“Trust yourself. Take it to the body. She always knows.”
For my meditation practice for my compassion class, I’ve been working with several things, starting with the above quote. As I explained in part 1, how often do we deny the urgings of our bodies? It seems as if mindfulness begins there.
So, I’ve decided to practice an embodied mindfulness and meditation…taking it to the body and checking in with what she knows. Consciously noticing and being aware of my body’s signals to sleep, eat, and eliminate. It is much harder than you would think for something so basic and essential for well-being and I “fail” many, many times a day, but, and this is the point: I notice as I am failing, as I am not listening. That is better than remaining unconscious, right?!
The second part of my practice is that I’m trying to make sure I feed my spirit first—going to the woods, praying, setting intentions for the day, lighting a candle and setting up some of my goddess art sculptures near me as I work, rather than letting those things languish for “when I have enough time” and “later.”
The third part of my practice is to notice my thoughts and how I think about things, bringing mindfulness to the repetitive, wheel-spinning , brain-groove making patterns of thought that I habitually engage in. I frequently feel like, “something has got to change!” or, “I need to change what I’m doing and THEN, XYZ.” In mindfulness practice, I notice that more often it isn’t what is actually happening in my life that is upsetting or stimulating the “change” urge, it is expressly how I think about things that needs to change. I have become aware of the following unhelpful brain-groove thoughts that continue to dictate my behavior, choices, feelings, and responses:
I might die
I need to be perfect
I can’t rest
I’m out of time/running out of time/there isn’t enough time
(I haven’t fixed these yet, but awareness of them is a big part of the puzzle.)
As appears to be my custom at this time of year, I had a big meltdown this weekend feeling resentful, overbooked, stressed, ragged, frustrated, blocked, irritable, etc., etc. Then, I piled on a hearty dose of self-admonishment for all those feelings and stirred in some big helpings of guilt. I blamed various things, I blamed myself, I ranted and raved about how something needs to change and I need to do something different because this just isn’t working. (most of this was actually in my own head because Mark was sleeping in the living room as he recovered from the stomach flu that swept our house this week, more on this later.) I was crabby at loved ones. I felt guilty for wanting to be alone and for feeling done with snuggling my nursling and smelling her sweet head, knowing, knowing, knowing that the time is passing and that I will miss it and yet, dang it, stop climbing all over me and ramming your hands down my shirt! I felt like I “should” be doing all kinds of things differently. Like I should be a better, nicer person and like maybe I’m choosing wrongly in my life. I wanted to just stop, to get off, to quit everything. I decided I don’t want to help anyone else anymore and I just want to take care of myself. I cried because I need my parents and Mark to help me so that I can help other people and if I just stopped trying to help anyone else, I could take care of myself/family and not need anyone to help me either. I made plans to make a big life map and ruthlessly chop things off it. I decided to embark on a massive self-care, self-improvement project for the new year. I dragged out piles of books to look through. I remembered that busy is boring , I craved time for a retreat. I exclaimed that I just want to grind my corn! I lamented my ongoing crisis of abundance. I looked up my old post about balanced living and saying ‘no’ and thought about how I’m going to say a big fat NO to everything all the time! Must be clear on priorities. Must choose well and wisely. Then, I got annoyed with myself for already having figured this stuff out before, for writing about it already, for boringly lamenting it all before, for never learning (or integrating) my life lessons, and for knowing better and yet doing it anyway.
And, then…everyone went to bed. I sat up by myself and worked on a drawing for a “make a plate.” The kids all did this at my mom’s house over the weekend as a Christmas project—you draw a design on a special piece of paper, send it in to the company, and they send it back to you as a plate. I wanted to make one too! So, I did:
I really like it. After drawing, I felt tons better. I sat alone in the living room with my computer and got my online class all caught up for the week. And, suddenly it hit me. This ugly ragged self of mine I was seeing and experiencing and hating. She was popping out because I hadn’t had my two hours all damn week! And, after I realized that, I understood that things weren’t really that bad after all. Last week was insane. I knew it in advance, but it doesn’t mean it was easier to cope with it. And, if I tuned in to myself and my body, which is really, really hard to do when you’re an introvert without your requisite two hours, I just heard the familiar cry for what I need, to just be by myself at home for some time each week. Not to quit everything, all the time, but just to have some regular, consistent still points of solitude.
This is what last week looked like for us:
Monday: Twenty papers submitted by my online students, they all need to be graded in addition to my usual weekly grades for the week. While I did my usual grades and online class prep work, no papers got graded with the time I had available. Manage to quickly write an assignment for my own class, part of which is excerpted at the beginning of this post. Scramble to town to take the kids to meet Mark. Teach class on Monday night from 5-10. Come home freaking out about the rest of the week and HOW CAN I POSSIBLY GRADE THIS MANY PAPERS WHEN I HAVE NO TIME! Maybe I’m not meant to do this, maybe three classes is too many, maybe there is just something wrong with me.
Tuesday: After doing school with the boys, laboriously make pumpkin pasties to take to the Harry Potter potluck for the last day of homeschool co-op Wednesday. Insist on all three children helping with the “fun” and get super stressed out at not being a more zen mother of awesomeness. Call my dad desperately in the afternoon requesting “tribal reinforcement” (my tribe is a good one!).
After he takes the kids over to play at his house, manage to grade four of the papers among many other tasks. Then, take the kids and head to town for their taekwondo class and my own reiki class (why take a reiki class now when I already have so much going on? Who knows?! Crazy, remember?) Reiki class is great—totally works and I feel like such a healer! Go home and practice fab skills on Mark and boys and they are impressed. Feel buzzing with energy and hands are tingling. Stay up until 2:00 a.m, on purpose and finish grading ALL papers. Feel awesome and smug and have killer, killer headache.
Wednesday: killer headache continues. Take kids to homeschool co-op and potluck. Pumpkin pasties meet with approval. Pick up two of boys’ friends for an overnight. Fingers crossed for Alaina to nap when we get home, since I’m desperate to be alone and need to get “caught up.” She doesn’t.
Make homemade mac and cheese for dinner and it rocks. Boys and friends stay up until past midnight. I stay up and finish prepping for Friday’s class.
Thursday: Killer headache remains (not enough sleep, I think at the time). Make quesadillas for all kids in house and barely stagger out door with them all to go to playgroup at bowling alley. Bowl a terrible 85, but have lots of fun (Alaina is adorable bowler and gets a 17 [non-bumper lane]). Belabor different post-playgroup scenarios to manage rest of day.
Send boys with friend to get pizza and go to park, while Alaina and I go to Wal-Mart to buy dinner supplies for a postpartum mama. Take dinner to new mama and listen to fab birth story and do breastfeeding help for next two hours. Kids come back from park and are sent with other friend in my van to gymnastics class. Help jump friend’s car and then go to pick up all gymnastics kids (my own boys + two). Am slightly late and they’re getting worried. Zoom to taekwondo to drop all off. Go to Panera to eat dinner and meet couple for wedding ceremony planning. Alaina finally falls asleep and nurse-sleeps throughout Panera visit. Back to get boys at 8:00 and meet other friend to deliver books she’s borrowing, plus pick up evaluation from her from recent birth workshop. Head home, dropping off boys’ friend at her house on the way. Remember LLL monthly stats are due and do them (27 helping contacts for November!), plus send overdue emails and answer help message. Catch up in online class. Collapse in recliner, hoping Alaina’s Panera snooze wasn’t an uber-late nap. She nurses more and falls asleep. Score! Mark and I start a Teen Wolf ep while she keeps nursing. Suddenly, A wakes and projectile vomits all over my body. Yikes! What’s up?! As I wash the chunks off in the shower I start to feel bad too (headache continues, FYI). At 1:30, I throw up too. Alaina throws up seven more times during night with various degrees of mess. Grateful for Mark and his clean-up skills.
Friday: Mark stays home to help, but still needs to get own work done from home. I throw up one more time and debate going to class tonight—do I go or stay?! Zander starts throwing up. My head is actually going to explode with pain. Have fever and chills. Decide not to go to class, even though it means incredible hassle with double make-up classes now (because of no class on Thanksgiving). Nap and wake at 3:00 deciding it is class or bust after all. Both options feel like dumb options. Decide to be Typhoid Molly. Take Advil, get dressed, and head for the Fort where I teach. Class is fine. I have a guest speaker and show a video about child abuse. Hope to leave early, but feel better as class goes on and get busy with student questions/discussions. Dismiss early enough to get out the back gate and take short route home.
Saturday: Work party at my mom’s house. She has good projects planned. While the men cut firewood, the women make seasoning blends using herbs and spices I ordered last week from the bulk food buying club. Alaina is fretful and clingy and nurses nonstop, even though she has to stand on a chair to do it while I mix my seasoning blends. Kids draw pictures for their plates and also make fun cracker houses. Alaina finally naps and I grade two late papers, respond to a help message, and try to catch up with my online class again. Feel bad and guilty about not helping with dinner prep and also misunderstood by others about legitimately needing to get my work done. Feel annoyed that I have to make excuses or justifications for it, feel others are annoyed with me. Eat communal turkey dinner and yummy cake. Home feeling generally distressed, unhappy, and overbooked. Am reminded that I’ve forgotten/misunderstood something again. This keeps happening. My brain is leaking. I can’t hold everything and I keep dropping balls, communicating poorly/not enough, missing things or misunderstanding things, and forgetting stuff. Wish I hadn’t had to go anywhere on the weekend. Need regroup time. Suddenly remember with a shock that today is the FoMM newsletter deadline (for contributions, not for me). Send requisite emails and consider fact that I have exactly zero contributions thus far. Lann wakes before we make it to bed and barfs turkey dinner ALL OVER bedroom floor. As Mark cleans it up, he starts to feel sick too. Is up and down during night with stomach pain and finally also vomits.
Sunday: I feel pretty good at start of day, but start to freak out as day progresses. Mark is down sick in recliner all day. Alaina is whiny and clingy and doesn’t stay asleep at naptime. By 2:30, I’m still in PJ’s and feeling emotionally fragile. Begin the internal monologue of self-doubt, criticism, and desire for change described above. Kids go visit my parents and I work frantically on various bits and pieces, like preparing for my class on Monday night. Feel I’m choosing wrongly and still not taking care of myself. What’s wrong with priorities?! Argh. Gnash. Suffer.
Sunday night: stay up after others are in bed. Make my drawing for my plate. Have epiphany that this is all about the two hours. I usually get two hours to myself multiple times a week. Review week and see NO two hours. No wonder I feel like crap. I need it. I really do. It’s this introversion thing. I have to be able to count on sometimes being alone. Hmm. Maybe that is all it is. Maybe I don’t really need to quit everything after all, but maybe I need to plan carefully and assertively and strongly avoid weeks like this last one. Maybe I just need to firmly, guilt-free-edly, hold some space for myself, no matter what. Mentally review week and see, DUH. That was a busy, hard week. I got barfed on. I threw up. I taught class with the flu. No wonder I feel overwhelmed, stressed, and upset. It would be weird if I didn’t feel that way. Isn’t it normal to be a little crazy when life is crazy? Remember that one crazy week doesn’t mean entire life is unraveling after all. Wonder if maybe, just maybe, I should actually feel impressed at my own capacities. Stay up “too late” and enter all my grades so that on Monday, I can do some other things that I want to do—like write blog posts—rather than work on my classes and then go teach as well.
Remember I wasn’t going to write long, boring, navel-gazing blog posts like this one anymore and consider not posting it after all…
Think of lots more things to add and remember lots of other to-dos I got done…
Notice current students have become “fans” on Facebook and really, really consider not posting after all…
Spend way too long trying to format pictures for this post and finally give up and set it to post later in the week with crappy-alignment pictures.
Copy this picture from Facebook and try really, really hard to remember it…
Deep breath. Hug self. Hug kids. Try again.