The other day my daughter and I were playing, and she got really excited and started hugging my leg. And then she bit me. Hard…because she was happy. I know that doesn’t really make sense, but 3 year olds don’t often make sense. It didn’t take much to let her to know that she had crossed the line between playful and hurtful (a loud “OW!” sufficed), and in her shame, she started to cry. I told her I wasn’t mad and that I knew she didn’t mean to hurt me, that she just got excited, but that just made her cry more. When she knows she did something wrong, she runs and hides, so after a while of trying to make her feel better, we just decided to let her emotions run their course. It turned out to be pretty funny actually, because while we were calmly doing other things around the house, we could hear her howling from her room like the world was coming an end.
This went on for a good 10 minutes or so before she emerged, grinning from ear to ear like we just told her she was going to Disneyland or something. I thought my moodswings as a 16 year old were bad. Three year old moodswings are borderline bipolar.
Anyhow that got me thinking about forgiveness. Even though I had forgiven here almost immediately after she bit me, it took her an extra 10 minutes before she finally let go of what she had done wrong. I thought to myself, “What if we all just sat and howled like a three year old for as long as it took to forgive ourselves for the things we regret?” Not only would that be hilarious, but nothing would get done.
My daughter missed out on ten minutes of her life that she could’ve spent doing more pleasant things. Instead she chose to sit and cry. Ok. So we’re all grown ups and we’ve learned how to hide those feelings deep so we can still function during the day, but that doesn’t mean our regrets aren’t holding us back. How much of our lives are we missing out on because we metaphorically sit out and cry over past wrongs we committed that we can’t change?
Chances are, the people we’ve hurt have forgiven us – especially if they love us, but we often insist on paying for it, making our own lives miserable by not forgiving ourselves. Rather than learning from our past mistakes and moving forward, we shackle ourselves to an unrealistic expectation of perfection and are then surprised and disappointed when we don’t make the grade.
Instead of holding ourselves to an unrealistically high standard, let’s treat ourselves with kindness and generosity, acknowledging our faults righting our wrongs as much as possible, and then moving on, allowing ourselves to live a full and happy life, knowing and accepting that we are mostly good people that sometimes make mistakes.
The other day I watched an interesting TED Talk by Kelly McGonical about the real purpose of stress that totally shatters my pre-conceieved notion of what stress is. Stress in a nutshell, is your body’s way of gearing you up to meet your challenges. While it is true that sometimes bad things happen that cause us stress (divorce, death, illness, financial problems, etc.), it is NOT something to fear or avoid. Stress gives us that extra “oomph” that helps us to achieve our goals (which is probably why I procrastinate so much…I need an extra level of stress to get stuff done.) It was an awesome talk with lots of great information that’s definitely worth watching and contemplating, but it was what she said toward the end that really struck a chord with me. She said that rather than running from discomfort, we should search for meaning, and whatever discomfort (stress) comes our way, we would be able to handle it because we’re doing something meaningful.
That made my husband and I think about the things we’ve run from, and the things we’ve run toward, and we’ve found this to be true in our lives. College, marriage, kids….all those things brought (and bring) a decent amount of stress in our life, but because it’s something we chose, something we are passionate about keeping in our lives, the stress (usually) works to our advantage, giving us energy and courage to do the uncomfortable things.
When my husband left his job in Oregon, it was literally because it wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth living out of Hawaii, away from family. It wasn’t worth it financially, mentally, emotionally. We were enduring a lot of stress and because we realized (after we got there…of course) that we weren’t particularly excited or passionate about being there, we didn’t accept and manage our stress well, and decided to leave. It was actually better to be unemployed in Hawaii…
This is why it’s so important to do the things that matter, because we’re going to experience stress no matter what. We shouldn’t spend our lives trying to get away from it, but rather in puruit of the things that give our lives meaning, and by default, we will have a more positive relationship with stress because we’re doing positive things with our lives. If we’re doing work we love, then our stress will sustain us, buoy us up and cause us to rise to the occasion.
Is your attitude toward stress negatively affecting you? Does re-framing it this way help?
Today felt hard. I worked all day long trying to clean and organize the house, but for every step forward, I felt like my 3 year old was setting me 3 steps back. By 4pm, the house didn’t look any better than it did at 8am.
I don’t know why I bother cleaning while my kids are awake.
So there I am at around 5:30pm, exhausted, utterly spent, grouchy and discouraged. I roll of my sleeves and get to work making a quick dinner, putting away dishes, picking up and putting away toys, folding blankets, etc.
And it dawned on me.
Cleaning the kitchen is hard.
Taking a plate and moving it from the dish rack to the cabinet isn’t.
Organizing my girls’ room is tedious and time consuming.
Gathering up the books and returning them to the shelf isn’t.
Doing the laundry can take all day.
Folding a shirt takes 15 seconds.
Scrubbing down the bathroom can be disgusting.
Cleaning the toilet is…still disgusting, but less overwhelming when you remove it from the larger context of the entire bathroom.
This, I believe is the first time the idea of micro-actions really clicked for me – not to reach a goal, or establish a habit, but to simply get through my day.
Of course, my day may look entirely different from your day (and to be honest, I don’t do ALL that housework in one day). You might teach 25 6 year olds, deliver babies, make sales calls, wait tables, write books. All those things are simply descriptions for the little tiny actions that, when put together, create a teacher, a midwife, a salesperson, a waiter, and an author. And in everything we do, there is potential for overwhelm.
Our entire lives are made of tiny actions whether we see it that way or not. Every day we think about EVERYTHING that we have/want to do, and the overwhelm can be paralyzing, but when we break down our day into hours, and minutes, even seconds if we need to, and immerse ourself in each tiny span of time, we can get through whatever overwhelms us, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day.
We moved to this house back in May (it’s now October) and I’m still trying to get it to maintenance mode.
What is maintenance mode you ask?
Maintenance mode is where everything we have actually belongs here, and everything has a home. Maintenance mode is where our space is planned out in a way that makes sense to us. Maintenance mode is where I’m done sorting and re-arranging and I can simply maintain our space and focus more attention on other things…like my family…or this blog…or some business ideas that are floating around my head.
Some of you may think “Well I’m not moving anytime soon”, or “I haven’t moved recently,” but there are lots of things that may cause a shake-up in our living spaces – a new pet, baby, business, or hobby just to name a few. Some of us simply live in chaos for years and are numb to what a energy-drain and time-sucker living in “set up” mode can be.
If you came to my house today, and then visited again tomorrow, it’s very likely that some piece of furniture would be in a different place. In fact, that’s what often happens to my husband – he comes home from work and something is different. A few weeks ago I completely re-arranged our living room furniture. The next day I switched our dressers over to different walls. Then I moved a bookshelf from our bedroom to the dining room, and during this whole process, I’ve built up a big box of stuff I want to get rid of.
All of this takes time and energy and I want to get through it as soon as possible (I know…it’s October….and I said we moved here in May…in my defense I was either very pregnant or very early postpartum. Even now at 2 months post-baby it’s hard to get stuff done)
Here are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself as I work toward “maintenance mode.”
What do we want the function(s) of this room to be?
This almost goes without saying, but I’m asking this question because I’m thinking of turning our living room into a little preschool for my daughter, so I’m seriously questioning exactly what we want this space to be. This would mean a huge shift in our current arrangement. NOTHING would be where it is now. It’s all about making this space work for our purposes.
Is the amount of space we’ve allotted to a certain activity proportionate to the amount of time we spend on said activity?
Case in point: We only use our dining table for eating, but it takes up almost half of our living/dining area. I don’t think we spend half our time eating, so it shouldn’t take up half the space. I’m thinking of demoting it to a corner of the room. Never mind what interior design experts might say. Chances are no one from HGTV will EVER see the inside of my house.
Is this ____________ worth the investment of money/and space we put in to it?
I’m specifically thinking about my desk. It takes up quite a bit of space, and it’s currently catching paper and whatever junk doesn’t have a specific home. Heck, I’m sitting on the couch typing this post up. CLEARLY I don’t HAVE to be sitting at a desk to get stuff done, and CLEARLY I was more enamored with the idea of a desk rather than the functions of a desk when I bought it (curse you Pinterest and all your lovely office spaces!). I’m conducting an experiment to determine whether or not I really need it, but that deserves its’ own post.
Even when we’re in maintenance mode, these questions are still helpful. Just because we’ve done something a certain way for 20 years doesn’t mean that’s the best/most efficient way to do things. It’s healthy to entertain other ideas once in a while, just not too much, lest you throw your whole house into chaos.
How can I best utilize the assets of our space?
Can we fit all our clothes in a closet rather than buy a dresser? Can we use those built-in shelves for our book collection? Our house doesn’t have a ton of built-in storage, but we try to make the most of the storage we do have by editing what we have so that our things fit nicely (still VERY MUCH a work in progress).
Eventually I’m hoping that things will settle down in our place, and these questions have been integral in helping us (and by us I mean me) get there.
Are you in a place where you’re happy with your space? What (if any) changes would you like to make?
My daughter with her great-grandmother – one at the beginning of her journey, and one nearing the end.
This morning I was journaling about a period of frustration I was experiencing, and it turned into a letter to my posterity, that is now turning into a blog post:
Sometimes I worry about what my posterity will think of the brutal honesty in my journal, but journals are meant to capture real life as we live it. I’m doing them a favor by showing them that life is HARD and FRUSTRATING sometimes.
I want anyone who reads this to not feel like a failure if things aren’t perfect at home. Life is rarely perfect. Perfect moments come and go. They can’t be sustained forever because life is meant to challenge us. The last thing I want is for my life to look like an unattainable ideal because all I write about are the good things. Each of us go through the same things – relationship problems, financial problems, health problems, tragedy and it’s ok to be upset about it, but then you move forward as best you can.
I think of my grandparents who have wisdom coming out of their ears. It’s easy sometimes for me to look at their seemingly perfect lives and compare it to my own sorry attempts to follow in their footsteps, until I hear their stories and realize that they went through what I’m going through now. They certainly had their flaws, but the years have worn them smooth and they are far more perfect than I am because they know more about living than I do. I look at them and think “One day I will get there, but I don’t have to be there right this instant.”
Be kind to yourselves and others. We’re all on different points of the same journey.
This is a lele, a type of Hawaiian altar. Offerings were (and still are) placed upon the platforms to honor Hawaiian deity.
I was raised to believe in God, that he is my Father, that He loves me and wants what will bring me the most growth and happiness. I realize the not everyone shares that belief, but I do think that everyone needs to connect with something greater than themselves.
To me, a connection with God means that I can be led in every action. It means my sense of self-worth can come from someone who knows my history, my shortcomings and mistakes and still loves me completely. It means that each moment, especially the seemingly mediocre ones can be filled with purpose as I give my life to my children – His children. It means that my thoughts and actions are what matter most. It means that worldly acquisions mean nothing and that acquiring them does not increase my value. It means I can lose everything and still be happy.
Do I always have this attitude? Sadly, no, but the more I connect with Him, the more these words are true for me in my life. So many of us turn to other things in search of value and worth, but we forget that we are inherently amazing – each a walking miracle with a unique contribution to give to this world. We have everything we need to live a purposeful life, and connecting with the divinity in and around us reminds us of the goodness we are all capable of.
Since I’m so recenly post-partum (6 weeks) I thought I’d take a post and talk about birth, because there’s a lot we (even men) can learn from the experience of giving birth. Turns out it’s a great way to understand fear.
I never really understood how paralyzing fear can be until I gave birth to my second daughter. I had had a successful natural birth with my first, and my plan was the same for my second. Much about both birth experiences were the same. The entire process from the onset of labor to delivery took almost exactly the same amount of time. The techniques I used to cope with the pain were the same (fyi, if you want labor to progress like LIGHTNING, take a warm shower and rock back and forth. It took me 45 minutes to be ready to push).
What I wasn’t anticipating was the intensity of the contractions at the end. They were right on top of each other. My body ploughed through labor on auto-pilot, a well-oiled, seasoned engine working swiftly and efficiently to get this baby out. The energy my body generated was beyond anything I had experienced, even with my first baby.
Unfortunately, my brain didn’t appreciate what my body was doing, and it got scared.
I started to panick and get frantic as the fear set in (for some reason it was perfectly rational for me to be afraid that I’d be stuck with a baby in my birth canal for the rest of my life.) I exclaimed over and over “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” I lost control of my breathing and started desperately sucking in air.
I pushed as hard as I could, desperate to get her out, but making very little progress. I now understood why it’s called “delivery.” It’s not the baby that’s being delivered. It’s the mother that is delivering herself from the intensity of labor. At this point I wanted someone else to finish it for me, but I knew I was the only one who could give birth to my baby, so it was up to me to walk that lonely road and see it through.
Keola (my husband) recognized how frantic I had become (I wasn’t like this with our first) and whispered to me to calm down and breathe. I realized that my words “I can’t do this,” were having a negative effect on the whole process. I also realized that I was working too hard on pushing, and I needed to relax.
I clamped my hands over my mouth to silence myself and released all the tension in my body.
And then a miracle happened. All the pain went away, and I felt my body pushing her out. It didn’t hurt. It felt like swallowing – how your esophogus moves food down to your stomach. The sensation is there, but there’s no pain. Leolani slipped out with absolutely no effort on my part.
I consider my natural birth story to be one of the good ones, but it easily could’ve gone another way if I didn’t give up control and surrender to the process.
In what ways do we let our fear dominate our decisions and feed our need for control?
Maybe we’re afraid that our children will embarass us so we dictate every moment of their lives.
Maybe we’re afraid of forgetting the past so we cling desperately to anything that will help us remember.
Maybe we’re afraid of rejection so we stay at home, alone with our pet goldfish as company.
Maybe we’re afraid of not being professional enough so we take on less work than we’re really capable of.
Maybe we’re afraid of sounding stupid and uneducated so we hold back our experiences and opinions.
Isn’t it funny that often times the thing we’re doing to avoid discomfort of experiencing our fear makes things worse?
Remember I was afraid of living with a baby in my birth canal for the rest of my life, so naturally, pushing really hard was my way of making sure that didn’t happen. Instead, it just made things harder.
Many of our fears are unfounded. Some sound downright ridiculous but because the fear is within us, it feels real. But I learned that silencing negativity, taking a few cleansing breaths, inviting calm and simply letting things play out will yield the best results. Maybe we’ll achieve success, or maybe we’ll realize that wasn’t so bad, or that even though things didn’t go my way, I didn’t die.
Either way, the experience is much less painful if we just let go and let things happen.
Can I let you in on a little secret? Besides not having a pet goldfish, all the fears listed above, are my own, and I don’t have these fears under control. In fact, by trying to control them, they are controlling me. But I’m working on giving up control. Always working.
I know we each have our own demons that we’d rather pretend don’t exist, but by acknowledging their existence we’re taking away a little bit of their power and opening up the possibility for change.
Have you ever found your way out of fear by surrendering control?
The other week I blogged about wanting to try a “no-list” approach to getting things done, and let me tell you, that was the PERFECT week to be list free. Both my girls caught colds and I spent countless hours trying to keep Leolani’s nose clear. Because Leo’s so young, I took her to the doctor who ordered blood drawn and x-rays and follow up appointments, all of which I wasn’t planning. I was so worn out from night after night of barely any sleep and shuttling back and forth to the doctor (I should’ve just camped there) that my list would’ve gone untouched if I had one.
After thinking about this for several days, I wondered why I didn’t need a list last week, and came to the conclusion that it was because I was so laser focused on what needed to be done at the moment, that a list became irrelevant. The things I needed to get done got done, and everything else didn’t matter. My priorities were my daughters’ well being and making sure the house was livable and that we were eating. That was it. I was also very aware of my limited energy so I couldn’t do everything. I had to pick and choose.
I suppose it’s relatively easy when you’re in survival mode to live list-free, but what about the rest of the time? Is it possible to be so clear about our priorities that we can instantly know what we must do in every moment of every day? If it is possible, it requires some SERIOUS editing. I think the way most of our lives are, we need lists to remember everything we’re juggling.
I still need lists, and will probably always need lists. They help me remember stuff – grocery lists, packing lists, lists on days I have a crazy amount of errands to run, wish lists, etc. But I want lists to enhance my life – to help me remember that video game my husband mentioned he wants for his birthday, or that we need balloons and candles for the birthday party, or to read that book my girlfriend told me about, not crack a whip over my head. I think that’s what we all want.
I for one will continue to use lists as a general guideline. Right now I have a working grocery list, a list of what needs to be done in my daughters’ room in order for it to be “complete,” lists of blog ideas, business plans, books to read, organizational projects and a wish list. I add to them whenever I feel the need, and visit these every week or so to either plan to take action or cross things off that have been sitting incomplete for too long. Things I plan to do soon get sent to “Today” so I’ll be more aware of it, but that doesn’t mean it needs to get done right away, just sooner than the things that aren’t in “Today.” Having these gentle reminders keeps me moving in the right direction but honors my need to be flexible for my kids. I think this is a good set up for now – subject to change.
What do you think? Is it possible to edit our lives so far down that we can throw our lists away? Or will you always keep a pad and paper (virtual or otherwise) nearby?
I recently experienced what I think was the most horrifying minute of my life. Leolani’s been dealing with some mucous in her nose which I’ve been dutifully clearing out whenever it accumulates. The other night I decided to feed her a little bit before her clearing out her nose so she’d be more calm. Her breathing seemed good enough to eat, but I was wrong. A few minutes into her feed her nose clogged up completely. She then she started choking on her milk which happens often, but this time she had no clear air passageway, and I watched in horror as her little body struggled. I ran to Keola, told him she wasn’t breathing and he flew out of bed to her side. I unswaddled her, and focused on unplugging her nose with the bulb syringe and to our relief she quickly regained her breath.
In that minute I came face to face with the prospect of losing her, and I became frantic, desperate. In the minutes afterward I was clearly shaken.
This experience gave me some perpsective. There is NOTHING in this house, that if I lost would devastate me the way losing one of my family would. Maybe I’d be a little sad if I lost my computer, but I can always buy another one. My wedding ring has sentimental value, but it’s only a symbol of my commitment to my husband – it is NOT my marriage. Photos? A lot are stored in the cloud, but even if I didn’t have them in the cloud, photography is a recent invention and people got along without it just fine. A picture of someone you love can’t make up for a face to face relationship. Books, art, movies? They mean very little in the hierachy of things in my life.
I can walk away from every physical object in my life with hardly a backward glance, but my family is priceles and irreplaceable. I suspect the same is true for you if you think about it, yet how often do we walk away from them in favor of some other gadget in our home. Do we get angry with our kids for breaking or staining something because it cost money? Do we treat them as if that ____________ is more important? I know I do.
After everything calmed down I lay in bed and re-resolved to walk away now from the things that aren’t adding to my life, so I can be more fully present for the people in it, and to spend more time walking toward them, and caring for and about them more than the stuff I own. The thought of losing my family is too much to bear, yet I lose them a little in the moments I don’t choose them. Let us all make better choices.
Have you ever had an experience that brought immediate clarity as to what your priorities should be?
A bad habit of mine is to play constantly with GTD (Get Things Done) apps, thinking that these will make me a more efficient person. I input all my todos, get them all organized, tagged, etc., and then when it comes to doing them, I just sit on my butt and ignore them, or I end up doing other equally productive things that weren’t in the plan for that day.
I’m therefore thinking of adopting more of a “go with the flow” approach to getting things done. I’m not talking about the usual household work. Things like laundry, dishes, sweeping, are “defaults” that are already incorporated into my day. I’m talking about other projects around the house that need to get done, but don’t have a deadline. Having virtually no schedule or deadlines, there’s no point to me feeling like I HAVE to do anything. These projects are things that I want to do because they will contribute to the overall peace, well-being and efficiency of the house.
Along with trying to have only those things in my house that are important to us as a family, I’m also trying to DO the things that are most important. Sometimes we don’t know what’s most important for us to be doing because we’re looking at our list rather than tuning in to how we’re feeling. Having a set list of todos stops us from sensing that maybe right now, there’s something more important that we should be focusing on. Outside of regular chores and habits, having nothing scheduled means I can be completely flexible and responsive to anything that happens in my day.
This week I’m going to try a more hands-off approach to getting things done by not deciding beforehand what I should do. I’ll still keep a list of things that I would like to get done, but I’ll only reference it as a reminder of different options that I have. Every day I’ll spend more time gauging my energy, noticing my children and how much they need me at any given moment, what their energy levels are, how they’re feeling, glance at my list, and simply do what speaks to me, trusting that the things that should be done, will be done, and ending each day with a feeling of accomplishment, even if the house is a mess, even if I didn’t check anything off my list because I trusted my gut and did what I was inspired to do. I’ll share my thoughts next week.
Have you ever taken a “no-plan” approach to your day? How did you like it? Did it work for you?