honesty · parenting · relationships

The Fine Balance

12.11.18.jpgSometimes—no, always—it’s difficult to know in a relationship when to zip your lip and when to speak up.

While I’ve absolutely become better about not venting all my crazitude onto J (and what will or will not happen in the future based upon my extrapolation of the present), there are truly times when it feels important to share some of those thoughts (or requests, or needs).

Some of finding this balance has meant sharing those thoughts earlier, so they don’t become a towering inferno of resentment that destroys my faith in the relationship.

Some of finding this balance has meant letting him have whatever experience he’s having without my trying to change it.

I am … not skilled at this yet.  It’s still very tough for me to negotiate where the line is between “my stuff” and “our stuff,” but it does feel further along the path than it did.

It’s impossible to think about your own potential parenthood without also thinking about how you grew up.  Indeed, I think most of us attempt to have a redactive experience with our own children, to “do it better.”

Yet even if we can’t “do it better,” perhaps we can avoid some of the same egregious pit-falls.  But to do that, you must communicate if and when you see them, especially if they feel like blind spots, or sore spots, to your partner.  You–er, I–must say, “Hey, I see this reaction as part of a pattern, and while I’m able to handle the fallout of it (for the most part), a child is defenseless against those reactions and actions.”

This is not a chiding or judgment that the other person’s behavior is “wrong” (really!), but it is an invitation to say, “Before there are tiny humans in the mix, can you reach out for help to soften or release some of this particular type of reactivity?”

We are not the first people in the world to talk about having children.  We are not the first to experience heightened feelings of doubt.  But where there is dread, because we’re not taking proper care of ourselves or reaching out for the proper support, then that negative pall will shadow what can be (at least in many moments!) a wonderful, inviting, and blossoming experience.

I know that I carry baggage of my own, that certain behaviors in others trigger a ptsd-style reaction.  And that’s my own to work on.  But, where the balance line of relationships is concerned, it is also my work to speak up and say, “This is not okay,” to model to our children, to take out on them, or to blame them for.

We are the grown-ups, and we must act like them, doing what grown-ups do: assess the problem or situation, find the appropriate tools to handle them, and ask for help if we don’t even know where to start.

 

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calm · compassion · relationships

Learning to Love.

12.6.18.jpgSometimes dating feels a lot like teaching:

You have to remind yourself that the other person doesn’t know what they don’t know.

You have to remember that when people get frustrated or act out, there’s usually something else going on for them.

You have to accept that they’re truly doing the best they can with the tools they know.

And, you have to know a few things yourself:

You have to offer alternative tools if the ones they’re using are causing harm.

You have to bring a deep patience that can require you to close your eyes and take a breath before saying any next thing.

And sometimes you just take a day off.

What all this has in common to me is that I need to care for myself while also showing up (and yes, sometimes “showing up” means leaving the room!).

I need to remember that this person in front of me, partner or student, is a child of G-d.  I have to remember that I am a child of G-d.  And, most critically, that we’re both doing the very best we can with the tools we have.

My very own frustration in a moment is the best that I can do.  Another’s acting out in a moment is the best they can do.

I was at a workout class last night that ends in a “moment of stillness,” and the teacher asked us to close our eyes and send compassion to ourselves.  She said that self-compassion is often the hardest quality or emotion to have.  When I feel judgy of another person, when I want to change another person, when I want to run away from another person, I need to remember that this is just because I, too, need a little compassion for myself.

I’m feeling afraid, activated.  I’m feeling a fear that I won’t be okay because another person is “not okay” at the moment.  I’m feeling afraid that I can’t control a situation or a person, and that if I cannot do that — particularly if I cannot calm another person down — then none of us will be okay.

In this vein, I’ve been recalling a story my mom told me from about when I was seven or so.  She was driving with me in the car and something happened with another driver on the highway, and she got apoplectic.

As the lore has it, I cautioned her then: “Mom, you’re too angry.”

She tells me this story, because she heard it.  She heard that she was frightening her child.  She heard that her reaction was outsized to the cause.

And in many ways, I think I’ve grown up feeling like I have to calm other people’s emotions.  (As you can imagine, a middle-schooler has a lot of emotions!)

What strikes me this morning is to remember that what this person is seeking—student, parent, partner, other driver—is their own version of safety, by whatever means they know how.

Indeed, when I become frustrated or afraid, it’s only because I’m seeking safety by whatever means I know how — which has meant the belief that if others are not okay, then I’m not okay.

This … is not true.

There is a truth, and it is this: I am okay, despite what occurs around me.

I, of course, stand for no legitimately egregious guff, but I can allow what’s happening for someone else to soften around me instead of bowl me over.  When others’ emotions bowl me over, I feel that I must dig in, I must close off, and I must push back against them.

None of that is true.

In moments of distress, there’s only one thing I must do: Remember that I am a child of G-d, that I am safe, that I am lovable exactly as I am.   Just like everybody else.

 

love · mortality · relationships

The Days Are Long…

10.26.18But the years are short.

I invited J to lay on the wood floor with me.  We were in the house he’d purchased earlier this year in the northern suburbs of San Francisco, him sitting on the camping chair I’d brought over last week and me on the nice single chair he’d purchased since he moved in this June.

That’s all the furniture that exists in the living room.  Right after he’d purchased the house, I’d ended things and this isn’t the kinda town where a single guy wants to spend out his days.  So he hadn’t bought anything besides a mattress and this one nice chair.

“Lay on the floor with me,” I asked.  It was after 9 o’clock; we’d been sitting in the nice and camping chairs, drinking hot tea, lazy talking about the house, next steps, ring sizes.

He groaned.  “Come on, two minutes.”  He scrabbled up out of the camping chair and came to lay next to me on the blanket I’d set on the floor.

I nuzzled into his shoulder crease.  It was likely the only time we’d be able to do this before it all got painted and furnished and shaped like a lived-in home.  It felt like a picnic, like a marking of time, that time we could lay on the floor together at 9pm on a Thursday only now, before it was too late.

I angled to lie on top of him, propping myself up, looking into his face.

“It’s so short,” I murmured.

“What is?”

“Twenty-five, thirty-five years,” I replied.  “It’s so short.”

I got kinda teary, staring down into his eyes that I didn’t get to see for three months, feeling body warmth I didn’t get to experience, hearing the wry, insightful, hilarious, ridiculous, planful words I didn’t get to smile at.

I saw the New Years’ turnings, flying off like film pages.  They seemed at that moment like just a handful.  Only a few, what felt like only a sample.

“It is short,” he said, closing up his eyes against new wetness himself.

“The days are long, but the years are short,

and I want to spend them with you.”

 

breakups · love · relationships

Everything Old is New Again.

10.24.18.jpgAs you may have guessed from my recent vaguing about relationships, I’m in one.  To be more specific, I’m back in one.  With J.

I was walking to meet an internet date for dinner on a Friday night at the end of September.  I’d planned it so it was in walking distance from my apartment and I didn’t have to drive, as is my prerogative!;)  I’d gotten glammed up and looked good — well, I’d taken a shower, at least!

I was cantering down the commercial corridor where I live and spotted a car that looked like J’s.  But I’d seen many of those around—each time, spotting a blue Subaru, darting my eyes through the windshield, assuming it wouldn’t be him since he didn’t live close but had been about to accept a job nearby when we’d parted in June.

Now, I spotted this familiar looking car.  Then, I read the license plate.  It was his.  My eyes flashed through the windshield… and there he was.  Sitting in his car, typing on his phone.

My breath stopped.  I came to a halt beside his car.  He looked over.  He both smiled and looked horror-struck.

J. rolled down his passenger window.  “Getting a haircut?” I asked.  (He’d found a place he liked when we were living together and, once found, he was unlikely to veer from it!)

“Yep,” he replied.

We remained there, just kind of staring at one another.  Eye-lock, look away.  Eye-lock, look away.

We exchanged a few update words:  You change jobs?  Yep.  You start the school year?  Yep.  I fiddled with the window frame.  Well, this is hard, I said, half-smiling, somewhere near tearing up.  Yep.

Somepoint soon, within this 3-minute conversation that reached to the horizon, we said goodbye.

Later that night after the date (underwhelming but fine), I dialed J’s number.

I’d texted about two weeks earlier, on the 90-day mark on my calendar that indicated it’d been 3 months since we’d spoken, my own self-imposed separation/no-contact.  I’d written him if he were interested in being in each other’s lives, “friends or something.”  He’d replied he’d love to, but he still saw a future for us together and it would be too hard, too painful.  I typed okay.  And resigned to / accepted that he would contact me, if and when he were ever ready, or not.

So, as the phone rang that Friday night in September, I didn’t know if he would pick up.  The hurt of the break-up, the hope and pain of seeing one another.  The love that had clearly not diminished an iota. … the constant comparison of J to any of the men I’d met or communicated with during my recent re-entry into dating.

No one was like him.

Our first date lasted two hours.  We walked and talked and laughed.  We were wry and joking from nearly minute one.  There was such ease and familiarity … he could always make me laugh.

I wasn’t immediately sure after our first date.  I went home and took the quiz I’d bookmarked, It’s Just a F*cking Date (from the authors of He’s Just Not That Into You and It’s Called a Breakup Cuz it’s Broken).  He didn’t score record highs after that first date, partly because two of the questions were “did he make a plan?” and “did you like his plan?,” but I’d made the plan!  (Coffee shop in walking distance of my house, naturally!)

But, he’d squeaked over the line to, “Give him a second shot.”  So I did.

On the 2nd date, he scored full marks.

The phone rang.  I perched on the edge of my bed, heart a bit full, a bit poundy.

And he picked up.

 

focus · goals · relationships

Ready, Aim, Keep Aiming.

10.23.18.pngI was able to share on a phone call yesterday some of my fears about “going into hiding.”  I told them how I’d done this flurry of work, inspired to send out this essay recently to magazines for publication … and then how it was published! … and then I stopped writing my blog for a few days because I got scared (of what, it’s hard to say).

Then, my bandmate and I played a small gig the other night for about 60+ people after some success 2 weeks ago when we’d played out, and I told the phone listeners that I was afraid that if I didn’t set up another gig or specific plan for sometime soon, it would be another year before I sang in public.  In fact, I said the same thing to my bandmate as I drove him home that night!

I also told the phone listeners that I’m … moving in with someone right now, and how I know that my time and attention can become exceedingly divided, and I can get off-kilter when in relationship, and I wanted to tell on myself so that I could keep my priorities front and center.

These are the priorities for me.  A relationship is wonderful, and what will happen here remains to be seen, but thinking about it, or him, doesn’t move me toward my visions.  And my visions are quite specific nowadays, thanks to my Goals Group, so I really have no excuse.

Magazine columnist; Small plane pilot; Lounge singer.

These are my goals, and I want to ensure they stay that way.  Whatever else happens around them.  To do that, I want to be focused on them, I want to set up guards in place so that they’re unstoppable, inalterable, have fail-safe mechanisms.  I want my goals to be impossible to fail.  Not necessarily on the basis that I’ll succeed in my business ventures, but that they’re not diverted from, that they have a chance to succeed because I’m putting energy and attention and intention into them.

My meditation (Desire and Destiny from Deepak and Oprah) tells me I have only 2 tools in this lifetime: Attention and Intention.

With my intentions clear, but my attention divided, I cannot get to my goal.  I need the same voice I intone to my more distractible students: Stay on target, Mol.  Stay on Target.

 

habits · relationships · self-love

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain—No, really.

10.22.18.gifI learned the very hard way during my European trip with my mom that I still have a tremendously strenuous time staying focused on myself.  Because of the dynamic early formed with her, she puts off a beacon call that I am constantly attuned to, like a bat.  She sends out her sonic waves, attuning to and calling me in.

This interplay between us plays out in my other relationships by habit.  I’ll send out sonic waves to others, since I’m near-programmed to see what’s up with them — where are they, what do they need, is there anything in their path I need to remove so they don’t stub a toe?

And while this may be a useful skill in some situations (e.g. watching a toddler), it is less beneficial in mutual adult relationships.  I am currently noticing this pull to attune to the radio frequency of others because I’m noticing more and more my need to attune to my own frequency, to find out what’s going on with me, what do I want, what do I need?

It’s not my habit to return to these questions yet.  It’s more like playing a piece of music you’d known by heart, but when reading the sheet music, you discover you’ve been playing these few notes wrong the whole time and now need to re-train yourself to play it that way, the properly intended way.

As I pursue the relationships in my life, I find that I’m becoming acutely aware that my radio dish is pointed outward.  This is draining for me, cumbersome for them, and not a constructive balance for grownups (not that it was a constructive balance for a child and parent either).

Misdirection, like a magician.  My attention is pulled away, and I am tricked.  I am fooled into not paying attention to the important things to me, from my real source of magic.

I would like to better build the strength of my ocular muscles, focusing them back to attending to my own visions and goals, better to craft my day’s intentions toward what it is that will bring me closer to the fulfillment of my goals.  Toward what actions I need to take to move an iota forward.

It’s easy sometimes to ignore or neglect those iota-movements, because they can seem so inconsequential and miniscule.  Oh, no, it’s fine, I don’t have to [blog, work out, write on my personal growth process]; those things are so small in comparison to whatever I’m picking up on my radar.

I notice I need re-training, re-habiting, and a large swath of self-compassion (and compassion from others, which I have) as I attempt to learn how to put myself first.

 

habits · relationships · time

Crowd-Sourcing

8.29.18.jpg

NOTE: Today’s blog is a bit interactive.

Help!

One of my best girl friends told me a few months ago that I’m my “best” when I’m regularly doing something creative: blogging, music, theater.  Anything, as long as it’s habitual.

And I find now that I’ve begun blogging again on the regular since my return from summer break, I have to agree.  I tend to see the world differently when I know I’ll be commenting on and making connections to my own daily experience; I see with writer’s eyes.  And I love it.  It’s fun to think in a different manner, to connect to my daily ins and outs with a more meta-view.

But.  I wake up at 4:30 in the morning to accomplish this.

I wake up, journal for 20-30 minutes, meditate for 20-30 minutes, then blog for 30-40 minutes, including the time to proofread and post (there’s not much copyediting; you get it raw, folks!).

So, pad with a few minutes for a coffee refill or bathroom break, and I’ve got close to 2 hours of “morning practice” without having eaten breakfast or gotten ready for the day.

To streamline those latter “get out of the house” bits, I already am in the habit of hard-boiling eggs for the week and nuking 2 pieces of bread to take on the road, and washing my hair every few days instead of daily.  I generally try to pack my lunch the night before (like all grown-ups helping their little ones get ready for school since time immemorial!).

So — let’s just say that getting ready take 30 minutes, with a shower.  That’s 2 to 2.5 hours just to get in the car.

My commute is such that the later I leave, even by one or two minutes, it can add 10 minutes to my commute, aggregating all the time.  I am generally aiming to leave my house between 6 and 6:30, but the earlier the best.  When I leave then, I can arrive at work around 715, which is still not optimal (I’d love to be there at 7am to prep and settle in for my work day in relative peace, which starts at 7:45am).

So, my question to you all is: Is there something I’m not seeing?  

Frankly, waking up at 4:30 in the morning is absolutely insane to me.  It also makes it imperative that I’m at lights out by 9pm the latest.

I’m opening this up because I feel I’ve tried all the permutations I can imagine (including looking at living closer to my work; though rents are much higher there, I’m holding it as an option).  I’ve tried meditating and/or blogging at night, but that habit ends up badly for me because I like/feel I need the morning space to unpack my brain for the day so I’m not a d*ck.  When I blog in the evening, I also tend to push my bedtime out farther, since the evenings are less predictable, time-wise.  And when I meditate at night, it kind of feels like eating my appetizer after the meal, like it’s a little late to get the day’s benefit from it.

So, friends, I need more input, different angles.  Different Angels.

What would you do?

(P.S. I was out at a school retreat yesterday, so we were blogless.)