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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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

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.

Sacral

The chiropractor presses
my pelvis, coaxing the bones
back after they’ve spread
their boundaries. My hips protest
every morning as I pull
myself from bed, lift from a game
on the floor, shuffle down
the drive. Spaces are growing
inside me, ligaments and joints
stretching their borders even
as things become tighter, more
crowded in my stomach, my ribs.
I want to realize the wonder,
even as I swear I will never
do this again.
Someone said we never
want it to be over, even
the difficult parts. Voices
compel me to seize
the day, enjoy every thing.
But sometimes that which is sacred
holds little pleasure:
sitting with my son’s
raging, witnessing the wounds
of a friend, walking through
a spiritual shift. These joints
tearing and stretching
and becoming more
open to the point of almost
breaking. I feel ancient
with it as I swell and sway
my back on all fours,
seeking some ease.
Os sacrum.
Holy bone.
Protecting, holding
a space set apart.
An offering.

Child’s Pose

I stretch face down, my nose
pressed into the pile
of the carpet, lungs dusted
with the remnants of early
summer wind storms; no matter
the amount of sweeping, the aroma
is dry and dust. A rust-clay
stain and the places the two-year
old has expressed his newfound
skill at directing his pee,
the marker ink tracking
race car lanes in a loose s-curve,
the crumb of pizza crust, dried
tomato sauce like so much pollen
fringing the edge, the almost
ivory llama color of this rug we chose
from the clearance rack, because of course
it wouldn’t last, and the grape-juice
purple and chocolate-ice-cream-colored
ones were not on discount. The lines
from where a butter knife gouged
miniature troughs, a curled-up bandage
from a make-believe scrape, bits
of crayon-label paper littering the corner,
scattered scraps and snatches, a fleeting
testament to the collected order
in this chaos, the fullness
of my days.

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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