mindfulness · parenting

Surprises

So many things have surprised me about becoming a parent.

I was genuinely surprised by how much it affected my life at work. I’ve felt very discontent with jobs since Teddy came home, and I know becoming a parent has to do with that. Suddenly, my time at work was also time away from my kid. The stakes got a lot higher, and it became harder to find the kind of work that is engaging and satisfying to me.

I was surprised by how much it energized me in my quest to become a writer. I’ve decided that the reason for this is pretty simple: I want to show my kids what it looks like to believe in yourself and work hard to make your dreams come true.

I’ve been surprised at how hard it is for me to be away from Teddy. It’s getting a little easier as he gets older, but I really feel the happiest and the calmest when I’m with him.

And, finally (for now) – I’ve been surprised at the ways it’s helped me with mindfulness.

I love mindfulness. I recommend mindfulness to others. I utilize mindfulness in my psychotherapy work.

But in my down time? My ability to be mindful varies. I’ve always been a “do your homework while watching TV” kind of person. I listen to podcasts while doing laundry. I listen to music while I’m running. I listen to audiobooks in the car. I rarely do one thing at a time, fully, even though that is almost always my goal.

And then, there’s my 22-month-old son. We spend our weekends wandering around the farm. We visit the lawn mower, the creek, the tractor, the ‘slide’ (a bit of concrete that slants downward toward more concrete), and the chickens. He doesn’t need any distractions, anything to accompany our meandering. He’s completely present.

At least once during the walk, Teddy will stop everything he’s doing, point up at the sky, and say something that sounds like “PLUUUHN!”

Because, of course, a plane is flying overhead. He never misses it. I would never notice it – I’m usually too caught up in my own thoughts, or listening to a podcast so can’t hear it. But Teddy hears it. He’s tuned in.

When we have moments like this, it reminds me that I want to be tuned in, too.  I want to have awareness of the world around me, not just the thoughts inside my head.

I’ve found that I still do a lot of multi-tasking as a parent. I listen to podcasts while we’re meandering around the farm, or I listen to an audiobook while we’re doing dishes together. (Sorry – I meant while I do the dishes and Edgar dumps cups of water on his head.)

But there are moments when parenthood has brought me fully into the present. Like when I’m reading to Edgar, and we’re cuddled up together and I’m completely tuned in to what we’re doing. We have some great books we’ve read together that are actually meant to teach kids about mindfulness. My two current favorites are Baby Present by Rachel Neumann and I Am Peace by Susan Verde.

Those moments are magic.

I have a feeling that multi-tasking while parenting is going to get increasingly difficult as Edgar gets older, and I’m glad. I want to be as present as I can be – as a parent, and in my life overall.

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image from elephantjournal.com
mindfulness · writing

Frustrated #mind #soul

Yup.  I’ve been feeling kind of frustrated.

This month, I decided to do a check-in on my intentions for 2018, and it turns out I’m doing okay-but-far-from-great.

These were my 2018 intentions, numbered:

  1. Meditate.
  2. Write consistently.
  3. Be intentional with all my actions and my choices.
  4. Choose self-care over angst.

The intention I am MOST frustrated about is #2.  It’s been extremely difficult to maintain a consistent writing routine, mostly because of the responsibilities and stresses of everyday work and family life.  Oh, how I wish I could quit my day job and magically conjure up an employor who would pay me a decent salary + benefits to write fiction!  But, c’est la vie.

Since I don’t have magical powers (and if my son has them, they haven’t emerged yet), I decided that there were a few things I needed to figure out to make a writing routine workable and sustainable.

  • How do I keep writing even when my house is a mess?
  • How do I keep writing even when life is chaotic or (more problematic) emotionally exhausting?
  • When can I write?
  • What do I need in order to be able to write?

I’ve been meditating on these questions for a few days now.  I’ve zeroed in on my writing time – during nap on days when I’m home with Teddy, after bedtime on all other days – and I’m contemplating what I really need to be able to write.  (First of all, I need to prioritize writing time over cleaning time.  Cleaning is dumb.  It’s neve16681901_1413780878654813_3993080533770962284_nr finished. My writing is way more important for my mental health than the dishes in my sink.)

The “emotionally exhausted” question is the hardest to answer.  It’s really, really hard for me to maintain my writing routine when I am wiped and feeling terrible about myself. I’m hoping that making my writing routine regular and non-optional will help with this – especially if I decide that even just sitting at the computer for five minutes and browsing through drafted posts or inspiring articles is enough to *count* as my writing practice.  I do this with meditation; sometimes, I only sit to meditate for literally one minute.  But it’s better than zero minutes, and it helps me keep the habit.

Thinking about making writing a priority reminds me of the book that originally inspired this blog – Stan Covey’s children’s book, The Seven Habits Of Happy Kids, which includes a story about each of these habits:

  1. Be proactive.
  2. Begin with the end in mind.
  3. Put first things first.
  4. Think win-win.
  5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood. 
  6. Synergize.
  7. Sharpen the saw. 

Usually the habit I focus on most is #7, which is all about balance.  But today, I’m recommitting to #3.  You can’t do EVERYTHING – you have to set priorities.  Writing is a huge priority for me.  FIRST THINGS FIRST.

 

mindfulness · parenting

Mindful Mommying #heart #body #soul

I’ve been thinking hard about ways to cultivate mindfulness in my everyday life.  Lately I’m trying to face up to my sort-of-chronic anxiety, and friends have advised me that mindfulness is an effective tool to use.

Sometimes, mommying can be helpful in this way.  I’ve realized that right now, my mommying time is the least stressful thing in my life.  Not that it’s not tiring or stressful or worry-inducing in its own way – but I feel the most in the zone and in the flow when I am mommying Teddy.

Today we were curled up reading a book together, and I realized that reading to Teddy is one of the few times of day when I am completely and totally engrossed in the task at hand and not multi-tasking in any way.

That’s a breath of fresh air, for me.

Not everything I do with Teddy is quite as mindful.  Sometimes, when we take our walks outside, I have a podcast playing on my phone while we walk and play. I try not to beat myself up about this, but it’s definitely something I’d like to be different someday.

One of my intentions for 2018 was to meditate more – again, with the hope t

hat it will help my anxiety.  I’ve been doing pretty well with this habit, but I’m grateful for the mommying moments that pull me into the present.

SIDEBAR: we just borrowed a book from the library called Baby Present, by Rachel Neumann, which I got partially because I thought Teddy would like it and partially because the book is basically a mini meditation.  It’s delightful and I feel myself relax into the moment every time we read it.

 

balance · mindfulness

Mindful Check-In #How’sMyBalance?

My last check-in was JULY 31, 2017.  That was a long time ago!  I have a feeling the last six months of my 2017 were pretty balanced, as my not-at-all-scientific method will probably show.  Let’s see!

Since my last check-in, I have written:

  • 13 posts about nourishing my #heart by spending time with family and friends;
  • 12 posts about nourishing my #soul by spending quiet time reflecting and recharging;
  • 16 posts about nourishing my #mind by reading, writing, and engaging in other activities that educate me or exercise my brain muscles;
  • 5 posts about nourishing my #body by exercising, eating healthy food, and taking steps to take care of my physical being;
  • and, last but not least, 5 posts about nourishing my #spirit by learning or doing new things.

Here are my thoughts on this:

  • I feel pretty balanced recently.  I’ve been doing my best to make time with family and friends a priority, and to make plans for fun things to do as a family and with our friends.
  • never write as much about #body as the other aspects of self.  I’ve never been the person who posts about physical accomplishments on social media or anything like that.  There’s nothing wrong with posts like that, at all – just not my thing.  However, I think that writing less about #body also has to do with my exercise routine sometimes being monotonous.  I’m actually in the middle of a drafted post about one of my new exercise routines, which is nostalgic and exciting – soon to be posted.
  • I expect that my #spirit posts will increase during the early months of 2018.  Tee and I have some fun plans – nothing wild and crazy, just little adventures to have, places to visit, things to do.

I feel excited and energized to be blogging again after my accidental two-month-long hiatus.  Already published seven new posts in 2018 – five more posts until 300!

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balance · mindfulness

Mindful Check-In #How’sMyBalance?

It feels good to be writing today.

I’ve had a little break from the blog.  It wasn’t on purpose;  I think what happened was, my June 28th post emptied me out (read it here!), and I’ve been feeling inspired to do more creative writing.

I haven’t done a check-in for a long time.  I’m not really in love with my format for doing check-ins, honestly – but I do find it helpful to take a moment to evaluate where I’m at and how things are going.  Hopefully I’ll eventually find a way to check in that’s more fun.  But, for now:

My last check-in was on February 20th.  (See?  If my check-ins were more fun, I’d do them more often!)

💖  I’ve written twelve posts about nourishing my #heart by spending time with family, friends, and other kindred spirits.  This has been flowing pretty naturally for me.  Anytime with Teddy and Tee is amazing #heart food.  And we’ve been doing a pretty good job of making plans to spend time with family and friends, which is always a challenge for my little family of introverts.

☯️  I’ve written thirteen posts about nourishing my #soul by engaging in activities that bring me peace and contentment.  Solid.

💭 I’ve written seventeen posts about nourishing my #mind with podcasts, books, and other brain food.  Consistently my best category.    

🏃 I’ve written seven posts about nourishing my #body food with exercise, activity, and healthy food and sleep.  Ugh.  It’s hard to be a full-time working mom with a one-year-old and still find time to work out.  I try to take walks with Teddy; I’ll try to take more.  We shall see.

🌱 I’ve written four posts about nourishing my #spirit by doing things that are new, different, and/or challenging.  Not bad.  I think I forget about this category frequently.

Coming soon – (hopefully) a more fun way to check in, and a snapshot because my head is full of thoughts about all the things.

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mindfulness

#MBSR #mind #soul #body

Taking a break from our daily routine is always beneficial.

For clinical social workers, that can often be achieved by signing up for a training.

Last week, I spent Monday and Tuesday attending a training in MBSR – mindfulness-based stress reduction.  These two days included some pretty excellent self-care.  Re-listening to The Gifts Of Imperfection in the car.  Meditating.  Journaling.  Reflectinpicture-26g on what’s been stressful lately and contemplating my next move.

We used a Stress-O-Meter to measure our stress throughout the two days.  I started out as an eight.  I slowly relaxed my way down to a four.  (I immediately re-escalated to an 11 when I walked into work on Wednesday morning.  Ugh.)

I’ve been wanting to attend a training in mindfulness-based stress reduction for a long time, and it did not disappoint.  There were a LOT of takeaways:

-This is a list of mindful attitudes I’ve been encouraged to cultivate: non-judgment; patience; non-striving; acceptance; beginners’ mind; trust; and letting go.  All relevant.  Some challenging.  All of them powerful when exercised mindfully.

-Stress is contagious.  So is peacefulness.  Lately, I’ve been having a really tough time at work.  I can be really sensitive to the moods and attitudes of others, and in this case, that is NOT good.  I’ve set an intention to try to project peace rather than absorbing stress.

-Our instructor asked us this question: “How many times do we limit ourselves to the story of who we are?”  It’s really good to know ourselves.  For example, I felt very empowered by the knowledge that I’m an introvert.  HOWEVER – I don’t want to limit myself to only one story.  I don’t want to label myself as an introvert, or a runner, or a procrastinator, and thus write the story of how I live my life before I even live it out.

-Dear KEM, Stop being so attached to outcomes.  Okay thanks bye.9ada79c33c1ed3dbade5871ae148f74d

-When it comes to life, I would much rather be the passenger than the driver. Something to think about.

-We spend most of our lives rehearsing or rehashing.  Rather than just BEING in the moment.

-We are always practicing something.  And we get better at what we practice.

I’m eager to keep my mindfulness practice going.  However, this is always a struggle for me – the daily maintenance that comes with keeping a new habit.

Last year, there was a sale at PESI and I treated myself to two books: MBSR Every Day and A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook.  I brought them both with me to the training, thinking that I might finally start to a) read them and b) understand what exactly MBSR is. So far, in the workbook, I’ve finished a few chapters, and I am hoping to commit myself to formal mindfulness practice.  I’ve done a few ‘mindful check-ins’ and about 20 minutes of mindful yoga.  A good start.

anxiety · balance · mindfulness

The Struggle Bus Is Real #mind #soul

Oh, man.  I am definitely riding the struggle bus lately.967f0c589eb9b1e051bfda3412bd612d

Specifically, I’ve been experiencing an identity crisis related to my day job.

I’ve previously blogged about the ups and downs I’ve been having at work since Teddy came home.  For so long, waiting for Teddy took up all of my heart.

Now, Teddy’s home.  Tee and I are healthy and stressed-but-oh-so-happy.  And I’m trying to figure out what I want my life to look like.

I’ve come up with a few different things I’m looking for in my work life:  A shorter commute.  Fewer hours.  Less stress.  More fun and play.  An organization that is aligned with my values.  

I’ve always felt best when I was working with a group of people who felt happy, committed to their work, and inspired.  Genesee.  AmeriCorps.  Sigh.

So – I’m evaluating my options.  I’m deciding what my next move will be.  And I’m wondering, not for the first time, if I did it all wrong – career, 307grad school, jobs.

I once talked to a girl who’d decided to become a yoga therapist.  She was around 30 years old at the time.  She said, “I finish teaching a class, and I’m filled with energy.  I’m so grateful that I’ve found what gives me the most joy when I’m so young.”

Sigh, sigh, sigh.

I very much want to find work that helps me to feel energized and alive.  It’s possible that I just need a change.  Or, that I need to get back to my two greatest loves – working with children and creative writing.

So, I’m taking steps.  Applying for new jobs.  Going to interviews.  Trying to carve out time for fiction writing.

But – here’s the second half of my struggle: How do I stay mindful and peaceful in the midst of striving and change?

Transitions are always a challenge.  In my experience, it’s difficult to physically be at one job when your heart and your mind are out there searching for a new job.  Last week I felt a lot of anxiety for that reason.  I’m trying to recenter – to ground myself in the knowledge that I am, as always, exactly where I need to be.

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