Tag Archives: buddhism

2/27/11

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It was my last day with my dog.

We woke up that morning and she couldn’t walk.

We took her to the vet and the decision was made.20131216-123403.jpg

She was 16.

She was decrepit and couldn’t hold her bladder or bowels any longer.  She was losing her sense of hearing and sight.  She had been with me since I was 21.

I can’t remember our last day together.  It isn’t like I had planned to put her to sleep, so there was no final supper or walk by the bay.  I had always known that it would have to happen like that- in an emergency, because I would never be able to make and keep a date to have her put to sleep.

I remember there was snow on the ground, and several days or a week before, she had been outside in the snow, sniffing at my son’s snowman, frolicking like a puppy-rabbit for one second before becoming elderly again.

She was a lab mix. She never got over 36 pounds in her entire life, even though she loved cheese with her whole heart.  Although she was initially terrified of water, she grew to love the ocean, and walked the beach hundreds of times with me.  She shed black fur everywhere, so I took to wearing mostly black so it would blend in.  She slept in my bed, curled up in my arms each night for years when I was single, lonely, and sad.

She was never like my baby, as some people call their pets.

She was my sister.

If there is a hell, and if I am destined to go to there, it will be a movie theater where I have to watch myself mistreat my dog in her elder years over and over for all eternity on a giant screen.  I yelled and scared her.  I hurt her feelings.  I had no patience when her bowels let loose all over my carpet and I slipped in it coming home from work with toddler-Jack in my arms.  I was frustrated with her when her toenails click-clacked on the hardwood floors in the middle of the night because she was startled or confused.

I did her wrong.

At one point, someone recommended euthanizing my dog “because you never want to make a bad memory with your dog.”  Wiser words have never been spoken, but wisdom was wasted on my shallow ears then.  I understand it now.  I didn’t have the compassion, energy, or insight to care for a sick and elderly creature.

Maybe karma will reign and I will be mistreated as an elder.  Gosh, I hope not, but I suppose it could be a possibility.

When I was much, much younger, before I ever had a dog, someone told me your dog always comes back to you.  When your dog dies, they somehow find their way back to their owner.  This thought stuck with me for over 20 years.  I pondered it quite a bit after my dog died.  I even contacted the person online.  He was a total stranger after 20 years, 87 years old and living clear across the country.  But we struck up a conversation of comfort an faith.

My husband said, if she comes back, it won’t be as a dog.  She lived too good a life as a dog to be reincarnated as one.

We gave her a good death, I believe.  It was peaceful and kind, and in her final moments, she was happy, in my arms.

It started snowing while we were in the vet’s.  I asked if I could take her out to walk her around for a bit before we made the final decision.  She limped out with me into the parking lot, making little footprints in the snow.  She stumbled, looked up at me, and let me know.  Or maybe I projected that onto her, as my husband suggested.

But in that moment, I knew it was time.

I hugged her and thanked her and let her know if she ever wanted to come back to me, I would always be waiting for her.  I apologized for being such a horrid human to her and told her I loved her.

After, the grief was intense, mostly because of my previous cruelty, but also because my life had been so shaped by her–  feeding and walking her, brushing her tufty old fur so it would shed less, hearing her trip-trapping across the floor to greet me after work.  There was an emptiness so vast it took my breath away.

And it still does take my breath away three years later.

Sometimes I dream of her still.  Her slightly square jaw poked up at me, her eyes looking at me like I am the only thing in the universe.

I don’t feel her presence in my life, and when I think of her, I am still mostly sad.  Sure, the grief has dulled, as it will over time.  A week after her death, I went to collect her ashes.  They were in a very small, wooden box.  Smaller than you would really think is possible.  I thought they would give me a sense of closure or peace.  They did not.

Someone at the animal crematorium made a print of her paw for me.  There was a black hair stuck in the clay.  The texture of her gritty, little paw was evident in the print.  I held it to my nose, only smelling a faint, chemical smell.  I had always loved the smell of her paws; like corn chips rubbed in fresh cut grass.  It was the best smell ever.

I keep the paw print with her ashes on a shelf in my bedroom, next to a picture of her and my husband when he and I were first dating.

We have not gotten another dog.  I don’t know if I could ever love again, as I loved her.  And I don’t know if I am much better of a human, if I could be better to an animal, although I would like to think I could be.  I’m sure I don’t deserve another dog.

But here is why I think the universe and karma might not totally be out to get me:

One week after the death of my dog, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter.  I couldn’t help but wonder. . .  and sometimes still can’t help but wonder because Emily has an uncanny affinity for doggies, and an abiding love of cheese.

This post was written as a part of the WordPress Daily post series.  http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/daily-prompt-sweet-dreams/

Epic Mindfulness Fail

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This morning started like any other- with me stressing about getting up, getting everyone ready, and where we need to be on time.  There is never, ever enough time in the day and we are always rushing and we all hate it. 

Except that this morning, as I was getting in the shower, and the others were still abed, I took a moment to stop and notice the anxiety I was having, and the urge to start nagging people to get up and at ’em.  I let the hot water engulf my still sleeping body, patting myself on the back for being mindful of this and for redirecting my anxiety with the thought, “we always make it out of the house on time and everyone always gets where they need to go.” 

Which is true. 

I got out of the shower, primped, dressed and was feeling a-okay.  Then I went out to the kitchen where Jack was grousing about having to go to school and Emily was plastering oatmeal over her entire body as well as the table.  Lunches still needed to be made.  Emily hadn’t had a diaper change yet.  Hair needed to be brushed.  Cars needed to be moved around and packed up with the gear d’jour. 

I got overwhelmed. 

I started rushing and any mindfulness and congratulatory attitude I had went out the window. 

Emily refused to get dressed, so that meant we had to seek permission to treat her as a hostile witness, thereby cramming her little limbs into fresh diaper and clothing.  By the time lunches made it into back packs we were running late. 

My stress manifested in my gut, making me extra-queazy-cranky.  Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!  I chanted like a deranged cheerleader of the annoyed. 

Jack and my husband made it out the front door to the bus stop while Emily and I made it out the back door to where my car was parked and ready to go.  My arms were full with my bag, her bag, our lunches, coats, her blankie and her baby doll.  Emily paused on the porch to go through her ritual of looking at this and that.  I figured I had the 15 seconds it would take to shove all our crap into the car. 

I turned around just in time to watch as my daughter fell face first into the cement from the second step of our porch. 

I froze for an instant then ran towards her, simultaneously yelling for my husband and fighting the urge to vomit. 

Long story short, she was fine.  We iced her and wiped her down.  She had a nasty abrasion on her pretty little forehead and will probably have a black and blue, but she was alert and oriented, able to count, talk, and sing in the car on the way to daycare.  When we got to daycare, I had the nurse check her, and told her teachers who assured me Emily would be well watched and cared for.  Emily had already gone to play with her little buddies in the sand box and seemed totally past it.  I also called the pediatrician who reassured me that toddlers fall, and that if Emily got over it and is acting normally, she is most likely fine. 

As for me, I drove to work with intrusive visions of my little toddler doing a face plant into the cement, and berating myself for being such a speed demon in the morning. 

Oh, and did we all get to where we needed to go on time?  Yes.  Yes we did. 

So there was truly no need to be such a freak about rushing. 

The entire incident made me check in a little with my mindfulness about mindfulness.  For me, being mindful is being 100% aware of what is going on around me, and accepting it for what it is without trying to manipulate or change things.  So, I’m sitting and being aware of my stress level, of the pain in my stomach, and of my feeling that I am the world’s crappiest mom.   

I’m trying to accept my mindfulness fail. 

And though I can’t change anything about what went down this morning, you can bet I learned something from it. 

Please feel free to share in the comments below.  I love to hear from you. 

Thinky Thoughts Being Thunk

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I went out dancing with some friends.  We went to see a couple bands I’d never heard of who turned out to be decent ska/reggae.

All night I flashbacked to a time in my early 20s.

I’d gone to see a reggae band and some guy with dreads was teaching me how to “reggae dance.”  I was a hippie chick back then and had some flowery, flowing moves, so getting low and swaying my hips to the reggae rhythms didn’t come naturally to me.  Anyway, I think the guy just wanted to grind up against my nubile body, so I didn’t spend much time in that dance lesson with him.

It was a moment in time I didn’t even realize was taking up space in my long-term memory bank until last night.  Weird, right?  I guess music and movement has an incredibly primal ability to trigger stuff.

This deep memory hit me as I moved my body around in what might be classified as dancing, but I’m not sure.  I don’t get out that much anymore, since having kids.  It is hard to find a sitter, for one thing, and then staying out late and having a couple drinks is rarely worth the exhausting aftermath the next day.  The extent of my skankin’ these days is living room frolics to Bob Marley with my kids.  The last time I went out to hear live music (also ska, coincidentally) was about a year and a half ago.  Gasp!  I used to go out dancing at least once or twice a week before marriage and kids.  I also used to go to the gym. . . but I digress.

Sure, I am tired today, but it was worth it.  Lots of laughs were had, the cocktails flowed, and my body found its way back into the music.  It felt liberating to get a little lost doing the groove thing.

I even dressed up- something I haven’t done in ages.  I wore a “little black dress,” lacy tights, and boots.  I straightened my hair so it looked a bit longer than usual, and put on a generous amount of black eye liner and crimson lipstick.  Even my husband did a double take!  I joke with friends that I am “bringing sexy back” because I bought a few dresses.  The truth about that is now I am done whipping out my breast at all hours of the day, dresses are not a total inconvenience anymore, and they do make me feel feminine and pretty again.  For me, there is a sort of weird dichotomy in being both a mom and sexy, so integrating the two is interesting.

The highlight of my night was when one of my single friends was chatting up a young man.  He introduced himself to me and I mentioned that it was my friend’s first time hearing live ska.  The guy expressed surprise and joy that I actually knew what ska was, which I guess not too many in his generation know.  Incredulously, I told him, well I’m almost old enough to have been around since the birth of ska, so. . .  He said, “No way!  What are you like 27?”  I laughed and told him my age.  Impressed, he told me I looked great.  It was the first time I ever felt like a cougar!

You see, I’ll be 40 in about six months.  It’s got me thinking about age and life and changes.  I know it is just another day, but it seems like in this whole maiden, mother, crone continuum, 40 is kind of the gate way to crone-dom.   I only recently entered the “mother” phase of things, so I guess I am not quite ready to switch gears.  Hence my urgency to bring sexy back, to prove that I am still young at heart, vital, exciting, and fun.

It also has me doing a lot of reflecting on my life.  Memories are rising and flooding me, like the one in the club about the reggae dancing.  But some of the memories are not altogether pleasant.   Some of them have to do with poor choices I’ve made, or really bad behavior I’ve had towards others.

On one hand, I could say I spent a lot of time quite frivolously.  For example, there was a time during which I was courting four people at once, which wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that all of them were in various stages of marriage.  This kind of drama permeated my 20s.  This realization filled me with shame and anger at myself and I wonder what price karma will have me pay, or if maybe some of the other tragedies in my life were the payment already.

On the other hand, everything I have done and experienced has brought me to where I am today, so maybe my path has been exactly the path on which I’ve needed to be.  Because at the end of the day, where I am now is pretty good.  Regardless of all my struggles with career and money and parenthood, where I am is love.

It also makes me wonder what was so great about being young and screwed up and lonely, other than that body that wouldn’t quit, stamina to dance all night, and the freedom to do so?

I’m thinking of writing a novel.  But maybe that is just the midlife crisis talking.

What is a midlife crisis anyway?  I’m beginning to think that for me it is an integration of who I am now with the good pieces of who I was before.  For example, my nurturing and conservative mother-self meeting up with the colorful hippie chick with a huge heart and awesome moves on the dance floor.  My family-oriented-self getting reacquainted with the free-spirited and independent poet who could sit for hours alone in a cafe or go out to a movie all alone.

Aging seems to be this huge, hot melting pot that has colored and shaped me.  In some lights you can really see the worry around my eyes, or the laugh lines by my lips.  Tilted at the right angle, you can see the turquoise satin of poetry is still there.  If you look straight on you see that I’ve grown soft and pudgy and plain, but in the flickering light on the dance floor, there she is!  The agile kid with lithe limbs who still has reggae moves deep in her veins.

Cue 2014, aaaaand Scene! It’s a Wrap People.

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Today is the last day of 2013.

Kwan-Yin, the bodisattva of compassion

Kwan-Yin, the bodisattva of compassion

The staging of the past year is being broken down around us.  Christmas trees and decorations are going out to the trash and back into storage.

Gifts unwrapped only a week ago are being put away in closets and under beds, some of their new luster already waning.  The days are short and bitterly cold, with skies as grey and rheumy as an elderly dog’s eyes.

I’m never quite sure how I feel on New Year’s Eve, although I’m usually a bit anxious.  Am I sad that the year is over and time is marching on? Am I excited for a new year with new opportunities and challenges?  Or is it just another day, to be lived with mindful gratitude?

I don’t get particularly jazzed about NYE.  We never go out because I’m scared of drunk drivers.  I never really make resolutions because I know I’ll just break them and feel a sense of failure, so all that excitement over diet changes and new exercise regimens is just not for me.  Anyway, I just got a bunch of cute clothes and if I lost more weight they wouldn’t fit well (you see–  I”m not a total Debbie Downer!).

Not gonna’ lie here, folks.  2013 was kind of harsh for many reasons.  Juggling family and career really stretched the limits of my sanity.  The growth of Emily from a placid baby into a fierce toddler presented new challenges for the entire family and once again our fragile equilibrium was shaken.  Jack’s ongoing struggles to regulate his amazing, yet at times explosive and unpredictable emotional state continued to mystify and stagger us.  We still have not been able to move out of our wonderful but small two bedroom apartment.  There has been more family drama than I can shake a dead cat at (wait?  That’s not an expression?).  There is still never enough sleep or time in the day.  And worrying about financial issues consumed nearly every ounce of our psychic space.

So, in some ways, I am perfectly happy to see 2013 go away, watch the credits run, turn the calendar to a new page, get a fresh start.

In other ways, I know not much will change.

Cars will die.  Relatives will have health issues.  We will march off daily to jobs that offer unique situations and stress.  Bills will continue to fill our mailbox.  Our children will continue to present with ever evolving needs, desires, and issues.

Lately, the famous quote from Jim Morrison has been coming to mind a lot:  “No one here gets out alive.”  I think Pema Chodron put it a little less misanthropically when she penned “The Wisdom of No Escape.”  Either way, you get the point.

I wrote several weeks ago about my goal to find the joy more early and often in life.  In my typical way, it would be easy to say 2013 sucked balls, toss back a glass of champagne and call it a night.  But I think the truth is a bit more complex.  While it is true this year has perhaps shown me more challenges, and the joy has been more elusive on many days, it has been a year of great personal growth.  Growing pains can be quite uncomfortable, but they can also result in strength and wisdom.

This year, we grew closer as a family.  Jack learned about Reiki.  Emily learned to walk and talk and sleep through the night.  We played in the snow.  We planted flowers.  We picked strawberries and watched summer storms.  We watched birds and squirrels nibble seeds from our own sunflowers.

I blogged out my heart and soul and made hundreds of new friends.  I had  the profound honor of having two posts published over at Offbeat Families, and one post Freshly Pressed.  I lost 20 pounds of baby weight.  I read novels, listened to music, and danced with my kids.

We carved pumpkins and dressed up as cats and Jedi for Halloween.  Jack started karate.  We baked brownies and cookies.

My husband and I have had our vows for richer or poorer, for better or worst tested and have come out on top.  Jack graduated kindergarten and started first grade.  Emily learned to peddle a tricycle and climb to the top of the slide.  Jack learned to read.  My husband and I laughed and cried over our children’s strengths and struggles.

These are the times I want to remember.  Not the messy house or the exhaustion.  But while these memories are wonderful, it is also important to remember that life is not a movie.  We can rewind in our mind and remember, but we can not re-do or re-experience those wonderful times.

In my mind, New Year’s Day is just another day.  But it is also an artificial social construct that has been imbued with significance and expectations that are hard to release.  I’m taking my ambivalence and anxiety over NYE as a signal to stop, think, breathe, and be here now.  So if I am going to make any resolution, it is just to keep finding the joy, and to continue on my journey to be mindful and kind.

A very happy, healthy, and beautiful New Year to you and yours.  Thank you so much for being such a huge part of my life over the past year.  From me and mine here at Momaste!

On The Beach With My Dead Dog

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All week long my dead dog and I hung out on the beach.

Except she wasn’t dead.

And it wasn’t bitter winter.

It was that glorious time, mid-September, when the world bathes in amber sun poured from the cosmic alignment of earth being right there.

We were both so much younger, thinner, more agile.

We were the only ones on our favorite beach.

We skipped circles around one another, down sand as soft and gray as rabbit fur.

The Insight Timer app I purchased offers guided meditations.  I did a six minute guided meditation about accepting and loving my inner child.  I chose it because it was only six minutes.  The woman’s silky voice prompted me to imagine a safe place, so I went to the beach.  Then she prompted me to imagine someone I love who brings me joy and comfort.  My little, black lab mix suddenly appeared.

My dog died three years ago, after spending 16 years with me as my beloved companion.  She was like my sister.  She knew all my secrets.  She was with me through more loss, loneliness, and drama than I care to remember.  In my memory, her presence softens those years of confused dissatisfaction.

I struggled with her when she was elderly.  Already caring for a busy and head strong toddler, I was challenged to remain compassionate towards my dog when she lost control of her bladder and bowels and crapped all over my carpet multiple times daily.  Sadly, I was not always compassionate towards her.  There were times when I was blatantly exhausted and mean and I didn’t want her to be my friend anymore.

If there is hell and I have to go there, I will be forced to watch myself be mean and angry towards my dog, over and over for all eternity.

When she finally died, it happened in my arms.  It was really peaceful and loving.  I guess you could call it a good death, but her passing left me with the most profound sense of loss I’d ever known.  A week later I discovered I was pregnant with my daughter, and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was my dog coming back to me in another form.  Maybe it was just the universe smiling on me, or maybe it was just equilibrium reestablished.

Regardless, I felt terrible full-body pain of losing her for months.  I don’t know if I ever fully “got over” her death, and I think a lot of that had to do with how frustrated I was with her as an elderly animal, how limited I was in my ability to care for her the way she needed.

When meditation returned her to me, it was immediate and unexpected joy.  It was such a contrast to the guilt and pain I normally experience when I think about her.  She was smiling, in that way dogs smile.  She skipped around me in circles as I leapt and pranced down the beach.  Even now, remembering this exquisite vision, I find the corners of my mouth twitching up in a smile.  I’ve been able to go back there, too, anytime I want to just close my eyes and be with her.

It’s like a little pocket of peace and happiness in my mind.

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Joy

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“I had focused on coming to terms with the unpleasant, unacceptable, embarassing, and painful things that I do.  In the process, I had very subtly forgotten about joy.” 

—  Pema Chodron, from Awakening Loving-Kindness, page 49. 

Find the joy.

This is my new motto.

After writing my posts about financial struggles and my frustration facing the expensive holidays, I happened upon a chapter about Joy in my itsy bitsy Pema Chodron primer, Awakening Loving-Kindness.  If I could, I would copy and paste the entire chapter into this post.  Since I do not want to be held responsible for copyright infringement, I will just talk about a couple of the parts that really resonated with me. 

Pema Chodron tells the story about a woman being pursued by tigers.  She ends up going over a cliff, and barely hanging on, she notices a little clump of strawberries.  “Tigers above, tigers below,” Chodron writes (page 52).  “This is actually the predicament we are always in, in terms of our birth and death.  Each moment is just what it is.  It might be the only moment of our life, it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat.  We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.” 

I have a feeling this statement might be easier said than done.  In fact, I know beyond doubt it is easier said.  However, I also know opportunities exist where I can choose pleasure or despair. 

I’ve been focusing a lot on how much I suck, then grappling with self acceptance.  While this has been illuminating and helpful for me, I sort of want to shift my focus a bit.  I want to make a little more room for joy. 

I’ve started by simply repeating to myself, find the joy, whenever I think of it.  I also try telling myself to find the joy when I am feeling frustrated, bored, annoyed, or worried.  For example, I tried it the other night when Jack was being a nudge about something or other.  Instead of talking things out, he started to bawl, went into his room and slammed the door.  With a wry smile, I told myself find the joy.  Before I knew it, I had switched from feeling frustrated about my challenging child, to feeling proud of his strength and intensity.  I was able to remember all the things I loved about Jack without bringing myself down for that one moment of not being able to reach him. 

It had worked!  Go figure.

I’ve also started trying to pick up on the moments when I feel a fleeting sense of joy, and try to stay with it.  Sometimes I actually feel myself struggling against joyfulness.  What is that all about?  There are times when my kids are silly and laughing and instead of joining in the fun, I feel myself tighten up with stress that things are going to get out of control.  Would it be easier, I wonder, to just give in and smile and laugh too?  What stops me?   Why can’t I enjoy my children’s artwork strewn around the house instead of worrying about mess and clutter?  Why can’t I sing along with my son instead of rushing to hush him? 

What on earth could be so threatening about joy? 

Many months ago, Emily and I were in line at Trader Joe’s.  There was a tiny plant with yellow flowers on the counter by the cashier.  Emily admired it, so the clerk gave it to us for free.  It was a nice gesture.  I took the plant home and we enjoyed it until it wilted, then tossed it out onto the porch where it quickly became scorched in the summer sun.  But then we watered it, and it bounced back!  It actually grew and bloomed again! 

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My husband transplanted it from its tiny plastic pot into a mosaic planter a friend had given me decades ago that had been long empty.  The plant grew and flourished.  Now it resides on top of my fridge, thriving in that pretty pot. 

I get a jolt of pleasure every time I look at it, thinking about the day Emily and I were given the plant in a random gesture of kindness, of my friend who gave me the pot it is in, of the thoughtful gesture of my husband transplanting it, and of how resilient the silly, little plant has been.  I try to be mindful of this pleasure-jolt, and to stay with it for a few moments in the midst of the daily flurry.   

I want my kids to grow up and know joy.  I want them to choose to see the light and love and happiness in things, and I know my example in this matter is of utmost importance. 

The tigers are always going to be there.  Money woe.  Work stress.  Sleep deprivation.  Time constraints.  Worrying about my children.  Bickering with my husband.  Anxiety.  Depression.  General household frustration.  These things are always there above and below me, threatening to sink their teeth into my heart and soul.  It is not always easy to look away from these riveting rivals to find joy in a little plant, in a drawing from my son, in the sounds of laughter or song. 

But maybe it should be easier. 

Pema Chodron says, “You could connect with your joyfulness.  You could start right now.” 

I think I will. 

What brings you joy?  Do you ever struggle to feel joyful?  What stands in your way of joy? 

Moments Flash

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In the morning we all bustle around the house, doing our own things, getting ready for the day.

Jack eats pancakes at the sticky dining room table.

Emily shuttles her baby doll back and forth across the living room floor.

My husband checks his email and shakes vitamins out of a plastic bottle for Jack.

I’m in the bathroom, lining my eyes with black and blowing out my frizzy, blonde hair with the dryer until it is straight and smoothe and shiny.

Somehow, on this one morning, we all found ourselves for a few moments gathered around the dining room table.  I put on socks and shoes, and listened to Jack chat about what he would taste like if he were a food.  “I would taste like tacos!  I would taste like tacos!” he sang.

Emily toddled over and pointed to the sock puppet in the middle of the table.  “Ockah.  Ockah,” she chirped.  I handed her the puppet.  She put it on.  Her chubby arm was engulfed in the grubby-looking, white athletic sock that my husband had transformed with button eyes and a pom-pom nose into the creature, “Sockthing,” when my son was younger.

When Jack was two or three, Sockthing could get him to do things that Mommy and Daddy could not.  Things like taking a time out, eating one more bite of dinner, getting ready for bed, or putting on his shoes.  Sockthing could sweet-talk Jack into just about anything.

Jack would hug my husband’s Sockthing-covered arm to his chest and bleat, “You’re my best friend, Sockthing!” (Of course it sounded more like, “best fwiend Sockfing.”)

Sometimes Sockthing would be the only person to whom Jack would talk about his four-year-old feelings, or five-year-old frustrations.

Even now at six, Jack still requests time with Sockthing at bedtime, or to play hide and seek with Sockthing.  It was only recently he randomly announced to us, “Sockthing’s voice is really Daddy.”

On this particular morning, my husband appeared also, and suddenly there we were, all four of us, around the dining room table.

My husband put Sockthing on his hand and made him grab Emily’s pacifier.  Emily squealed and grabbed her pacifier back by biting it directly out of Sockthing’s mouth.  Then she gave it back to Sockthing, and he sat there sucking on Emily’s pacifier with a smug look on his face.

We all laughed, even Jack, who is almost never amused by his sister’s antics.

I hope if my life ever flashes before my eyes, moments like this one are what I see.

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Three Minutes of Meditation- WOOT!

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Emily had gone to sleep under her pile of brightly colored blankets, and I crept out of the room.  Out to the living room I plodded, down on the couch I curled, and a-channel-surfing-I-did-go.

This is my nightly routine.  I crash on the couch and flick on the TV or work on my blog until my hubs comes out from putting down the boy, and we watch something together on Netflix.

I found an episode of Will and Grace in syndication and settled in.  But I felt agitated and bored.

Why am I watching this?  I wondered.

I picked up my phone.

Put it back down.  Picked it up again.  I notice the app I purchased called Insight Timer.  I had yet to open it.

Well, I could sit up and meditate for a bit, I thought.

I turned the TV off and sat up with my legs crossed in front of me.  I fired up the Insight Timer app.  It prompted me to chose a timer duration for my meditation session.

I set it for three minutes.

Let’s start small.  I don’t want to set it for like ten minutes and fail at sitting because I couldn’t sit for that long, I thought.

Here’s the thing–  while I know I should be meditating, it is really, really, freaking, super, stupid hard for me to do.  I don’t like it and I’m not great at it, not to mention I almost never have the proper time to devote to a meditation practice.  But since I’ve started this blog, and have been more focused on mindfulness, and have been reading Pema Chodron, and have been learning about other people’s successes with meditation, well, I figure I should try.

Here we go, I thought, pressing the “start” button.  A beautiful bell rang out and reverberated for 20 or so seconds.  I tuned into my breath, followed it in and out.

This isn’t so bad!  Maybe I’ll write something about it for my blog. . .  oops, you’re thinking.  That’s what Pema Chodron says to do when you get distracted during meditation.  Label it as “thinking” and go back to your breath.

In-breath.  Out-breath.  In-breath.  Out-breath.

Why was I watching Will and Grace anyway?  It’s not like I really care about that show.  Now if it had been a re-run of Grey’s Anatomy. . .  

Thinking.

Breath.

TV is so addictive. . .  toys on the floor. . .  maybe I’ll heat up the herb pack for my lower back; it’s kind of sore. . .  when was the last time I wiped the microwave?  Is it weird I would rather throw away a major appliance than sponge it down?  I could go for some tea.  

Thinking.  Breath.

Ooooh, look!  There’s Mt. Everest.  It is so blue and frozen.  It makes me feel so remote to look at, kind of like I’m drifting.  Speaking of drifting, I feel so far apart from my family.  Holidays are like that, I guess, bringing out the difficult stuff.  Feelings. . .  Oh, yeah, I don’t have to think about feelings right now.  I’m meditating.  Thinking.  Thinking.  Go back to the breath.  Breath. . .  

In. . .  breath. . .  Out. . .  breath. . .  soft and focused, searching for that little gap after the out breath when there is nothing at all to do.

And the bell rang again.  My three minutes were up.

What I liked about the experience was the quieting of my mind.  I often use TV or Candy Crush to “zone out,” or numb myself.  I am aware those are not entirely helpful and rather than being with myself, I am trying to avoid myself by engaging in those activities.  Not all the time; sometimes I play Candy Crush because it is fun.  And sometimes it helps to distract my anxious mind into some sort of focused mind.  But I think meditation is a more gently way of creating that down time without relying on technology.

It wasn’t an all together awful experience.  Actually, it wasn’t awful at all.  It was sort of pleasant.  I’ll try it again, and maybe set the timer for five minutes.

What does your meditation practice look like?  Is it regular and ritualized?  What stands in the way of your being consistent with meditation?  

My Week In Haiku

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Monday afternoon:

home with sick child.
morning light slips into
long evening shadows.

20131128-114427.jpgTuesday evening:

day drifts on the bay,
white water birds hunker down
as winter draws near.

Wednesday morning:

my son’s daily brawl
over socks and being rushed
sours my commute.

Thursday noon:

for an hour I sit
worrying my cuticles.
I hope no one sees.

Friday night:

certain songs float out
of the radio and I
long for other times.

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I Choose You

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I ran into a friend from work in the parking lot after a staff meeting.  We work in different departments, so we don’t see each other often, but we have a tradition of hugging each other after these monthly meetings, then going about our business until the next time with the occasional email in between.  It is a little ray of sunshine.

She asked how I had been and without thinking, or editing myself, I offered that I had been stressed lately.  Jack has been going through a particularly persnickety phase, having to do mostly with his adjustment to the rigors of first grade.  We only had a moment to chat before bustling back to our respective buildings and work days.

I felt like a jerk pouring out my heart in a parking lot.  Sometimes I wish I could just smile and say everything is great, but if ya’ ask me how I’m doing, more than likely, I’m going to tell ya’.

The next day, I came into work and found a lovely email from her.  She told me she had worried about me, so she checked out my blog (I mean how else do we find anything out about each other these days, right?) and read a few of my recent posts about my struggles in mommy-land.  She shared with me that when she was a young mom (her children are now grown adults, and she is a grandmother herself) she struggled with many themes similar to mine.

She resonated with the post about Jack’s potential past life, and shared her belief that our children chose us, that somehow their little soul comes to grow in and with us for a reason.  She wrote of her grand daughter who died from a rare and vicious cancer at five months old.  The baby, she said, was an old soul, and while everyone wondered why this sadness fell on the family, my friend remained convinced that the baby picked her parents for a reason.

“I’ve told my mother, ‘I chose you,’ and I could tell that it gave her joy to think it,” she wrote to me.  “I like to think that my children chose me.  Somehow, it makes all those years when I didn’t live up to the ideal Mom okay, because they chose me regardless.”

I mused on these thoughts, rolling them over in my head like a pebble in the ocean, until they became my own.  When that pebble came to rest, I was filled with a warmth as though on a sundrenched shore.

Here is what I came up with:

1.  Sometimes honest sharing is good (even in a parking lot), and increases the potential of getting a need met.

2.  Perspective is everything.  It is  a blessing to have friends of all ages, in all phases of life to lend me their views.

3.  In mindfulness, part of the work is recognizing our thoughts and being aware of how they influence our emotions.  As a mom, I have many thoughts that work against me.  When Jack has a tantrum and I think to myself, “This is hopeless!  I don’t know what to do.  I can’t do anything to help and so nothing will ever change,” I feel despair course though every cell of my being.  When I think, “I am a child therapist for goodness sake, and even with all my experience, I am clueless!” I become possessed with deep insecurity and a sense of failure as both a mom and a therapist.

I looked at a picture of Jack on my desk and thought, “You chose me.  There must be some reason that I am your mom.  I can hold you and all your feelings.  I can do this.  We will figure it out and get through it together because you chose me to be your mom.”

The feeling was remarkable.  I felt strong and confident, infinite and open.

Whether or not I can tap these thoughts when I am in the middle of a five-alarm Jack attack remains to be seen.  But I guess if I tell myself that I can use it and do it and be it, then I have a better chance of being successful with it, and keeping my cool in the middle of the chaos (which is the NUMBER ONE rule when dealing with a strong-willed chicklet, by the way).

4.  Accepting my thoughts, feelings, and urges for what they are, as they are is an important step towards self acceptance.  It reminded me of how Pema Chodron speaks about compassion towards the self as being crucial to compassion for the rest of the world.

5.  It is pretty and comforting to think my children chose me, that there is some kind of ripening of karma in the fact that we are together making our way through life as a family.  But I also chose my children when I decided to become a mom.  True, our children come hard wired with some interesting temperaments over which we have less control than we might have thought before bearing children, but when we decide to become parents, we decide to love and nurture whatever karma throws our way.

I have bucked karma on this point many a time.  I’ve questioned why I got Jack– the ornery, intense, picky eater as opposed to a peaceful, kale and quinoa eating yogi.  But at the end of the day, he is the child I am kissing goodnight, see ya’ in the morning light, love ya’, sweet dreams.

We chose each other.

We chose our thoughts.

We chose our happiness.

They are powerful thoughts and I think they will serve me well, thanks to the caring kindness of my friend.

What thoughts do you have that help you get through the day with your child?  Are there any thoughts you have that don’t serve you well?  

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