Me Time

I had to fight my mom guilt today. It was hard for me to kiss my family goodbye and leave the house. I’m grateful to have a supportive husband who recognizes my needs, but as usual, it is my own set of expectations that holds me back.

Eventually, I did pack up and head out though.

It’s taken me a long time to acknowledge and honour my own spirit. Not my mom-ness, not my wife-ness, but my individuality. I am more than a wife, a mother and a homemaker. I’m also a writer, a meditator, and a human with interests. But it is curious how easy it is for me to ‘sacrifice’ myself and give in to the needs and wishes of my family. (Or my perception of their needs and wishes.)

What is difficult is to treat myself – my own needs and wishes – with the same amount of love and respect.

In the wise words of Sharon Salzberg, “Authentic intimacy is not brought about by denying our own desire to be happy in unhappy deference to others, nor by denying others in narcissistic deference to ourselves…To truly walk the Middle Way of the Buddha, to avoid the extremes of addiction and self-hatred, we must walk in friendship with ourselves as well as with all beings.”

Or, as the ever-insightful Axl Rose teaches us:

“Sometimes I need some time…on my own.
Sometimes I need some time…all alone.
Everybody needs some time… on their own.
Don’t you know you need some time…all alone.”

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Present with my Kids

Some of the best parts of my day are when I’m tucking Violet into bed, or rocking Arlo to sleep for naptime. I love the quiet one-on-one time together. It’s one of the times I find easiest to be fully present.

I can really appreciate my 5-year old daughter as lay next to her and stroke her blonde hair. She chatters away to me and sings me songs. I marvel over how fast she is growing, and also how tiny she still is.

It’s easy for me to be mindful when I am holding my sweet baby in my arms. His chubby hand on my chest. His soft, warm head snuggled against my cheek. My heart swells when I gaze at him there, as I rock us both back and forth.

In these moments I am not thinking about the frustrations of the day, or tomorrow’s to-do list. There is nowhere I want to go, nothing to change. In these moments I feel that I am really experiencing my life, as it happens. It feels like freedom.

Untangling Emotions

When I pay attention, I notice that it can be difficult to really identify what I’m feeling. I think most of us react quickly when we perceive the beginnings of an unpleasant emotion. We shift our focus away and look for a distraction to avoid experiencing the discomfort.

This morning as I was browsing the wonderful, complicated world of Facebook, I came across a post about singer Joey Feek. It was a photo with caption about how Joey said goodbye to her young daughter (before she dies). When I saw it my eyes instantly welled up and I felt nauseous.

Without thinking, I quickly grabbed my nearby cell phone and started to scroll. It was a desperate effort to focus on something else – to make myself feel better.

And that’s how it happens.

We abandon negative emotions without barely noticing them, or naming them, attempting to run from our suffering.

So this morning when I caught myself, I paused. I put down my phone. I sat quietly and paid attention to what my body was experiencing. I asked myself what emotions were underlying.

Without a lot of effort, I recognized that the unpleasant feeling within me was a mixture of sadness and anxiety. The Joey Feek story touched on a deep fear of my own: that tragedy would strike and I’d be forced to say goodbye to my own children. It fills me with such heartache to imagine being taken from my kids, for my own sake and for theirs. Having lost a father myself at a young age, I know about the pain and grief of missing a loved one.

But there is nothing to protect against this (hopefully distant) possibility. We can only give up our stress over it to the reality that it’s out of our control.

In that moment I decided to sit patiently with my emotions. I observed the tightness in my chest and abdomen, the stinging in my eyes, the pressure in my brain. I watched as the wave of emotions swelled, and then I followed it calmly as it passed across the field of my mind.

My heart aches for Joey Feek, and my heart aches for her precious daughter. So today I honour them both by choosing to be present with my own children, to really appreciate them as we play together, as we talk, and as we cuddle.

No Mud No Lotus

Earlier this week I was waist-deep in mud.

The truth is, I am not a naturally selfless caregiver. I was not born with a “servant’s heart” that I have heard others describe. I have to work hard to cultivate the seeds of selflessness, of letting go of ego, when it comes to mothering.

Don’t get me wrong, it is easy for me to be compassionate and loving when my kids are sick. But it doesn’t come without a small sigh, or “why me” in the back of my mind.

So this week was a real opportunity for me to practice.

I also noticed this week that when I myself become sick, I have a strong aversion to the discomfort of illness. It was hard even to think about searching for conditions for happiness around me, although of course there were many: my comfortable bed, my luxurious (and convenient) ensuite, my loving family. I felt very stuck in my illness. I became my illness, you could say.

As with most discomfort though, when you really practice, you can choose to surrender. I first touched this feeling previously in childbirth, but it is a lesson I have called on many times since in my meditation practice. We know that sensations – all sensations – arise and pass away, arise and pass away. If we can let go of our intense aversion for discomfort or craving for comfort, we can ride the tide of these sensations and experience the freedom of the feeling of surrender. Nowhere to go. All that we have is the present moment. This too shall pass.

And when we come out the other side, it is very beautiful. Our roots are stronger. We can better appreciate the happiness of everyday. Normally I don’t appreciate my absence of illness, but today I am grateful. And I am even more grateful for the health of my children.

Tonight as we were buckling the kids into our car while leaving a restaurant, I noticed our health (especially our absence of illness), our good fortune, the beautiful pink sunset in front of me, and I was deeply happy.

Snow Day

There is no better feeling than having my whole family at home when the weather is really bad.

They have been calling for a big storm, but this morning the skies were calm, so we enjoyed the walk to school. By the time the snow started flying I had already managed to get out and run a few errands, stock up on some groceries, etc. Baby boy is feeling much better today, so I had a chance to get dinner in the slowcooker while he played too.

Around midday the roads started to get pretty messy, and I was so relieved when hubby’s work dismissed everyone early. He got home in time to watch Arlo while I ran out to pick Violet up from school.

We came home to a warm house, the smell of dinner cooking, and the boys asleep together on the couch. Now I can smile at the snow and wind outside my window – we are all safe at home together.

There is so much to be thankful for.

Let it go

It was a difficult night, with an unsettled baby and a sleep-screaming 5 year old. Most of the sleep I got was a semi-conscious half-rest with my baby boy sprawled across my chest. Today I am tired.

Trying to let it go.

I’m eating my breakfast standing at the kitchen island with a crying baby in one arm.

Let it go.

Apparently Arlo has caught the bug Violet came home with last week, and can’t keep anything down. I’ve changed his clothes, and mine, 3 times already this morning. I had plans for today, but it looks like that has changed.

I have to let it go.

So, I bundle everyone up and we make the cold walk to school to drop Violet off. With my two munchkins snug in the stroller I can enjoy a few minutes of quiet, fresh air. I get to see a few friends along the way, and take pleasure in the light conversation.

We return home. I know it may be a challenging day ahead, but there are still many conditions for happiness around me. Right now I can find contentment in the sleeping baby in my arms.