Trying, not failing

I’ve wrestled with all the feels this summer, and related to our decision to try out school, albeit a private, non-traditional one, I’ve struggled to fight off feelings of failure. Failure to do it all myself. Failure to impose a structure on myself. Failure to be able to meet everyone’s needs and my own, on my own.

But what I’ve come to see—through many sleepless nights and the tear-cleared sight that comes after a good cry—is that trying something different is not failure. It’s trying something different.

And something not working is something that can be worked on. I’m still exploring why I even frame so much of life in terms of a test to pass or fail in the first place, and why I so often feel like setbacks–even simply changing direction– mean I am failing.

A recent episode of the TED Radio Hour highlighted how one company incentivized failure, giving bonuses and vacations to teams who ended their projects instead of bullheadedly continuing along a path that wasn’t working and wasting time and resources. The message they were given was, come back fresh and excited to try something new.

We’re shelving full-time homeschool for my oldest for now, and trying something new, offering him and our family new experiences to grow. I don’t know how long it will be for or how it will go, but I am confident that we will learn through it, and whenever we need to, we can always try something new.

Advertisements

Reframing: Like to, Want to, Choose to, Get to

I’m learning that small changes in thinking can reap huge benefits.  One way I have been learning to reframe my thoughts is by changing how I express what I would typically term an obligation, recognizing that I have a choice in my actions.  For example, instead of saying I have to do laundry, I say I want to do the laundry; instead of saying we need to go grocery shopping, I get to go grocery shopping.

I applied this yesterday at the pool, when I was saying to my son how much fun it was; I started to say, “We should do this as much as we can,” then amended myself, saying, “I want to do this as much as we can.”  Instant refocus on my enjoyment of the present moment, instead of on future pressure, guilt, or obligation.

So the mantra I’ve been repeating to myself lately is Like to, Want to, Choose to, Get to.  One day I was sharing this with my husband and kids, and my boys took this phrase as a fun rhythm to play with as they went about their games, which made me smile.  These are the kinds of things I want to be a part of their way of thinking as they grow.

Like to, Want to, Choose to, Get to.

It might seem insignificant, but it has given me a greater sense of peace and control to think that I’m not merely weighed down with obligations and things that are happening to me, as well as fostered gratitude for even the mundane and less pleasurable tasks.  I’ve also noticed it helps with my kids, who often ask, “Why do we have to?”  It’s hard to argue with, “We don’t have to.  We get to.”

What small changes in thoughts or perspective have made big differences in your life?

List of Beautiful, June 6, 2016

Walking the morning after a rain
Baby girl’s dazzling laughter after throwing herself backwards on the bed
How simply opening a book and beginning to read stops an argument and brings them running
Boy 1’s hysterical, eyes-won’t-open laughter at a silly muskrat in a picture book
A desert willow’s blossoms clouding the air next to the mailbox with their scent
A well-placed shade over a play-set at the park
How Boy 2 jumps up and down from a crouch when he’s happy or excited
Husband bringing me ice water, with a straw

Beautiful Things: May 12th, 2016

One of my most important purposes for homeschooling is to fill my children’s lives with beauty of all kinds. At the same time, I sometimes have a hard time noticing and holding onto the beautiful things that dapple our days. (To be fair, I just learned that there is neurological evidence that negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences imprint instantly on us, whereas positive ones need to be savored for a minimum of 15 seconds to attach).  So, I am keeping lists.

-a canopy of tree shade in our yard, sunlight softened as it filters through
-baby girl sifting mulch at the playground with her fine fingers
-my middle boy smelling the baby’s head, and telling me it’s a different kind of sweet than me
-first boy’s counting to 100 by I-Love-You’s at bedtime (I-love-you 1, I-love-you 2, I-love-you 3….)
-hearing each of my loved ones breathing in the still of night
-the poem Pied Beauty, by Gerard Manley Hopkins, taped to my bathroom wall
-reading Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy
-a giraffe’s slow grace at the Zoo, and how I enjoyed the little train ride, with my arm around my boy
-second son asking me what my favorite part of the day was, and when I answered about his giving me a card and book, he said with satisfaction, “I thought you were gonna do that”
-dancing and singing with my kids and remembering when my mom did the same with my sibs and me
-how burying my nose in my kids’ hair can change me and the trajectory of my day in a moment

Spill

All my anxieties spread before me
in that two-feet-square slick
of sludge on the tile. Even after making
up with my boy for my overreaction
to the upset tumbler, I still grieved
having broken the beautiful
morning. Felt I had shattered
some pristine crystal sculpture.
No,
my husband gentled me
in his arms. It’s more like the water,
the rock thrown does not ripple
it forever. Calm returns and the whole
of the body of water is unbroken
again, the deep envelops, embraces
and covers, absorbing the impact,
stone sinking until it joins
the soil and sediment, the foundation solid
and undisturbed beneath.

Year of Beauty

The morning is a rare gray, air cool and moist as I trod to the open dirt at the end of our neighborhood. I am looking for uneven ground, the better to challenge my muscles and joints.

My eyes, unaccustomed to the softness, still want to squint. Then I see the weeds. I feel like Rey in that scene: I didn’t know there was so much green in the universe. I need the clouds in order to truly see it. I look for more, and find the mesquites with their new spring growth. Diminutive fronds shower soft from their branches, a green whose name is unknown to me, almost the same as the pastel I chose during the therapy session last week. Inner resources. I closed my eyes and searched, questioning. What does the resource that is continuously renewed look like inside me? A tendril curling within, bright green and growing. Needing nurturing, thirsty. An ocean of water surrounding, feeding it. The depths of that ocean dark and calm underneath any tumult at the surface.

I reach as though to shake hands with the branch, pull back at the last moment when I notice the thorns, a good half-inch long, ivory colored like perfect fangs smiling at me. I test one carefully, half expecting it to be soft and undeveloped, but, no. It resists with a hardness that is surprising.

I so often feel overexposed here, a photograph blown out with too much light. I breathe deep, eyes open but still wary. The haze greeting me on this morning walk is ethereal, otherworldly, the sun’s light diffuse.

By the end of the walk I am in tears. There is so much beauty, and I need to see, and seek, it. I do not know what this will look like. I do know that I struggle to hold onto the beauty. As soon as the misty smudges across the sky register, I am caught in longing again, wishing for more of these mornings and glowering at the thought of the return of the usual desert harshness. Like the ones in the Snow Queen story who have got tiny shards of the magical, distorting mirror in their eyes, the ugly and painful magnified in their sight.

My baby is nine months old on this morning, her arrival in July in the middle of a storm, in the first hour of the morning. I will tell her yet again how beautiful she is when I get back from my walk. Year of Beauty, the words beating a rhythm in my head to match my march across the sand. Quail skitter from one mesquite to another. The soft mixing with the hard.  Beauty and thorns.