The Discipline of BEing? Wait Does That Work?

A beginning parenthetical:  (I do so love folk music).

I’ve had the ‘stay at home Mommy’ blues the last couple of days.

For some reason yesterday I became totally fixated on the, “I thought I would be doing so much more with my life,” idea.

Sometimes I feel like I’m rotting.  I feel like I could be doing so much more.  I feel like I *should* be doing so much more.  I feel like I am a capable person.  I feel like a person with unique gifts to offer the world and here I sit making grilled cheese sandwiches and changing 90 diapers a day.  Sometimes I feel like all of the potential I once believed I had is draining out of me little by little.

And then it really gets bad….  Because then I start to wonder if I really *am* a capable person.  If I really *do* have gifts to offer to anyone outside of my immediate family.  I wonder if I am and was just lying to myself about that ‘potential.’  Could I get ‘out there’ again?  Could I get ‘out there’ at all?  Am I just afraid to try?   

After college I taught high school for about 2/3s of a school year.  I was dropped into a tough classroom with ‘mentors’ who seemed a lot more like overly-seasoned teachers who had long passed their ‘burnout’ limit.  All of this after I realized at the end of college that though working with special needs individuals is something that I love doing, teaching doesn’t make my heart beat the way I want it to.  I haven’t made it back into the classroom or anywhere else. 

Because, then we made our first Navy move. 

Three months later we made our second and discovered we were pregnant. 

Mom got sick.  Mom died. 

Then we got pregnant again.

It’s never been ‘the right’ time.  There have been so many other variables in my life that it seemed wisest to focus on supporting and anchoring our family by staying put.  Is that the truth or an excuse?

I was accepted to seminary last year.  I was wildly excited about it.  Then it became obvious that the time wasn’t right.  Financially it was just too crunchy.  And then life continued to be complicated. 

It felt so good to have a DIRECTION again.  It felt like I wasn’t just spinning my wheels anymore.  It felt like I was going somewhere.  But it didn’t work.

Did I just chicken out?  Am I fooling myself into believing that ‘someday’ will come eventually?  Am I afraid to try?  Could I stick it out and actually pursue schooling and then DO something with it.  Or am I doomed to forever think that I want to do one thing only to find out that I really don’t?

I want to be home with my kids.  I believe that it is a good thing for them.  Even more is the stability factor:   their little lives are so full of instability with frequent moves, their Daddy’s frequent absences, friends coming and going, and major distance between us and our loved ones, that it seems only right for me to provide them with stability by being home with them.  They need that.  I feel like I can be ONE constant for them in a sea of variables.

But then a little voice in my head says that maybe that’s just an excuse.  Maybe I’m just too afraid to try.  And wasn’t I supposed to be doing something noble with my life by now?  Look at all the other people who are out there DOING something.  I always wanted to DO something.

I believe that being a mother is a noble thing.  I do.  I believe that staying at home with my kids is a noble thing.  I do.  I just don’t want it to be all that I am.  I don’t like feeling like  ‘just a Mom.’ 

It has been posited that I spend too much time focusing on the ‘doing’ part of who I am and not nearly enough time on the ‘BEing’ part of who I am.  Despite the fact that I, at least, cerebrally love the concept of developing ones ‘BEing’ qualities….  This latest pit-stop in ‘Why haven’t I done anything yet?’ land seems to reinforce the fact that I’m still in “DO” mode.

Will it ever sink in?  Will I ever get the idea of grace through my thick skull?  Will I ever learn to fall gratefully into the grace that is God…. that is love, and just be there?

Why can’t I learn to stand firm in the holiness of THIS MOMENT. Why can’t I soak into the privilege of being home with these two amazing little girls.  Why can’t I do a better job of living incarnationally here….  right where I am?

Is “BEing” a discipline?  And do you negate the validity of BEing by striving for it? 

Well, at least I came up with another thought to chase in circles.  *grin*

Random Thoughts Preceding a Zen Moment

First Random Thought:  Little Miss is currently begging for her Daddy.  She is doing so, because I, Mommy, am being mean by insisting that she get in bed and stay in bed.  I am trying to sit here calmly and simply remind her of where she needs to be, as the 20 or so trips I’ve already made back to her room seem to be doing nothing more than prolonging this particular episode.

Is it a power play?  A plea for sympathy?  A two-year old’s brilliant manipulation of her mother’s feelings?  Probably.

Still, with husband not coming home until tomorrow, it sucks in a rip-my-heart out kind of way.  The cries, of “I need Daddy” when he just can’t be here are something that I don’t think my heart will ever be immune to.  And indeed, I suspect a part of some of LM’s more difficult behaviours lately DO have to do with her missing her Daddy and not liking his coming and going schedule any  more than the rest of us.  And that makes me sad.

Second Random Thought:  I do love to look and see how folks cruise into my blog.  It’s a particularly delightful feature of WordPress.  However comma it can be something of an ego deflator to see one’s post being held up as a matter of ridicule in a discussion which has absolutely nothing to do with anything one has written on her blog.  So here’s to you Mr. Mean Northeastern Surfer Guy.  And, by the way, I do suspect you missed the whole point of the post that you felt was so laughably erroneous.  Watch out for those sharks, dude.

Now on with the post that I had hoped to write to begin with, which may or may not be karmically weakened due to my vengeful remarks to Mr. MNSG above.

I had a light-bulb go off this morning.  You could even call it a “Zen moment.”  Or a “Momma Zen” moment, as it came about because of that particularly delightful book.

My mother used to shake her head in exasperation at me and say things like, “You always have to do things the hard way don’t you, Val?” 

And, as mothers often are, she was right.  I do always have to do things the hard way.  I can take any simple mundane task and make it tedious.  Sometimes I approach it creatively.  Sometimes I add a little personal pizazz or finesse, but a lot of times, I just make it more work.

My “work” as a mother has simply overwhelmed me in these last months.  This week, the house nearly swallowed me whole.  I was afraid I would never dig out from under the Cheerios which seemed to be perpetually overflowing out of Baboo’s High Chair and taking over our house.  The laundry just keeps building.  The dishes, which I am usually on top of, are piling up. 

And I just simply couldn’t force myself to do anything about it.  I would try.  I would set my timer and attempt a 10 minute tidy, only to get distracted or daunted. 

When it comes to motherhood, I so relate to the words of Karen Maezen Miller, “Nearly everyday I feel overwhelmed and out of time.  Often I feel the work is beneath me.  Often I feel the work is beyond me.”  I love the paradox there…

My “Momma Zen” moment of the morning though, helped me to realize something very important, that I can only hope that I can hang onto:  It doesn’t have to be work. 

Those tasks that I do day after day after day…  Laundry and dishes and shining my sink (thank you FlyLady)….  Changing diaper after diaper after diaper.  The ones that wear me down to a nub because of the mere fact that they are NEVER finished…….

The beauty of those tasks is that they ARE mindless.  They are tasks I can do and get myself out of the way.  They are tasks that allow me to “Live the life in front of you,” or as Brother Lawrence puts it, to “Practice the Presence of God.”

So I reminded myself all day today, “It doesn’t have to be work.”  And suddenly, it wasn’t.  It was a blessing.  It was playing games with Little Miss as we loaded the dishwasher together, dipping my giggling Baboo upside down while we picked up toy after toy after toy, and, my favorite of all, it was Little Miss and I ‘playing chase’ while I vacuumed.  Who says you have to vacuum in straight lines?

It doesn’t have to be work.  It can be play.  It can be time with my daughters (which is quite the ‘aha’ as well….  You mean housework or time with my kids doesn’t have to be an either/or thing?).  Even more, it ALL can be worship.  It can ALL be my way of tuning my mind, my spirit, and my body to the presence of God and offering myself and my little tasks of mundanity to Him as a sacrifice of praise (the things you can learn from Buddhism, eh?).

Now, I  know it will be easier to slip out of this ‘aha’ moment.  The lustre will wear off and the tedium will again beat down my brain.  But I hope that I can be mindful as I go through my days that It Really Doesn’t Have To Be Work.

Momma Zen gems

I got a book in the mail today.  I love when I get books in the mail.  Amazon.com definitely makes my  happy list.

After reading a post over at Jen Lemen’s blog, I knew that I needed to get the book, Momma Zen And so I did.

I had a feeling it would have many underline worthy passages.  

I was right.

  • Your life is your practice….  Your spiritual practice does not occur someplace other than in your life right now, and your life is nowhere other than where you are. 
  • Leap into the sheer wonder of the unplanned life.
  • Focus on what is in front of you.
  • This is your new spiritual practice:  “Polly Wolly Doodle.”  (In reference to the singing of motherhood being a kind of meditation).
  • What happens when you watch a TV football game with the sound turned off?  The players still scramble, they still fall, but they are saved the injury of evaluation…..Practice greater faith and lesser blame.  Take this blink of time when you are still stumbling at the gate, still awkward at the tasks, to turn down the sound and tumble freely into the state of grace.
  • Practice acceptance on yourself so you can be kinder with your child.

And I’m only on page 42.

Glorious Disorganization

First a note about the previous post:  We still don’t know where we’re headed.  We’re only just at the phase of applying for orders that are open and look appealing to us.  We’re still very much in the, “We could land anywhere in the world,” phase.  It’s fun.  But that’s not what I want to write about.

So I really have discovered a great deal about myself in the last few weeks and months.  I’m discovering issues that I never thought I had are indeed my issues.  I’m discovering my modes of self-protection…  and a whole bunch of things that are kind of icky to discover.

But I’m also discovering bit by bit little pieces of myself that are just…. me.  And when I see them as such, sometimes at least, I can actually like them.

Case in point:  It has come to light that organization is not my thing.

All of my life I have tried to be organized.  I’ve been labelled as ‘conscientious,’ many different times and in my mind I could not be conscientious without also being organized.

The thing is, I’m not.  I’m just not.

Filing systems elude me.  Cleaning overwhelms me.  I can ‘visually organize’ so that things look ‘neat’ in a snap, but I can’t organize bills or clothes or really messy piles of anything worth a darn.  Spreadsheets give me great anxiety.  And I HATE matching socks–which has led to me frequently wearing mismatched ones in fits of wardrobe rebellion.

I remember in school we always had to write an outline before we could write a paper or a paragraph (Anyone else remember power-writing and the all-powerful four color pens?).  I HATE outlines.  Especially when I’m writing.  I can remember literally squirming all the way through writing outlines and wishing that I could just be allowed to write.

I’ve begun to notice that at the words, “Divide your paper into columns” a part of me shrinks inside.

In college, learning to write lesson plans confounded me.  Not because I couldn’t write them and write them well, but because some of my best teaching was done when I scrapped the lesson plan. 

I know that everyone says that kids thrive with routines and schedules…  but I can’t make them happen except in a general way.  As such, I have judged myself an unfit, unscheduled, unable to help her kids ‘thrive,’ Mother.

The thing is, I always considered this lack of organization to be a flaw.  It was another way that I just couldn’t hack it.  Disorganized people are supposed to WANT to be organized, right?

Well I’m discovering that I don’t.

I reject outlines.  I reject columns.  I reject the practice of matching socks (though I will do it on occasion out of love for my husband). 

And I’m unearthing pieces of me from underneath this rejection of organization.  I am discovering my tendency to want to creatively tackle the world. 

I am a creative person.  Isn’t that cool?!!!

When I shift myself out of the ‘wannabebebutneverwillbe organized’ camp and into the ‘tackles the world around her creatively’ camp, I stand taller, and breathe freer, and should on myself so much less…. 

That one simple shift in thinking of who I am is enough to give me hope that this process of dredging up all the ways in which I am profoundly screwed up will give light to more ways in which I can embrace the beauty of who God created me to be.

That would be something of a miracle.

So I’m going to revel and bask in my glorious disorganization, and I’m going to realize the creativity that lies beneath that supposed ‘flaw.’  I’m going to grab at this suddenly transformed and redefined bit of inadequacy as my string of hope in the midst of the rubble of me.  And maybe, in the end, finding all the king’s horses won’t be so important after all.

I am a Changed Woman

If you’d have asked me ten years ago, or even five years ago where I saw myself living throughout my life, I probably would have told you that I didn’t think I’d venture too far out of the familiarity of some sort of Podunk Midwestern town. 

As such, I surprised even myself this evening when during my phone conversation with Husband the following dialogue occurred: 

Husband:  So there are some orders open in Japan.  Wanna go to Japan?

Me:  Shore Duty?

Husband:  Yeah

Me:  Could you still go to school?

Husband:  Most likely.

Me:  Do they have normal food at the Commissary there?

Husband:  Yep.

Me:  Put it on the list.  Japan could be cool.

Will wonders never cease?

Sell Crazy Somewhere Else…

 (Alright, so this one is a bit of a downer.  I’m not looking for a hug or for sympathy.  I’m just writing.  I haven’t had much to say here lately, or maybe I’ve had too much to say, but not wanted to bore you all with the details of my self-absorption by putting it down….. But rather than try to craft something that isn’t really where I am tonight, I figured I’d just write from the spot where I sit.)

So….  I don’t talk much about the depression thing.

But it still is.  It still exists. 

I still hate even typing the word.  Because there’s so much baggage with that word.  I don’t know what it means and what it doesn’t to me or to anyone who may read here.  My preconceptions about the word are still deeply rooted and I’m living this.

I feel so isolated.  Sometimes I just wish I could sit down and have tea with someone who has been there/done that so that I don’t have to feel like such a freak.

It still doesn’t seem like ‘depression’ sometimes.  In my mind I picture a person sitting around in her p.js all day long, being brought to tears by the slightest little thing.

And me….  Well, I rarely cry.  In fact, I’m learning that perhaps that’s part of my problem.

I am functional.  My kids get dressed and fed every day.  I started a ministry for mothers in our church while all this was going on, and I’ve continued to lead that group along with over-extending myself in several different other directions.  I show up to my commitments.  I go grocery shopping.  I even occasionally mop my floor.

But little things slip.  Like contacting people…  Sending packages and letters….  Calling or emailing people back…..  I find myself so overwhelmed at the day to day that the little extras outside of our little family stymie me.  Sometimes I feel like the most self-absorbed person on the planet, for this reason and because of all of my thinkativeness.  I try so hard not to navel-gaze.  I struggle with the fact that I *am* a person of introspection and all that is going on at the moment leads to even more introspecting and does that mean that I am vain and self-centered? 

I am still so overwhelmed so much of the time.  I still say over and over and over again, “Why can’t I just GET IT TOGETHER?!”

It all seems like such a minor thing–like an irritation–a slight headache that won’t go away….  And such a major thing–like being crippled–all at the same time.  I never know from which end of the spectrum to approach it.

Today was a hard day with the girls.  They woke up too early after I went to bed too late.  My fault.  Not theirs.  I started with a deficit of patience.  I snapped for things I shouldn’t have.  I got ‘upstrated,’ as Little Miss says, far too easily.

I went to church for a Mom2Mom planning meeting and Little Miss struggled the whole time in the area of ‘playing well with others.’  Guess what…  her tolerance and frustration level were all screwed up.  Her anger button was pressed with the lightest of perceived infractions against her little person.  I know why.  Of course I know why.  She exhibits the behaviors that are modeled for her.  (Hello–I have a degree in education.  Could all of the lectures I sat through about helping children behave appropriately possibly haunt me any more?)  I did my best to discipline her positively, and to keep tabs on her antics without being down on her the whole time.   My wonderful friend handled a few little things, and then I was mortified at that because *SHE* handled my child so much better than *I* could.  And….  all this at a planning meeting for a “Moms group” no less.

I felt like a failure all day.  I am so weary of feeling like a failure….

I love my children so very much.  This isn’t, nor has it ever been, an issue of my not feeling like I don’t love my children.  I do.  I so very much do.  They make my heart beat and break all at once.  I want so much to give them the best.  To mother them well.  I want so much to feel solidly connected to them.  To feel more than just overwhelmed by them.  To feel confident that I am doing well for them.  To feel free to experience the reckless joy of motherhood without judging all my failings and second-guessing every move I make.

Most disturbing in trying to ‘work through the issues’ of it all (yes, I’ve been going to counseling) is that in so many ways, things are NOT as I thought them to be.  In so many ways, I don’t know who I am.  In so many ways, I’ve been clinging to unrealities about who I am, how I feel, and how I approach the world.  So many of the concepts of who I am are crumbling. 

Here I thought I was all objective and rational.  Here I thought I was so emotionally capable.  (Hey Kyle–what’s the Sociology term that I can’t come up with?  That means that you aren’t emotionally spasming?  I remembered it!)  Here I thought I was ‘self-actualized.’

What I keep coming back to in amazement is the fact that I am broken.  Not just ‘flawed.’  Not just a little rough around the edges.  I’m broke.  I need some supperglue, maybe a staple gun…  Cause I am NOT all held together as I thought I was.  It’s a hard thing to face.

There is grace here.  Of course there is.  God does his best work with brokeness.  I know this.  And I wait eagerly to see what good He will work of these circumstances.

But so often these days, I get to the end of my days–my perfectly normal, nothing really catastrophic is happening, why am I not happy days–and feel that I am just sitting in the rubble.  That I am rubble.  And I wonder where all the kings horses are.

Politics and Naptime…

Today was Caucus Day in Washington State.

Until yesterday, I didn’t know what a Caucus was.  I was simply pleased with myself for having already sent in my mail-in ballot for the State Primary and smugly felt that I had done my civic duty.

With a whim of curiosity about Caucuses, I found out that I was wrong to be so smug.  I learned that in Washington State, the Democratic Party bizarrely totally ignores Primary results.  If you want Delegates to represent your voice, you HAVE to participate in the caucus.   The vote that I cast in the state primaries will do little more than add a minuscule drop of publicity to the candidate for which I voted.  All of these interesting little political nuances are difficult to keep up with when you move often and are slow to update your residency.

Well….  I don’t like my vote to be rendered useless.  I want my vote to count for something.  So, after learning about how a caucus works, and finding out that it was the ONLY way for my vote to really mean anything, I determined that I would go today to fully ensure that I HAD done my civic duty.

Now, Husband also left for a detachment today.  He actually left for the detachment twice, but that is a whole other story of Navy-wife angst.  That meant, that if I wanted to ‘go caucus,’ I’d have to do it with my two darling cherubs in tow.

Now, lest you missed the last two posts, I’ll also add that we’re still getting over the plague stomach flu around here.  This morning after the upheaval of the ‘first’ good-bye to daddy including an early wake-up and sad crocodile tears, Little Miss had a little residual run-in with Phase I of tummy torment. 

That presented me with a dilemma?  Civic Duty?  Or avoidance of the icy glares of the Court of Motherhood?

Given the information I’d gleaned about the importance of participating in the Caucus, and the fact that I like to give myself something to look forward to on days Husband has to leave us and ‘Caucusing’ was my treat of choice, I decided to risk the glares of mothers everywhere and take my recovering children out at naptime to cast my vote.

And I’m glad I did.  It was….  kind of exhilarating to take part in politics in such a tangible way.  I was sitting next to folks who live right down the street from me who felt as passionate, probably even more so, as I do about the importance of this election.  I felt like I was digging deep into the soil of democracy.  The Middle School cafeteria was jam-packed full of folks who also wanted their voices to be heard.  And at the should-have-seen-that-one-coming remark of, “So….  how does it feel to be surrounded by Democrats for once?” hearty laughter erupted from all of us.  Imagine that, I thought, there are more than a few of us up here on the ‘conservative north end’ of our little island.

That said, my initial rush of adrenaline and political glee was quenched some by the late realization that, though I had read on-line that I could sign-in and leave knowing that my vote would be counted, the leaders there today didn’t know that.  So I stuck around for most of the long-haul.

Little Miss was alternately wiggly and droopy.  She was overwhelmed by the crowded room full of people she’d never seen before who all wanted to know her name.  She was tired, not feeling great, and wonder of wonders, hungry.  Baboo was fussy, but flirting a lot–especially with the older gentlemen.  Folks were giving me sympathetic looks all around.  Dear elderly men who looked like a stiff wind would blow them over were sympathetically offering me their chairs. 

And I hung in there.  I did.  Until, standing with my arms full of both of my children, two coats, and my car keys, I could do it no more.  I looked desperately into the eyes of the civic-minded, but apparently not caucus-rules savvy spokesperson of my precinct and pleadingly asked her if there was anything more I needed to fill out or do to fulfill my caucus duties as an everyday normal old citizen.

I saw the look of recognition of my frazzled state flash through her eyes as she assessed my child-ful arms.  She scanned through her official script, and not seeing anything further which would require any more action on my part, she mercifully allowed me to go.

I put Little Miss’s shoes and socks on (she’d shucked them in a howling protest), readjusted Baboo in my arms which felt as though they were going to fall off and trudged back to the Goobermobile thinking two things:

1)  I am so thankful to live in the U.S. where I can be part of this process–where I can raise my voice of support for candidates who offer hope and idealism measured with practical ability in a crucial time for our country and our world, and how freaking cool was it that I got to rub elbows with like minded citizens who felt this same swelling of honor at the privilege….

and

2)  There oughtta be a rule that you shouldn’t mix Politics and Naptime.