Christmas Week (Days #32-39)

Forgive my silence … it has been a very busy week of Christmas festivities. We are now 5 Christmas celebrations, 10 hours of road time, and 3 exhausted people done with it all.

All the presents under the tree are gone. All the toys rifled through. Ella, our elf, has hightailed it back to the North Pole. And the tree, whereas it used to gleam with anticipation, now seems to be glaring at me from the corner of the room. And now comes the true test of will as everything must be put away and organized for all the new to come.

The after-Christmas let down is always hard for me. Because once the warmth of holidays is over, it seems that all that is left is the cold of winter. It’s so bare and drab and yuck …

We did go for a walk on Christmas Day at my dad’s house. It sits on a very tranquil piece of land. Small pond, thick woods, and horses. The sun was out for the first time in several weeks. I felt as if it were melting the ice from my veins. The wind was crisp and made me feel so alive. It was the perfect moment to clear your head of the busy cobwebs that always seem to take up residence during long winter months. We walked the loop of the property and lingered with the horses.Man in a black hat sunglasses touching the nose of a red horse with a white fence and white barn in the background.

They were beautiful and affectionate and so “grounding” for me. In the insanity of gifts, activities, family, and food, it was the quiet moment I needed with the universe. To remember I was just a part of a sum, to feel connected to the energy all around, to embrace love for love’s sake.

It was my moment in the sun.

And now, as the winter blues threaten to overshadow my days and disrupt my nights, I hold that moment sacred–as a shield to sullen thoughts and plastic feelings. And I remind myself that every season teaches, and then it passes, and it’s my own thinking on it all that causes me to swim or drown. I am learning to choose to embrace this ebb and flow of life.

I am hoping to swim…

A woman kissing a horse on the nose on a sunny winter day, with a white fence trailing off into the distance.

Day #31

Tonight, as I walked in place of Mrs. Meander I decided to try to walk without instigating any thoughts, but merely observe the thoughts that my brain produced and let seep into conscious awareness.

I was astounded at the sheer bulk of random thought processes that continually stream forth from the recesses of the sub-conscious. On a dark and relatively stimuli-free walk, my brain produced thought processes including, but not limited to: relationships, travel, marriage, pain, loss, camping, building, racism, Michael Brown, excess, lack, childhood memories, decisions, money, exercise, and politics. And so it went, and so it goes.

As soon as I became aware of a thought process and dismissed it, resolving to walk with nothing but my sensory experience… well, the next thing I knew I had just spent several moments “thinking” about something else completely irrelevant to this present moment.

It caused me to pause and ponder, “How much of what we react to, what we think we really “think” about is actually just us noticing our subconscious processing a mire of previous thoughts and inputs? Are we really thinking original thoughts when we say things like, “Well I think…”? OR are we simply allowing our brains to regurgitate a conglomeration of past outside voices that we mistake for our own?

I have a challenge for myself and for you, wonderful reader: As you go about your day, notice yourself “thinking,” and perhaps ponder the content of those thoughts. Were they relevant to your immediate situation? Did they bring happiness? Did the instigate anxiety?

Could it be that the journey to mindful living is paved with an awareness that our passing “thoughts” are actually making us, and not the other way around? Perhaps catching brains in the act of thinking could be the ticket to a more peaceful existence.

Happy thinking, my fellow travelers…

Day #30

Adalie walked with me today while my Love was away Christmas shopping. I watched in half-amusement, half-exasperation as she tried to master the art of the scooter. She would get going and then lose her footing, and then get going and lose direction, and then get going and panic because she was going too fast, and lose her courage. It made me think of all the mental and physical energy that goes into learning a new skill.

Red and white for-sale sign in a front yard. I have many friends right now who seem to be in transition. Newly divorced, newly parented, newly moved, newly reformed. As I walked, I noticed signs of change as well… a “for sale” sign in the yard, new construction in the back… life is forever changing. Some for the good, some for the bad, and really it is only our perception that categorizes them.
But as I walked, I thought not so much about the change. Whatever it may be, the decision is often easily, if not hastily, made.

It’s creating the new normal that exhausts a soul.

Becoming a family of three with the birth of a new baby, re-identifying as a “single” after being coupled for a decade, recreating a life after a big move or loss. We often look much like Adalie on that scooter… fumbling for direction, shaky at best, and just hoping the courage does not fail us.

But something else I’ve seen over and over in my life… resilience. As we rounded the corner, she took off. Still unsteady, but confident and free… hair wild in the breeze, smile on her face, and playful squealing at the top of her voice. The mama in me wanted to call after her, “Be careful!

But I stopped myself, because life does not usually afford us that luxury, and her normal was coming along just fine…

Blonde-haired girl riding a pink-wheeled scooter in a the last light of dusk.

Day #28

We decided to walk in silence tonight. It was dark and Christmas lights glowed. The silence felt like the blue lights on one of the first houses we walked by; muted but glowing.

Silence became my heart beat, my breath, my boots hitting concrete. It was silent giggles at pretending to ski downhill and screaming muscles at the trudge back uphill. Silence was the pressure of his hand in mine. The steadiness of his breathing beside me.

Tonight, silence felt like cold air on my cheeks. Barking dogs in the distance. The sound of wind in my ears.

We walked silently and carefully. It was mind clearing and beautiful. It was connection to both earth and Love. It was thoughts observed and let go. It was knotted anxiety I had been carrying for others, released.

Tonight, silence was the loudest I had ever heard it. A tiny Christmas tree.

Day #15

An led Christmas light display in the figure of a Poinsettia flower.It was dark when we got to the park. The air was crisp but refreshing. The lights were glorious and all around.

There was only one problem… a terrorist was following me around. She was female, long blond hair, about four feet tall. And she calls me, “Mama.”

Most days I love that title as it rolls off her tongue and straight to my heart. But today, right now, it came only with demands.
“Mama, fix my gloves.”
“Mama, I’m hungry.”
“Mama, follow me now.”
“Mama, stay behind me, I said!”

And this was after her complaints about the new jacket (too puffy), the new gloves (too hard to hold things), and new hat (honestly, I’m not really sure why she won’t wear the hat–I don’t think she even knows!) had all been voiced all the way here.
Inwardly, I cringed at her attitude, her tone, her words.
I tried ignoring. I tried stern talking. I tried distraction. I tried playful interaction to lighten her mood. None of it phased her for long and she was back to “terrorist” status.

I struggle in these moments. I believe strongly in healthy attachments. I recently read an article about doing “time ins” rather than time outs so you don’t teach a child that they are only acceptable as people when they are happy and perfect. I see this as a vital concept. I also believe children need their parents to help them organize and regulate especially when upset. I don’t generally agree with leaving a child who is spiraling out of control in a room alone. As a counselor, I rarely see good come from this scenario.

But damn it’s hard to connect with and support a child who is acting hateful.

We get home from our “fun” Christmas-lights walk. Dinner, PJs, a show, and brushed teeth later, she is flat out refusing to go to bed. I have had enough. But thanks to my meditative, although un-peaceful walk, I am prepared to discipline and not punish.

“You’re going to bed without me tonight because I am not going to reward your disobedience.”

Wailing, crying, yelling, tears, pleading, and sniffling later, she finally falls asleep.
I left the door open, I left her lamp on, I checked on her every 5-7 minutes. I kissed her, wiped away tears, and tucked her in. But I did not sit down, rub her back, or read her a story.

She knew that she was loved but also learned that it’s okay to be alone with unsettling feelings. It’s a lesson most adults are still learning…A young girl standing mezmorized inside a tunnel of dancing lights.

Day #10

An inflatible Christmas decoration which says the word Joy.Some days are fantastic–like birthdays and Christmas, vacation days and Saturdays, and then every once in while a fantastical day just sneaks up on you.

Today was one of those days:

  • Plans changed for the better, twice.
  • It was double-punch Tuesday so I got my coffee for free.
  • Lunch with my Love.
  • Appointments cancelled, which gave me free time to get caught up on paperwork.

… home cooked dinner, silly shows, a happy girl who went to bed without a fuss…

Yes, some days it just all seems to come together. It’s like the universe hands you a gift…

As we walked this evening, I thought cheerfully about the warmth of the day. But I also noticed an unconscious thought lurking in the corner of my mind–a small doubt and reservation about good days–and how even at the highest of highs it’s like we are waiting for it to vanish at best, trample us at worst. It makes it hard to really enjoy life when paranoia sets in.

“I’m eating healthy and clean.” But I’ll probably still die of some disease.

“I made some extra money.” But something will probably break down soon.

“He is such a gentleman.” But once he knows me it probably won’t last.

We generally set everything up to fail. We forget to ride the high, enjoy the joy, celebrate the happiness. It’s like we’re afraid that by wallowing in it we invite it to be taken away.

A yard filled with inflatible Christmas decorationsWe walked down a street and made it to the most crowded, silliest, over-the-top Christmas decorated yard I have ever seen. Front to back with blow-up decorations, lights, signs, and toys. And I thought, “This is what it looks like to hoard joy.” People don’t understand it; it costs too much, it’s potentially dangerous, it even seems a little crazy. The longer I stood there mesmerized by each Santa and snowman, reindeer and elf, the larger my smile grew. Joy abandon looks ridiculous, I think, because it embraces the good without tempering it with doubt.

I have no idea what will happen tomorrow or five years down the road, but I know my joy in today and today I’m hoarding joy.

Day #9

“Too much burden will halt your progress. Loosen up so that you can be swift.” –

Alissa Reddy, The Art of Mindfulness for Children

I watched her eyes well up with tears because Mistletoe did not come back this year… he sent a girl elf on the shelf instead. She had been begging for a “girl elf” for two Christmases.

The pain of letting go…

I watched her panic searching for her phone, her clipboard, her anything to take to her after school program as we are walking out the door for school. I encouraged her to breathe, to be creative, to think outside the box about what she could do this afternoon, instead.

The pain of letting go…

I watched her fall to pieces over the realization that her lunchbox sat happily at home on the couch. Even as I assured her I would go back and get it. Even as she nodded in agreement that it wasn’t a big deal.

She cried. Nothing about this morning had gone according to plan.

The pain of letting go…

It was wet and cold so I needed a new walking plan. Instead of my usual scenic route, I headed to the mall to do a lap. It was noisy and distracting and not at all my norm but I rolled with it. And as I did, I thought about my girl-baby and hoped her day was going better. I thought about her rigidness and anxiety that often flairs into panic and irritability. I have been reading a book about mindfulness for children and one of the goals taught is the art of “letting go” as defined by the author Alissa Reddy:

“Letting go entails leaving situations as they are and allowing events to unfold as they are supposed to.”

My beautiful strong princess is not good at this, but I wondered as I walked if I was so much better. Expectations often give way to disappointment, schedule often becomes law, and roles often box people in until they have no room to be themselves. I watch myself take life so seriously-over and over. There are chores to be done, mouths to be fed, money to be earned. I spin plates and plates until it is comical that I think it is achievable. Then, always, one little thing breaks or bobs or goes off kilter, and it all comes crashing down around me.

The pain of letting go…a child sleeping with a stuffed owl

Day #7

Today I was asked to help start a group.

A good and helpful endeavor with pleasant people that would benefit a number of others. And I cringed inside. This project is much like two other projects I helped with in my twenties. They ate me alive both times. They were all-consuming and always took more than I wanted to give… more money, more time, more resources. But I was devoted and it was for the good of all. Except for the good of me–but really, who’s counting.

As I walked today I felt stressed. I had just spent six hours cleaning the living room… one room!! I had so many more things to check off. The rest of the house needs to shine, work and grades will not get done without me, I have lists to make (elf on the shelf, Grinchmas Party next weekend, groceries for the week), and then there is the putting-away of Thanksgiving and the beauty of Christmas to display.

I walked hunched with mind racing and anxiety turning in my stomach. But I chose to walk, and as always, it worked it’s calming magic (sure there is a lot of science about wautum-colored leaveshy this helps but I prefer magic).