What If We Celebrated How Far We Have Come?
What if being grouchy pointed me in a better direction?
What if we asked “What if…?” (in bed)
- Seeming inappropriate
- Making others uncomfortable
- Embarrassing myself
- Making myself look bad/weird/etc.
Also, my mom reads my blog! Hi Mom!
Remember my life purpose I shared in my first blog post a few weeks ago? Well, today I am the Wild Card who is kind of afraid my Mom will read this. My inner critic or Gremlin if you will, is in my head like this:
I’m joking and possibly creating some awkwardness here. Why? Because I’m already anticipating reactions, thinking of censoring myself, and so on. I’m also joking because it is a way I avoid conveying in a more serious way, something I care about, and think is an important question to ask.
Here are some fortunes I made up:
What if things changed…in bed?
What if you changed who you thought you were…in bed?
What if you asked for what you wanted…in bed?
What if you allowed your most authentic self to emerge…in bed?
If you do turn away from some of these questions out of discomfort my only request is to ask yourself what’s underneath that reaction. Of course, you have every right to refuse that request. I will not take it personally if you stop reading my blog or have a less-than-stellar opinion of me.
This space is about reclaiming the power of “What if” questions and pointing them towards possibility, exploration, re-examination of beliefs, and so on. It’s not a place to fan the flames of catastrophic thinking or fear. That said, I do acknowledge that fear often stands in the way of exploring possibilities.
We live life once. I believe we should enjoy it as the fullest expression of our authentic selves. I myself am still working on it and this blog is part of that exploration. How does holding back and censoring ourselves get in the way?
There is power in asking What If questions. This is not a blog with “10 Magical Steps To Bliss” or advice to give. I ask a lot of questions and trust you readers to come up with your own answers because you are creative, capable and fully in charge of yourselves! Everyone’s life and journey are unique.
I strongly believe there is an empowering space of possibility that lies beyond any What If question and that includes questions that end with “in bed.”
How Rob Lowe Helped Me Grow As A Human Being
I thought I’d experiment with a more narrow focus here after experiencing an explosion of What Ifs while writing my last post. The school year is almost over. Another year gone by! I sent my husband an article recently called “Eighteen Summers: It’s All We Get” and keep reminding myself to slow down the pace of life with our kids so we can savor it. All of this brought to mind an excerpt I read online last Fall about a father dropping his oldest son off at college. It was called “Unprepared” and was featured on Slate.com. I was so choked up when I read it. I couldn’t believe it was written by Rob Lowe. How could that be possible? I had always despised Rob Lowe! I fit him into a neat box in my mind next to Keira Knightley called “Celebrities I despise.” In my opinion, Rob Lowe was just too smooth and pretty as an 80s heartthrob so I decided I didn’t like him and that was that.
Later in his career, I found him all too easy to despise in certain movies like Tommy Boy especially as a foil to one of my favorites, the comedic cherub, Chris Farley. Of course, that was the point.
After feeling so touched after reading “Unprepared”, I realized I had made up some pretty big assumptions about Rob Lowe and carried them around for 30 years without once revisiting my stance. After reading his book excerpt online, I felt compelled to immediately check out his memoir Love Life at the library to lift the veil and see where my assumptions might be wrong. Ahhh, the celebrity memoir genre. Mr. Lowe (it feels too personal referring to him as “Rob) tells entertaining stories about growing up, the Playboy mansion, cub scout field trips, and a saxophone gig after St. Elmo’s Fire. He also shares touching snippets about love and parenting. He wrote that Rashida Jones, his co-star on Parks and Rec, called him a “benevolent narcissist” and I found myself smiling. I realized at some point in reading that I stopped despising him or thinking that I despised him. And what had I despised anyway? His smarmy good looks and presumed celebrity shallowness? How was I being shallow in my judgment of him? I’d made so many assumptions (he’s dumb/a jerk/self-absorbed/etc.) given that I don’t even know the guy personally.
I imagine some of you might be thinking “Whoa. Settle down! Why are you getting so serious about your judgments of a random celebrity?”
Entertain me for a few more paragraphs! In reading his memoir, I saw some of his humanity. Sure, it’s possible most of it was ghost-written by an intern who interviewed him in his trailer for a few days. Despite looks and money and fame and all the rest of it, Rob Lowe is a real person with a life story. It’s so easy to think we “despise” celebrities and forget they are human beings. Rob Lowe is still not my favorite actor or person in the world. After nearly finishing this post I finally decided to read his Wikipedia page last night and there are some controversial things on there that I wasn’t aware of. I’m not going to delve any deeper right now except to say that he is a three-dimensional human being who has been living his life and I’m sure making mistakes like anyone else. I’ll save topics like acceptance and forgiveness for future blog posts.
To be clear, this post is not really about celebrities or Rob Lowe. Rob Lowe points me to many questions some of which are:
- Who else in my own life have I made assumptions about and therefore written them off?
- In my own triggered moments, how have I failed to get curious about others?
I’ve encountered people in my life who have triggered me where I felt angry, defensive, judgmental, “not enough”, ignored, and so on. What if I didn’t take it personally? What if their behavior was not a reflection on me and who I am? It’s easier to access compassion when we get curious about who someone is, what they’re going through and how they came to be that person. After spending a few days tinkering with this post, I came across an article last night on my commute titled “Want to Connect With That Difficult Co-Worker? Try This 1 Sentence.” The sentiment in the article goes beyond just co-workers and was:
We all fear something, love something, have lost something
Every person is a bundle of beliefs, personality, preferences, opinions, life experiences (positive and negative), etc. What if we brought more compassion and curiosity to the people we thought we didn’t like? Or who we assume don’t like us? Or who live drastically different lives than we do? Or to people we encounter in our daily lives who seem grumpy or withdrawn? Maybe we will be surprised. Maybe not. Maybe more compassion and curiosity will bring more connection and understanding. Or maybe we will learn enough so that we still decide to respectfully avoid that person. We won’t know until we try.
What if we all spent more time on things that made us feel ALIVE?
What was that about? Apparently, I lived my way into the answer. I was lucky enough to see some friends live and in-person at a BBQ last weekend and a few asked me “So when’s the next post?” and I felt a familiar Gremlin voice say: “Ahhhh! the weight of expectation! What have I done!? It’s so much easier when no one expects anything from me!” Yet at the same time I really wanted to write another post and do it regularly. I told a handful of folks I’d like to post every 1-2 weeks. I also explained how I don’t like routines and I’m “bad at” consistency and how “I’m going to play with that 1-2 week time frame and see what happens.”
What if these were stories I’ve been telling myself for years and not actual truths about how “good” or “bad” I am at something?
If I consider my story about my distaste for consistency and routine, what about this particular story feels true? Well, to start, I don’t keep to routines when it comes to things I don’t think are super important like making my bed or making my kids do their homework (oops).
What about the story is not true? One example is that I do keep our kids on a bedtime routine because I think it is valuable and beneficial to them to get sleep. Another example is that I get myself to bed most nights between 9pm and 10pm (many of my friends know I have a nerdy iPhone reminder that says “Bedtime!” and goes off at 9pm) because I value how I feel more mentally sharp, energetic, healthy, and in a better mood when I get 7-8 hours of sleep. If I break that routine, it is a conscious choice to stay up late like attending John Williams’ Film Night at the BSO this past week (which was incredible and listening to live music makes me feel alive!) or deciding to stay up until 11pm to watch a second episode of The Night Manager as part of a multi-day binge of the series (watching Tom Hiddleston makes me feel alive!).
And another thing! As I said these things out loud to real actual people last weekend about being “bad at” consistency and routines, I heard how non-committal my voice and energy sounded. My very smart friends must have picked up on this. These friends said something like “but you sounded so excited about starting the blog!” and I could feel my energy was inconsistent and low compared to the exhilarating, brave, and scary (like the top of a roller coaster) feelings I had when I hit “publish” last Friday. A voice in my head said “You wanted to start a conversation! Remember? This is not a glass observation booth” and so I stepped forward out of the Mist of Avoidance and said “Yes, I am excited about it. I actually love writing and want to spend more time on it.” It was helpful to say that out loud and felt true for me. A friend said “Wow, You just said you want to spend time on it. How often do we actually make time for the things we want to be spending it on?”
What if we all spent more time on things we wanted to spend time on? On things we deeply enjoyed and that made us feel alive? I know I can easily get caught up in what I think I should be doing i.e “I should spend tonight signing the kids up for summer camp or in my free block of time I should take my car to get the headlight fixed.” I thought that’s what being an adult was all about. Somewhere along the way I attached myself to the belief that adults need to be responsible and do things for others all the time and should accept that there won’t be enough time for hobbies/interests. In addition to the “shoulds”, this Responsible Adult persona saddles me with countless things I could be doing like “Well, I do have an hour before picking the kids up so I could possibly squeeze in a quick trip to the grocery store or post office.” What if I arranged my schedule so that I spent more time on what mattered most to me? I don’t mean completely giving up on my TO DO list or neglecting to do basic things that take care of my family. I am referring to making more conscious choices and creating time for what makes me feel alive. The challenge is that it’s a constant balancing act. Spending time with my kids is wonderful and yet I also need alone time to recharge so that I’m a better mom when I’m with them. Many of us have competing priorities in life with work, home, family, to-do list, self-care, sleep, health, exercise, etc. One of my Gremlins looks like this:
She tries to tell me it is “selfish” to do things for myself and that I don’t have time for it!
I love this “Secret of Adulthood” that writer/blogger Gretchen Rubin reveals:
Don’t wait until you have free time. You may never have any free time.
We all have choices with how we spend our time. Over the past few years, I’ve really tried to stop saying “I was too busy to do XYZ” or “I didn’t have the time” and just get honest with myself and others that “I had other priorities” or “I made the choice to prioritize XYZ over that.” Often we feel victim to our schedules at times (I know I have and still do during some days/weeks.) Then I remember that I’m the one in charge of my life. I’m the one in charge of what I say “yes” or “no” to. I still struggle with it at times especially when I fear disappointing someone by saying “no.” There are just times when the only thing I want to say “yes” to is going to bed at 8pm like I did last night.
What if as a starting point, we spent more time on the things we cared enjoyed as kids? Before we starting Adulting? I spent a lot of time writing, kicking my soccer ball against my futon, drawing, listening/dancing to music, being outside in the woods, and playing guitar or piano. Currently, I don’t have a futon nor do I have an urge to kick the soccer ball repeatedly like I used to. However, I do have the urge to write, get outside more, dance, and play my guitar.
What if when we felt envious of how others were spending their time if it was just a signpost for us to take a look at our own choices? I know I’ve felt envious when I’ve heard of folks doing fun or interesting things and thought “I wish I had the time and/or guts to do that!”
I think that’s enough What Ifs for today. Please let me know what happens for you (or has already happened prior to reading this post) as you play with time and how you spend it. We need more aliveness in this world! I’m going to go tinker with my time by spending 15 minutes outside before some afternoon calls and see how it feels.
Oh, to be a Mom…
Motherhood Manifesto (the early years 0-6)
The word “manifesto” has its roots in Italian, from manifestare, to manifest. Here is my attempt to capture not only what I wish I knew from the start but what Motherhood means to me and how I’d ideally like it to manifest in my life each day:
- Motherhood means giving birth to some of your greatest teachers.
- Motherhood is a commitment. It is a genuine, raw, no-turning-back kind of devotion encompassing so many bits, parts & pieces, exploding in seemingly infinite directions.
- Motherhood means exponentially expanding your capacity to love and surrendering to an overflowing heart.
- Motherhood is a canvas where you get to paint with your own colors and make it beautiful in your own way.
- Motherhood means loving yourself first, just as you are. Because how can you expect your kids to love themselves if you don’t truly love yourself? It’s also okay if this is a work in progress.
- Motherhood means hearing “Mommy, I love you” can leave you breathless.
- Motherhood gives you a chance to see the magic in the world through your little one’s eyes.
- Motherhood ignites a fiercely protective energy that might surprise you at times with its intensity.
- Motherhood gives you a new appreciation for your own parents. This feeling will resurface on a regular basis.
- Motherhood means learning to love unconditionally. Your love is not a reward for your child’s good behavior.
- Motherhood means really listening to your kids and reading in between the lines. They may not always be able to say exactly what’s on their mind or how they are feeling. Sometimes an angry outburst just means they are hungry and/or tired.
- Motherhood means reassuring your kids that you can be a container for their feelings no matter how big they are. Acknowledge your kids’ feelings and let them know that all feelings are okay and there are no “good” or “bad” ones. Teach them to name their feelings and that they have a choice how to respond to them.
- Motherhood means you don’t have to be jack-of-all trades. Save the play-doh and messy paints for the kids to do with a babysitter if you prefer.
- Motherhood means letting go of expectation. You might plan a magical outing and it all goes downhill fast when your little one decides to do a snow angel in a mud puddle and you forgot the spare change of clothes at home.
- Motherhood means accepting that nothing is permanent. A crawling baby could walk tomorrow. Your 6 year old will be a high school graduate before you know it.
- Motherhood means teaching your kids more lessons than you could possibly imagine. And re-learning these lessons for yourself much of the time as well. Your children will expose your greatest foibles and weaknesses. Work on these foibles and weaknesses if for no other reason than because you love your kids.
- We all show up on the doorstep of Motherhood with our so-called “limitations” or the “I can’t” list. Despite what you tell yourself, these borders are not fixed. Before I had kids, I used to think I couldn’t function on less than 8 hours of sleep. I was wrong. My ability to handle sleep deprivation could rival a Navy SEAL’s (or so I tell myself). Or maybe you say that you’re impatient. Your capacity for patience can increase but only if you work on it. Submit yourself to learning big lessons from a teeny tiny person who may not even be able to speak full sentences yet.
- Motherhood will humble you again and again. There will be plenty of times where you don’t know what the answer is or wonder if you are “doing it right”. Confidence builds over time. It also means acknowledging and quieting the pesky inner voice that tells you you’re not good enough.
- Motherhood means making self-care a priority. This means learning the Power of No and that saying “yes” doesn’t have to be a default, but is a precious gift instead. I never learned how important self-care was for me and for my kids, until I allowed myself to become depleted and saw how many of the daily gifts I was missing because of it.
- Motherhood means being present and really seeing your kids for who they are. Each seemingly ordinary moment is a treasure and fleeting. Allow your children to reawaken your own childlike wonder, joy, and unbridled enthusiasm.
- Motherhood will provide you with more opportunities for creativity than you could ask for. It doesn’t mean you have to come up with all the ideas. This is a great place to leverage friends, other moms, parenting magazines, and the good ol’ internet. Your kids don’t care if you came up with the idea or not. The memories you have with your kids will be some of your finest creations.
- Motherhood means you might just become the family historian. Jot down funny/wise/sweet sentences that your children say. It doesn’t have to be organized. Take pictures of their bedroom at certain ages, stuffed animals, and record video of the micro-moments that will remind you of this phase of their life. Hearing your 5-year old’s tiny 2-year old voice in a video can melt your heart.
- Motherhood means accepting your kids for who they are, respecting them, and teaching them they don’t always have to please the grown-ups in their life. It’s okay for them to have their own ideas and desires. This can be hard to navigate especially around bedtime and your kid’s own idea is to keep sneaking downstairs.
- Motherhood means letting go of perfection and giving yourself a break. Let your kids wear their pajamas to school or eat cold pizza for breakfast if you are crunched on time. Don’t worry about what other people will think. You never know, they may be working on their own issues with perfection.
- Embrace the mess. Yes, there will be poop. And vomit. And pee. And more spilled food and drink than you might care for. It’s part of the territory so don’t get too caught up in wishing it didn’t happen. Have you ever seen a newborn poop on the ceiling? I have. This $hit happens.
- Embrace the emotional mess. Your wee wonders will do and say things that don’t seem rational to many adults. A broken granola bar could be tragic and devastating to your small child. It doesn’t have to make sense to you. Focus on dealing with their reality and validating their feelings.
- Spend more time than you do money. Kids don’t need fancy toys and outings as much as they need to feel seen and heard. Let them know you will get down to their level, play on the floor, put on the superhero costume, or join them in a rousing game they invented which involves throwing empty Crayola paint bottles in a cardboard box.
- Motherhood means teaching your children they have a voice and that it matters. More importantly, model this by speaking up for yourself and for your kid (especially before they can talk!)
- Motherhood means going outside your own comfort zone at times if it’s what is best for your child. This may mean standing up to another parent at the playground or teacher as a means to honor your child.
- Motherhood means encouraging your kids to connect with other wonderful adults in their lives so they learn how to trust and form secure attachments. Grandparents, family friends, aunts, uncles, and babysitters are all good options.
- Motherhood means being needed 24/7 and a home base to which your kids can return after striking out on their own adventures.
- Motherhood means joining a sisterhood of other mothers. It means making “mom friends” and creating a support system that’s there when you need it. This also makes Motherhood more fun and enjoyable in general. Finding mom friends is kind of like dating except you look for them at playgrounds instead of bars. Practice getting some digits!
- Motherhood means standing up for other mothers out there and not judging them. Everyone is doing the best that they can in that moment. None of us are perfect and we can never fully understand what another mother is going through or has gone through.
- Motherhood means honoring the woman you were before you had kids. Keep doing things that you love to do. You are still the same person but with an added dimension and capacity for love.
- Motherhood means remembering to pay attention to your relationship (which is how the whole having kids thing started) and cherishing it as a separate entity from your responsibilities as parents. This means taking time to be together as a couple and being okay with leaving your kids with a trusted caregiver. It’s good for the kids too.
- Motherhood will make you feel unstoppable like you kick ass and can get more things done and give more than you ever thought possible.
- Motherhood also means knowing when to ask for help. This will involve a lot of trial and error and possibly some crying on the floor. The moments when you do respect your limits and accept help can feel glorious. But only if you let it. So allow yourself to feel glorious and let go of the guilt that you can’t do everything on your own.
- Besides asking for help, know when to say “yes” to help being offered. Open your heart to receiving. Practice by saying “thank you” when someone says something kind to you or about your kid.
- Motherhood means at a certain point, your kids are no longer babies and it’s okay for them to do things for themselves. The look on their face when they put on their own shoes or say “I do it myself!” is heart-warming and you can witness the fire of confidence being stoked. On the other hand, this can also prove difficult when you’re in a rush and your 2-year old wants to take 5 minutes to buckle his/her own seatbelt. I’ve learned that leaving a little extra time in the morning can’t hurt.
- Motherhood means being present with your children with the same generosity of spirit when they are feeling proud and happy as when they are feeling sad or angry.
- Motherhood means you may unexpectedly cry when looking at your sleeping children because it suddenly hits you how big they are and how little they were only months or years earlier.
- Motherhood means lots of hugs, an abundance of kisses, and the twinkling laughter that only a good tickle can provoke.
- Motherhood is a gift to be cherished. Some days this gift is shiny, awesome, breathtaking and beautiful. Other days the gift comes wrapped in boogers and sleepless nights. But the gift is always there and you are the sun shining on these little seedlings who need you in order to thrive.
- Motherhood means you matter even more than you might have ever realized.