Tuesday, April 25, 2017

"How are you?"

I just ran into a friend outside a store, earlier today. She asked me, "How are you? What's new?"

This is a standard greeting. I think the typical response is supposed to be, "I'm doing well. Not much is new. What about you?"

You have probably gathered by now that I rarely offer a standard reply. But why is that?

I was asked this once when I was living in the Findhorn Community. The person asking was physically on her bicycle moving in the opposite direction. I was feeling especially sad/lonely/isolated/homesick. I asked, "Do you really want to know?" because I didn't feel like lying, if I didn't have to. She said, "Yes, I do." She hopped off her bike, so I shared. It was probably a 30-45 minute chat. But I *needed* it. I didn't know how much, until I heard myself talking and sharing. I was thankful she asked and was honestly interested.

I try to assess when "fine" is the desired response (in case someone doesn't have time for me to share deeply), but I also like to take the time to respond sincerely and intimately. How else am I going to connect? To reduce isolation? To know what's honestly going on with myself AND them?

So my friend today asked me what's new and rather than hurry off to my next thing (which was nothing, honestly), I shared intimately. This is not someone I see regularly, but even though I tend to feel self-conscious about sharing after the fact ("Did I share too much? Was that appropriate? Does she even care? Was she offended?"), I more often than not feel some relief about sharing more personally. It's not that she needs to care or be affected in a deep way, either. It's just that I have a choice in how isolated I let myself become. When I don't share, I isolate. It's not about me and taking up space, it's about reaching out and connecting. When people commit suicide or die from an addiction, I think about how many times and instances of isolation it took for that to decision to take hold. And I don't want it to take hold with me.

I also want to be a safe space for others, should they choose to get out of their isolation. When I ask, "How are you?" I truly mean it. Or I'll say, "I can't talk now, but I want to know, so let's make a plan to get together."

I shared my personal thing, then my friend shared her personal thing and what could have been a literal passing each other on the street, turned into connection, a solid moment when we were both able to hang out in the Seattle drizzle and be real in person.

I can't have 4-5 hour convos like I used to. It's just not realistic. And I can't have everyone over for dinner, or write everyone a long letter of intimate thoughts and feelings. I have tried, but it's too hard with my current life. But I can still connect, reach out, be available, and make conscious choices about isolating or not. I can put my value of connection at the top of my priority list.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day

It's Earth Day today and a sort of birthday for me.
When I was 11 years old (28 years ago!), I went with my Jewish community to plant trees on Martin Luther King Way, in Seattle. It was a "basic tree planting" community gig. I'm not sure I thought much about it...but I never forgot it.

Here was a group of people, lining the street, planting trees in front of homes, adding to the beauty of the city. But it was more. The people in the homes were not the tree planters and they came out to say thank you. The tree planters were all ages, all abilities, and all willing participants. I witnessed that warm feeling when people come together for a common thing. We weren't "saving the earth." We were *just* planting trees, it seemed. It was such a SMALL gesture, I see now.

But it made an ENORMOUS impact on me. That summer I figured out a way to organize an environmental day camp for younger kids. I called places to see if they'd take us on tours of green spaces, we made cool tshirts, birdhouses, learned about recycling, etc.

Then I joined an adult, Jewish, environmental group. I was 11, bringing the average age down only a little. I learned about stuff that was over my head in many ways but the adults were happy to listen to an 11 year old ask questions and inquire about why things are geared only to adults...kids are interested too!

Ever after that, I have been staunch environmentalist. I practice it in different ways, that usually correlate with my ability and willingness at the time. We were car-free for several years, then owned an electric car for a short time. We now drive two cars because of our jobs, but we still carpool and use public transportation as much as we can.

Clothing-wise, I used to buy all sorts of clothes, from sweatshop-using brands (before I knew better) and now my clothes are primarily used because that's easy for me to do and I feel way better. K only gets new clothes if it's a necessity or they are bought for him.

Food-wise, we used to eat primarily raw vegan until I needed to increase my good cholesterol. Now, the pendulum swings away from raw because our lives changed. We grow what we can in the backyard. We can go back to a stricter eating lifestyle any time.

Child-wise, we can be wasteful. Lots of things are designed disposably. And yes, for some (me) cloth diapering is challenging for reasons other than convenience. We do try to scale back on the consumption, when it works for us. Believe me, I tried to be dogmatic about it and it was agonizing.

We still consume and we still use (and sadly, waste) resources, but we're partnering with The Community General Store, in West Seattle, to share bigger purchases with others because we don't use all that we have right now. And we don't need to buy things new. We don't need new toys, or new books. We'd rather share the space and be with people.

It's silly to think we can dogmatically be one way forever. Even No Impact Man couldn't stay No Impact forever...but that's not the point. The point was to examine conscious choice and decide intentionally what was needed vs. wanted.

I share all of this because it's not about being one way forever. But we can examine the choices we have made and then re-examine them again later, to see if we still want to be doing that. We have a big home now, but we're looking to design a smaller, most sustainable home in the future.

On Earth Day, I don't just celebrate the Earth, I celebrate the beginning of my conscious relationship with the Earth. I don't just practice environmentalism because I'm told the world is falling apart. I am actively partnering with the Earth. I can't live in Seattle like I did in the Findhorn Community. That takes a level of commitment that would likely be easier in a different location and within a different culture (I have tried, it is HARD to live like I did there, without living in an intentional community). But I know I will go back there often, and for longer stints to do it more.

The Earth might benefit more from us partnering with it, rather than trying to save it. It's powerful, it will eject us when it needs to. But we can partner. We can listen. We can act, even in small ways. It does make an impact.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Tell me something uplifting"

A friend of mine at work sat down at the lunch table, where we all eat together, and said, "Tell me something uplifting. I'm worried about the immigrants in this country."

I waited to see what my progressive, political, super-informed co-workers had to say. Several folks weren't able to come up with anything. It's a tough time that's just beginning and people are worried.

I thought about whether to share a personal story or not, because I was worried it wouldn't apply. But because I didn't want my friend to keep going down the depressing spiral, I decided I would share.

"Before I worked here, I was unemployed. I was 'living' with my husband on one small income, with a mortgage and an almost 2 year old. We were literally eating beans and rice (thankfully my husband is a very creative cook) and we'd rotate which bill got paid each month.

I knew if I didn't pull my community closer to me, I would plummet into a deep despair and I wasn't sure how I'd get out. So that's what I did. I emailed a few close friends and said, 'Look, we need you right now. We're going to start inviting ourselves to dinner and showing empty-handed at potlucks because we don't have enough at the moment, but we don't want to isolate.'

And my friends were awesome. They said, 'Of course.'

So we spent MORE time with them, we found ways to creatively hang out for free, we invited people over to our house for a potluck, even though we didn't have much, and the place filled with delicious food, laughter, and togetherness. Eventually, I did get a job, but what could've been a tragedy, turned into a way to get closer. And we did."

My friend said that actually DID help her feel less despair. And another co-worker said that she was thankful I had shared my story.

I share it now here to remind us that we have a choice in conflict...we can pull apart and isolate, or we can get closer, warm by each other's fires, and share. For some of us, it might be hard to reach out, and I have been there. I had to practice making phone calls. It took me a while to stop wishing it would go to voicemail. But it just takes practice. One call/dinner at a time. Find one person or family that you can practice getting closer to. Pick one day a month to invite someone(s) over. Start somewhere and we can lift ourselves (and each other) up.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Mama, Let's Go and March

My family and I marched yesterday in one of the biggest marches Seattle has ever seen. An estimated 140,000 people came out with signs, pink pussy(cat) hats, and supportive energy (a few folks showed up to "trump" on us, but were drowned out, of course). We were a part of herstory and it was enlightening.

This morning, seeing all the social media pictures from practically everyone I know marching yesterday was even more encouraging. Time, energy and choice were put into going out to the Womxn's March. I loved it. K loved it. Josh loved it.

And I think it bolstered us as a people. As a part of the nation that stands strong in its support of progressive values. We looked around and saw ourselves in each other. That's what's supposed to happen. We do it in protest many times, but for me, the community energy is why I do it. To be alive in the flow of love, acceptance, resistance (to hate and fear) and togetherness.

I've protested a lot in my life. This felt much easier, much more normalized, much more about a way of being, not just a statement against something. It was many statements FOR things. Awesome stuff. And I saw a sign that said, "Thank you Trump for bringing us together" (or something like that). And I thought about that and y'know it's true. It got 140,000 people out to walk together.

Another personal anecdote I wanted to share is this:
Josh and I had a REALLY rough year in the beginning of 2014. Rough enough to create some big darkness inside me about self-worth and purpose. That's never good. But also during that financially, emotionally, spiritually challenging time, we were more engaged with our community than we had been many years prior. We asked for more help. We were more humble. We gave what we could. We received with grace. We reached out, we stayed out of isolation as much as possible. We learned what was important to us, what made us thrive when we were struggling. We held on to what we were grateful for and put more time and effort into appreciating it.
So it will be for us when shit hits the fan for however long T-bag is in office.
Join me if you wish, or some up with your own way of moving from surviving to thriving. We CAN do this. We've all done this before (maybe not on such a grand scale, but we have). Stay strong.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cage free vs. Free range parenting

Okay, I admit, the labels we use to talk about eggs is NOT the best analogy, but as my almost four year old son ventured out into the front yard to "look for fossils," I realized that my parenting has changed a lot in the last year.

When he was two years old, he looked and talked like he was three. On the playground he often saw kids, who talked and looked like him, do things that I wasn't sure he knew how to do yet (like jump from a certain height on the playground). So I hovered and helicoptered. I don't care what other parents say, I know the distance I need to be for us both to feel comfortable.

But over time, I noticed that he was venturing farther and farther away (not too far, of course) and we learned to "check back" (he uses his own internal clock to check in with me from time to time so I know he's safe), he learned to try stuff without me prodding or cringing, and eventually, I learned to see how much he trusted himself.

That was key, though. I needed to see how comfortable he felt with himself, not how comfortable I felt about him and his actions. For instance, he's really comfortable in the water. He wears a life jacket and has no problem jumping in, getting his face wet, belly-flopping, etc. I don't think I would have guessed it would happen so early (I was not a fan of face in the water swim methods as a child), but he's way into it. When he does get a mouthful of water, we're right there, NOT freaking out, and asking if he's okay. We aren't alarmists. Freaking out in the water always makes it worse. We see if he's okay and when he nods, we go back to what we were doing.

We still don't let him roam too far away, but we are in communication often. Cage free for chickens means that they aren't in cages but have no outdoor access (so the analogy isn't really accurate, we DO let K outside!) and free range is full access to outdoors, and ability to freely roam. We're not there yet (but we talk about when that might be a lot). But I like the idea that we are paying attention to what sort of freedom K needs. It's not simple enough to say that he can play on his own (he can't, he needs some eye contact every once in a while), but he doesn't need us around every moment, micro-managing. He needs to know where we are, so he can find us, and he needs to know we're paying attention. I believe that helps him trust himself and allows us to see how much he trusts himself. He's also free to tell us to go away. He needs that too (and so do we).

I don't want to undermine that. When he gets older, we'll have to do similar things. I was trustworthy but my parents were skeptical and that irritated me. While I did a few "teenage-y" things, I was relatively responsible. And had they been more trusting, I might have shared more.

Communication is 93% nonverbal and 7% verbal! So trust is one of those things that is probably mostly non-verbal. Saying we trust him is probably not what demonstrates trust. Letting him experiment, explore, play, and roam on his own is what shows that we trust him and he learns that he's trustworthy that way, too.

We're definitely not perfect at it (and sometimes even if he's "safe" I micromanage the use of crayons, pens, and staining things because I'm like that), but it helps to realize that we are in communication about it, even when we don't say a thing.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Letting go of doing, letting go of persona (a double dose of letting go)

The last couple of weeks have been intense and challenging. I'm not sure it's over yet. As is my style, I am dealing with challenges with K, my career path, and just life in general, all at once.
In the midst of that I am being coached around writing a parenting book (very exciting) and developing more income streams. At work I have been encouraged by several people to take more of a leadership role in my job.

I'm officially overwhelmed.

My normal go-to experience (and coping) of overwhelm involves me shutting down, getting very cynical, daydreaming of becoming unemployed again so I can hide, complaining that it's all too much, oversimplification about how problems can be solved, etc. It's how I rebel in that state of mind. It's very rarely effective. It definitely gets me attention.

I'm afraid people won't like me if I make bigger leadership moves (like doing something not everyone will like--I love to be loved!). So if I shut down, that's easier. That gets more sympathy and empathy, which I'm perfectly fine with. Sometimes I'll get help solving the problem (until it shows up again, of course). If I plead innocent in the way life rolls out, then it'll be okay and I'll still be loved, seen, understood.

But in the past couple of days I have noticed that my sleeves are too short on this emotional shirt of "It's not me, it's the rest of the world." I have experienced a growth spurt overnight and all of a sudden, ways I've been living my life don't fit.

In my coaching sessions we talk a lot about being, rather than doing. A part of my mind is like, "Yeah, yeah. I got it. Be-ing not Do-ing. But anyway, let's get back to what I'm doing...Be-ing is for people with free time and lots of money." Oh. Cue the gut punch. Do-ing has been a hallmark of my behavior. If I "do" correctly (and that means perfectly, entertainingly, uniquely, etc.) then I will win in the end. I will get recognition, I will get more money, I will be loved and appreciated the way I crave, and all will be well. And if I am not feeling those things, then I'm just not "Do-ing" right. That's an amazingly simplistic and easy way to view my life. It's also a great way to qualify my effort. It's easy to tell myself I'm not capable, I'm lazy, I'm unlucky, and whatever self-deprecating I can pile on.

Through coaching I learned about my Essence. I learned that I Be (Yes, I am aware of all the strange grammar and hyphenation, but that's a bit of poetic license) these: Integrity, Connection, Play, Curiosity, Beacon. Whether I'm Do-ing or not, I am Be-ing those things. Which I definitely take for granted. Be-ing is not good enough, I tell myself. Just walking around Be-ing is lazy!

And here it goes again...that struggle.

So in the past week I have been thinking a different thought as much as I can. What if before I launch into Do-ing,  I start out from Be-ing? Can I work from a place of Be-ing Integrity? When I get home tired and my kid is happy and excited to see me, can I come from a place of Be-ing Play, rather than seeing the time with him as another way my energy will be depleted? Can I come from Be-ing Connection? That's less about Do-ing and more about simply Be-ing.

Do vs. Be is an old discussion. So old that I think I assumed I could have some awareness and that would be good enough. I'd just switch automatically. But here's the loop: in order to fully Be, I need to be aware of the moment when I slip into Do. My energy dips just thinking about it. I don't act playful, I Do playing. Which is exhausting sometimes. So part of the Do-ing needs to be in the conscious choice of Be-ing.

If I take a moment to Be my Essence (or simply be conscious that I am my Essence already), then Do makes more sense, I feel less drained, more grounded, more spacious, slower (in a good way), more engaged and connected, lighter, more seen and heard, less annoyed, more generous, more compassionate, etc. If I can remember that I don't have to Do anything to be the Essence of myself (it simply exists inside me), then I can always start out from there because I am already always starting out from there.

This is a huge thing for me.

Trauma, and particularly early childhood trauma, can skip over the Be and jump right to Do. Kids are rarely conscious of who they Be. They are their Essence and cannot usually separate that out. But in my case, and I'm sure I'm not alone, I went right to Do. What can I "do" about death, sexual abuse, being liked, staying invisible, being seen, fixing the world, fixing myself, etc.? What do I need to do to get money, succeed, feel happy, win?
A small person might think, "Well, Being (as in being innocence and curiosity) seems to have led to these traumatic (but possibly avoidable) events, I will need to focus more on Do (which is also how we control our world)." It's not logical to adults the same way it is for kids. Kids simply start making hypotheses and then executing and testing against them. Whatever works best, wins. Even if it doesn't work *that* well, if it works well enough, then it stays.

This plays out in parenting all the time. I have a very hard time believing that it's who I am Be-ing that is my best work, rather than what I am Do-ing. I want my kid (and everyone else for that matter) to know that I am working as hard as I can to fix, guide, corral, and control how he navigates the world. Boundaries, limitations, unique experiences, whether we have another child or not, who he interacts with, what he eats, how he sleeps, rules, what he reads, etc. (sadly, the list goes on and on). Working *really* hard to manage all that.

What I don't do very much is come from my Essence. I don't seek Connection first. I don't start out from Be-ing Playful first, and then engage my son. I don't come from Curiosity (I usually come straight from Control and Fear, to be perfectly honest).

I need to develop a daily (probably hourly) practice of consciousness around my Essence (I'm so sneaky, I just turned this into a Do!). It doesn't need to be complicated, just an awareness of when I get caught up and feel trapped, it's probably because I'm moving into Do-mode.

If work is hard, who can I Be? Can I stand in my Integrity and move from there?

I'll never stop Do-ing, I know that. That makes sense. But I can start from Be-ing and then the Do-ing isn't so disconnected and untethered.

One day at a time, but awareness is key.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Letting go of people

I'll share more about this later and I've already shared about isolation in other posts but I wanted to write about it, because honestly, that's why I started this blog in the first place. I'm not the first mom, nor am I the first mom to blog, and I'm still not the first mom to tell the truth on a blog. And telling the truth is the most important part of being a mom to me. At least, telling "a" truth.

My family and community lost a dear, dear friend to suicide this week. I don't know the details but from the snippets I've heard there was some PTSD, depression, and extreme financial strain that probably contributed to this lovely, beautiful woman choosing to end her life.

We don't like to talk about suicide in our culture. We often want to separate out those who commit suicide from those who...well...didn't. "Those people over there" couldn't find a way out. They were sick. They didn't want help. We can tell ourselves a lot of things. We can also flip it and go to self-blame. I wasn't there for her, I didn't do enough, I should've called, I should've, could've, would've.

But it's too complex for those absolute fix it thoughts, too. Life is a conversation, not a mere question and answer session. We toil, we test, we triumph, we try, and we think some more. We roll it around in our heads. We say it out loud to see how it sounds.

What I want to say tonight, and what I will continue to talk about, is that we all have a responsibility to ourselves and each other, to learn about isolation and how it can wreak havoc. We can start talking about it. We can start recognizing it in ourselves and others. It's not just a mental illness thing. Media has a part, consumerism has a part, groupthink has a part, etc. We repeat what we hear and don't even think about how it might be isolating, to us OR others.

Many a person experiences isolation in their lives. If we have lived a life at all, we have experienced it. I just hope we can start talking more about it.

More later.


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