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?

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Enjoying These Moments

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Navel oranges, their juice bursting in their skins

Painting my nails while all my boys are out

Bees busy in the honey-sweet blossoms

Sketching from a favorite photograph

Listening to Beatrix Potter stories while the kids paint

Reading The Count of Monte Cristo for the first time

Baby Girl’s movements becoming larger, fuller

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On Taking Up Space

“…I think [a woman] should have the right, on occasion, to move in extravagant clouds of her own making. The right to sail forth with all flags flying while the rest of us tumble about in her wake. The right, when she wants it, to take up some space.”
-Alyssa Harad, Coming to My Senses

This is what I want from this dance thing, I think, as I watch our instructor execute a jumping turn, knees bent behind her, toes pointed and arm like a streamer over and around her head. Her gracefulness defies the simplicity of the jump. Simplicity notwithstanding, I am still self-conscious to attempt it. Memories of a wood floor rushing up to crash into me during my very brief ballet experience, as well as multiple falls ice skating, seem to have written it in my bones: awkward, clumsy. But this, this freedom in breaking contact with the floor, the lightness and whirl and flowing arms, all bound in certain beauty, this is the desire that sparked in me when this instructor invited me to join her folk dance class.

I wanted to feel beautiful in my bones–beauty in the movement and graceful in taking up these spaces. More than just taking up space.   I want to inhabit, to grace the space. The stage is a three dimensional canvas, and we are taking the paint to all the corners, leaping, turning, running this chain of bodies from curtain to edge.  We are striving to cover the ground, and risk results more approximating a game of crack-the-whip than a daisy chain.

There is beauty in all the styles we’ve learned tried. I loved the loose, bouncing Turkish dance mimicking fishing nets and undulating waves of the sea– its allure was in its strength, its power grounded in forceful stomps and kicks; and the energetic beauty of the Bollywood was colorful and exhilarating even without bright-hued silks adorning us. But this Israeli dance has the type of traditional beauty I’ve always felt eluded me. The steps are balletic– saute, chasse, glissade– delicate, with a strength that buoys them.

And it is worship.  Eyes lifted, arms an offering,this dance is a gathering of gratitude for providence and harvest, a dance of praise, of grace.

We grape-vine a circle, opening our bodies as much as possible.  We want to be more than we are.   I imagine the larger stage, wonder if I will be able to stretch my legs long enough to cover the ground. Our instructor smiles at an invisible audience, and I hope my sinews and muscles will learn this lightness, that I will be able to smile soon, too.

***

Dancing is such a bold act, a brazen way of taking up space. Of saying that I deserve to be here. That Someone values me, and deems me Worthwhile. My small sons know this intuitively. They fold and fling their limbs, leap the rug and laugh. The music flows from their fingers and toes. They haven’t learned inhibition yet, or the desire to blend in; they never worry about being in the way.

I delight in their dancing.

So I bring the unfamiliar combinations home, practice the toe-points and twirls, leaping in my bedroom, in front of the mirror, in front of my sons. They smile small and curious, inviting and encouraging. I laugh at my dizziness, at myself, at the fun I am having.

Motherhood–the gestation and birthing, the nurturing and nourishing, the dancing with my children– has been writing a new story in my bones: My body is good. My body is blessed.

 

 

More Questions than Answers: Tuning In, or Tuning Out?

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I’m thinking a lot about asking questions lately, about certainty, doubt, what I know that I know, what may stand some adjustments.  Some of this has to do with my lifelong habit of thinking in terms of What If? (This is both a blessing and a curse, a subject for another post).

So I’m trying to keep track of my questions, and one of the things I’ve been reflecting on is the nature of Self-care.

So many times, when I’m especially tired, I restlessly seek a quick fix–a scroll down Pinterest, a bowl of chocolate ice cream, magazine fodder.  Escape.

But what I really need, what actually nourishes, takes a bit more time, more intention.  It requires marginAnd it’s tuning in, rather than tuning out.  It’s taking the time to notice why I’m feeling depleted, and ask myself what I most need at this time.  So many times, though, I am like a caged animal anxiously seeking any escape possible.  Escape is not the same as self-care.  Escape is about tuning out my feelings, my circumstances, the ones who need me and only leads to further retreating, and further selfishness.

I’ve found that true self-care, though, leads to care of others.  When I choose things that are truly renewing, that refill my emotional, physical, and spiritual reserves, they contain the common element of tuning in: to myself, to others and to God.  From the simplest of activities–a walk in nature, a hot bath, reading a good book; to the most luxurious, say, a massage– silence and space are often involved.  The opportunity to inhabit my body, my emotions, my circumstances, and relationships.   Space to question, listen, and receive.  When I take the time to notice the true need beneath my restlessness and anxiety, I can better take care of myself.  And once I’ve helped myself recharge, I can tune into those around me and help take care of them.

Along these lines, for me, watching a television show, for example, is usually a way of tuning out; it leaves me more depleted than recharged, and results in my being more selfish as I grasp at anything that seems like an escape, unwilling to relinquish any more of my already dwindling energy and time.  Like getting caught in quicksand, thrashing about to get out of the discomfort as quickly as possible only results in more sinking and more panic.  But if I find the strength to slow down and relax with intention, I can slog out of the pit.

So my first line of questions when evaluating whether an activity is actually self-care or an attempt to escape:

Does this tune me into my self, to my relationships, and to Christ?  Or does this attempt to tune out those voices and needs?  What is the underlying need for me to address here?

The second question that I want to ask:

Is this what I want to teach my kids about taking care of themselves, the example I want to set for them? 

I want them to learn healthy ways to take care of themselves, to take time for being outside, for resting and exercising, for getting their cup filled so they can continue helping others.  So, in practical terms, if exercise, for instance,  becomes a way to escape my family and responsibilities–going to the gym every day by myself for hours, for example–then maybe that’s not the example I want to give them.  Getting us all out the door for a walk in the neighborhood when tensions are rising, on the other hand, is always a good choice.

And so, a question for you:  What qualifies as self-care for you?

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One Word for 2014: Joy

On one recent occasion when I remorsefully apologized for essentially blowing up at my four-year-old for being an annoying, over-tired, wired and immature little human boy, E. nodded and mmm-hmmmed as I listed my transgressions. Then he spoke soft prophet-words: the way to not be bad is to just relax (pronounced wuh-lax, in case you were wondering).

I’ve been turning those words over and over in my head the past couple weeks, considering them from different angles as I’ve reflected on goals and what kinds of changes I want to make. Relax wasn’t the exact word I wanted to focus on for this year, a’ la Oneword365, but it lead me to a few.  The word I keep circling back to, though, as I consider a central theme for this year is joy.

Some broad-strokes for how I want this word Joy to color 2014:

I want to not stress out so much, to relax into the joy of being with my little ones.

I want them to remember me smiling, rather than scowling, in their young years, to have a deep, abiding sense of being delighted in and loved for who they are.

I struggle with discontent; I want not only to find God’s grace in each moment but also take joy in every circumstance.

I want to clear away the extraneous, the clutter and dross–physical, mental, and emotional–that are obstacles to nurturing my relationships and doing the things I enjoy.

Taking care of myself is a challenge and sometimes, I hate to admit, a chore as a mama of littles. I want to revive some of the ways of self-care that have brought me joy in the past, as well as find new ones in this season.

Cooking and food has not involved much joy lately, a result of the combination of too much information, too many choices, and too little energy.  I want to worry less, and eat with joy.

Joy seems like a good antidote to perfectionism, and I want my goals to be process-focused as I learn, grow, and practice this year; however much or little I accomplish or produce, I will take joy in the process, knowing my Heavenly Father sings over me with joy.

Joy in the Desert

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Rain is always a gift here in the desert.  I hope I will never complain about rain again after having experienced droughts regularly lasting most of a year.  We had four days of rain in row last week–and I don’t mean the kind of sudden dumping of buckets of rain that lasts 15 minutes and is gone, the hallmark of monsoon season in the desert.  These were gray days filled with oceans of clouds and rain lasting most of the day.  It was very strange and wonderful.  My favorite kind of day.

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Where I lived in Michigan, rain smelled of worms–an earthy, fermented, sweet-gone-sour– a warning to anyone thinking of walking barefoot in the rain to watch where you placed your foot.

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Rain in the desert, though?  The epitome of fresh– cleanly sweet, as though the rain were falling for the very first time.  It washes the dust out of the air, pulls the heat from the xeriscaped yard, shimmers down the windows, bounces the rock walls and slicks the streets.  We never think to do a rain dance in all the dry weeks beforehand, only after it comes, as celebration.  I can’t help clapping and exclaiming with the kids, “Look!  Rain!”

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But there’s always a part of me that slips out of the moment, either to lament the inevitable return of arid days or simply to be discontent and wish the rain would last for a week.   I don’t fully inhabit this joy, relaxing into the moment, the way my children know how to.

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They know how to receive, how to let the gift fall into their hands.  They naturally look up, thankful.  They seem to intuit that every good and perfect gift comes from above, and accept such grace with unbounded pleasure and delight.

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