Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Saying Yes

I have a tendency toward no.  I have what a therapist once called "an unfriendly conscience," what Geneen Roth ominously calls "The Voice," and what Anne Lamott brilliantly calls "Radio Station KFKD."

Basically, I live in a mental land of shoulds, should nots, and should haves, with a sprinkling of fear and shame landmines thrown in.

The good news is, I'm aware of this and am learning to reshape my mental landscape and avoid stepping on the mines.

The bad news is, sometimes those around me get hit by shrapnel when I do hit a mine.

Sometimes "I should have a clean house always" leads me to snapping at the kids for normal kid messes and squelching their creativity.

Sometimes "My kids should always be well-behaved" leads me to overreacting to normal kid behavior by shaming and blaming.

Sometimes "My kids should always realize how wealthy and privileged we are compared to the rest of the world" leads to inflexible "nos" to every single request they make for something extra, something special, something fun.

I am trying to learn to say yes.  Saying yes to myself means thinking with kindness towards myself instead of judgment.  It means making allowances for imperfection.  It means wasting no time in shame.

Saying yes to my kids means, well, actually saying yes.  Kids are good at thinking with kindness towards themselves, their needs and desires.  We sometimes call this being self-absorbed and egotistical, but I think we can learn a thing or two about how to believe we are worthy of good things by watching our kids ask.  Saying yes to them also means making allowances for imperfection and wasting no time in shame.

Can we go to dollar day at the movie theater just for fun?
Yes.  You won't be spoiled by some special fun things once in awhile. 

Can I spread rocks the size of kitty litter all over the front porch?
Yes.  Kitty litter rocks can be cleaned up.  

Can we paint?
Yes. Creativity is worth the mess. 

Can you talk in a nice voice to me even if I'm talking in my most horrible screechy whining voice?
Yes.  Kindness in the hard moments will win your hearts. 

Can I take my doll and her stroller to the zoo with us?
Yes.  If you get tired and stop pushing your doll stroller at the far end of the zoo, we will figure it out. 

Sometimes saying yes is more work, more challenging, more risky and I'm afraid of it.  Sometimes saying yes feels like the easy, lazy way out.  But saying no isn't inherently more righteous, more right, or more safe.  Say yes.  Try it.  It gets the best smiles.
She pushed it happily the whole time.  It was adorable. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Discovering a Morning Rhythm -- Summer of Simplicity

Schedules make me itchy.  They feel confining and judgmental with their boxes and to-the-minute timetables. 

Having no routine at all sets me adrift, in a “crap, I’m floating with the rip current and have no control” kind of way. 

I need something in between.  In my quest for simplicity and meaning this summer, I’m discovering that I need some sort of rhythm to start my day.  Rhythm, ritual, routine…these words describe what I’m aiming for much better than schedule. 

With caring, creating, and connecting as my guidewords, I’ve discovered a morning rhythm that fits me.  Sometimes my “morning” rhythm isn’t complete until 1pm, sometimes I abandon part of it, and sometimes it all fits within an hour.  It doesn’t matter.  My rhythm is for me, not against me, so I don’t worry if it doesn’t all happen. 

In the morning, caring means feeding hungry children.  I’ve tried to get around this, tried to make breakfast self-serve around here, but it’s only led to frustration and more work overall.  Self-serve breakfasts lead to cereal for one child and an apple for another, which leads to continuing hunger all morning long.  Non-stop children with unbelievably high metabolisms require meals of substance, at least every once in awhile (read: 5 times per day minimum). Feeding my kids a good solid breakfast buys me at least an hour in the eating department, and also leaves space and time for the rest of my morning rhythm. 

On a really good morning when I wake up with my cape on, caring also means doing a few household tasks that set up the rest of my day well.  Putting away clean dishes leaves the dishwasher ready for the dirty ones to come that day, so instead of seeing them accumulate on counters all day, they can get out of sight.  Throwing in a load of laundry in the washer in the morning makes it 68% more likely that it will be dried, folded, and put away by nightfall.  There are no guarantees, people, but I like to stack the odds in my favor. 

In the morning, creating means writing morning pages.  In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron describes morning pages as one of the two basic tools for inspiring creativity.  The irony is, the morning pages themselves are the opposite of creative.  They are the mundane blather that crowds our minds, and the morning pages are an exercise in getting that out of the way to get to the good stuff.  Cameron says, “When people ask, “Why do we write morning pages?” I joke, “To get to the other side.”” 

I’ve never liked keeping a journal, because it all sounds the same to me: a record of my insecurities, fears, and struggles played on a never-ending loop.  But according to Cameron, that’s the point.  The Inner Critic must have her say, and if she can have her say on the private morning pages, then she can stay out of the way in the rest of my art and life.  That’s what I’m working towards.

morning pages on the front porch
In the morning, connecting means yoga.  I’ve never been a yoga person.  Yoga people always seemed mysterious and otherworldly to me, able to understand something that I don’t understand.  I don’t know if I “get” yoga, or if there is anything to get, really.  What I’m discovering is that I like to do something physical but not too physical in the morning.  I like to breathe a little and be still enough that I can feel my breath and hear it, too.  I am a perpetually cold person, and morning yoga gets my body comfortably warm.

So despite feeling like a wannabe yoga imposter, I find a short and easy youtube video and get my yoga on.  My kids like Cosmic Kids yoga videos, so they sometimes want to do one when I’m done, and then I get to eat breakfast in peace.  Win win.   

When I’m in rhythm, I feel ready for my day and peaceful.  There’s no magic formula, no “everyone must do this.”  These are the things that resonate with me.  Your rhythm might involve checklists, scrubbing toilets, and laundry folded and put away.  Or your rhythm might involve you, a book, and a chair.  Whatever meets your family’s needs and makes you feel ready for the day, those are your rhythm. 

Oh, and coffee.  How could I forget coffee?  Coffee is the glue that holds it all together, my constant companion through my morning rhythm.  Coffee deserves its own post, but I’ll save that for another day.