Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 118: Breathe In, Breathe Out

Apparently this is a bad, bad year for allergy sufferers. Plentiful winter rains here in the desert guarantee a bumper crop of endless greenery and all that green stuff tries to replicate itself much too quickly. The pollen counts are unbelievable. My standard antihistamine regimen has fallen short this year, leaving me gasping for breath for the past two days.

It takes a lot of work to consciously breathe all day long. The chant "breathe in... breath out... breathe in... breathe out" is almost audible in my mind. (I am fairly certain that hearing voices is still not en vogue, psychologically speaking, so we'll leave it at "almost audible.") Over and over as the hours pass I find myself straightening up in my chair and willing myself to breathe evenly. What does this have to do with my worth? What does this have to do with anything?

Basics. Breathing is basic -- we're born knowing how to do it. Even my kids who needed oxygen or visits to the NICU had an innate desire and general idea of how to breathe. We know how to breathe and we don't have to think about it. We take it completely for granted. That is, we do until we can't do it easily. As soon as a cold crops up, or allergies explode, or asthma threatens, or a rogue pillow in the middle of the night plants itself on your face, you suddenly have to think about that next breath. You see how fundamental an exercise getting oxygen into your lungs is. You achieve a sense of acute awareness at how dependent you are on a single element.

A great deal of our lives (at least my life) is spent in the "take things for granted" mode. Even our stresses are somewhat normal for us. When we cross the line, however, into extremes, we discover our utter dependence on something like oxygen. We discover that this moment, right now, is slipping past us. We don't exist in the past, we don't exist in the future. We only exist right now. Now is as basic as it gets. It occurred to me during breaths 23,535 and 23,536 that I have been focusing moment by moment for the past two days -- that's not a bad thing. I think we end up in trouble when the crisis of our extreme passes and we're not so dependent on consciously breathing in and out, consciously focusing on the now. We easily slide back into taking for granted again. The trick is to let go of the stress but not the focus.

I am worth focus. Right now. Being as centered as possible in the current moment is crucial. It's crucial for completing a task, reading a book to my kids, keeping my mood in check, and so on. It means learning to tolerate noise or utter silence or difficult emotions -- realizing that these things pass, just as the moments do. I only have to master right now.
Now... how to do that? Beats the tar out of me. But I'm working on it. Tonight's agenda, however, is breathing. Be well.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 116: Holy Rusted Metal, Batman! Kryptonite!

I blinked, I read, I lost time again. My reading suggests some sort of black hole. If I were a drinking woman, I might suspect blackouts. Unfortunately I have to admit that my time loss is not chemical, nor is it science fiction related. I just spend too much time creatively avoiding work. Scratch that. There is nothing creative about checking my email, Facebook and a host of internet fora -- those all just suck up time. Those things are my Kryptonite.

I read an interesting phrase today: show me your checkbook, I'll show you your values. A reasonable twist to that for me would involve a day planner and how I spend my time. Darn, growing is painful. It would seem that I've forgotten a basic principle in choices: to choose to do something also means to choose not to do something else. Choosing to indulge in my Kryptonite means I'm choosing to ignore other responsibilities -- responsibilities I willingly took on because I know they are good and essential for me and my family.

I'm worth better choices. It's hard to change habits -- we don't even have to think about our habits until they start to get in our way. My Kryptonic habits have to change. I'm taking a superhero approach to this. I've got to learn to listen to that Spider sense tingling in the back of my mind when I'm about to check email. I need to pay attention to the brain drain my electronic Kryptonite has on my SuperMom powers. I need humor, too (hence the wild Batman & Robin phrases), or I'll go nuts. But above all, I need to keep trying to change my wayward habits and master myself.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 110: Revisiting the 20 Minute Homework

Several weeks ago I mentioned that my doctor had given me homework: twice a week I am to sit for 20 minutes and do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Some more connections I'd like to share have been made in my mind.

My routine bloodwork showed a Vitamin D deficiency. How someone who lives in the Desert Southwest can be Vitamin D deficient is beyond me, but there it is. Guess what? Sitting outside for, oh, 20 minutes a day is a way to boost Vitamin D production in the body. Sure, walking, gardening or some other activity outside works, too. But for now, sitting suits my purposes nicely. How interesting that the "sit still and don't do anything" advice dovetails with the "get outside for a few minutes and make some Vitamin D" advice.

Guess what else dovetails nicely in there? Drinking enough water. Trust me, if you sit out in the desert sun for 20 minutes, you will be thirsty and thus guarantee better water consumption. A well hydrated person is a person who can function throughout her day.

Sitting still and reconnecting the weary brain cells is... well, to be honest, it's aggravating most of the time. However, I am starting to truly see the benefits. I've done it enough to note a difference in the day when I make that time for myself. The funny thing is that I feel I'll never get everything done anyway -- and what I've noticed is that I never can get it all done, regardless of whether or not I've taken a few minutes out for me. Interesting, isn't it? I can't do it all anyway... but if I take 20 minutes out, I feel better and actually manage to get a great mountain of work done. I'm worth 20 minutes!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Day 109: Notebooks, Chaos, and Balance

Notebooks are my salvation... and my downfall. I've been trying to jot down my random thoughts, to-do lists, ideas, discipline issues with the kids, and a host of other mundane, but oh-so-necessary, tasks in notebooks because I forget things so easily these days. Do you see the problem already? Notebooks is plural. My notebook situation has become as bad as my mental situation -- the thoughts are now strewn around my vehicle, living room, kitchen, bedroom, school room, and a few other places that I can't remember (I bet I made a note in a notebook.). Instead of collecting my thoughts in safe place, I've scattered them to the winds of my life. In short, the only improvement is that I now usually know that I'm forgetting something, but I still have no clue what.

How does this relate to my worth? Good question. I've noticed that I am very hard on myself for not remembering things. Just yesterday I was exasperated with my nine year old for not telling me he was done with an assignment (you know what I'm going to say next, right?)... and when I huffily asked him why he was playing instead of telling me he'd finished, he and the fourteen year old both quietly said that he had told me and I had responded with, "Good. I'll be right with you." (This is the part where my head hits the desk and I begin to groan and sigh.) It's so easy to beat myself up over this -- it's hardly the first time it's happened. But before I get to far on berating myself for being inattentive, or side tracked, or whatever, I also have to take note that the boy told me while I was in the middle of teaching the teenager and the little kids were playing loudly in the next room. Multitasking anyone?

My working theory on this constant state of forgetfulness is that multitasking creates chaos. Don't get me wrong -- a certain amount of plate spinning is required in life (think of the circus act where the clown runs back and forth to spin plates on the ends of sticks... plates that he has to keep spinning lest they crash). This goes back to what I said before: I am worth my sanity. There is only so much a person can do in a day. There are only so many thoughts a person can follow in a given period of time. Motherhood is all about constant interruption and correction and somehow finding joy in between. No matter what role I'm playing, there are only so many plates I can keep spinning at once.

Maybe this means I'm worth taking myself less seriously? Oh, I'm not saying I should ditch any of my responsibilities or let them all go to pot. It just seems logical that there must be some line in the sand that I've crossed... a line between joyful living and overbearing burden. I really do think there's a way to build a fence on that line so that a balance can be struck. How to do that? That's the question of the day.

April 19: This is hard without my laptop! :(

I am trying to hard to be diligent with my blogging.. as I am not one with loads of follow thru! But without my lap top this is becoming difficult. I have a (Dino) computer that takes forever to load and then it looses things.

I am whiny today!!! SO it would be fitting for me to follow up with my last post...


My daughter and I have been talking thru this worth thing since I have started it. I am amazed at the insight she has at such a young age, and she challenges me as I know she is watching with "worth" vision since we have started talking.

One day recently she asked a very awesome question. "Mom, what exactly does a woman of worth do?" Mmmmmmm, this is a question that will be answered for years to come... The ACTIONS of a woman of worth, what a great question! So I asked her what she thinks are worthy actions, and who does she see them in? She said her teacher from last year Mrs. Stone. She said that she is kind but firm in her boundaries, and that she is very accepting. I said "Yes, this are worthy traits!"

We have a little contest to share with each other when we see a worthy action.

I am really thankful to God for bringing me thru this. If for no other reason than my daughter at 12 focusing on worth based actions rather then the latest trend in the teen magazine.

I AM WORTH SEEING WORTH IN OTHER PEOPLE! Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 104: Where Did April 13 th Go?

I've lost a day! For some reason I thought yesterday was the 12th and that I had plenty of time to attend to certain responsibilities. I had to finish my intake with my doctor (remember, figuring out hormonal imbalances is extremely important in the grand scheme of things) and I got to go out on a fabulous date with my husband. I worked on school planning, teaching, grading and even some of that financial stuff... but somehow the actual date just didn't register. I woke up this morning feeling panicked and stressed.

There is enough time, but it sure doesn't feel like it. This feeling is a key issue for me. The fight or flight response is great for deciding how to deal with sabre-toothed tigers or closing multi-million dollar business deals, but not really so great for juggling lunches, schooling, finances and self-care. Whether or not my checkbook is balanced shouldn't be a survival moment. Whether or not we get all the quizzes and tests for the day finished should not be one of those moments either. Even paying bills shouldn't be a big deal. But making a mistake on the date sure can make the smaller things in my life feel monumental and potentially catastrophic. Truly, I need to learn how to navigate life better.

I'm worth cultivating a sense of peace and calm. I need to learn this -- being a high-strung person is not fun (and I doubt such a person is fun to live with ::cough::). Watching my kids develop the same issues is painful. They need a better model to pattern themselves after. It worries my husband when I stress over the minutiae and go to pieces.

Today's plan involves a do-over. I started attacking teaching and bills randomly and with incredible stress. Needless to say, it's not been the most pleasant morning (though, honestly, it's far from the worst... so something must be changing for the better), but the day isn't over yet. So it's time to regroup, make a short list and tackle what I can without sacrificing my family on the Altar of Perfection.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April 11: Wow, it has been almost a month..oops!

I have been very introspective this last month. When I get like that, I learn a lot, but don't share much. I guess that is what introspective means right... anyway

I have been really focusing on my self rightous behaviors. The ones that make me feel superior but are in reality soooo not a superior thing to behold.

AM I better than? no... but am I my BEST? Maybe... or becoming my best is probably a better way to describe. We all have to learn thru our stuff. We all have to walk our own way. I love that I have wonderful friends to stop and talk to while I walk. They are most helpful to me as sounding boards and reality checkers! With out them, my introspection could become very lonely.

I have learned this month that I am a good mom, I love reading (this is new for me), I would love to buy a nice camera and become a photographer, and I don't like the way my family eats. I have also learned that others don't learn the way I do, and that is simply okay. I need to ease up a little on my judgements of myself and of others.... and I don't like that I have been that way. I love being married to my husband... and I am thankful more and more everyday for him. I really have it pretty good.

One of my favorite things I learned this month was from my sweet daughter... I will share that tomorrow...

Until then...

Friday, April 9, 2010

Days 98-99 Random Thoughts About Motherhood

This one is going to take quite a bit of thought to unravel. I called Joan yesterday in a panic as I was driving in ridiculous traffic. Turns out she was driving, too!

I really like driving. Specifically, I enjoy road trips. The average run to the grocery store? Not so much, but it will do in a pinch. So yesterday, once I had all my ducklings organized in their proper rows, I jumped in Big Baby, plugged in my iPod and took off for the doctor's office. I cranked up the volume (because I think I'm going deaf... really) and sang my heart out with U2. Since their career spans a large part of my life, I also ended up reminiscing about high school, hopes and dreams, the early days of my marriage, and how I got stuck in traffic on a random Thursday afternoon as a 38 year old woman.

Hopes and dreams popped through my head a lot. One thought grabbed my attention - I have a difficult time prioritizing even my daily responsibilities, let alone time for nurturing my hopes and aspirations. I have become so good at putting my wants on the back burner that I often completely forget they're even there. Do you know what happens to a pot left to simmer on the stove if you don't check on it? All the water evaporates out and you end up with a horrendous mess. Hopes and dreams are similar-- the ones put aside still need to be checked on once in awhile.

I also had some thoughts about something another friend has said to me before -- being a mother is challenging because the mom is often the constant focus of all her children's negativity. Kissing owies better and dealing with the fussing is one thing, but dealing with negative attitudes all day long is wearing. People in the workplace at least get paid to deal with immaturity and there are often human resource policies to deal with particularly difficult coworkers. Not so with mothering. No, mothering means constantly being in the line of fire, and that builds up an interesting pattern of stress.

There were more thoughts, but a lot of them are lost in the ether for the moment. It's worth figuring it all out though. I'll get back to this one.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Day 97: Creative Avoidance

Let's be honest, creative avoidance is an art form that some of us go to great lengths to cultivate. I am the Queen of Procrastination. Need to call the doctor? Oh, not now... I have a toilet to scrub and a floor to vacuum. Need to check the bank balance? Not now, I need to check in on Facebook. Need to make dinner? Nothing sounds good, so I'll just nibble some cookies and... did I ever check my email? Better do that first.

Creative avoidance (a term I am shamelessly stealing from Joan) is another way of distracting myself from the Straight and Boring Path of Life I'm on right now. Nothing like throwing a meaningless curve into my day -- it's not like I have anything better to do. (You may need a towel to wipe off the sarcasm there.)

The problem is I am not comfortable with discomfort. I find it difficult to feel my way through sticky situations and would almost rather let my imagination run wild with What Ifs than deal with reality. Why is that? Usually the reality is so much... easier. Not only easier, but the reality is it will happen anyway and if I What If myself into an anxious panic, I'll be that much less prepared to deal with The Way Things Really Are.

I'm worth my sanity. It's insane to toss things into my own way as I go through life -- enough stuff is going to need my attention without me making it worse.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Day 96: Staying the Course

Today I just have a few random thoughts on keeping on track. My first thought is one of honesty and self-disclosure -- I am not good at staying the course! Oh, I have plenty of great ideas and fabulous intentions, but when my days start to run into one another and I can't see a glimpse of accomplishment, my staying power all but evaporates. So anything I have to say on this subject today needs to be read with that in mind. Maybe someday I'll have an epiphany and really get it.

I wish my life had a soundtrack. Have you ever noticed that even the boring parts of a movie at least have a background score? That score keeps the story moving and, just as we struggle to stay interested, fabulous editing and climactic music take us by surprise as we plunge into the next scene. Oh, if only my life were like this! I've tried turning on my iPod, but it's just not the same. But there's something to be said for at least attempting to construct a soundtrack. Maybe a soundtrack for chaotic days? One for boring days? One for chore day? Music has the power to move us physically and emotionally, not to mention spiritually. Music ought to be part of mucking through the boring parts of life -- maybe those parts wouldn't be as boring?

Boredom is yet another thorn in my side when it comes to my life. How on earth can I possibly ever be bored? There is teaching to do, grading to do, reporting to do, writing to do, chores to do, people to feed, stories to read, food to eat, bills to pay, love to embrace, God to worship, and a dog to pick up after -- when is there time to be bored? Ah! But that's just it. Boredom is as much a frame of mind as it can be lack of something to do. Truly I can say that I never lack something to do; it's all mental for me. Staying on task is a real struggle for me. Goodness, getting on track in the first place is monumental. (For the record, I'm fairly certain I do not have ADD. I think I have far too many choices and too many available distractions at my disposal. My pseudo-ADD is likely a result of living in American culture.) Most days I feel like I'm driving on an endlessly straight road with no trees, mountains, curves, cars, etc. to distract me -- and then I find myself veering off course to do wheelies and donuts in the grass next to the road. The problem with veering off course, of course, is that I sacrifice getting further down the road I need to travel.

Sometimes the problem has more to do with my life feeling like it's been put on pause while the other people in the household are on fast forward. Volume control is an issue in our house, too. The noise! Oh, the noise is paralyzing at times. It's tough to keep on task and stay focused with so much energy buzzing about.

Just how to relate this to my worth is a struggle. I'm not sure what the worth or value is yet. It's tied up in having worthwhile goals and dreams... but the specific "I am worth..." statement eludes me for now. It's difficult to be at peace with that unfinished business. AH! That's it!

Staying the course during the boring parts of life is learning how to make peace with unfinished business. Life isn't a movie (even an extended director's cut, lol) with a fabulous soundtrack and a neat, tidy ending in 120 minutes. Life is full of boring, unfinished business. There are parts of our lives that we will never see finished because the endings belong in someone else's life (thinking of the kids here). I still don't have a spiffy worth statement, but I'm a little closer to understanding how to gain peace with spinning my wheels. For now it's back to the grind.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Day 93: A Quiet Afternoon

Sometimes, as I mentioned before, things just come together. It's been an interesting few days: lots of chaos, lots of sibling rivalry, lots of books and plans to be dealt with, lots of allergies and coughing. Today could have been a very ugly day; instead, the day has been a rather pleasant, quiet sort. I find myself sitting here after lunch with two resting children, two children and a husband out of the house, and me just... sitting.

Just sitting. Sure, there's plenty to do, but I can actually just sit and savor the quiet without any guilt. This is new for me. I'm the girl who doesn't like to be alone, who leaves a television on for white noise, who tries to fold laundry, talk on the phone and read all at the same time. But today, something fundamental is different. It would seem my naturopath's homework assignment for me, still largely undone, is having an impact.

I cannot remember a Saturday in which I did not feel self-loathing for putting off some sort of work. Am I simply being kinder to myself? Yes. Am I seeing a clearer picture of what's reasonable? Yes. Am I making better choices in the way I spend my time? Yes. Am I perfect at all of this? No way!

I am worth cultivating some true peace and quiet in the midst of chaos. Let's face it: life doesn't have a pause button, especially in a family of six. The work I've done for the past three months is starting to pay off. It is work trying to rein in the desire for instant gratification, the temptation to procrastinate, or juggle the constant demands for my attention; however, even my imperfect attempts to organize the chaos are having a positive effect. Those attempts, even the smallest ones, build on each other with the end result being precious minutes in which I am completely free to just... exist.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Day 92: Good Friday

All I can say is that Jesus thinks I'm worth dying for. That's got to count for something.