Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Go for Goodness

See that picture down there? That's my family. If you're anything like me, you might look at that photo and feel a twinge of envy, mainly because you'll assume that one photo tells a story of our lives, as opposed to the one moment we captured. That was a really, really happy moment. That's why I snapped a shot. I can tell you, so very honestly, that those moments don't happen all the time when raising small kids. I just don't snap pictures of myself screaming into pillows or punching walls, or scowling at my spouse for not doing the laundry *right*.
But this, this was a great moment:
Before I had kids, one of my teachers told me that the greatest spiritual growth I would find would be in having and raising kids. It sure sounded glossy to me when she said it, and I know my heart swelled, but flash forward four years from that shared wisdom to me wiping the kitchen floor for the third time today or getting kicked in the eye, or picking up a turd from the carpet that my toddler left behind. There is nothing glossy about it. But she was right - this has been,  and is,  the greatest edge I've ever encountered in my life, and I have grown more as a person than I could have imagined.

I have often wondered about the Creator's Master Plan. It's ironic you know, that one of the main objectives of raising a human is to foster independence. We live a good portion of our lives being independent and full of ego, and doing what we want, when we want, and then BOOM we have kids and all the stuff the ego thrives on gets completely destroyed.
It's not about you anymore. It's not even about them, really. It's about being willing to give to other humans wholeheartedly, and to jump into the abyss of service.

My two biggest parenting challenges have been:
1) Controlling my temper. 
This means that I blow sometimes. I get full to the brim from sensory overload and frustration and I blow. After I blow I feel like the world's worst mother and I beat myself up for days and days. It's a shitty cycle and it sucks. So I work on it daily: cultivating patience.

2) Knowing what to do with my kids. 
I know that sounds weird, but I have a lot of anxiety around my time alone with them: finding things to do, keeping them occupied, trying new things, getting creative. I realized that I am not confident with my ability to play and be on the spot. So what happens? I get angry (see above) and the cycle continues.
I have told myself that I'm just not good at it. I look at other parents playing with their kids and I compare myself. I zone out when with them, or avoid moments of playtime by doing housework or making busy. Meanwhile, I miss out on all the moments of connection that I long for. 

My older child is almost 4, and it was just a few days ago that I decided to ditch this story of me being a shitty parent and get down on the floor with him and play. What was the hang-up? I've been afraid to fail. Afraid to try things I don't feel good at. Afraid to let go and jump into the moment.

Someone said to me today, "You know what? I think I'm really afraid of failure" to which I replied, "Who isn't?"
I know it's only been a few days, but in deciding to be open to trying new things, to committing to being present and playful with my kids, I feel like someone new. I feel my heart opening. I feel my vulnerability and humanness. I feel like it's okay to suck at this for awhile because then I'll get good at it.

I had a breakthrough.

And here's the wisdom I want to share:
My fear of failure and insecurity showed up in the form of a bad attitude. You know, "I hate playing with them. Playing is so boring. This sucks. I'd rather be doing anything else..."
A bad attitude is like being stuck in stone.
In shifting my attitude, I discovered that the voice of intuition kicks in. This is the voice that knows how to play with my kids, knows what they need, knows how to be present.  It's all there, I just have to keep kicking the shitty voices away.

And hey, look, this is us playing:

I hope I've inspired you to go for some goodness. Seriously, there is awful stuff happening in the world these days. Every act of love matters.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

My Friend, The Undertow

When I was nine years old, my mom took my sister and I to Mexico for a vacation. I remember it as one of the strangest and most chaotic experiences of my life; we were almost electrocuted in a swimming pool, our hotel was broken into one night, my sister and I had a Sibling Fight Club moment that resulted in my head falling into, and breaking, a glass table by the pool, plus I had a bad case of Montezuma's revenge. 
It was also the first time I went into the ocean since being a very small kid accompanied by a parent. I was enthralled and excited by the waves. For most of the trip, I played just on the lip of the shore, going waist-high, and staying close enough to where my mother was.

One day I must have been feeling more bold, or perhaps the tides were stronger, but I got pulled into the undertow. I can still see, so clearly, what the underbelly of the ocean looks like: bubbles and froth and particles of sand and debris. I was whipped around into a perfect circle, my neck scraping the rough floor.
I emerged gasping and shaking. Terrified. It was the first time I felt the force of nature as something big and scary, with the power to hurt me.
Since then, I have never been bold with the ocean. I am timid and usually afraid, and even the smallest waves unnerve me.
I watch surfers and swimmers in awe; jealous of their ease and confidence. They were probably pulled into the undertow a hundred times, but just kept trying.

What does this have to do with anything?
Let me tell you.
My life is in chaos mode. It has been for months and months. I keep telling myself that I'm rounding a corner, or that things are about to get easier, but BOOM - something else comes up that puts me right back into the underbelly.
I'm probably managing what most mothers manage: two small kids, a busy business, a house, getting dinner on the table, picking shit off the floor all day, sleep deprivation. It does not escape me that I am not an exception to the rule. I know a lot of people in a similar predicament - mostly those of us who have demanding jobs and are also raising our families.
It's just too much. I'm sorry to crush the Superwoman Myth, but there - I crushed it.

For a very long time, I have considered chaos to be something I have to defeat or rise above, something that is unnatural, something that I am creating.
I don't believe that anymore. Chaos, a lot of it, is just nature. Small kids are chaos. There is no way to change that. And often there is just too much on the plate to not feel drained, tired, and angry.

The question is this: how do I operate with chaos?
I think of that undertow in Mexico. I remember how unhinged and afraid it made me feel. It was not an unfamiliar feeling, but it was one I never wanted to repeat. This is the stuff of control freaks.
When I am faced with chaos, I try to control it. It never, ever works. Never.

Those swimmers, the ones I told you about before, they do this thing when they go into the water and a wave comes: they dive into the wave before it crashes. Right as it is swelling, they dive in. And then they come out the other side and keep moving deeper into the water.

This is how I would like to move with chaos and change - not conquer it or control it, but go right into it. With grace. Let's face it, the undertow gets all of us sometimes. It doesn't mean you stop swimming. Another good idea, a really good idea, is to sit on the shore every once in a while. The waves can't reach you there.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Right Here

So this is it.

I used to think I'd be a lot of things. I pictured myself zooming around in a fast-moving, important car, meeting important people and being very important myself. I thought that would be my success story. That I'd be famous or highly influential. That I'd be a millionaire or something stupid by the time I reached 40. I thought I would write books that would change people's lives. I used to think I'd be a lot of things.

And then came you.
Then came me.
Then came the truth of everything.

I became a mother.

What does that mean anyway? We get brainwashed into thinking it means we become docile, sweet martyrs who experience divine love when changing a diaper. Images, since we're little girls, show us that we'll be beautiful and calm and perfect all the time - that this is motherhood. I used to think that what's motherhood was.

But no.
Then came you.
Then came me.
And now I know a little bit more...

Becoming a mother is this: you crack open just like the earth does. You storm and shriek and soothe just like the earth does. You bend and fold and fall. You get a real heart: the kind that hurts and feels and loves so much that you think you can't do this, you can't bear this, but shit - how could you ever go back?

This is it.
Right here.
This is what life is all about.

I used to seek a lot. I was never home. I was never planted. I was always out looking for this thing - this thing - and now I know what it is:

it is the perfect imperfection of life
it is the messiness of love
it is the bare, sheer work of raising a human being
it is the rage
the unbridled joy
it is their tiny hands and faces sticky with the day
it is my baby girl's head on my shoulder as I sing her to sleep
thinking this:
I cannot wait to die and be reborn just so I can become a mother again
just so I can crack open again

It is humbling to be here
to let go of the fast car fantasy,
and the oh-how-important-I-want-to-be dream
and just be with these beautiful children
as they grow into themselves
and know that the earth is pleased with my work
that I can sit here now, as important as anyone else who is alive
who gives or receives love
who is born, grows, and dies here

This is it. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Happy Frankie Day

One year ago, in the very early hours of the morning,  I gave birth to a beautiful girl named Frankie Rose. 
She came into the world as fast as an earthquake, at least it felt like an earthquake...
I woke sometime after one a.m. that night, with the slow ache of contractions in my belly. I waited for some time until waking Brian, and we waited together until after three a.m. with contractions that never picked up too much speed or intensity - I thought it would be the same deal as my first birth, in which there were about twelve hours like that, so I figured I should try to go back to sleep, and stood up to go to the bathroom.
That was when the the earthquake started; it was bigger than me, bigger than my body, bigger than my mind. I couldn't contain the intensity so I let go into it. I've never felt as much like an animal as I did that night.
It was less than thirty minutes like that; back to back contractions as I stood over my father's antique roll-top desk in the den. I couldn't sit or think or stop, I just had to move my hips and breathe and allow for the earthquake to happen.
And then, there she was. The midwife barely caught her. She slipped from her hands and landed on a towel on the floor. I looked down and saw her face for the first time: my daughter. Her cheekbone looked like the moon, like a little crescent moon.
And so it began - I birthed a girl, on the powerful occasion that is International Women's Day.

There is something that happens to me when I look at my daughter. I don't just see a baby, I see a woman in the making.I see the body that will shift and change so dramatically in her lifetime. I see my own dreams - the ones I haven't fulfilled yet, and I see a girl who I hope will not go through a lot of the things I went through in order to find her place on this earth. I finally understand why things between mothers and daughters can be so hard, and so charged, and so full of emotion.  While she is, of course, her own little person, Frankie is also the greatest reminder I have to reach for my potential, birth my dreams, and honour myself. It is easy to look at her and want all those things for her, but if I don't fulfill those desires for myself, I may resent her later on, or grow jealous of her, or compete with her - all the things that run rampant between mothers and daughters.
I don't want those things between us, so that is then my work to do.

Often when I look at her I think of what I want for her, what I really want for her, and it is this: self-worth. Sure I want her to follow her dreams and her truth and have fun and grow and be true to herself, but mostly I want her to feel the value of her being. In feeling and knowing the value of her being, she will not have to go seeking a false sense of womanhood from shady places.

My dear Frankie girl - happy birthday. Happy International Women's Day. Welcome to the sisterhood.  We've got your back.

Monday, 13 January 2014

How to Actually Change Your Life

There is something I've been saying to myself just enough these days that it has become worrisome. It goes something like this, "I hate my life."
Writing that feels bold and scary and so much bigger than the real feeling I've been experiencing, but regardless, these are the thoughts I've been thinking. It seems somewhat crazy to me because, on the surface, I am sure everything looks great. I seem to have it all, right? Two amazing, healthy kids, my own business, a wonderful husband, a great house, a place in the country. All of that. But here's the truth: I have never felt as tired, rundown, or pissy as I do these days. Why? Because maintaining all of the above is more than I feel I can handle - well. At the end of the day I am frazzled and have barely a shred of energy for myself.

This past year one of my beloved teachers, Harley Swift Deer Reagan, passed away. The impact of his death has been, and is, like a ripple on the water inside of me. I keep catching waves of it, and each wave brings with it an awareness of what he taught me. This man was a Shaman, healer, medicine man, Vietnam vet, Martial Arts master, magician, shooter, and probably the most authentic, bold human I have ever met. He said, "your life experiences are not your life. Your attitude and approach are your life."
I keep repeating that to myself these days, in hopes that it will finally click and I can find a way to say something more along the lines of, "I love my life."

Swift Deer's formula went something like this: change your thoughts, you change your attitude. Change your attitude, you change your reality. Change your reality, you change your life. 
The root to change starts with the thoughts that I think. And in changing what and how I think, I can make space for beauty to be seen and felt.
 I am someone who, when faced with an uncomfortable situation, will take measures to change it. I am a doer and a fixer. If you want an image, picture me climbing atop a pile of mess, sticking my hand in the air and saying, "this is unacceptable, let's try it this way instead." My solutions are action-based. They usually involve doing something differently. My husband calls them "eden's systems." I am relentless with them, and sometimes one just has to give in to the pile of mess, knowing that there are more important things to give energy to, like these rascals:

 But let's take stock of my current situation: a ton of shit on the plate, none of which can be eliminated. So what does a fixer do? What do you do when you can't control the mess you're in and there's nothing you can cut out?
There is only one thing to do, my friends. Change the way you think about it. 
I had this realization a few days ago, but it only sank in today while I was at work, doing about 32 tasks that I am not the fondest of. Normally I complain all day about doing these tasks. Today I said, "what if I just accepted that I have to do these things?"
So I shut up and did them and as I was walking home, I actually smiled. I felt really happy.

2014 is not about acquiring more. It's not about achieving and doing. It's not about invoking the agents of chaos and change. No. My 2014 is about changing the way I think, feel, and react to my life experience. This includes shitty diapers, teething babies, aggressive toddlers who hit their sisters (I am not mentioning any names), cheques lost in the mail, delivery vans that won't start, and cookies that get burnt. It's about accepting this version of myself, no matter how rundown, tired, and grumpy I feel.

This is what surrender is all about.