and make an attempt to harness the ideas that moves through me.

But i suspect, or i choose to believe, ideas might grow richer with a sprinkling of time. That stories and memories may dim in their exact recollection, but will marinade in a savory (or sweet) dressing that adds just the right amount of flavor for future story telling. .

And so i’ve been busy living alot of life – traveling to far flung places, having a spiritual awakening and spending a lot of time letting go of the writing that moves through me.  One day, one day, i trust it will flow again when I have time to indulge my fingers at a keyboard.  Potency is coming.