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.

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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

Homeschool Intentions, Part 1

Several months ago I first came across the idea of setting intentions rather than goals–in other words, choosing a direction in which I can continue regardless of individual goals (ie., a goal has a set finish point, whereas intentions do not)– and one of the areas I’ve been trying to apply it is in our learning. So far, this is what I’ve come up with so far, which I’m sure will be amended as we go:

Fill our lives with Beauty
Foster a Growth Mindset
Discover our Passions
Nurture an atmosphere of Play and Curiosity
Cultivate Compassion, Respect, and Responsibility in our Relationships

For each of these areas, I’ve also listed activities, goals, and habits to work on, which I plan to share in another post. For now, though, have you ever used intention-setting? Was it helpful?

Buddy Breathing

When my husband was in the military, one of the trainings he had was in what was called Buddy Breathing. Recruits were paired up for a pool workout where they had to share an oxygen tank while swimming underwater. Quint figured out quickly the best way to stay calm and in control was to push the oxygen over to his partner right away, letting him fill up and keeping both calm. Other teams would end up fighting over the oxygen as they grew panicky about getting enough air, which only created more stress and made them fight harder to get the tank.

We have been reflecting since our most recent family trip about what made it successful (in other words, relaxing, peaceful, and enjoyable), and one of the things we did was to practice what we have come to call Buddy Breathing. This stage of parenting three young children requires a lot from both of us, and resources such as time and energy, much like that single oxygen tank between swim partners, are often limited. And while I absolutely believe in “putting on my own oxygen mask first” through self-care, my husband and I have identified a few ways we can look out for each other, contributing to both of us feeling a greater sense of peace and well-being. One way we do this is to encourage each other to get at least a few minutes of exercise in while the other watches the kids. On our trip to the mountains, this meant a few times a day, one or the other of us would say, “now’s a good time for you to take a walk.” Sure, we still often ask each other for what we need, but looking for opportunities to let my partner take a deep breath of air calms me too.

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.