Tag Archives: Pema Chodron

New Territory– Accepting My Beautiful Shit


  While walking back to my office from a staff meeting today, I commented to a coworker that I did not enjoy the meeting.

“These meetings always make me anxious and paranoid that I’m doing tons of stuff wrong,” I said. “Ooohhh, is that new territory for you?  Anxiety?”  One of my coworkers snarked.

I have a reputation for being anxious.  It’s not a secret.

I tend to be highly organized, very sensitive, and sometimes compulsive when it comes not just to my work, but to life in general. But to hear my coworker mocking me for it left my jaw hanging open.

Of course he was just joking with me, and he didn’t know I was having a really raw week.  I don’t think he meant anything unkind by it, but it left me feeling sad and, yes, even more anxious.

I don’t need to read the book to know I am the poster child for the Highly Sensitive Person.  I’m introverted, emotional, and have a hard time not taking things personally.  I worry almost constantly about how I am presenting myself, what others think of me, and startle easily.  I spend hours contemplating things I’ve said, or how I’ve reacted to things.  I get almost unreasonably obsessive about little things like books and TV shows and dreams I’ve had.  I need a lot of alone time, and I’m a daydreamer for sure.  My heart leaps before my head.

I also have a hard time trusting not only that others will accept and understand the dimensions that the facet of anxiety adds to my personality.  I have a hard time trusting my own self, and my own instincts and intuition.

Highly sensitive people who are highly evolved own their traits as strength, and wear their empathy, creativity, and emotionality like badges. This is something on which I am still working.

I heard beautiful Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, describe our flaws as manure.  Our jealousies, insecurities, anger, fears, and sorrows may just be the shitty stuff about us, or about our lives.  But one does not just throw away the shit.  We use it to nourish and grow our gardens.

I am eternally grateful to Ani Pema for this little pearl of wisdom. Because a lot of the time, I feel like a pretty shitty person.

Anxiety is shitty.  Panic attacks are shitty.  If you have ever gone through a period of intense anxiety, you know it is not a naturally beautiful emotion.  It is not easy to accept.  This tender analogy has helped me be more accepting and nurturing of myself.

It’s not always easy. 

 I often feel like a shitty person because there are times, as a HSP, I don’t know where I am going to be emotionally from one hour to the next.  This is rough not just for me, but for the people around me, especially my spousal unit and children.  Let me make it clear that I do not spend my days ranting and raving–  I AM STABLE.  But there are days where life can feel like a roller coaster.  If you are a HSP, you get what I am saying.

It’s like this:  One moment I am driving to work in a bliss of music, and I catch some wild flowers on the side of the road and tell myself to bloom where I am planted.  And that feels incredibly inspiring and I walk into work feeling awesome and confident.  Ten minutes later when my phone is ringing and I have three intakes waiting for me, my heart starts to race and I am feeling angry and anxious because fear I won’t meet everyone’s needs and expectations.

But it’s not all bad. Anxiety and sensitivity motivate me to do better all the time.  I have learned to practice mindfulness, and when I start creeping down Anxiety Avenue, I know enough to tug myself back and slow down.  Anxiety keeps me organized.

My traits as a highly sensitive person also allow me to attune with my clients.  For some reason, it is harder for me to attune to my family, when I am exhausted and drained and prickly at the end of the day, but I am working on that.

I wanted to tell my insensitive coworker that if he knew anything about anxiety, (which he SHOULD since he is a mental health worker), then he would never, ever say something like that to someone WITH anxiety. I know he didn’t mean anything by it.  He was joking with me, probably because he feels comfortable enough with me to do so.  But I still felt belittled, judged, diagnosed, and mocked.

My first instinct was that I needed to do something to change myself, be someone different.  I ruminated on this as I tried to find ways to present myself as cool, calm, and collected.

My second instinct was to scream, “FUCK.  THAT!”

Have you ever looked at your own reflection and said, “You are beautiful and amazing, and you do incredible things,”?

My hero, Mister Rogers, said, “The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.”  He also said, “Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.”

There is something simultaneously grounding and liberating about accepting who and what you’re all about at any given moment.  It opens up a world of endless possibility and infinite love.

It’s not always easy.

While it made me uncomfortable in the moment, at the end of the day, I was grateful that my coworker’s comment gave me an opportunity to reconnect with my honest self.  So, yeah, maybe that was new territory, or at least another visit to a place where I am not yet overly familiar.

30%– Why All Us Moms Deserve a Huge Pat On Our Backs (i.e., a 90 Minute Massage)




  It’s spring.  Temperatures are rising, trees are exploding in technicolor glory, and flowers are wafting with sweetness.

We’ve opened our windows to enjoy the natural ventilation. And I’m terrified my children are going to fall out of said open windows.

What the crap is wrong with me?

I proudly named my baby blog, Momaste, back in the day with the idea I would write about becoming a mindful, Buddhist mother in this hectic workaday culture.

So, how’s THAT goin’ for ya’, Charlotte?  My snarky brain wonders.

Sure, I did write some posts inspired by Pema Chodron, hero of compassionate loving-kindness, and seriously, I’ve learned a lot along the way.  But in all honesty, it would feel a lot less fraudulent on my part if I had named dear old bloggy, Mama’s Ramblings About Being An Anxious Mess.  

But that just seems kind of cumbersome.

Isn’t as cute, and doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as nicely as, “Momaste!  The Mom in me bows to the Mom in you!” You get the picture.

Anyway, I think Pema would tell me that it is okay to be an anxious mess and to be scared of coyotes attacking my kids or having them fall out of our deliciously ventilated home.  Being an anxious mess and being mindful and being a decent person/mom/social worker/wife aren’t all mutually exclusive.  And so forth.  (And yes, I do fancy myself to be on first name basis with Pema Chodron. . .  but I digress.)

I have a colleague who says it is a researched fact that as a mom you only have to be “good enough” 30% of the time and your kid will turn out okay.  I’m cereal you guys.  30%.  This is like empirical-evidence-based shit.

Thirty fucking percent.

I don’t know about you, but this fact makes me breathe a huge sigh of relief.

I’d like to think, even, that more often than not, I’m actually giving it more than 30%.  I bet you are too.  Even on that day I almost popped a vocal cord screaming at the kids because my last nerve was frayed from their fighting with one another, I can honestly say the whole rest of the day I gave it about 63%.

I don’t suppose any of us get up in the morning and set our bar at 30%.  In fact, I’d wager that on any given day we set our bars way higher.  Maybe we set them unrealistically high and then beat ourselves up a bit when we feel like we have not met our quotas for Awesome-Mommyness.

Being a mom is so much harder than I ever dreamed it possibly would be.  Being mindful is great, and then it is also really exhausting because sometimes I just want things to go my freaking way without having to breathe and accept every unanticipated, unwieldy, noisy, messy snafu.

My children mystify me with their glimmering complexities. They are my own creations I grew in my own tummy, and yet they are totally their own people. They mystify me most of all for having chosen me for their mom. 

I wonder if I’ll ever know what I’m doing. I wonder if I’ll ever do them justice. 

I try pretty hard. 

Sometimes I lose my temper.  Sometimes I am too tired to sing one more song or read one more story. Sometimes I cop out on nutrition and go through a drive through.  Sometimes I want to drive to the beach by myself, or go to a bookstore by myself, or spend money on a mani-pedi and Bare Mineral cosmetics rather than buying organic groceries.

I worry so much about my children.  Sometimes the worries are grounded in reality–  like, why does Jack do the stuff he does, or why is my three year old daughter already coveting another child’s hair?  Other times, my anxiety is just hovering around me like a hot air balloon, distracting my periphery with shadows and making me think there are dangers lurking that will reach out and snatch at my babies.  

Don’t even get me started on the fear that a rabid bat will bite them in their sleep. 

I was expressing my worry to my colleague the other day, and she said, “Don’t worry.  There is nothing you can do by worrying anyway.  It’ll all be fine.”

“Yeah, but,” I said, “That right there is my worry!  That I should be doing something else, something more, something different to make life better for my kids.”

“You’re doing just wonderfully,” she said, adding the bit about the 30%.

And you know what?  For a moment, I believed her.  I mean she is an expert in this early child development stuff.  Come to think of it, so am I. . . PLUS, I am the expert on my own children.    

So why the heck am I always so insecure about my mothering?

It’s just about time to celebrate Mother’s Day.  I have mixed feelings every year about this Hallmark holiday.  This year, whatever the day brings (which will probably be chaotic as I manage my own brood and obligations to celebrate my own mother and mother in law), I plan to remember how awesome I am, even when things feel overwhelming or frustrating.

This will be my gift to myself.  It might not be a 90 minute, full-body massage, but it really is a treasure.

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day, doing whatever it is you do.  Celebrate you and revel in that sweet, sweet 30% that you have met and exceeded on so many occasions.  Because, really, you’re doing awesome.  Keep that shit up.

We are all the experts on our own children, even when it might not feel that way.

And even though my blog is the ramblings of an anxious mess most of the time, the mom in me really does bow to and honor the mom in you.  Momaste.


(I’ll get you the reference for that 30% citation at some point. . .  but I’m tired at the mo, and only have about 27% to give to this post. . . xoxoxo… )

Adventures In Meditation: Sitting With Fear


My favorite spot is a rocky point of land overlooking the Atlantic ocean. There is an old, white lighthouse which coos and beams at the choppy waves. Recently I drove there for a brief visit by myself.

It had been a stressful week. I carried heavy, inner turmoil I couldn’t name, but from which I longed to free myself. I got it into my head to sit and meditate on the cliffs for a bit.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you may have caught on that I am attracted to Buddhism, and the concept of mindfulness. There are many fancy, eloquent, and poetic definitions for mindfulness. I think of it as being 100% aware of my surroundings, body, breath, thoughts, and urges and how these factors influence me at any given point in time, then accepting these factors without trying to influence them.

In her book, When Things Fall Apart, Pema Chodron writes, “We’re just being with our experience, whatever it is. . .  This very moment is the perfect teacher, and it is always with us.”

When I am mindful in a situation, whether it is painful or pleasant, I can be present without trying to block or diminish what’s going on.  Here’s the thing:

I’m not very good at it.

But as someone pointed out to me, it is called “practicing” Buddhism because we aren’t perfect at it. We are always practicing.  (Thank you to Shannon from Game of Diapers for that gem!)

I probably would be a lot better at this gig if I meditated more.

Most practitioners of Buddhism meditate, or sit, for a period of time in quiet space to alter consciousness, gain enlightenment, develop compassion, or for relaxation among other things. Some meditate daily, others do it a couple times a week.

Meditation-wise, I compare to Christians who go to church devoutly on Christmas and Easter.

Time, space, and lack of privacy are among the hollow excuses I have for not meditating more.   Also, I just don’t really like it. The perfectionist in me becomes confused and overwhelmed by all the different types of meditation and if I am doing it “right enough.”

Anyway, there I was with some hurt in my heart, at that beautiful spot. I got out of my car and trundled down to the cliffs, noting that clogs were not really made for traversing shaley rocks. I got my body safely to a spot and sat down.

Assuming a comfortable position, I took some breaths. I chanted om tare tutture ture soha, a chant for Green Tara and compassion.

The view before me.

The view before me.

My gaze was gentle and calm on waves that flickered and danced in the sun. Ten minutes passed easily. For the most part, my mind was clear. When occasional thoughts came up, I remembered Pema Chodron saying to simply notice the thought, label it “thinking” and return to the meditative state. I did this several times.

Oh, yeah, look at me! I am totally rocking this meditation! I should do this more often because I am kicking meditation’s ass! 

Then I realized despite the spring chill in the air, and the breeze off the ocean it was quite warm on the rock. I smiled, feeling content as a cat in the sun.

Panic smacked me full-frontal like an icy wave.

Snakes like warm stuff. 

What if a snake crawled out of his hidey hole and was attracted to my warmth here in the sun? 

My eyes snapped open. I twisted my head around and sure enough, there was a hole in the moist earth behind me.

And the view behind me.

And the view behind me.

Rationally, I know any number of things could have crawled out of that hole– a skunk, a mouse, or some other warm-blooded, furry critter. I live in a part of the world where there are barely any dangerous or large snakes, and any reptilian creature that may or may not have crawled out of that space was likely small and harmless.

But phobias are not rational. The breeze rustled the branches a bit and I leapt from my spot, scampered up the cliff like a mountain goat, and ran back to the safety of my car. Even then, my legs felt creepy crawly and I shuddered.

I felt goofy and embarrassed.  Once again, I failed at the meditation, wannabe Buddhist thing.

Or did I?

At home, I consulted Chodron’s book.  I read, “In practicing meditation, we’re not trying to live up to some kind of ideal– quite the opposite.. .   If our experience is that sometimes we have some kind of perspective, and sometimes we have none, then that’s our experience.  If sometimes we can approach what scares us, and sometimes we absolutely can’t, then that’s our experience.”

So, is she saying, in a sense, I totally nailed that meditation, (even though I literally ran away from my irrational fear) because it was exactly the experience it was?

I like to think so.

Of course she is probably speaking of metaphorical fears within us with which we may or may not feel companionable.  That we may not have enough compassion.  That we may be judgmental.  That we may be angry or even hostile.  That we may erect walls to insulate ourselves from becoming vulnerable.

Or, we are terrified of nature despite the fact we would like to present ourselves as an earthy-mama-goddess who isn’t afraid to get a little dirty.

As I sit here trying to figure out how I will wrap up this post, I realize I could write an entire series about my fears.  Even as I laugh at myself for beating feet from an imaginary snake, I am struck by how fearful I have become.  A decade ago I had a delicious sense of safety, but now life feels precariously balanced.   I think it has to do with “stuff” in which I am stewing over turning 40 in a couple months, my fears of growing older and death.  In my work as a clinical social worker, I am also exposed daily to horrendous acts of humanity which have certainly tainted my world view and inner monologue over the past ten years.

I feel like if I lean only slightly to the left I will become terrified of bridges or bees.  Lean forward and I will become one of those people who never leave the house.  To the right and I will spend every second of every day cleaning for fear of germs.

What would happen if I just let myself fall back in a trust-fall into the universe?

Well, those are all matters for other posts.

What purpose did my adventure in meditation serve?  Did it further my awareness?  Did it help dispel fears?  Was it the silly punchline to a cosmic joke?  Or was it simply my experience?

I like to think so.



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


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!



“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! 


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? 

Three Minutes of Meditation- WOOT!



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. . .  



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?  

You Are Okay


“The most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves.  Yet it’s never too late or too early to practice loving-kindness.”  Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart. 


You look in the mirror, hating on your puffy eyes and the two deep lines in between your brows.  You look in the mirror, thinking your lips are thinning, but your cheeks look fat.  You look in the mirror, counting gray hairs, extra pounds, stretch marks.  You look in the mirror and step on the scale, weighing your disappointment in yourself.


You are okay.

You are wonderful.

Your body is a miracle.

Your hips will never fit back into a single-digit-size pair of pants because your pelvis has been stretched to accomodate the new life you brought into this world.

Your thighs and bum carry an extra store of fat, put on to accomodate your little one’s need to be nourished at your breasts.

The corners of your eyes have become creased from hours of smiling down on your children, teaching them the world is friendly and safe.

The commercials are correct, motherhood changes everything.  One of the things that changes is your body, and likely your attitude towards it.  But consider the miracle your body performed.

Your body did what it was created to do.

You are a mom.

You do not need to compare yourself to the mom who proudly sported a bikini after having twins.  Maybe she was blessed with different genetics than you, and that is nice for her.  You do not need to hate on her, but more importantly, you do not need to put yourself down for not being her.

Your body accomplished what it was meant for in a pristine and gracious manner, to be compared with no one else.

It is okay for you to enjoy cake on birthdays, burgers off the grill in the summer, pizza on Fridays, and mashed potatoes with butter on winter holidays.  It is okay for you to show your children moderation is a wonderful thing.  Show them we can treat ourselves here and there without feeling ashamed, fat, or ugly.

Your children will be happier and healthier if they learn to love their bodies, and all the wonderful, physical activities their bodies perform- jumping, running, climbing, dancing, swimming, kicking, twirling- to keep them fit and strong.  Your children will learn to love their bodies if you love yours.

Your children will be happier and healthier if they grow up not thinking the “F word” is “fat”.

Your children love your body.  It is their home.  They will not believe the place from which they seek comfort and love is anything less than beautiful, unless you convince them otherwise.  Were you a size 0 model on the cover of a magazine the gazes you attracted would not be more adoring than eyes of your children.

Keep yourself healthy and strong for them, but also for yourself.  Make wise choices about how you use your body, and what you put into your body.  But know, also, that your sum total is so much more than a number on a scale.

Your stomach jiggles when you run, and is tie-dyed with bleached tiger stripes of motherhood.  These are talismans to be worn with pride and confidence, not to be covered with shame or self-loathing.

Your breasts are big and floppy, lumpy and bumpy because they produced the most amazing food on the planet.  Your breasts have done what they were meant for, and they have provided nourishment, comfort, and bliss for your babies.  Your bra size is bigger because of this evolutionary miracle, not because you didn’t log enough hours at the gym.

And speaking of the gym.  It is okay for you to miss workouts to stay home and snuggle with your children.  It is okay for you to take them for long nature-walks by the bay or in the woods instead of running in smelly isolation with your ear buds in at the gym.  But if you do feel like working out at the gym, that is okay too, and you do not need to feel guilty for leaving your children for an hour to take care of yourself.

Tend to yourself.

Be healthy.  Be reasonable.

You are beautiful.

You are allowed to love yourself as unconditionally as you love your children.

You are not a bad person for calling yourself names in the past.  It is never too late to turn to loving-kindness.  You do not need to be your own worst enemy when you look in the mirror.  Instead, consider the art you created.

Loving others begins with loving ourselves.  How much better would the world be if we could support and cherish ourselves, rather than constantly putting down or insulting?  How much would kindness be increased if we could bring ourselves to view the changes motherhood creates in our physical beings as pure and natural, not abhorrent or aberrant?

Try it now.

Love yourself.

You are okay.


The Fight Club In My Head



There are a few nights a month where I lie awake, fighting in my head.  Sometimes I argue with myself over something I did which I perceive as stupid, silly or embarrassing.  Other times I argue with my husband about chores, child care, and cash flow.

Once in a while, I mentally flail, bite, and scratch at some issue that brings fantasies of blood and gore and violence into my mind.

It is the last conflict on that list which draws the most energy and creates the most anxiety.  As you might imagine, the first rule of that fight club is that I never talk about it.

Because if I did talk about it, the ground on which I stand would shiver and shake until it opened beneath my feet into a pit of snakes and scorpions who’s venom would scorch my sanity.

So, usually I don’t talk about it.  Whatever IT is.

I freeze, become irritable and hyper focused on housework and the children’s behavior, skip meals, drink too much coffee, and tend poorly to myself and those around me in general.  On one level I look passive, like I am giving up, or accepting, but on another level, deeper inside, I am being churned like the sea in a tropical storm.

As a clinical social worker, I am supposed to be an expert in communication skills and conflict resolution.  Why then, am I unable to make peace with this screaming banshee in my brain?

My professional side understands there are probably deep rooted issues related to my desire to please people, juxtaposed against my strong sense of righteous indignation, adjacent to a few primitive ego defenses, and criss crossed with my need for peace and quiet.

On a personal level, I can tell you that because I DO sit in my professional chair helping people work through anger, aggression, and miscommunication all day, this work is what I DON’T want to do in my private life.  I fantasize that I can come home- whether to my actual house, or to my own head- and things will just fall in place, where they need to be.

But real life doesn’t work that way, does it?

Chocolate helps.  Walking helps.  Pema Chodron helps.  Breathing helps.  Blogging helps.  Watching TV or reading helps.

Silly as it may sound, I have special jewelry, imbued with meaning and memory, that helps.

Holding my children helps.

Chanting through the long, midnight hours helps.  Om shanti, shanti, shanti.  Om shanti, shanti, om.  

Still, my mind bounces back into the ring, boxing madly at the adrenaline, cortisol, and testosterone plaguing my gray matter, which in turn shouts slurs and insults the likes of which I will not dignify in text.

Or maybe I should write down all the things raging in me in the middle of the night.  What would it be like to see them in black and white?  Would it help to expunge these demons, or would it serve only to add accelerant to  the  blaze?

Invariably, after a few days, I go back to my normal, non-violent-minded self and wonder what the fuss was all about, so it begs the question, “If a rage goes on in my own mind and no one hears it, did it really matter?”

What gets you heated?  How do you handle conflict, whether constructively or explosively?  


Revelations From A Renegade Parent


Today at the playground with my kids, I decided I don’t really care if they walk, run, or crawl up the slide instead of sliding down it.  I’m tired of enforcing that “you only slide DOWN the slide” rule. 

Both my kids are extremely agile, and regardless, they could injure themselves just as easily climbing up the stairs, ladders, or rock walls to get to the top of the slide.

I’m not going to waste my time or energy even pretending to care.  Who made up that stupid rule anyway?  When dozens of kids are going buck wild climbing on every possible surface, racing, swinging, and screaming with abandon, how is limiting them to only sliding down the ding dong slide going to improve anyone’s life?

As soon as I made this decision, I felt liberated, free from some old timey rule I no longer needed to enforce.  

I felt inspired.  

I’ve decided I feel fine allowing my kids to watch TV and snack while I make dinner.  By the time we actually make it to dinner-prep, we are all exhausted, hungry, and surly.  Jack has sat in a classroom for six hours, done homework, then run out all his remaining energy on the playground.  Emily has had a day full of enrichment, either home with me or at her daycare, so how is it harming them to watch a half hour of TV while I bustle around the kitchen?

I’ve always beat myself up for using the TV as the “electronic babysitter,” but I’ve chosen not to feel bad about it any longer. My exhausted little boy does not want to do play doh, color, or build with legos after his long day.  He wants to watch a show.  I’ve decided I’m fine with that.

My guilt is simply a waste of energy.

Furthermore, if they want to snack while they watch TV, I’m cool with that too.   While we try to eat dinner together at least three or four times per week (our busy schedules don’t allow for much more), I simply no longer believe in the notion that all nutrition has to take place at the dining room table.  They can munch on grapes, cheese and crackers, apple slices, or carrot sticks and I can add those bites into their overall dietary intake for the day.  If they eat a little less at the table, so what?

Look.  I’m not living in the world my husband and I grew up in.  Times have changed radically.  Kids are treated and behave differently.  Both the roles of women and men have evolved.  As a working mom there is no way I am going to be able to accomplish the white picket American Dream of yesteryear.  It would be nice, but it’s not going to happen. 

My life is in a constant state of falling apart-ness.  And that’s fine.  That’s just our life “as it is” to quote Pema Chodron.  Accepting where we are, and our limits is far more productive, in my humble opinion, than constantly exerting the energy it takes to swim upstream.

I don’t think any of these conscious choices to make my life easier make me a crappy parent.  Maybe they make me a little bit of a renegade.  Picking my battles doesn’t make me bad; it makes me badass.  At the end of the day, I can live with that.

What renegade choices do you make?  How are you badass at parenting? 

I Choose You



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?