Saturday, June 3, 2017

Musings from inside a storm

[written march 15, 2017]

I feel numb most of the time. I have a lot of “shoulds” whirling around me about appropriate feelings and responses to the shit storm of the last few weeks. I should be devastated my dad had a heart attack (he’s doing well). I should be angry and sad at A for missing my 40th birthday party (though she was at her palliative grandad’s side in England, whom I also love). She and I have barely seen each other lately. Parenting has also been extra tough. I should be falling apart, weepy, but I’m mostly coping. I have been sick a lot, sad sometimes, worried a bit. I feel though like I am not performing my scripted roles correctly. Like my body’s emotional capacity has fried and I’m now just coasting along like a well medicated patient, shuffling down hallways, humming, saying “look, it’s raining”. If I let anything past, the wall will crumble and I may not be able to put anything back together. Maybe that would be a good thing. Maybe it’s phoenix time. I know its not so clear cut, to just throw up the pieces and see where they land. I also know I am strong and reasonably resilient and should give myself more credit.

Lately I am craving revolution though, do-overs, higher states of consciousness. I want to think differently, to be ok with life’s hell better, let things in without collapsing. I want that for my whole family, but when I bring up things like mindfulness classes I end up sounding preachy. I end up making A feel personally judged, coming out with failing marks for wellness. Why do we sabotage our chance at peace and fulfillment? I know happiness is too ephemeral. But being present, breathing, staring fear in the face, those things could change the world. I know our little family world needs better budgeting, home repairs, therapy and so much more. We of course also need energy, time alone, respite from the relentless nature of parenting!

I think most of us are like me, just stumbling along, handling situations, making the best of it. I want to feel safe to feel more, to live more juicy, to sit with the shit and not pass out. The more I learn about what’s possible, the more the answer is “being present”. Not checking out.

Fear… watch out! I am busting in!


Monday, September 12, 2016

Red hot pepper

Written March 2016:

Ooohhhh, spicey baby, where did our sweet thing go??! I am still reeling from the sharp slap in the face you delivered as a response to me asking you to turn out your light. I know you’ve been burning coals for a few months now, sometimes a swift wipe-off of all objects from a table, sometimes a smart smack on the leg. At first it was cute, you getting all ragey, lashing out. Our sunny child having a stormy day. Since your wicked cold this week and our days stuck inside the beast has unleashed and lately you’ve been hella mad. You deliver an impressive roar, both in decibels and ferocity. I feel it blow right through me, leaving me slightly a-shiver. I am sometimes even scared of the “hard things” you swing about if you don’t get your way. I am both proud and horrified. Proud that my wee lad is standing up for himself, speaking his mind, not bottling up his feelings. We are left in no doubt as to how you feel about things. I also cringe at the thought this is the new normal, that your “twos” weren’t that “terrible” and you feel you need to cram some Tabasco into your "threes"! Well, I did repeatedly give you license for this full self-expression (minus the mama-bashing). You do carry ginger blood in your veins. I used to worry that you were being sweet to compensate for the wild cards you live with. No more, precious one, no more.

Your loving fellow in fire


Why I meditate with my eyes open

Image from here
I don't, actually. My preference is for maximum zone-out, or zone-in, any kind of mama-free, personal-time. I am a devotee of many things, sci-fi fantasy books, yoga & meditation, Hindu goddesses, intimacy, chocolate baked goods... things that lend themselves to total immersion, total escape from/into something blissful and without (much) harm. Lately though, my morning practice (daily since Feb!!) has been hard. It's hard to juggle time-wise, I hear the kids fighting downstairs, they often visit to show me things, and my mind just has a field day when I actually sit still. I get so grumpy when I am interrupted or can't do my sit first thing. I almost think my practice these days ought to look more like being present in each moment rather than cramming it into that one 20 minute window. Like the yogis who meditate in the midst of busy markets, I need to be centring, noticing sensations, calming down my nervous system, while also convincing Ben not to throw dirt in Daniel's hair and Daniel to clean up the 5 tubs of toys (of different kinds) he dumped into the SAME pile. Or breathing deeply while also fielding malcontented voices, managing the monotony of closing files at work, or wading through the fear of changes coming too soon. Maybe it would bring more equanimity into my dramatic existence.

Since I was a little girl, I've loved wishing on stars. My wishes are very general, more about the bigger picture, so I am not concerned about sharing them with you now. For most of my twenties and thirties, my wish was to "be free, in po-ssi-bi-li-ty". A few months ago it occurred to me that that rang a little of escapism, and that in fact I had bound myself by choice to many new and sacred duties (family especially) which asked for a new and sacred wish. Now, walking home under starry skies, I wish to "be here now, present to the wow."

Join me in committing to being APAP, As Present As Possible, in every moment of each blessed, crazy day.


Monday, August 29, 2016

A room of our own

Head full of a summer cold, eyebrow swollen up from an accidental konk with Daniel’s extra-hard skull, I am reeling from our first attempt at a shared bedroom for the boys. I have been resisting it for almost a year, out of fear mostly. Fear of change, grief at Daniel growing ever upward. A grew up sharing a room with her sibs, and Ben has asked for Daniel to join him in his room for months, asked again today. We said “why not?” On a trial basis, moved Daniel’s small mattress into a corner of the room, made it cozy. The boys went wild! The promise of their first night together in that room motivated them to move along the bath-teeth-jammies routine. I had popped an extra-strength Advil in anticipation of A going to work and my imminent role in commandeering this adventurous ride (did I mention already that I have a disgusting head cold??). Oh, there was cuteness at first; a boy snuggled up to each side of me on Daniel’s wee bed for stories. But Ben just eventually flipped, refusing to have D in his room, freaking out about the change, the extra stuff in his room, the noise (D was actually fairly quiet, though nothing like asleep!). I heaved everything back into the crib, the eco-mattress weighing a farking ton, Daniel upset, me tired and frustrated. He powerfully jumps up suddenly as I lean over and “thwack” go our heads. I swear I heard a sound from my skull, then a piercing pain, and we both dissolve in a pile of tears, hugging each other in agony and shock. Ben eventually shuffles in to see what’s up.

Where do we go from here? I know that if I had left them long enough, hours maybe, they’d be passed out in there together. Perhaps it’s small-t trauma from years of sleep training, heavy attachment to bedtime being on-time. Maybe it’s my inner mama ache at the inauguration of a “big boy’s room”. Does every mama try and keep their youngest babies for as long as possible? I won’t even mention our half-assed motivation for potty training him (yep, he’s 3.5 yrs old!). We are kind of trying, with M&M rewards, and underwear time. Not much is cuter than that round little tush in tiny undies (size 2!). Daniel has gotten fierce and willful of late, while also weeping at every transition and separation; a push and pull of independence. A new pre-school, a new language (French). Maybe it’s enough. Maybe we’ll try this bedroom thing another time, another day, once my nasal passages dry up, my bump subsides and the boys forget this ordeal long enough to say “can we share a room?” again.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Paradise within

In February, I had the good fortune of spending some time alone at a Hindu monastery, or ashram, on (ahem J) Paradise Island in the Bahamas:

A short 3-hr flight directly south from Pearson; a world apart. Breezy, mild Bahamian air awaits me, pastel colored architecture, turquoise sea. Impossibly large cruise ships dock nearby. Leaving the vacationing hoards, we take a short ride in a small motor boat to an oasis across the bay. Carefully getting onto the dock at the Sivananda Yoga Retreat, we step through into the hush of a community nestled within a woods of palm fronds. There are orchids growing from their trunks, unusual birds foraging below, people softly padding among them lost in thought or conversation, perhaps humming a tune. There are open spaces for yoga classes, meditation and chanting nestled into the trees or by the beach, smaller buildings and tents everywhere else. Most of us are a rainbow of color except for the swamis in orange and the novices and teachers in yellow and white. My senses are full of the wonder of the place. Beautiful sounds: bells, harmonium, cats meowing, laughter, songs, waves crashing. Beautiful sights: vivid paintings of the gods, an endless horizon, watching deep hugs happening, seeing twinkly lights through the trees. Beautiful tastes and touch: vegetarian wonder food, heaping piles of fresh fruit, bubbly foaming waves flowing through my toes, the textures of the ground and sand as I walk around barefoot.

Wake up time is 5:30, and the day is mapped out with meditation, prayers and chants, yoga asana practice and meals, all of which happen twice a day. Time in between for naps and communion with the ocean, for buying warm chocolate orange cookies in the shop, for catching swamis and teachers to ask pending questions and for philosophy with new and old friends. I am filled up by everything. I am here for a Krishna Das kirtan retreat (he is a Grammy-nominated Hindu chant leader) which includes two workshops and three 3-hr intense chanting sessions. I am a bit starry-eyed since I am a long-time fan. It was absolute bliss. I wept my eyes clean, sang my heart out and danced my feet off. He believes love to be the universal truth; that everything, everything we seek is already within our hearts. To be happy, we need to do our practice, whatever it is, to calm the mind and be present to each moment, to that universal source of love and to the love which connects us to every living thing.

I’ve left the ashram now, both deliriously happy and aching from the loss. Wistfully remembering the nourishing sunlight, the genuine, joyful smiles shared, my heartbeat pounding along to the tabla drums. Most of all I am missing that feeling of surrender to the ass-kicking, structured bliss of spiritual life in paradise. My work now is to integrate the practices into this “mundane” life, to breathe deeply and with awareness, to practice mindfulness and kindness, to live with an inner paradise and share it with those around me. Until next time…


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sensitive sounds

We’re taking a break on Ben’s violin lessons. “Forever?” he asked me hopefully. My musical boy, I am sad. After so much work and research into the right sized string instrument and beautiful learning philosophy (Suzuki), the kid just wants to rock. I showed him Ashley McIsaac and other violin rockers, but kid-level violin is just too boring I guess, too slow, too classical. He soaks up all the information at lessons, but it rarely goes past soaking to actual playing. He is a sponge in general though, especially when it comes to music of all kinds, picking out the different instruments in a song, identifying rhythms by name. I thought this was one of those essentials in his life, go to school, learn to swim, learn music. Life or death core stuff. [For the record, I am aware of how privileged we are to consider music lessons, how 1st world all this moaning is].

Well, we learned some things. Firstly, and it’s not shocking news, we are finding that Ben is a highly “sensitive” child. It’s not a diagnosis or anything and is often a strength. “Sensitive” applies to 20% of people apparently, and describes those who take in a lot more stimuli than others. They are generally more introverted, more reactive to social and noisy situations, have "strong feelings" and are more perfectionist… They are more likely to wait, assess before jumping in, and to need down time to process stimuli. Violin was just too much pressure, too many people, too much noise without enough motivation to move past those hurdles.

We also learned that his Maman (me) was taking it all way too personally.  I have been feeling disappointed. I really wanted violin to be our thing, something special and ours, a connection point, a project. Every time he wouldn’t stand with the other kids (always), or would refuse to hold his bow, or to practice with me (even with candy reward systems; he loves the occasional candy he gets!), it hurt me. I realized I felt embarrassed (my own issues of shame) and more importantly, I felt rejected by him. This made me angry, unfriendly and juvenile, further pushing him away from violin/me.

Our relationship is more important that any music lesson success rate. A solid family base is everything, the foundation we hope he’ll build his life on. I want him to feel that I support, rather than stifle who he is. Our agendas often differ, and I am trying to let go and let that be ok. To let him develop his wonderful self at his own pace.

I didn’t promise Ben that we were done forever. But instead of group class this week (which we’ve never missed), we spent the afternoon building a snow castle with steps and windows and reinforced walls, all lumpy and DIY and wonderful. He was really happy, we were really peaceful and we built something, together.

To be continued…


a little missing

I stayed home without you today. A self-care day just for me. I miss you already… Your little cheeks rosy from your osteopathy appointment this morning (a check-up from having worn a helmet as a baby), and your eyes bright from mischief and simple joy in the tiny cup of tea, the awesome building with the 100 year old painted safe and bright copper doors. I miss you in a deep way, a Mama who had you in her tummy kind of way. You bounce through life, getting hugs when you need them but most of the time off boldly finding your way, getting on your own socks, zipping your own coat. You amaze me with your approach to life, carpe diem! But with tenderness too, awareness. I love to just look at you, to try and convey the depth of how much you are appreciated, wanted, noticed, amidst the swirl of our hectic life. It’s hard to have an older brother sometimes, to just join into a party that was started long before you came through. He’ll always be a first-born, who loves to teach and tell and pull you along for the ride. Sometimes we’re so busy with your brother’s bigger-boy needs, thoughts, activities, you can get lost in the shuffle… Oh little one, nearly three, remember always that you are treasured, that you can be 100% who you are, happy, sad, playful, naughty, whatever you are and we will love you.  Always always. Always.