Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The village

I bristle when people start talking about, (well, judging really) "daycare." I was there once too, I remember. Sending kids "away" seemed like a strange way to deal with parenthood. You had the kid, you should take care of the kid. And yet, here I am, my child away for 3.5 hours a day, in a place with "strangers."

But no, that's not what it is, I realize now.

My child, curious, talkative, social, engaging, has a big village loving him. His guides at school are part of his village. He doesn't keep love from them. He doesn't hide from them or cry when he sees them. They are part of his village. The village that's raising him.

Everyday I am grateful for that village of willing adults, some related, some not, that share time with K. He's a bright star in the world, and he can be exhausting. But I don't let my lack of energy and my self-judgment cloud his world. He loves school. I love that he loves school.

I know other mamas who can spend 24/7 with their littles and I applaud them, but I don't simultaneously beat myself up for not doing that. It's not fair. It means I'm telling K that our choice to put him in school wasn't a choice at all. If I beat myself up, I'm saying we failed.

But that's not the case.

We just grew our village some more.

And that village is huge, to contain the love of our kid. He's capable of loving outside his DNA. He's interested, he's engaged, and he's surprisingly already aware that his circle of influence is larger. Who am I to keep him from that?

So when I see those comments flying around about who should be caring for my child, I speak up and say that my kid just has a bigger village now. And anyone who has a heart big enough to care for children they didn't originally intend to raise, gets a hug of gratitude from me. Thank you for caring so deeply for my child. Thank you for your patience and willingness. Thank you for inviting us in to your village, too.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Being in charge

So mostly I blog about parenthood. Letting go of things BECAUSE of parenthood. Mostly.

And now, I am sitting here home alone while K is with his grandparents, and I'm staring at unpaid bills, unemployment letters, debt collection correspondence, and enticing credit card offers. Hubby is at work and I'm feeling pretty lonely about life.

I have a lot of interests and I'm wondering which ones to pursue.

I work intuitively with homes, I own a seasonal B&B, I write, I love to speak publicly, I used to be an administrative assistant, and now I am faced with the choice to take charge of my life and earn my own income directly.

It's easy to be in charge of a little person's life. Simple tasks: eat, sleep, change diapers, put on clothes, put toys away, take toys out, listen to "birdies," visit with family members, etc. I can manage those things pretty well now.

But what about taking charge of my own life? What about choosing the scary, unknown thing over the thing that doesn't pay enough but is "comfortable?"

What I am learning about parenting is that there are some things I can easily be in charge of and other things that are basically out of my control. I get out of balance when I want to control things I can't, or I don't take charge of things I can. I can apply the same fluidity to my life, as I try to apply to my parenting. It's not a perfect balance most of the time since I'm still learning and my little one is still pretty small. But I know that when he wakes up from a nap, he's always hungry, so I can have food ready. I can take charge in that way.

What are the ways I can take charge of my work life? I can spend more time doing what I enjoy AND what I'm good at. I'm a good writer, I'm a great coach, I co-run a kickin' B&B. I can't control who comes to me or requests my services, but I can keep improving, I can keep sharing, and I can keep doing what I love. See how that works?

I have to remind myself of this stuff daily. I need to constantly engage the parts of me that work, that feel good, that are harmonious. Just like interacting with my child! When things are tough or he gets stuck on something, I have tactics to move him onto the next thing. Or I have an intuitive feeling about dealing with the current thing so that we can move on later. If he's cranky then I know what 2-3 things we can do to work with that. Same goes for me. When I am stuck on something I need to know the right tactics to be able to move myself onto something else.

That's what being in charge means to me. It doesn't mean try to control everything, it means choosing how I can move myself along in my life and letting go of what I can't actually control. Knowing I have that power is pretty awesome.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Whose transition is it?

Yesterday was K's first day of school. Actually, it was just his first hour, because where he goes, they transition kids into the classroom in smaller increments. Brilliant, I thought. K will get to have a little more time each day to get used to going to school.

He's been without us for a long time 3-4 days a week, so this shouldn't be that weird or disconcerting, right?

But the transition isn't really about "school" or "new." It's about the fact that basically, his primary care people have been biologically related to him (except for one-off days) since his birth. And this begins a life of more routine.

And as I'm realizing why this is a "bigger" deal, it's because the big deal is for me (and J too!). We are going through a transition as much as K is, if not more in many ways.

Starting school means there's a clear drop-off and pick-up time, there are clear responsibilities for us to take care of each day (lunch, coat, the right clothes, etc.) and that's totally new for us! We can't shuffle him out in pajamas (nor, can we drop him off at school in our own pajamas!). We can't be late, we can't drop off in a poopy diaper (or a diaper at all), we can't ask the guide to take care of his GF food needs because we didn't go grocery shopping, we can't have K be dropped off by his guide just because of a car snafu. Many different things will have to change and that's something we need to get used to, too.

Also, K now has these relationships with other people that aren't in our family unit, or even in our friend circle. He goes to school, has a separate life that we can't capture on camera, and then we just get to ask basic questions...we don't get to go over it at night, after we put him down and catch up as parents. We can look at the notes his guide took while at school, but without the visuals from one of us, there's not much to talk about. It feels weird, I guess.

So the letting go isn't just about our baby going to school. It's about how we now have a new orientation around our days, who hangs with K, and how we feel about it. To be fair, K is handling it pretty well so far. We are still adjusting.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Letting go of fear of financial insecurity

On my desk sit papers from the state employment office. I need to complete a very thorough questionnaire proving that I am not earning additional income and not reporting it.
I have cleaned the kitchen, taken a shower, organized papers, contemplated book topics and titles, read email, checked facebook...all in an attempt to not look at this questionnaire (again...I've read through it, gotten overwhelmed, and put it aside).

I didn't do anything wrong (I have not earned any additional income, and of course since I didn't there was nothing to report), and yet the questions are like pointing fingers and each finger is telling me that I'm wrong, I'm fucking my kid up (with money shit), I'm horrible with money, I don't have anything helpful to share with the world, I'm not employable, I'm a mess, and anything else I can sneak in there to mean I'm just not fucking worth it. And I certainly don't deserve any help from the state. Even though everyone thinks that I get to spend all these blissful moments with K, now that I am "home," this is really what is going through my head most of the day, sadly.

I'm educated, literate, skilled, and resourceful and, in one glance at some state-issued paperwork, I am reduced to scum, in a heartbeat.

So what am I letting go of here?

Good question.

Why am I so worked up? What is this questionnaire symbolizing? I have to go that route, because I'm one of those people that believes I can make something *mean* something...usually this is done in a negative slant first, but I am capable of turning it around to mean something else. So what does it mean?

When I left my secure, reliable, somewhat manageable job I knew the demons would come. I knew that I would hear in my head the protests of leaving a safe job, of leaving something predictable and something I'm capable of doing (proof to the world that I can do something valuable). But man, I did NOT expect the dialogue (more like lecturing, I think) to be so loud!

  • Why have you done?
  • Who do you think you are?
  • You're a horrible writer and even if you are any good, who wants to read about your life?
  • You're destined for a life working in an office, answering phones and doing data entry, so you should give up any other ideas. Oh, and you have no follow-through, so good luck with any and all creative pursuits.
  • There are MILLIONS of other people writing, thinking, making money at stuff you are excited about, so there's no use in trying.
  • You're ruining your family, both biological and chosen.
  • It's your fault that you are broke.
  • You'll never get ahead. Or out of debt.
  • You can't bring another kid into this hellish life (btw, I don't think my life is hellish, but that demon voice inside seems to!)
  • Your friends will leave you soon, since you are a sad-sack and a non-contributing member to society.
  • Your friends want to hang out with someone successful, rich, and generous and you are none of those things!
  • Your family is tired of helping you.
  • You don't follow the rules correctly (this may seem small to some, but as a proud rule-follower, this is one statement that can really knock the wind out of me) and therefore don't deserve anything.
  • You want too much.
  • You want too little.
  • You are asking for impossible miracles.
  • You'll be homeless soon.
  • You are straining your marriage.
That's just a sample, with many variations of those things, said differently, just to make it sound worse.

There's something hanging on inside of me that is very, very afraid, if that's the kind of stuff that comes up for me. I can imagine the grip of the demon, knuckles white, grasping for every single bad thing I've ever thought ONCE in my whole life, to get me to go back to safety and security. Even the rule thing...this paperwork scared me so bad that I lost sleep, went to a job interview offering an unsustainable wage, and considered working weekends (basically eliminating seeing my kid and husband at the same time).

So I know I gotta let that fear of insecurity go...I know that I need to keep trusting in the Spirit/Source/Universe...It's a constant practice, right? I want to just declare to this Safety Demon that I understand its concern...I know it sees really horrible things and wants to keep me/us from those experiences (again)...I know that my safety has been taken away several times in my life and all this little monster is trying to do is prevent further damage.

But here's the point I'm making: Clinging to safety doesn't make me feel secure. Asking and receiving does, though. Giving people a chance to connect to me and give to me makes me feel more secure. Working hard to strengthen my friendships, and offer what I can makes me feel safe. And ultimately, feeling like I can contribute to people/the world, makes me feel safe and valuable, too.

So Security and Safety Demon, here's the deal. I can't convince you that I am valuable. I can't show you a paycheck (just yet) proving that my words and my ideas help other people. I can't for all time, say that we'll be financially taken care of (yet). But let's work together.
 How about you only alert me when I'm in danger of harming myself or others. You can help me write more compelling stories and blogs, you can help me make money through Amazon, coaching, speaking and inspiring others. You can spend time acting as my intuitive bodyguard, speaking up only when I am doing stuff that's really not a good idea (gambling, debting, ignoring paperwork, etc). You can ask me quietly and nicely, if I have considered all my options. You can even prevent me from heart-breaking, soul-numbing, underemployment because that's ALSO not a good idea, security-wise. And moreover, when I get those pesky letters from Unemployment, you can calmly tell me that all I need to do is answer the questions to the best of my ability (that's all I can do, anyway) and then wait for a response. When the worst case scenario happens, then you can help me get out of it, but until then, I don't need you just hanging around causing me grief and creating more fear. I have plenty of that without you. Thank you for you service, but I'd like to put you to better use.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A world where American mamas don't cry...

I read an article posted on FB about African babies not crying (really, NO babies cry in Africa? I find that hard to believe, but I digress). While the personal narrative experience of the author was nice and interesting, culturally, it wasn't a definitive study about how we mess up our kids and how to stop.

What it did was continue to propagate a MamaMyth, that if we were "better" our kids wouldn't cry as much. Nevermind that crying is just a form of early communication from babies who don't have a very wide array of verbal communication early on.

A commenter on the post tangentially mentioned that our culture will pay for putting kids in all day preschool (not the subject of the article). I debated commenting. After all, it's not the point of my friend's post. But I couldn't just let that comment sit there so that other mamas could either silently feel judged or collectively high five each other if they were able and chose to stay home with their kids.

Also, the article spoke about breastfeeding those "quiet" babies in Africa no matter what was happening. Okay, so there is no crying technically because there's a boob in the mouth physically. That makes sense logistically. And then I think about my experience with my baby.

I won't break down every moment where this concept ran through my head (and was used to emotionally flog myself because my kid didn't quiet when offered the breast). But as I started to listen to each cry and how they were different, I realized that I could solve most problems based on what was actually needed, not based on quieting my kid with boob/food. I learned what was an "attention" cry versus a "hungry" cry versus an "over-stimulation" cry. This really helped me learn my kid's world faster. It's not just crying, my son was telling me what he needed. And as a result, I have a really great communication system with him. I'm not saying my method works for everyone (I'm just sharing what I did), but I was trapped in the idea that every cry was a milk/boob-craving cry. And my kid didn't always want to nurse. Just like he wasn't able to be born vaginally and it wasn't my fault, I needed to listen to my reality, not just my idealism. And I needed to listen to myself and my kid.

As a new mom, it was hard to listen to myself. I had "no idea" theoretically, what I was doing. Other more experienced moms knew better, I was convinced. I read the books,  chatted with the experienced moms, and knew the studies. But one thing that no one considered: none of those people were looking at or listening to MY kid! And they weren't ME! So all bets were off, eventually. This was between me and my kid. I had a lot of information and support, but I needed to go through this struggle and pay attention to what was really happening. No amount of doctor recommendations or 30 peppy hippie mamas suggesting x/y/z could replace those moments when I was listening to my kid. And we forget to tell new moms that a lot. We're getting better about telling each other that what matters is what works for us individually, but as a culture, we still judge the crap out of everyone.

In the last few weeks I've hung out with some of my mom friends and I've been listening to not just what we all tell each other, but how and why.

There's a lot of confessing, disclaiming with "TMI, but I want to share..." (TMI=too much information), telling half-stories (to test the water and see if anyone will judge), and more clever mama tactics to make sure no one calls CPS, commits someone to a mental ward, or other damning actions.

It breaks my heart, honestly. My heart actually aches having the awareness and sensing that fear, anxiety, and guilt in other mamas. Because of course I am also doing this. I am also trying to make it look good, while inside or alone my experiences are confusing, isolating, and sometimes scary.

To think that one thing will be the demise of our culture is ignorant. Another friend pointed out that even if babies don't cry in Africa, there is a lot of violence, rape, poverty, submission, dictatorship, etc., so how can we look at the broader picture and not make one thing the definition of a culture? And frankly, putting kids in all day preschool isn't usually a simple choice. Would financial strain with one income be better? What about the sanity of the parents?

When I was done with maternity leave, I was eager to get back to work. Not because I didn't love my little one, but because there was a large part of me that was aching to stretch my brain, my creative desires, etc., again. Not just to have "adult conversation" (but that's valid, too), I wanted to keep offering my gifts...and I couldn't turn magically turn into a full time mom. It's not who I was, despite my lineage of stay at home moms (but now, I wonder if there weren't a few mamas in my line who wanted to do something else that just wasn't done back then). And honestly, motherhood made me cry a lot. For all the reasons one might expect, sometimes I just couldn't do it one more day, one more night. What then?

So while it's a nice story that one Kenyan woman experienced some relief and peace by breastfeeding, there are many other ways for mothers, especially here in the US, where tribal culture is different in many fundamental ways, to get help and support. Whether that means their child gets cared for by others in a preschool setting (which we are doing now expressly so that our kid has  more stability in his life, at least on a topical level), or the moms create a larger network of support in friends, family, and in-home child care givers, or they stay at home (or the papas stay at home), there are many ways to create a happy, healthy, sane family.

But what I can do is to shed light on the truth of my life specifically and hint at the larger group of mamas who struggle with their new role. And let mamas express themselves so that they don't feel alone. That isolating feeling in moms can create more damage than a crying child. Isolation kills people in reality. Moms that feel they have no recourse to a life of struggle often (yes, OFTEN) choose to end their lives. And if I could make the difference, by listening, by encouraging honest expression, by creating a system of support, then I want to focus on that. That's what raises healthy kids. A sense that an entire community is holding them, not just their parents. And we can do that without government advocacy (because we can't wait until that happens), without college education and co-sleeping and breastfeeding until two (or later). Yes, those things are nice and beneficial, if they work for the families, but if they don't, other things work too and families need to know that. 

I'd like to promote a culture where mamas don't cry either...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Releasing Weight

As a new mom, with a lot of other new mom friends, there's a lot of talk about losing weight/pre-baby weight/honoring our bodies and all the suggestions and advice that comes along with that. I've heard and read some wise words, but still the weight clings.

Yes, yes, I know that I need to "exercise more and eat less," but as an energy practitioner, a spiritual person and frankly, (shh, don't tell anyone), a believer in unexplained miracles, I have this strange notion that won't leave my head that it's not about exercising more and eating less. Not for me, anyway.

"Then what it is about?" I eagerly ask myself.

And after the short pause I like to give (yes, I am capable of pauses, contrary to popular belief!) myself when asking a question that's as deep as this one, it comes to me.

All the stuff that's hanging around my body with nothing to do, honestly, is a manifestation of what I'm not giving away.

Now, before you go and apply this to yourself, then think I'm completely wrong/crazy/off my rocker, I'll offer this disclaimer:

This is my experience. And this insight came to me in a quiet moment when thinking about my life. I've had a lot of time to think about my life, a lot of therapy, a lot of personal work, etc. So the best I can say is this is the most accurate for me. It may not be for you. I'm not a doctor or a shaman or a health professional. So take what you want and leave the rest.

Back to it. I've recently been exploring a few things that have come up in my daily writing and this thought just came to me. My extra weight is stagnant energy that I didn't want to release for whatever reason. It's a delightful mixture of fear, scarcity, laziness, and resistance. And that's just my first glance.

I was trying on clothes and it was strange because my friend who was with me saw what seemed like a very different person than I saw in the mirror. She used words like beautiful, stunning, and some others that I blocked out of my mind because she was obviously 1) lying 2) talking to someone else 3) feeling bad that I was so unattractive and 4) ultimately crazy.

But that weight that I was so intent on making fun of, using as a defense against cute clothes, and holding on to, was not the issue. It was the 'me' behind it. My head (which consequently makes a lot of decisions based on the past, incomplete info, and straight up fear) was perfectly fine keeping me in sweats and hoodies. It was so obvious. The little voice in my head that eeked out, "Hey, this is kind of cute" was quickly squashed by the uncontrollable tic of my hands grabbing a love handle and pointing out that the dress wasn't able to camouflage my new chub. That poor little voice of "cute reason" was smashed, again.

Why do I want to stay chubby, I asked myself. What do I gain (pun not intended...) by holding on to this weight, this look, and these feelings? Nothing. Really. I feel horrible. I look worse to myself. I'm uncomfortable. And it's no fun!

Back to the idea of what I am not giving away...this is a complex question to pose to myself. I have made it look like (to myself only, probably) that I am giving away plenty. But the truth is, I'm not giving away what I am capable of giving away. There's a big difference when I look closely.

I am mostly nice, reasonably generous, I smile occasionally, I'm friendly, I try hard. That seems to be good enough for the most part. But I don't even know the extent of how much more I can release into the world. Can I be nicer? More generous? More loving? More fucking smiley? Friendlier? Can I say "That's a nice dress" to more strangers? Can I tell more friends how much they mean to me and the friends I already say it too, can I say it more? Can I exhaust myself with new and different ways to find the awesome in people I've known for years and people who I've just met? Can I actually follow through on all the wonderful artwork I've made for people in my mind (trust me, I could open my own gallery with the pieces I've ideated {new word} just to show people how much they mean to me)? I'm not saying I'm not good enough...that's not the point. I know people know that I love them, but to be in balance with the Universe like I want to be, I have a lot more to give than I have been and my hypothesis is if I actually attempt to achieve (okay, striving will be good enough) this balance, then maybe I will release the weight.

To make a finer point, there is a difference between communicating loving feelings, and emptying myself of all the love that is inside me as often as I can manage it. I think I might be surprised how much is really in there waiting to get out and be given to its rightful recipient.


There will be no awards ceremony, where I get to stand up in front of all of you and thank you from the bottom of my heart, in front of the world. No sparkling lights or expensive gowns. No red carpet or after party with lavish gift bags.

You won't see all your effort, generosity, or impact immediately in the life I'm living right now. Not at first blush, anyway.

You don't know how often I am thanking you, or weeping with gratitude at the thoughtful words you shared with me, or feeling really full from the mere presence of you in my life.
Extreme tragedy, in my opinion, and these words feel so small to your bigness.

I'm going through what feels like a massive butterfly (or soon to be butterfly) stage and the cocoon of transformation is made up of the tiny cells of love you have created around me. At times, I have pushed those offerings onto K, like you only gave them to me for him and I'm just his agent. But that dismisses the outpouring of love that you graciously give, most times without a second thought.

Letting go isn't just about releasing my hand from the tight grip I have on all things (it seems) and crossing my fingers, hoping. I am able to do this constant letting go, but at times when I am not able to (or just not supposed to) hold on to something, you are there holding on to me. With a gentle firmness that feels like a snug blanket wrapped tight.

It would be incorrect to say that this butterfly transformation is only for K (or only because of K), even though it basically started that way. Now it's so much more. It's for you too. You have cocooned me so beautifully, that you became a part of the creation, my creation, itself. I hear your words of encouragement, I see your smiles in my mind's eye, your gifts of time, labor, and delicious artifacts,  surrounding my life. Those are becoming part of me, part of my butterfly self.

I don't always know how to thank you. Or appreciate you. Or tell you how profound the gifts you have bestowed have been in my life. And the only way I see being able to repay you, is to fully become that thing of beauty. To give you the pleasure of seeing me fly, float, and share my beautiful colors with you.

Watch me become what you have helped create me to be...


My favorite baby

My inspiration

My inspiration