Balance

My baby girl was born clasping tight to me.  Whether in desperate need for nursing every 3 hours, day and night, or just the comfort of my scent and warmth, she only allowed me out of sight when asleep. Even by 7 months and barely able to sit independently, I’d hopefully prop her in front of the TV with stuffed animals and brightly colored toys so that I might separate myself to start dinner in the other room.  I’d no sooner turn the corner before I’d hear a deep yell seemingly coming from a child much older than her, bellowing “MOMMY!”

As a toddler or even later as a preschooler, I’m most reminded of her chubby little fist, usually sticky in one way or another, clasping tight to my pinky as we walked.   Her world apparently wasn’t right unless I was in close physical proximity, while mine ached for some space.  I still remember her cries behind the pre-school door when I’d left her the first time.  My heart ached in turmoil even as I skipped away in anxious abandon.

In elementary, our favorite teacher, with only kindness in her words, politely encouraged me to “back off”.  We were so entwined in her schoolwork and play activities, I think the teacher could see the need for a break in the strong cords that bound us.  I found myself vascillating between the endearing moments of our togetherness and the aching need to be on my own.  Once, while looking through pictures recently, I searched my face captured during that time, hoping I wouldn’t see that angst for freedom.  Oh how I loved being involved with my both my children, but didn’t exercise that need to be away.  Certainly not with healthy options.

In adolescence, she began breaking away as most youngsters do.  Feeling that rip away, like a bandaid’s removal, it stung.  I missed her dependence on me, her giddy sharing of the day’s events, her holding my hand.  Even though late at night, in her tiredness, she’d come wander back to my side to rest her head on my lap, asking me to read with her.

Today, our relationship is intermixed with sullen exchanges and hesitant interaction.  It’s as if she doesn’t want to let on a need for either of her parents or that her mom could possibly be trusted to maintain this measured distance between us.  At times she’s completely aloof, ignoring me completely and rebuffing my attempts at affection.  Others, usually in times of great strife, she’ll call to me like long ago (now with the use of a cellphone), aching for Mommy to kiss away the booboos .

It’s a constant push pull of emotion that’s often difficult to accept.  I long for a bit more balance in which we can equally enjoy each other’s company while giving each other the respect of personal space and choice.  Perhaps its even too soon for me to be able to achieve that at this point in my desire to influence her choices for her life.  It’s difficult for a mother to stand back while her daughter alters the vision she had for her as a little girl.  Especially if she sees that it might bring her pain.

Yet despite my desire for more peace, I don’t believe this balance can possibly occur without its two extremes.  Just as sleep is necessary for waking, we need the opposite to appreciate the other.  It’s the natural order of the world: winter’s cold to bring about new growth in spring, our days of sunshine that are interrupted by rain – we can’t have balance without both extremes.  That constant struggle for balance keeps us focused to that Eternal Source, and perhaps that was the intention in Creation.  For in that struggle comes great appreciation for our blessings and within the darkness we gain insight in our seeking for answers and a deeper connection to Our Creator.

My vacation is Home

Aren’t vacations grand?  The chance to skip away from it all, spend time with friends or family, enjoy nicer weather, do things you’d not normally get the chance to do?  Our family just returned from the Bahamas.  A hallmark spring break vacation that included my son in college whose spring break dates matched my daughter’s high school schedule.  With the likelihood that she’ll be on a senior trip next spring break then off to a college of her own the following, and my son’s school schedule changing from quarters to semesters, it felt like the “last” spring break we’d have together.  In truth, I don’t know that it actually matters whether we travel as a family in March, the summer or over Christmas – but this year seemed like a marking of an era coming to an end.  “Spring break” no longer holding the definition of sweet anticipation with the cessation of school routines during the dreariness of winter.

So off we went , the four of us, suntan lotion and new beach attire in tow, to an all-inclusive hotel just to the side of Atlantis on Paradise Island.  Days wide open for sun, relaxation and togetherness.  The first day found me soaking up all that warmth, the sun hot on my eyelids as my toes dug deep into the sand.  Then as I settled in without my usual tools of defenses, I noted my over analyzing of my shape beachside while amidst food buffets and messy overworked bar stands. Pushing myself to work out either first thing in the morning or after a long day in the sun to balance out the extra food/drink.  Not skipping a beat of family togetherness despite a sore throat, fever, and cough.  Adding in extra activities of scuba, Atlantis waterpark, parasailing, and gambling away $80!  Indeed, every night a silent urging that you can’t possibly stay IN when food, drink and entertainment are free.  For heaven’s sake, that voice seemed to yell, you’re in the BAHAMAS!  Go to bed EARLY?  And the constant neverending spyglass I have to my insides, consciously aware of how attune I am to everyone’s feelings, molding myself into the various roles in our family.  This delightful whirlwind of emotional and physical activity ending with being stuck in Cleveland after missing our connection from a delayed earlier flight.  The airline, so booked up with other excited spring breakers, unable to get us home until well into the following work/school week.  Renting a car at 6pm to travel 9 hours home to St. Louis – waving hello to Eric’s school in Columbus as we passed, knowing he’d only be traveling back there on his own just 24 hours later.

It’s no doubt that we often need a vacation from our vacation.  I wake this morning, Monday, the beacon of “back to the grind” with the rest of the world, feeling achey, tired, and my cold and fever returning with a vengeance.  I find that this so typical for me – vacation, weekends, birthdays, holidays –  they are the time to let go, go nuts, have fun, throw caution to the wind, get out of your daily boring routines to live it up!!  Then finding myself having to pay for that attitude upon the return to my normal life.  Whether it’s that excess that I allow over the weekend, or the overstimulation and break from my spiritual routine on vacation, it leaves me feeling depleted and “hung over” at its completion.  Coming back to my “daily grind”, my daily routine and discipline of my spiritual practices – though I begrudge the discipline it takes for me to follow it through – I find my soul finds its home here.  It aches for that consistency , boredom/lack of excess, solitude.  It is here that I find my peace through the ability to listen in to my heart.  To my center.  To the Source itself that tells me that the vacation is within – not in overstimulation of family vacations.  Though balance and family are important, excess and stimulation is not where healing occurs.  It’s within this quiet – and yes, that dreaded discipline of routine.

How affirming of that notion to arrive home and be rewarded with the blessing of spring’s colors blooming in my backyard’s canvas.  Nature’s paintbrush going wild seemingly overnight to bring in purple redbuds, white cherry blossoms and dogwoods peppering that green understory.  This life – in all its simplicity – is a gift.  I breathe it in for all it’s healing….and pull the covers over my head as I return to bed to take a nap!

Bottom Up

The breezes of spring are blowing in, bringing with it the green of the underbrush, the pushing up of tulips, and flowering magnolia, dogwood and Bradford pear trees.  It’s as if a watercolor brush has met wet paper, colors blossoming out of the gloom of winter.  On the breath of the wind is carried fragrances of the world awakening; fresh grass, earthy mildew amidst pure air.  The world begins to sing as songbirds call to one another, and people gather in parks, around outdoor café tables, excited and happy once again to greet the warmth and longer days.  Gone is the inner slumber and grey gloom; we all rejoice!

As I sit on my back patio breathing in the life coming alive in the park beside me, I notice nature’s system of allowing the greening to begin from bottom-up, the underbrush awakening first.  Almost as if Mother Earth knew that by developing from top-down, or an all out willy nilly growth, it would result in a ceiling of limitation for the smaller sprites below.  I smile at the deadened leaves from last fall holding fast to their oak branches, afraid to let go and allow the new life sprout.

I understand that steadfast grasping to the old.  Even though I know better, the old is comfortable.  Safe.  Even while it’s no longer needed and my knowledge accepts more healthy choices, it’s hard to let go.  A winter of tapes have helped me to grasp tightly to those deadened leaves.

Daily, I come up against issues that force me to make choices.   The voices from yesterday surface readily,  and maddeningly most easily, striking a lectured pose with the message of being “good” – good daughter, wife, Christian, friend.  Attend to other’s needs first while shading your own.  Don’t hurt feelings!  It’s such a constant voice – and rewarding!! Oh, this great ability I have had to manipulate others into realizing how much they needed my backbending attention!  I was loved!   Until that inner voice, that budding green from my underbrush cried out, “Stop stealing my light!  I’m dyin’ down here!”  As it comes into fuller growth, and the winds of spring caress my face, I’m reminded how pure and true this thriving new underbrush is.  With all the “good” actions of jumping through hula hoops, saving others from bad feelings, I lost me.  Who the hell WAS “me” if it weren’t for serving everyone else?

Yet acting on that whisper in the spring winds – it’s still hard.  It’s sad to hurt feelings, to act against the years of training to take care of yourself.  It feels selfish to think of yourself first, to make choices that are healthiest for you.

But of COURSE it does.  It goes against every message of my life before.  I may lose some of my dearest friends in this fight for my soul.  Not always rewarding!

……….. until you feel that underbrush growing fuller, the watercolor’s vibrancy spreading across your inner page.   Knowing it will soon push out the deadened winter leaves replacing them with flourishing green.  Reaching high into the heavens.

Tickling the clouds in laughter.

Hindsight

As a mom, did you ever do anything to your kids that in retrospect, makes you cringe? Today, I was traveling to Ohio from Missouri to pick up my son at OSU for spring break.  It brings back many old memories of traveling to Grandma’s when the kids were small.  Many weeks Joe was busy, so for the sake of needed activity and adult support, I’d just throw the kids into the car and take the 6 hour trip back home.  We were lucky to live within times in which a videotape could be a great babysitter in an SUV (and more, that we could afford such luxuries), but let’s face it, 6 hours is a long, long trip for preschoolers.

Every time I travel eastward passing through Indianapolis, I can see myself 15 years ago.  The sun had just gone down in the middle of rush hour traffic, cars 8 lanes deep, with still 2 hours left to our drive.  It seemed as though we’d already been on the road all day long.  To the kids, apparently, as well.  Tired, cranky, long past the cries of “How much longer?”, they began getting on each other’s nerves.  Pushing each other’s buttons.  Though trapped within car seats, they still had the power to poke and irritate one another.  Which, at the end of that long driving day, in the middle of rush hour traffic, in the dark, with still another 2 hours ahead of me, was like nails down a chalkboard.  I could have easily grabbed my purse beside me and tried bashing them with it behind me at the risk of swerving into the concrete dividers.  Instead, I chose to swerve off the road onto the embankment of this busy highway, stomping on the car’s brake to throw us (and them in their carseats) to a jarring stop.  Instead of screaming or smacking them silly as I wanted, I stepped outside the car and slammed the door shut with a crash behind me.  Cars whizzed by, as I stomped several feet away from the car.  I yelled out into the darkness, angry with them, angry with myself for losing it. The cars kept whizzing on by as I leaned against the concrete embankment, my breath rising in smoke into the winter air, as tears cooled on my cheeks.  I began feeling sorry for my kids, buckled tightly into their seats, surely wondering if their mom abandoned them at the side of this busy highway.  I walked resolutely back to the car, climbed in, and not a word was spoken again.  I think they must have fallen asleep as I drove onwards in the frustration and shame of the gathering darkness.

There’s not a trip through Indianapolis that I don’t see myself alongside that busy highway, feeling ashamed for allowing myself to get so impatient to scare my kids that much, but also saddened for being so unable to ask for what I needed from my husband that it pushed me to my very edge of sanity as a mom.  My husband was a busy young doctor, without the energy or learning to give further in the home.  He was the kid’s best friend, their playmate, their “babysitter”.  Not a disciplinarian.  Or a house-husband.  I often felt alone in the task of mom and housewife – more married to a house and kids than a man.  I look at him today and see the evidence of growth and change.

And then I look at my kids.  Both outgoing, charming, well adjusted kids who are responsible, capable, good students.  Jess has a huge heart for the downtrodden or marginalized while Eric is a gentleman to his grandma, mother and girlfriends with a tender heart for animals.  Though their dad was present and a loving father to them, I have to admit that I was the stay-at-home mom, the one they spent the most time with, the one that disciplined, taught, and loved them through all.  I played endless hours of dinosaurs and Barbies on the floor, created numerous paintings and art creations, and held them to the “time-out” chair until they could tell me why they were being punished and why they were sorry.  I had my bad moments, yes, but…..I put a big hand into these wonderful beings that stand before me today.  I wish I knew more then about setting limits, people pleasing, and asking for help.  I wish I was stronger in believing in myself, knowing what a great mom I was to my kids.  I wish I gave myself a break.

That spot on the highway that I pass each time I travel by car to Ohio State to pick up my grownup, admirable son…..it’s a reminder of where I came from.  How asleep I was to my needs, my own power, and my strengths as a mother.  I can look back with the power of insight, forgiveness and love, being grateful for awakening, for those that helped me wake up, and the incredibly beautiful children I raised *despite* or even *because of* those challenges.

Wildly Free and Passionate

This Sunday brought me back to the Center for Spritual Living, and once again I left feeling so uplifted, I could fist pump the whole way home in the car.  Helping with that energy today was the Gateway to Agape Choir (www.wix.com/pookilee/gateway-to-agape)  filling their sanctuary with exhilarating movement and sound.  But it’s not only the energy that astounds me at CSL, I’m also intrigued by their authentic informality.  For instance, following a musical fill during prayer, the choir was to open into the song “Let it shine” but the pianist, the directors son, was confused.  Without embarrassment, he openly talks to the congregation and director to find his place.  Later, during Rev Marigene’s sermon, comments blurt out from the congregants’ seats.  One comment stimulates Marigene to go off on a tangent about wasting time in her own “Zone of Incompetence” struggling with web design or housekeeping, reminding us to not be afraid of asking for help. One of the songs asks us to hold the hands of a partner, look into each other’s eyes and sing to each other, “I give you the permission to be free and passionate.”

Free and passionate!  In so many ways, I am now doing that.  Listening deep so that I break free from the “oughts” in my life and follow my gut more sincerely.  Yet as I sat in this room this morning, full of an energized sanctuary clapping, dancing, and calling out in abandon, I could feel the heavy cloak of self-consciousness over my shoulders.  A voice from my past that said, don’t go nuts.  Don’t look crazy or call attention to yourself.  Stay IN CONTROL!  A visual flashed in my head of our choir at my old church where my friend Nancy and I were the only two with any emotion or movement at all – and that was simply a gentle smile, eye contact and a sway!  Once, when my therapist suggested that we might work on vocalizations from the inner child/soul, I cowered in self conscious fright!  Vocalize?  Yell?  Moan?  Oh no, that’s too psycho!

Whether it’s a product of my mom’s anxious teaching, “What will people think?”, my daughter’s teenage eyeroll in view of her “embarrassing” mother, or the unspoken message from a professional community, I’ve gotten the memo loud and clear: “Stay cool.  Don’t let them see you sweat or get too excited!”

Yet, allowing myself to slowly break free of this cloak within the sanctuary this morning, it’s amazing the amount of energy and rising joy that is created and multiplied with others.  It’s contagious.  It fills you and just bubbles up.!  At first the stiffness is readily apparent; self consciousness is such a HEAVY CLOAK ! When abandoned, it’s electrifying and energizing!  It’s the power felt when screaming from the mountaintop.  It breaks barriers on so many levels.  We don’t have to be so uniformed and controlled!  Don’t you just love informality, humility  and wild abandon in a person or group?  That ability to relax all that practiced perfection, opening yourself up at the heart?  And in doing so, it frees it up in others as well.

As a child, we are so free of this self doubt and fear.    We believe that anything is possible.   We can act silly without an external eye on ourselves. What would it take to grasp this abandon again?  To believe?  Wipe away the cloak of self consciousness and doubt to have that kind of faith that says anything is possible? Can you imagine what that might enable you to accomplish?

I pray for that today.   I’m ready to reach my full potential.   Drop the insecurities.  Believe!  Vocalize, dance in abandon, sing out loud with my eyes to the heavens!  Grasp that energizing power to be WILDLY FREE and PASSIONATE !!

Get Your Goofy On

Ever feel like you’re just too damn serious?  Writing a blog about spirituality and the meaning of life is HEAVY shit!  Trying to figure out your purpose, how we can best change the world….sheesh….it’s just all too much!

There’s nothing wrong with a little silly in our life.  Sometimes, I miss my kids being little because it gave me opportunity to experience some ridiculousness through them. (But the arrival of the teenage embarrassed eyeroll put a crimp on my wacko!)  Oh we had fun.  Stomping through mud puddles.  Trying on crazy costumes.  Painting wild faces.  Dancing like a nut.  Getting the giggles until I peed my pants!

I need a little more of that in my life.  I think all this navel gazing and transformation crap can get too narrow a focus so that I miss the stupid.   Earlier this week, a couple friends from my spirituality writing group went to Maplewood, MO to Screamin’ Mimi’s (www.stlmag.com/Blogs/The-Good-The-Bad-The-Lovely/March-2012/Screaming-Mimi-Boutique-Brings-Upcycled-Luxury-to-Maplewood), co-owned by my friend’s daughter.  What a delightful place to get your silly on.  Filled with recycled goodies revamped into creative new styles, you may find youself walking out with a Monopoly piece hanging around your neck, or mens’ neck ties twisted into artsy scarves.  Here’s the three of us feeling beautifully goofy:

If you’re thinking we’re merely lookin’ too darn cute, focus in on the funky hair accessories.

I can never pass up a crazy hat:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or sometimes just can’t keep the sillies from spilling out:

 

 

 

 

But my absolute favorite moment was when our daughter pleaded that we not come to her tennis match for some unknown reason so we sent Bud and Trixie in our place:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yet these moments are MUCH TOO FEW!      I had to peruse through a zillion photos to find a meager few without some practiced, beautiful smile! (that weren’t also completely unphotogenic and odd.  Let’s not get too crazy in this wacky self-reveal!)  If I were a wee old lady (assuming we shrink in our old age) and were giving advice to my self today, I’d tell her “Lighten up a little! Get your panties out of a knot! When you get to your death bed you’ll realize it just didn’t matter that much!  LIVE alittle! Get your goofy on!”

Pond of Sacred Feminine

I honor the women of my pond

In healing likeness, soul to soul

Those who affirm my being

Respecting my thoughts and choices

Reflecting my light through their eyes

In celebration of all that I am

Reflecting back acceptance,

Encouragement,

Love.

I honor women’s spirituality

Standing arm to arm in

The gift of nurturing one another

Into Being.

Namaste to you,

My wise feminine souls.

Namaste.