balance

About Life Goals #soul #mind

A few weeks ago, a friend told me about her goal in life.goal

It wasn’t a career.  It wasn’t a job.  It wasn’t a personal goal, like starting a family, raising children.  “My big life goal,” she said, “is to teach people – kids – how to think.

I love this.  After she said it, my immediate thought (self-centered soul that I am) was, “What the heck is my life goal?”

I’ve been feeling a little lost lately.  For several years, the adoption wait consumed all of me.  Now that I’m settling in to my happy, lovely home life, I am wondering what I really want out of the rest of my life – career, family, friends, community, adventure.

There are so many things that I want out of life.  But the idea of having a big, overarching goal that guides everything I do – that is appealing.  It would be a touchstone – a place to come back to when I’m not sure what the next right thing to do is.the-voice-by-shel-silverstein-e1398434975375

In a way, I have this already.  I am lucky enough to have a strong connection with a higher power; in moments of doubt, I am able to slow down, breathe, and feel quite clearly whether I am moving in flow with the universe or going rogue trying to achieve my own scattered agenda.  It’s one of the things I am most grateful for, and I feel it very deeply when I am off-track and not in the flow.

But back to the concept of life goals.

The balance between being a new mommy and a working professional has been tricky.  Before Teddy came home, I had a lot of thoughts about career goals – becoming licensed as a play therapist, starting my own private practice.  I thought about these things.  I considered them.  I decided, for various reasons, not to move forward with them.  I was chatting with a friend about it recently, and I realized that part of the problem with those goals was that they’d require me to work really, really hard and often for several years – and I do NOT want to do that.  Especially now that Teddy’s home!  But even when he wasn’t home yet, I didn’t have a secret wish to work as a therapist for more hours of the week.  I have a full-time job, and the idea of working more than full-time does not appeal.13716151_1065885406824201_4859054577580508244_n

However.

However.

As a result of that conversation, I realized something.

When I think about working lots of extra hours of my life as a writer, I don’t have the same reaction.

In fact, that sounds awesome.

I chose my undergraduate university because I wanted to be a journalist.  Then, about a year and a half into my college career, I stepped away from writing.  There were a lot of reasons why.  The big picture was that I found myself drawn to writing news stories about acts of service, and then realized that I wanted to have a career that enabled me to be a helper rather than a job writing about helpers.  The more zoomed-in picture involved a botched assignment for the school newspaper, which helped me to realize that a) I don’t like talking to strangers, and b) I hate asking unsolicited or unwanted questions.  So being a reporter was out.

Two years later, I took my first creative writing class, and I loved it.  LOVED it.  But felt like it was too late to change my major.

Then my life twisted and turned and evolved until I arrived at this moment.  And at this moment, I’ve been thinking a lot about my dream of being a writer.

I still haven’t zeroed in on a life goal – an overarching commitment that can guide me along my way.  But I have something to share.  Even if I don’t know what it is quite yet.

toni-morrison

 

balance

What You Do Every Day #heartsoulmindbody

Lately, I feel like my day-to-day life doesn’t accurately represent who I am or what I love the way I want it to.

At moments like this, I drift back to this strategy:

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Interesting.  Let’s try that, shall we?

Things that make me happy: meditation, yoga, running, hiking, the outdoors, Tee, Teddy, family, friends, community, healthy food, arts and crafts, writing, reading, service

Things I do every day (usually): Edgar, Tee, reading

This is just an exercise.  There’s no passing or failing.  But if there was – this is a FAILING SCORE.

honestI’ve been writing a lot recently about the way motherhood has altered my perspective.  Every moment seems incredibly valuable to me now.  I don’t want to waste time doing things that aren’t important to me, and I want to put time and effort into forming habits that match my values.

However – I also don’t want to slip into Default Perfectionist Mode.  (That’s when I plan out every second of my day in fifteen-minute increments.  I mean – no, I don’t ever do that.  That’s what a crazy control freak would do. And – well, let’s move forward.)

So – how do I address my everyday habits without switching into perfectionist mode, where I try to control anything and everything?

I tend to have the most luck when I make some tentative plans and then let go and let the universe take care of the enacting of my plan.  And now is the perfect time to make some plans, because today I am returning to work full-time – cue sad face emoji.

This is my tentative plan for work days:

Wake up at 4:45 a.m.

Have some quiet, reflective time.  Write.  Read.  Meditate.  Drink coffee.  Do yoga.  Make a fire.  Do whatever you need to do to feel peaceful and encouraged to face the day.

At 5:30, get dressed and ready to go, because it’s almost Teddy Time!

6 a.m. – Wake up Teddy and give him breakfast and snuggles!

Leave for work by 6:30 a.m. so you can be there by 7:30.  

7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. – work all day, with periodic breaks to text with Tee and to look at adorable photos of the teddy bear.

LEAVE WORK AT 4 P.M. – with rare exceptions.

Use the p.m. commute as time for family and friend phone calls.  

Walk in my front door at 5 p.m.  Immediately commence snuggles.  

Go for a walk on the trail with Teddy.  Exercise is key!

Cook and eat dinner with Tee and Teddy.

The after-dinner hour: tidying with Tee (we’ve been trying to make this a daily ritual), music, reading, playing with Teddy, writing, just generally relaxing and winding down, energy-wise.

8 p.m. – bedtime for Teddy.

After Teddy’s bedtime – continue the after-dinner hour activities until ready to hibernate in bed until 4:45 a.m. the next day.  

Repeat.

One of the t13692467_1077569535613733_5876875985468000135_nhings this plan is dependent on is me taking good care of myself throughout the work day, body and soul.  I have a habit of pushing myself to the limits at work, and then coming home and crashing.  That’s been my unintentional routine, and I know it won’t work anymore.  I can’t be crashing during my precious family time.

I enjoy thinking about what I want my life to look like and figuring out how to make it work.  If this plan works, it’ll give me time outdoors, exercise, family time, etc.

However – I also think flexibility is key.  Making a plan is helpful – but I know that some days it will all be off track by 5:30 a.m.  And I’m okay with that, too.  A ritual is still helpful, even if it’s missed sometimes.  A routine still provides structure, because we can always pick up right where we left off.

Above all, I want to remember to be mindful and to let every step I take be guided by grace.  When I am grounded and centered by my various rituals and routines, I find it much easier to do the next right thing and to experience moments of flow.

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balance · parenting

Routines & Rituals #heart #mind #soul

Teddy and I have a lovely morning routine.

He wakes up every day at six o’clock and I go into his room and start singing a Teddy-themed version of Steve Holy’s “Good Morning Beautiful.”  As soon as I start singing, he quiets down, even if he’s been chattering or crying; when he hears the opening words of the song, it’s as if his body relaxes and he knows that I’m about to turn on the light and scoop him up.  It’s both a comforting routine (a sequence of actions regularly followed) and a meaningful ritual (a ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed in a prescribed order).

For many years, I avoided the word routine.  I thought of routines as munduntitled-2ane, boring.

Now, I crave routines and rituals, and I feel a little unhinged when I don’t have them anchoring me to my center.

I noticed recently that I sometimes feel a little cranky on the weekends.  Right now, thanks to part-time maternity leave, every weekend is four days long.  And I notice that my crankiness is sometimes caused by my days having a lack of intention or purpose.  As much as I’d like to be free-flowing, wake up and just go where the wind blows – I don’t thrive when I wake up and just see what happens.  Doing that breeds anxiety and I start trying to numb or cover with non-helpful things.  (Chocolate, coffee, soda, TV, etc.)

But I also have a difficult time balancing between underplanning and overplanning.  I don’t want to have my day scheduled out in fifteen-minute increments – but I also don’t want to let valuable time slip by without making the most of it.  When I don’t plan at all, it feels like my life is happening unintentionally, and isn’t as eventful and enriching as it could be.

It’s tricky to manage that balance.

I think at the minimum, I can attempt a morning ritual – a few moments each morning for meditation and prayer.  If those involve reading or writing, that would be lovely, too. That kind of morning ritual has always been centering for me – writing morning pages, reading from one of my favorite meditative texts (Each Day A New Beginning), and perhaps drinking a cup of tea. (My love-hate relationship with coffee continues.)

I also have been considering my evening rituals.  (See here, where I talk about trying to adjust my bedtime rituals so that I wear actual pajamas and don’t listen to podcasts while falling asleep.)  Improving my sleep hygiene is always a goal.  And I have another secret vision, once my sleep has improved and I don’t fall into bed immediately after Teddy goes to sleep.  (Seriously, people – sometimes we’re talkin’ seven-thirty at night.)   I’d really like to have an after-dinner hour that’s devoted to music, reading, light housework, and talking with Tee about our days.  This is a very sweet and quaint ritual in my mind, but in order for it to be feasible, I need to start sleeping better at night.  Because some days, I have to go to bed at eight to make up for only getting three hours or sleep the night before.

It never quite feels like there’s enough – enough time with Teddy, enough energy to do everything I need and want to do.  The days feel so short.  My sense of “never enough” has lessened a little since my Radical Action of cutting down on my TV watching; that’s helped a lot.  But I’ve been thinking of other ways to help me dispel the myth of ‘not enough time.’

Lately, I’ve been having to press my reset button a LOT.  I’ve been brushing up on my self-compassion – taking self-compassion breaks, a la Kristen Neff.  I think that’s one more ritual that can really help me – taking a moment to stretch and and practice quiet self-compassion and just be before acting or doing.  (When in doubt, do nothing – How To Be KEM, item number five.)

The power of a ritual is that it’s an automatic signal for what’s about to occur.  My morning song tells Teddy it’s time to wake us.  Having a meditative morning time triggers a peaceful and calm s13427831_1202337843161612_6127423370670852233_ntart to my day.  Putting on my after-dinner hour playlist will be a trigger that it’s time to wind down for the night.

And for Teddy, he has songs that are sung throughout his day that help him to know what’s coming – “Me and My Teddy Bear” and the pie song at bedtime, the poop song (a KEM original) when he hasn’t pooped for a day, and a song my Nana used to sing to me (“A Bushel and A Peck”) when it’s time for smiles and baby boy giggles.

It’s so easy to give those things to my baby boy.  Now I just have to remember to give the same gifts to myself.

balance · soul

Radical Action #body #soul

I’ve been struggling with two things: television and sugar.

It’s time for a radical course of action.

Last week, I tried out the Whole30 program – you cut out grains, dairy,sugar, additives, etc, for thirty days.

I lasted two days.  No cream in my coffee?  Dealbreaker.

So, that program is not for me.  But it did feel good to not pump my bo14695610_1037460039734074_317020882594635257_ndy full of sugar and diet Coke for two days.

Doing Whole30 was too extreme for me.  But I think there’s merit to the boot camp approach to changing habits.  It’s time for change, now.

I want to change my eating habits so I can stop feeling crappy and tired.

I want to change my TV habits so I can stop stuffing my days with mindless filler and make space for creativity, mindfulness, and joy.  Tomorrow is the day.  I’m doing it cold turkey – no sugar, no headphones at bedtime, no TV unless I am cleaning.

I have no plan.  Just an intention and a radical commitment to making this happen.

 

 

balance

Recalibrating #body

I keep alluding to the fact that we’ve had a big change in our lives recently.

I’m not trCartoon teddy bear clipartying to be vague or coy.  I just don’t have the words to describe the elation and the relief and the joy that we feel at the addition of this amazing, wonderful, two-month-old teddy bear to our family.

Someday (maybe?) I’ll write a blog post summarizing the events of this summer and the subsequent jubilee Tee and I have been experiencing.

But for now, I’d like to talk about how to get back into a good routine for #body nourishment now that all my workouts now include ten pounds of baby goodness.

Lucky for us, the NCR Trail is literally right outside our front door.  So Teddy and I frequently take mid-day walks on the trail, which is awesome.  However – I’ve been really slacking on running.

Today, I decided to go with my theme of #BabySteps and follow this beginner 5K plan I found online:

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It was pretty perfect for today.  It feels funny to be doing such incremental work when I used to go for a seven mile run on a regular basis, but hey – it’s all about #BabySteps.

Additionally, I am (yet again) going to try this plank challenge thing:

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Today was Day 1 for me.  I feel an especial urge to strengthen my core, now that I am wearing and lifting Teddy every day.  I wouldn’t say I am experiencing back pain, but I’m definitely aware of my back in a way I am not usually.  SIDEBAR: I LIVE IN FEAR OF DAY 30.