Choosing Joy

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joy

noun

  1. A feeling of great pleasure and happiness. delight. jubilation. exultation. rejoicing. happiness. gladness. glee. exhilaration. exuberance. elation. euphoria. bliss. ecstasy.

The house was finally quiet, we climbed under the covers and our hands found each other like slow heat seeking missiles. I’ve always felt comforted by his hands. They are strong, worn, they built us a house, but the best thing about them is they are always warm.

I could tell he was drifting off to sleep but I broke the silence and asked him, what is your dream life? I mean, if you could have any life you wanted, what would it look like?

He was quiet for a long time and to any stranger who doesn’t know how my husband communicates, would likely define it as an awkward silence. When we were first married I would anxiously ask a question again and again like a rapid fire machine gun until he answered me. More often than not, it backfired on me. Now, after 8 years of marriage, I know that he processes differently than me. He does not have a million words. He has a few words and they are always truthful and they are what he means to say. I have learned that standing still and waiting in the silence is a means to love him better.

Right before I fell asleep he answered me, I am living my dream life.

His response caught me off guard for two reasons. First, it was true.  Second, I couldn’t add my usual devils-advocate glass-is-half-empty comments. Now, of course our life isn’t perfect but in that moment I realized there is nothing I could add to it that would equal more fulfillment.

Me too, I added.

This conversation really stuck with me the whole next day. If I am living my “dream life” why don’t I experience more joy? 

I have a confession to make: I used to judge people who were positive because I thought they were fake. How shallow to pretend everything is fine when the whole world is falling apart around you. I used to spend half my time philosophizing about all the disasters, and the other half worrying about them. I believed that people who didn’t do this too, were just simply not as deep as me.

What I have come to see is that these people are not shallow, they are actually very strong. They are like the warrior Salmon who made their way from the Ocean and are fighting the river upstream. They are made of pure self discipline and grit. They are pushing against this powerful force for a reason and it is so easy to flow with the river of worry, negativity, and ungratefulness. All you have to do is lay back and let the current push you.

It takes huge amount of ambition to choose joy amidst all the pain.

There I was walking around in my dream life and I didn’t even know I was there. When we’re so focused on what is wrong in our life, we aren’t really living because we aren’t experiencing the moments that make it worth living. I think it is important to try to ask ourselves, “is the price I am paying for worry and fear worth the cost of contentment and peace?”

Sometimes the answer is yes, absolutely. I write about this subject with authority. I have experienced great loss, trauma, cancer of a loved one, broken relationships, personal struggles, fear and worry. These things are important and should be acknowledged as so. I am not belittling the true difficulties in life or the seasons of grief that demand our full attention.

I am simply stating that there will be pain. However, joy is not guaranteed unless you fight for it.

When I married Jason I was solely focused on his strengths. As the years went on, as most marriages experience, I began to notice his weaknesses too. Author Pamela Druckerman explained in her latest book that French couples go into relationships searching for their partners strengths and weaknesses. They do this with the goal of committing to accept and love both equally.

Jason is a fiercely loyal father and husband but he also struggles to put up boundaries with a toxic person. He leaves his underwear on the floor next to the laundry hamper but he has never come home and commented that the house is a mess. As I have matured in our relationship, when I see a pile of his work clothes on the floor, I try really hard (and I fail often) to remember that he wouldn’t nag me about being a slob. As the years have gone on, we have adjusted in un-familiar ways in our interactions with each other with a greater goal in mind: a more fulfilling and peaceful relationship.

After almost a lifetime of focusing on what is wrong in my life or what hypothetical disaster I could prevent from happening I have come to believe that the dream life is not a perfect life. A dream life is accepting that life is full of tragedy as much as it is beauty. And I’ve decided to fight as if my life depends on it, (because it does) for a “half-full” perspective on the whole package.

 

 

My Song

 

img_3397-1.jpgI realized something about myself and I am still not sure if it’s normal. However, I have the inkling that is not only because I have been nonchalantly spying on my friend’s…accessories.

I never ever buy new purses, or bras, and I usually have chipped nail polish on my hands. These are all things that I wish to change because I am turning the corner toward 40. I have been using the same Coach wrist-let that my fashion forward cousin bought me on my 30th birthday in 2012. My designer friend bought me a cute make-up bag at least 8 years ago that holds all my make-up, including my blush brush from my wedding day in 2010. I am still wearing a nursing bra and I stopped nursing last June. I even went to Nordstrom and was fitted for a “real” bra but couldn’t bring myself to spend the sixty dollars. I carry a knock-off Hermes’ bowling bag purse with a broken strap that I fished out of someone’s ‘Good-will’ garbage bag. I don’t even like the purse but I keep it because it’s sensible. It is able to hold my dirty wrist-let, two diapers, a pack of wipes, a couple pairs of mismatched toddler socks, and Chapstick.

I am looking at my nails as I type and it makes me feel like… I am 12. Something about this chipped hot pink nail polish symbolizes that I am not where I imagine I should be at 36 years old.
I believe these superficial things are subtle clues pointing to a deeper issue that I need to examine to become the person I am striving toward.

This morning I sat under my covered porch with my coffee and fuzzy blanket. I left my phone and all distractions inside. I forced myself to be still and listen. It is amazing how loud the birds are when you are focused on them. At first, I was sitting in an Adirondack chair drowning in my busy thoughts, “I need to pay Colton’s gymnastics bill, the toilets need to be cleaned, what kind of paint should I use on the dining table so it doesn’t chip?” Then I quiet my thoughts and suddenly I find myself immersed inside a magical symphony of a thousand small harmonious composers.

Suddenly, it is all I can hear.

Isn’t this true with anything in life? Whatever we focus our energy on becomes louder, brighter and BIGGER. The opposite is also true, whatever we ignore becomes quiet, tired, out of focus, and even sick.

You might be wondering where this is going. I gave birth to two babies in the span of 22 months. I was just recovering from Post Partum depression and then got pregnant with my second. My only focus was outward; Diapers. Nursing. Nap time. Dishes. Dinner… on and on it goes. I completely neglected myself. In fact, I may not remember much but I will never forget the feeling of having to pee, being hungry, and so tired that my eyes stung, simultaneously, for months at a time.

It is so easy to ignore ourselves but sometimes it’s not a choice, it’s a matter of survival.
By the time I came up for air, I realized I hadn’t actually taken a substantial lung filled breath in so long that I forgot how to breathe.

I’ll admit that I have never been into purses, nails, and fancy bras but I know that is not the reason I haven’t updated them. It is because it is more comfortable for me to buy a cute wool sweater for my two year old. It is because my focus is mostly on the chatter of the needs of everyone else. I have not chosen to cozy up in a blanket and listen to the song of my own heart. I have not completely bought into the idea that if I am empty, I am not able to pour anything out and if I do not make myself a priority, who will? If I do not teach my kids by example to love themselves, who will? The truth is that making ourselves a priority benefits everyone. However, it does not come naturally. It is a conscious choice and it must be fought for. Sometimes it means saying no to something and rearranging plans or sacrificing financially. It doesn’t just happen. We have to make it happen.

My kids are now able to play outside without my constant supervision. I no longer have tiny humans relying on my body for their sustenance, and I am actually getting more than 4 hours of sleep at night!
Without warning, I am beginning to hear that familiar song again…and I am listening closely. Whatever stage you are in, love yourself enough to stop and listen to your song. There is a magical symphony singing of a thousand stories that make you, you. There is a melody inside you that is asking to be the beat to your future steps.

So today, both my kids are in school and instead of going home to put away  four loads of clean laundry, I am headed out to buy myself a new purse…and it may not be a sensible one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Greatest Super Power

levicoltonEveryone tells me that I ‘’should soak up this time” because they “grow so fast.” I am going to be honest and tell you that soaking up the moments has been one of my greatest struggles.

I feel more comfortable on a mission, checking off my checklists, and I feel accomplished if I am moving toward the “next thing” in my day.

I don’t know what happened in the last few weeks but my ability to soak in the moments has been heightened to super power status.
Yesterday we were leaving Old Navy, late for my Grandma’s 80th birthday party when my three year old discovered a tiny tornado of leafs spinning into the air in an outside alley. He was so mesmerized that he let go of my hand and ran into the center of the flying leaves. I just stopped and watched the scene through my little boy’s eyes. He raised up his hands and began to twirl in sync with the leaves. Yes, I was in a hurry but my recent unexpected super power took over.I sat in the moment and soaked it into my soul. My heart took a snapshot of it and then I filed it only where the most precious treasures of life are stored.

Last weekend we went to the beach as a family. I sat on a sandy hill and watched the sun glisten off my handsome husband as he dug holes with my two boys. Levi’s wild white hair was tamed by his sideways hat, he was bent over looking intently for shells. Colton was running around them with his platypus feet and squealing at the possibility of arriving to China.

It was one of those moments that you cannot, not live in. The power of how good this moment was took over, it rose up like a wave under me, pushing me higher and higher until the threshold was too much and to my surprise all I felt was…pain. It felt like a dull achy white knuckled grip on my heart.

My good friend told me a long time ago that she loves massages so much that she can’t stand to get them because all she thinks about the whole time was the fact that it will end.

As I dug my feet deeper into the warm sand, my heart was shrinking deeper into the cavern of my chest. In an attempt to make sense of this unexpected pain, I remembered my friend who loves massages but hates to get them.
I realized, I struggle to live in the good moments because I knew that they all come to an end. The thought of losing all the good in my life can be too much to bare that it’s safer not to recognize it.

So, yes what they say is true…the dishes can wait and the laundry will always be there. The moments though, they will be gone so don’t ignore them.
Take some time to do some spring cleaning, clear out a room in your heart where only the treasured snapshots of life are stored. If you practice it enough, it will become your greatest super power.

Unexpected Answers

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I recently had a conversation with my husband where he told me that it’s my time to do something for myself. “Anything” he said…”something to make you happy”

I went through the list…a job? School? Art class?
Every option I came up with just didn’t really fit. I started to panic because I have always been a person who knows exactly what I want. I went to some advising appointments at colleges, I looked into art classes, I researched Jobs.

Still nothing. No fire. No excitement.

My wise friend asked me, “if there was no limits and no pressure on yourself right now, what would you do?”
My answer surprised me. It came quickly and clearly. “I would be with myself. I would make my home a sanctuary for those I love. I would nurture my friends and family and my body and soul with good food and big love. I would get chickens and collect their eggs everyday. I would have Jason build me a green house. I would have wine with my best people. I would write.”

I realized I had been stuck because I was trying to access the “before-kids me” who wanted to save the world and shake the Earth. The old me who wanted to stand on the mountain tops and proclaim a message for all to hear. The one with a fire that couldn’t be tamed.
I assumed that Motherhood just put a freeze on that me and as soon as possible, she would resume.
What I didn’t know is that Motherhood would birth a new me with different priorities and a whole different lens.

The lesson here for me …and maybe for you, is that we are in an evolving relationship with ourselves just as we are with those we love. It’s important to give ourselves the respect and care to ask ourselves hard questions and be open to unexpected answers.

 

 

 

 

Mom Gut

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I’ve come to realize that Motherhood is a obscure recipe of self doubt, and trusting my gut.

I decided to put Colton in a new school this year. Today when I picked him up he immediately told on himself, “Mom, I didn’t listen to my teachers today.”

I found out that he was the only kid on the playground that refused to leave when the whistle blew. He actually gripped a pole and would not un-peel his fingers from it.

A flood of feelings came over me when the teacher explained the scene. I’m not proud to admit that my first feeling was all about me. I felt embarrassed and angry at Colton’s behavior. I was asking myself, “why would my kid be the only kid doing this? What am I doing wrong?” (It’s hard raising a mini me)

On the drive home, I finally pulled myself together and separated my feelings from the situation. After a long talk about his unacceptable behavior, my mom gut came to the rescue. She softly whispered, “ask him how he was feeling when he was gripping that pole.” She cupped her hands around my heart and firmly insisted , “there’s more to the story.”

He hung his head and I could barely hear him,

“Mommy, no one would play with me.

Mommy, I felt empty inside.”

I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him hard. I was sub-consciously hoping that if I squeezed him hard enough, I would squeeze out all the pain.

I learned a great lesson today. I can’t save my child from pain but I have to be the one person on a his playground who takes the time to kneel down, slow down, and really see him.

Photo cred Jim Fuglestad 🙌🏻