growing up · joy · marriage

Without a Net.

5.23.19.jpgIn the midst of wedding preparation, training to be a part-time fitness instructor, and finishing up school-year projects and grading, I’m also in a phase of planning that feels to overlay, underlay, highlight, heighten, and dwarf everything else in its wake:

Pregnancy.

The certain madness that a person so in-and-out of a relationship with her partner would commit on such a grand and irrevocable scale is both ludicrous and … natural.

J and I have had “the kid talk” many times in our being together, and while his worries (time and money) haven’t lessened, his anticipation and (could it be?) hope have increased.

For my part, I’ve gone through a bipolar vortex of “Don’t add more consumption to the world; What world is it you’re bringing new life into anyway,” followed immediately on its heels by “I cannot picture living out my life without experiencing this; I cannot picture not sharing this extraordinary existence with new life.”

It’s been a roller coaster, for me and for him!  He’ll ask every week or so: “‘Anthrax and Permafrost’, or ‘Rainbows and Lollipops’?”  It’s hard to know which answer will pop forth!

In truth, it’s both.  But, then, isn’t life?

I texted a girlfriend yesterday about a wedding DJ (because, yes, 6 weeks out, we have no music set!), and she gave a “squee, so exciting!” reply.  Which developed into an exchange that included: “Yes, it’s not a fairy tale” and “Relationships are f*cking work, dude!”

Because there’s also the nuts and bolts, the scales that fall from whatever vision of pure bliss we’ve all been conditioned to hold.

When J and I met, he said that he was looking for a “no-maintenance relationship.” Bah HAHAHA.  Oh, did my girlfriends and I have a good laugh over that;)  He even looked it up online when I protested its existence and when a result came up from a male blogger, he said, “See?!”

Then … he read the article,

wherein the author related, “There’s no such thing as a ‘no-maintenance relationship.'” J was deeply thrown:)

As I say about my work, my relationship is “good, and it’s hard, and it’s good, and it’s hard.”

I’m reading Michelle Obama’s memoir and have been so heartened to read how she and her husband have had to work repeatedly at maintaining, strengthening, and fostering their relationship.  The Golden Couple works at it!  I’m delighted to know this because it means: I’M NOT DOING ANYTHING WRONG.  It means that we all, up and down the ranks of humanity, are showing up daily to make a go of this great experiment.

The joy and fervor of laughter that is shared between us, the deep trust and faith in one another, the steadying foundation of love is coexisting with our frustrations, disappointments, and repeated calls to the table.

In what feels like a telescoping smack of my utopian vision, I am growing up.  Scales are falling, but what’s revealed isn’t bad or wrong.  It’s reality; it’s truth.

And the only way to build a shared (or individual) life is from the foundation of that truth.

 

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beauty · habits · maturity

The Usual.

8.11.18Anyone who witnessed my reading of Gretchen Rubin’s habit book, Better Than Before: What I Learned about Making and Breaking Habits, knows that I have some trouble making, and keeping, habits I’d like to reinforce.

But that’s not what today’s blog is about.  Instead, today is about relishing and delighting in some of my habits (which is precisely the point of that book, btw).

Yesterday, I went to the nail salon to get my toes did, as I do a few times a year.  As the woman was finishing up, she asked what I thought of the color.

“I’ve gotten this color almost every time for the last year—I love it,” I laughed.  “It’s just so nice to find something that works and stick with it.”

The 20something in the next chair side-eyed me with alarm and disgust.

I hear her.  I understand that one of the treats of getting your nails done is the thrill of trying something new: feeling into yourself what mood you’re in, what aura you want to project, what mood you’d like to be in.

But, lady, I’m about to be 37.  I’ve done my nails.  I’ve “felt into myself” (don’t be creepy) for years, and I’m kinda done.

When I was in college, I brought with me a giant Sketchers shoebox brimful of nail polish bottles.  Teal, Topaz, Magenta, Glitter.  Girl, I’ve tasted the rainbow.  Tried it on, taken it off, pasted it on again.

And now I’m old.  Now I have other brain cells I’d like to use.

We each get decision exhaustion by the end of a day.  A time when we’ve used up our store of “This or that?” and frankly, nail polish is not one of the things I’d like to use it up on anymore!

I want habit!  I want usual!  I want easy breezy beautiful, baby!

So, yes, I do love the sparkly, sexy red, like I dipped my toes in pulverized ruby slippers.  I love the peek of red out of my sandals, sophistication with a dash of coy playfulness.

I love that I drink 2 cups of coffee each morning.  That I eat 3 eggs, no matter what.  I love that I wash my hair on prescribed days of the week and make my bed without thinking about it.  My mornings are nearly perfect in their efficiency of decision-making, or absence of decision-making.

This frees up my brain to decide other things, to focus on the margins that aren’t habitual.  These are the places of excitement now:  Go to the theater.  Dress up.  Try a new book.  Read a new piece of research.

What will I do in the places I’ve opened up for myself by not constantly making choices?

Further, I love the habits I’ve formed—the healthy ones, at least!—as they give me their own kind of thrill.  You could say that it’s like a machine, how boring.  Or like a well-oiled machine, how sleek and confident.

Acting out these non-decisions make me feel like I have a center of person, places I know I want to reinforce over and again.  Places that form the ground of who I am.

“I am a person who X.”  And as Pamela Druckerman writes about in her newest book, There Are No Grown-Ups, confidence in our person is what our 40s are all about.

 

action · avoidance · progress

Eating Frogs.

4.21.18

(I was sick yesterday, so this is Friday’s blog!)  

With the last meditation challenge complete, I’m re-listening to the 21-day audio meditation Manifesting True Success from Oprah and Deepak.  Yesterday’s was focused on “T” in the acronym SMART: Time.

On the phone with my new goals group this past Sunday, I told them that, while my larger goal is to write a book (details emerging), my relationship with Time must needs be my other focal point for our 6 months together.

“I cram,” I told the ladies.  In the last goals group, I would do all the writing the hour before the call and felt like I didn’t get out of the group all I might have.  Perhaps by writing a little throughout the week, I could have more time to reflect and therefore more time to evolve.

And, wouldn’t you know, the meditation this week was, “Timing for Success.”

I really liked the reference Deepak made to this categorizing of our daily lives:

  • Sleep time: Getting a full night’s restful sleep
  • Physical time: Time to move and let my body be active
  • Focus time: Being alone for a while to concentrate on what matters to me
  • Time in: Time for meditation, prayer, self-reflection
  • Time out: Time to simply be here, and rest into existence (How do you like that phrase?!)
  • Play time: Time to have fun and enjoy myself
  • Connecting time: Intimate private time between me and those I care about.

What strikes me immediately, and pointed out by my therapist many months ago, is that I make little time for Play.  What happens in that structure is that I avoid or procrastinate Focus time (and Physical time) because I feel deprived:

If I haven’t done anything fun or creative, I have less in the well.  If I have less in the well, large tasks become insurmountable.  And so the cycle continues.

“Fun leads to productivity” seems like a strange concept, but for the deprivation addict that I am/have been, it’s key.  Because the reverse is true, too: “Productivity leads to fun.”  If I don’t put off what must be done, then I don’t feel guilty doing something fun.

When I feel guilty, I procrastinate even my fun!  It’s a terrible cycle.  So I have to shift to feeding all the parts of my day, and therefore myself.  If I want to focus more, I have to play more.  If I want to play more, I actually have to focus!

“Eat the frog first,” as they say.

With the new goals group, I hope to have a bit more accountability for my time—for my play time and therefore my accomplishy time.

finance · goals · writing

Eyes on the Prize.

4.18.18Yesterday afternoon, I had the first call of my new Goals Group.  Like the last one I participated in, we’ll have a group phone call wherein we’ll walk through a series of weekly assigned questions—about our vision for our lives, our goals, a specific goal, what blocks us from this goal, how we can accept help to overcome these blocks, and how we will maintain these (generally spiritual) connections to ensure we continue actions toward fulfilling our vision.

PHEW!  That’s a mouthful, but does generally give you the scope of this work.  At the rate of a call a week (a question or two each week), we’ll end in about 6 months, as did my group that ended in February.

Additionally, we make commitments to actions for the upcoming week that may be in the vein of our goals or seemingly unrelated—e.g. grade papers, take a walk… no, those weren’t mine! … *shifty eyes*

A few things came out of the call for me last night: 1) I need to increase my income to support the philanthropic life I want to lead; 2) I’m going to have to write that book that’s been on my mind (damnit); 3) I need to adjust how I employ my time if I will achieve #s 1 and 2.

Therefore, I committed to my group the following non-committal action: “I commit to experimenting with blogging Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and use Tuesday/Thursday to do my other writing (book, goals pages).”

I commit to experimenting!  Ha!

Well, that’s the truth of it.  I love blogging regularly.  I love that a theme or title will come to me during the day that I’ll file away for tomorrow.  I love the calm and the energy that I receive when I write here—the connection, the humor, the reflection.  BUT, there are no blog police demanding I write daily (right??), and in fact I’d whittled down the frequency from 7 days a week to 5 not long ago.

Realistically, though, I’ve been dropping 1 of those 5 days lately and the hour I devote each morning drafting, editing, photo searching, and posting is an hour that can be spent in service of goals 1 & 2.

Blogging is a part of this vision, and I may indeed begin modifying the format and purpose of my blog to support the book (AKA I want your stories!), but for now my goal is to use all of my time efficiently and effectively, and in the service of my visions.

So, Dear Reader, firstly, THANK YOU.  I know a dozen (sometimes 2 or 3 dozen!) of you read my blog, and it’s a boon to my spirit when I receive a text or comment or facebook message that says my writing affected you—brought you to question circumstances in your own life, gave you a new tool, or allowed you to feel connected to me.  For this, I am so insanely grateful.  I am so glad you are here.

Secondly… I’ll see you on Friday, peeps!;)  Much love,  M.

 

fear · pride · self-support

Whose Idea was this Anyway?

3.2.18

Yesterday, we had our Purim carnival at school, each classroom decorated and hosting a games booth hand-made by students.  Children could wander from room to room, trying out the brainteasers, fortune tellers, and human whack-a-mole (super cute video of a kindergartner bopping 6th graders’ exposed noggins).  Music blared in the hallways, the chatter of kids egging each other on or roasting each others’ missed foozball shots.

And I sat in the center of it all with a large mug of tea, a gorgeous view out my classroom window, and the sounds of water-drippy spa meditation music.  Assorted pillows lined the back cabinets where students whispered gently or just reclined with eyes closed, others sat at desks coloring the mandalas I’d printed out, or softly played a game of cards.

I had called, “The Quiet Room.”

At my last school, I had learned the hard way that carnival days can be really frying for my nervous system.  I fall directly between intro- and extro-vert on most personality scales, and while I love a good carnival, amusement park, or festival, I learned that 2 hours of hyper-stimulation can wear me down to the bone — and I don’t bounce back quickly.

Therefore, last year, in my second year at that school, I volunteered to help out in The Quiet Room.  This room was an established zone staffed by a long-time teacher who’d earned, through her 30+year tenure, the right to staff The Quiet Room on chaos days.  Buuut, couldn’t she use a helper, in case she wanted to take a break, go to the bathroom…?

And thus, I inserted myself into the Quiet Room and my 2nd Purim carnival day was even as a still pond.

When it came time this year to volunteer to man different booths or rooms or stands… I knew it was my chance.  They didn’t have a Quiet Room at my new school!  The staff meeting was continuing on, I didn’t have a role yet, I raised my hand.

“What about having a quiet room for students who need a break?”

“Sure, that’s a great idea.”

And then, wouldn’t you know, all the other teachers began shouting, Ha! I’ll run the quiet room!  Yeah, sounds great — can I do it?

I pounced back.  Facetious or not, no one was taking this room from me!  “It was my idea!  I get to man it!” I shouted them down.  And so it was sealed.

When yesterday morning, during the melee, the big boss strode into my classroom to see what The Quiet Room was all about and sat nearby to make whispered conversation with me, she asked, “This was your idea?”

And for an instant, I froze inside.  I felt a little embarrassed, a little shy, to own my idea, especially knowing it was a good one.  My heartrate quickened as thoughts of hedging leapt forward to reply something like, “Well, the other teachers thought it was a good idea” or “Yeah, kinda.”

Yet, I didn’t respond that way.  I didn’t diminish my accomplishment; I didn’t allow myself to shy away from the spotlight of my boss’ opinion.

I rested calmly with my enormous mug warming my hands, took half a breath, and replied, “Yes.”

growth · scarcity · truth

I’m a teacher, so…

3.1.18.png

I spoke this quasi-sentence on the phone Monday when talking with a potential couples’ therapist.  She and I were getting to the brass tacks portion of the conversation, settling in on the, “How much is this gonna run me” dialogue, and I offered up that half-phrase.

“I’m a teacher, so…”

What implications are in that sentence?!  I am underpaid; I don’t have any money; I cannot afford your full fee; I cannot afford even close to your full fee; I am in a profession in which I will never afford your full fee; I am poorly paid; I am undervalued.

Oh, honestly.

Whose “fault” is this? Well, surely, I could say it’s the “system’s” fault, it’s America’s fault, I could even say it’s the president’s fault.  And while each of those might have grains of truth, there is no honor in blame of others.

To be clear, a) it’s my “fault” I’m a teacher, and b) I’m manipulating the codified undervaluing of our country’s education system to seem poor and weak and un-robust so that I can get a deal on something.

I realized in recounting this later, that this is such an “underbeing” phrase! How can I stand in one breath and tout the munificence of the Universe AND ALSO pervert the archetype of the broke teacher to my benefit?

Maybe you have your own version of the above sentence?  I’ve certainly said iterations of the same: “I work in nonprofits, so…” “I’m a student, so…” “I’m in the arts, so…”

I don’t enjoy realizing that I’ve capitalized upon the pity, or generosity, of my fellows to cajole a few dollars out of them, but I do appreciate learning that my understanding of my profession as an “underearning” one lurks beneath my thoughts, as does the notion that I need to depend upon others’ pity to have what I want in life.

It will be up to me to change the thoughts, or to change my profession (which I don’t wish to happen any time soon), or to increase my income in alternate ways.  In any case, using my “pain” to foster empathy in others is a low (and borrowed) form of power, and I vow to give it up, even a day at a time.

 

 

 

freedom · growth · success

Many drops in the bucket.

2.28.18.jpg

This morning, I completed the 21-day meditation challenge from Oprah and Deepak called, “Manifesting True Success,” and was struck deeply by this line:  Every path to success is a path to freedom.  This brought me pause and led me to write, and emphatically circle: What “freedom” am I seeking from this success?

What freedom am I seeking from becoming a tour pilot over Napa valley vineyards?  Well: competence, adventure, intellectual amplification, joy.

What freedom am I seeking from being a school teacher?  Freedom over my time (during the summers), intellectual & creative amplification, spontaneity.

What freedom from being in partnership? Stability, serenity, emotional growth.  From being a mother?  Joy, continuity, sharing my abundance. …

I can, and likely will, make a chart of each of my “Success –> Freedom” desires, because the magic piece is how to amplify each of these desired successes in my daily life as it is.  If I want to share the abundance of my heart, how can I do that today?  If I want to expand my intellectual engagement, how can I do that today?

How can I inject today with each of the freedoms/successes that I seek?

Every day I open the WordPress site, I must click a button labeled, “Write.”  And each morning I click it, I feel a hearty dollop of joy, competence, and esteem drip into my personal bucket.  I feel accomplishy, even if it’s the only thing I do this day (as it insinuates that I’ve already written Morning Pages and meditated, as I won’t blog without clearing my personal pathways first).

When I cross off “moisturize face and body” on my Habit Calendar, I feel competent, self-loving, and prosperous (as it implies I purchase and replenish my moisturizer).

Every morning I drink my coffee, it implies that I’ve set it up the night before, replenished and ground new beans when it was low, and desire to gift myself a physical pleasure.  Competence, stability, self-love, and prosperity.

In every morning, I can list a host of ways I feel successful before breakfast!  And that’s good, because lately in the afternoon when I continue to sit reading Game of Thrones for 3 hours… I start to feel less esteemable.

So it will be up to me to see if there is a “success” to be gleaned from 3 hours of sedentary imbibing of gore, and to parse out what it is I’m attempting to accomplish if there’s not.

What freedom am I seeking from this success?  And how can I own that freedom today?