Friday, July 23, 2010

You're Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile

My daughter did "Annie Camp" this summer. If you aren't familiar with Annie Camp, it's a 50 minute dance class every day for a week that ends with a performance, song and dance, of a couple of the tunes from the musical. On Monday, she brought home a song sheet with the lyrics of the songs they would perform on Friday. We downloaded the songs so she could listen to them and practice. She spent one afternoon watching the musical, one she has seen many many times before.
One of the songs she practiced was It's a Hard Knock Life...sung by Ruby as "It's a hard enough life." It took both my husband and I to convince her that the lyrics were just a little bit different which led to a question about what Hard Knock Life means, which pretty much does mean it's a hard enough life. I still heard her singing her version. She performed her dances for her daddy while he was home for lunch. She practiced, practiced, practiced. I found myself humming Tomorrow while I shuffled around the house and every now and then busting into Broadway mode dancing as I sang.
One day when I went to pick Ruby and her cousin up from class, I arrived a few minutes early and sat outside the studio listening to them practice. Their sweet little voices belting out Tomorrow, I got very emotional, started to tear up. And then on the last day, the big performance in the theater attached to the studio. So sweet. They were dressed up in orphan costumes and Ruby smiled from ear to ear. She has definitely got the whole notion of performing, she stayed very present with the audience, acting out each song through her face. I, of course, cried. Felt like my heart might burst open at the immense amount of love I feel for this little girl. She fully embraces the notion of Annie..."You're never fully dressed without a smile", always looking at the positive side of life. One of the things people often say to me is how she always has a smile on her face.
My little Ruby...she's a gem.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Deb and Flow

If you have ever seen Finding Nemo, you know about Deb and Flow. They are the same fish. I am not sure which one is the "real" fish, but one of them (let's say Deb) sees herself in the reflection of the aquarium glass and thinks it is another fish (Flow), seperate from herself. I feel like Deb and Flow sometimes.
My husband and I were off last week. Nothing major going on, no fight, nothing like that, just out of sync. He was sick and I am a horrible nurse to him whenever he is sick, not just last week. I felt needy, empty, spent, in need of some TLC by the end of the week. Instead of being compassionate and kind, (we'll call the nice version of me, Flow), I am impatient and irritated with him for staying home from work, resentful he is taking care of himself (and I am not). Deb gets mad, maybe even bitter and she doesn't say so. She feels burdened by the change of routine. She's already taking care of 3 children, she doesn't want to be taking care of another person. And to Deb's credit, men are needy when they don't feel good, really needy.
Flow, on the other hand, wants to take care of her sick husband, wants to be attentive to his needs, keep the kids quiet so he can rest, sleep, get well. Deb always seems to win the battle and sends us into this downward spiral until we feel disconnected from one another, unappreciated, hurt. It's really no fun. I have no problem tending to my small children when they are hurt, sick, in need, but for some reason, that same tenderness I offer up to them feels hard to find when my husband needs it.
My husband and I always continue to function in the midst of being off, not at our optimum, but we get by. We both feel it, it's obvious, and we react to it differently. My husband responds to our disconnect with little jabs, barbed comments. I tend to retreat in to myself. Finally, last night, we sat still together long enough to delve into the feelings. The timing was right and we both reached out for one another. I let Flow come back out to play and expressed that my feelings were hurt, that I was feeling unappreciated, tired, like I was not doing a good job of getting my needs met, not asking for what I need. My husband was feeling the exact same things I was. He shared that he still was not feeling well after being home for lunch yesterday but went back to work anyways because he thought I'd be mad if he stayed home and slept. We both laughed at that, but he wasn't trying to be funny. It made me pause and my initial reaction is I don't want to be Deb!
The truth is, we are all Deb and Flow. We all have these 2 sides, 2 faces, duality if you will. The trouble comes when we try to separate one from the other as opposed to seeing them both as one. We couldn't feel the connectedness if we didn't also experience the disconnect. We couldn't feel the resentment if we didn't know the gratitude. It is when we live in the duality, separating one from the other, that we make ourselves suffer. The hard feelings, whatever they may be tell us something. They invite us to move underneath them and discover their root, to dive into the ebb and flow of our relationships, of life, and ride the wave.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

What Goes Around

"Envy and jealousy stem from the fundamental inability to rejoice at someone else's happiness or success." Matthieu Ricard

For some reason, I wrote this quote down a few weeks ago. And sometime between then and now, I had a conversation with a friend about scarcity mentality. And then today, I found in my inbox a yoga article about envy. Coincidence? Probably not. It's been a blog post brewing in me.
I spent most of my childhood living with scarcity mentality - the fear that there wasn't enough love for me or that I wasn't good enough for the love that I needed. I operated from that place in many areas of my life, whether it be about friends, money, love, all had this foundation of fear. Fear that there was not enough for me and everyone else. It made me jealous of people that had things I wanted, which makes it difficult to really be happy for the people you care about when they are living life. I was aware of these feelings, but I am not sure I could have articulated them or that I understood why I felt like that. Who knows, maybe I thought it was normal!
I remember the first time in my adult life when I recognized I felt truly happy with my life. It was the summer I got married. I remember sitting on the couch in our first home together, a little duplex on Yakima Avenue. I was looking out the window and the feeling washed over me....I don't wish my life is anyone else's. I had always looked at my friends' lives and wished mine was a little more like hers or his. It always seemed like the grass was greener in everyone else's yard. We had a BBQ that evening, I think it was my brother in law's birthday, which coincidentally was just a couple of days ago. There are pictures of me taken that evening and I look really happy, free.
I wish I could say that I stayed put in that space without envy for always. I didn't, of course. I have cycled through periods of envy, jealousy, a side of myself that I don't much like. I am very aware of those feelings when they arise and try to immediately shift my thinking to some other place. We attract what we think and so if I think not enough, I feel not enough. I get it. I do my best to fake it until I make it if I'm feeling one of those oh so unproductive emotions. Other times, I am keenly aware that I am not feeling envy or jealousy when something good happens to someone I know. Instead, those emotions are replaced by gratitude, celebration, genuine happiness for another. I'll tell you what, that feels much better than the alternative.
I guess in a way I feel like I've had to learn to choose the goodness, to sometimes reframe situations that might not feel very good. In the long run, though, I think what comes around goes around and not only am I much happier when I can celebrate the success of others, more goodness comes my way, too.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Heavy Hearted

I'm struggling today. In actuality, I've been struggling for about 24 hours.
About this time yesterday, my dear friend called me to share some very sad news. She lost her unborn baby girl. I have cycled through waves of sadness, disappointment, loss, anger...a whole spectrum of emotions. In the midst of taking care of my 3 children, I am struggling to grieve, to allow the sadness to wash over me and pass through. I feel like I am being a negligent mother, this backdrop of grief waiting to be tended to as I keep pressing forward, onward because these other little beings need me to. I feel useless, challenged to focus my mind on where I am, irritated when their needs pull me away from my thoughts. I catch myself periodically feeling guilty, like I should be thankful they are, that I have them, that they are healthy. But, I am human, I need time, space to figure out how to make sense of this and to let go.
In the conversations I have had with those touched by this loss, both indirectly and directly, I am moved by how deeply people feel, the compassion and empathy when someone you know and care about experiences loss. It's hard to put it into words. I am moved by the interdependence of us all and how touched we are by the lives of those we know if we allow our hearts be open to them.
There have been lots of prayers sent in the direction of this family. I have to find comfort in knowing that there is a giant circle of love surrounding them, holding their whole family as they grieve. We all wish we could lighten the load in some way, I'm sure. The only way to the other side of grief is through it. So, we wait, we pray, we love, we hold them close in our hearts until the heaviness begins to lift, and I have to believe that eventually it will.
Life shifts so quickly. Yesterday morning I was rejoicing in summer. I have felt so free this summer, less work, more play. I've felt like it has truly been a summer vacation for me, too. All it takes is one phone call, and the day takes a dramatic turn. Outwardly, nothing looks any different in my house, but inwardly something has shifted.
My writing is disjointed, I know. I am just trying to find a way to put to words what I feel, to find some comfort in the letters I type.
Say a prayer. Light a candle. Be kind to those you love. Extend comfort when you can. We are all in this big life together. We have to have faith that despite the pain, despite our heavy hearts, there is light, there is goodness, there is hope and there is always love.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Shift Your Soul Sideways

I just finished reading a fascinating book...Let The Great World Spin. Using a line from my dear friend..."It's a book about the human experience." It's so true. There is an eclectic cast of characters whose lives intersect, sometimes collide and there is hope and faith and love and light and darkness and reality all intertwined in it. A bit like life.
We all walk through life with many of the same experiences, all different, but all within a range of human emotions. Happiness, sadness, fear, know what I am talking about. Whenever we are brave enough to share our stories, we find that we are mostly more similar than we are different. We all have the potential to be good, to be the very best version of ourselves, but our tendency is to do otherwise, and so we must work at staying the course (unless you are a saint).
I've felt uninspired lately, or to use another line from another friend, "I feel uninteresting." I do believe that every life is a story waiting to be told, but mine lately doesn't feel worthy of writing. I'm not in a funk, I'm not doing anything extraordinary, I'm just living and what is interesting about that, ha? I think this might be one of those entries where I am talking out loud.
One of the things that keeps coming up for me lately is my radar for people. I don't know what else to call it. I feel like I am always in tune with people's temperature. I don't find myself trying to fix it, but I find myself needing to acknowledge where people are at, or at least where I perceive them to be. I found myself after yoga class the other day telling one of my students something I could see about them or rather feel without them saying so. I can see the internal struggle. It used to be okay for me to just observe people, to create stories in my mind about what they were experiencing and why. I feel like I have moved on to a place where I have to talk to them about it. It isn't comfortable for everyone, but most people let me in at least a little bit.
I remember a time many years ago when I was up in the San Juan islands with my husband for the funeral of an old friend. I found myself in the grocery store witnessing the produce guy stacking fruit and seeing or perceiving his dissatisfaction with what he was doing. I felt pulled to engage him, to ask him why he continued to do this work if it wasn't what he wanted to be doing. Sounds simple, but who knows, his story may have been a complicated one? I did end up asking him if he liked his job. He said no and I asked him why he stayed. He didn't have an answer really.
It's really simple in many ways, this human life. We all experience birth and death and a myriad of things in between. We are all seeking love, a feeling of being connected and every once in a while something happens, we read something, we meet somebody, we do something that scares us, we lose something important to us...SOMETHING happens and our soul gets shifted sideways a little. (To give credit where credit is due, this line comes from an interview at the end of the book I referred to previously). We open our eyes a little more, we listen a little closer and we see what life is really all about. We feel alive and we feel very aware of how impermanent this all is. It feels good, even when it hurts.
I suppose for now, I should be thankful that life feels boring, or uneventful, whatever you want to call it. It's life. I'm living. I'm breathing, feeling, experiencing...and that, in an of itself, is enough to write about.