Tag Archives: fears

Joy. And how to use both faucets

A couple of months ago, my friend Misha asked me to write a guest post on J.O.Y.

So it’s been in the forefront of my mind, each day, since then.  Looking for it. Feeling it.

And since then, life has happened. Some little pleasures. Some little sadness’s. Some big delights and thrills. And some deep sorrows and heartache too. And, in between, all the beige when life is just ordinary.

I used to think that joy would pour into, or out of, me (not sure how that works) like British water taps (faucets).

ALL.  Or,  NONE.

Hot and scalding joy on the left.

Or FREEZING to the point of numbing whatever body part was unfortunate enough to be under the spout, from the negative emotions out of the tap on the right.

But in my life’s journey, joy isn’t usually that all-encompassing.  Like mixed taps in the rest of the world, I find joy usually blends in with whatever else is going on, across a whole range of my emotions.

 And although the Brits are probably right that separate taps are character building, I don’t find it particularly pleasant. And, I’d much rather my life, and its impact on others, lean towards the pleasant!

 When Misha asked me to write on joy, all sorts of examples jumped into my mind, immediately.  Most of them small, everyday delights. Much of mine felt through my senses, as though sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste, are receptors of joy.  There’s a physical component, whether it’s savoring a glass of wine on a Friday afternoon on my patio, sensing the Divine as I watch the sun set in a cacophony of orange and red, making love on a lazy Saturday morning, catching sight of my kids sleeping peacefully in the twilight, or the rush of seeing my ‘sent’ folder ping with the deliverable I just completed. My senses help me realize when joy is happening.

I think joy can quickly turn from the warm glow of pleasure as you visit with a friend, to all-encompassing ecstasy, when that visit turns into laughing from so deep within, for so hard and so long, that someone ends up wetting themselves. And then you laugh even harder as your joy somehow expands even a little more (especially if it’s not you that did the wetting. That might have the opposite effect.) And finally there’s tears streaming down your cheeks and no room for much of any emotion, but blissful joy. (Of course the memory might have a touch of embarrassment too. For their sake.)

But, even when it’s a milestone JOY, like delivering your first speech as a Vice President, the emotions can be mixed. After all, we really are complicated creatures.  What if the technology failed on you?  Or your boss, or spouse, didn’t make it?  But, I venture a guess that your overarching feeling on that day, and the memories afterwards, are painted with big, wide, brush strokes of joy, with only smaller strokes of irritation or sadness.

The opposite extreme is true too.  I’ve sat with friends whose precious six-month-old has died. And with friends whose parents are gone, much, much, too soon. The sadness is almost unbearable. And the grief palpable. But, there is still a trace of joy. From sharing sweet memories. From silly pictures. From simply showing up–being together and helping to shoulder the pain.  From the shared love.

I guess what I’m saying is, there is room for joy in the mundane, to extreme pain.  Joy can be found each day. In the routine. In the grey.  Our job is to look for it. Acknowledge it.

But I also think that for both faucets to operate together, you have to allow it. No, even stronger, you have to WILL it.

For some unknown reason, which I find sad, we humans see the pain quite easily.  That faucets seems to always work well. All the time.

But, in the extreme moments of pain, I have to make a choice that the event doesn’t, and won’t, define me.  That I am more than the event of my suffering. Sometimes good days are hard to come by, and I have to look for the joy.

I am not the victim of abuse. I am not the spouse who was cheated on. I am not the mother of boy who was hit by a women who had been drinking, and forever changed the trajectory of his life. And the list could go on, of events that have happened in my past. Not one of which defines me. And honestly, none of which I carry with me.  I have chosen to turn on my joy-faucet.

The same is true in the everyday, where joy is not obvious. Where sometimes it is harder to remember to turn on the joy-faucet.  When I’m heads-down, lost in Excel-induced torture, and under the gun for a deadline, there is joy in my accomplishment and expertise.  Joy in the logic and organization of each formula I finally get right (believe me, I celebrate each one).  Or how about when it’s grey and rainy, with nothing but organizing and cleaning on the day’s agenda?  I find joy in the completed accomplishments as I check of my to-do list, but I also revel in my health and physical abilities while decimating spider-webs in those hard to reach places.  And then I celebrate the day is done with a glass of robust, red, wine. That tickles my tongue.

Happiness and joy are not inherently found in my job. No corporation or boss is going to give me joy. Even if it’s the company I founded.  Joy is found, or rather, made, by who I am. By my passions.  This  has been a new revelation for me. I thought this year of travel and experiences we’ve just completed would translate into THE job.  The dream job. The one that would help to change the world.

It hasn’t.

And I’ve had to re-evaluate why I work, and how to find joy in what I do. Because I’m not doing my dream job (and one day, hopefully soon, when I am that fortunate, it won’t bring me joy either). So, I look for joy in things that bring me fulfillment–like the joy I give others when I fix what was driving them crazy. When I create process where there was chaos. I find joy in the skills that I use. In the quality of my work. In the expertise I share. And of course, in seeing the paycheck hit my account.

Many of us intuitively look for, and experience, joy. For others, it is a learned experience. I think joy can be a favorite viewpoint, a way of life, a habit that becomes a discipline.

Because you know what, joy builds a foundation for me to be strong. For me to have hope. For me to dream big. For me to love well.

Here are some steps I follow, to awaken my life, and turn my joy-faucet on full-force:

  1. Know myself. Stick to it. Don’t let someone else’s behavior (or poor choice) make me feel inept or get lost in self-doubt.
  2. Make a conscious choice about what matters to me, things or experiences, without apologizing for it. And then spend my time and money there. And find others with the same values.
  3. Be honest. Life is hard. It’s not all rainbows. Admit how I’m feeling. Both positive and negative. Don’t live in denial. Personal and professional transformation happens when I look inside and ask the hard questions and face up to what I’m feeling.
  4. Be a friend. To myself. To my  Dreamboat. To my friends. Not just when there’s drama. When things are ‘normal’/beige/boring.  Have a conversation with someone who really knows me, when there is NOTHING to      catch up on. That’s when I get to the good stuff. When we have to share from the heart. Or sit in silence. Either way.  Be. Together.  Just show up.
  5. Be brave. Trust my heart. Change the atmosphere around me by stepping out. Bravery is contagious.
  6. Be vulnerable. (Read anything by Brene Brown on joy and vulnerability.)

So I challenge myself, and each of you, to turn on the joy-faucet and make it a habit, to infuse our lives’ paintings with joy. And therefore not make others’ interactions with us, an opportunity to build their character :-)

BE joyful!

 

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Filed under July 2014

I’m fine. Really.

For the last few weeks, my Peanut has been gagging with each bite.  For a week straight, he’s thrown up every, single, meal.

He’s almost five, so it is pretty gross (as compared to the sweet little spit up of newborns that actually smells kind-of-nice), but it’s quite an improvement from the screaming. Bloody. MURDER. That he was doing while we stayed with my parents over Christmas. For weeks on end. (Doesn’t that make you want to invite us over?!)

And, Dreamboat and I are getting pretty good at catching the vomit. So the cleanup is really minimal.

So, I left Dreamboat to pick up the older kiddo’s, and took the little guy to Whole Foods between a myriad of other “to-do’s” on my list. (I’m totally being honest here.  This day didn’t include a single guilty pleasure. Really. Not even a Starbucks stop. Or walking through Z Gallerie to be amazed by all the shiny, sparkly things.  Or browsing Target aisles to get some quiet. Just C.H.O.R.E.S.)

After a whole two minutes of being patient while Peanut drove the shopping cart into elaborate displays (no doubt also very expensive displays, as this was Whole Foods, or as some friends call it, “Whole Paycheck”), I forcefully stuck Peanut in the seat of the cart. For a moment I was grateful that he is small enough, barely, to fit there. Even if I have to make it work by bending his ankles in directions that look wholly unnatural. (He’s never mentioned it hurting. The fact that he doesn’t speak is irrelevant).  And we headed inside with my list of dairy-free, high calorie, foods, that he can eat to gain weight. Hopefully. And not throw up on me. Or the new carpet.

We found some Hemp Milk. And some more Z Bars. And pieces of dates small enough that he can chew. And, I let him sample every single thing he pointed at, without paying for them first. Which I NEVER would let my other kids do. Ever. (Don’t judge. He’s my third child. And they’ve worn me down.)

And, I got distracted, (but there’s no need to mention it was inevitable) and started salivating over the fresh salad bars (which were NOT on my list as I’ve not received a paycheck in over 18 months). Yep, four rows of organic, local, fresh, salad bars.

I started filling the cart.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught sight of a mama, just like me, with her daughter.

She was patient. She was encouraging. She was supportive. I could tell she was fierce. A warrior. In her own world.

I heard her speaking kind words to her daughter. For MORE than two minutes even.

But, she wasn’t making eye contact with the other shoppers.

And, without thinking, I spoke to her, “We had a walker just like that!”

Peanut walker

I had to say it twice.

Eventually, my words broke through her protective bubble. And she sort-of-smiled, unbelieving, up at me, “really?”

She asked, and waited, while her daughter, Grace, introduced herself. (I had to wait for the Mama to translate her daughter’s sweet, but mostly incoherent, sounds.)

She was beautiful.

And a year older than my Peanut. Helping her Mama pick out a nutritious salad. They asked about him, and I answered. Giving them his name and age. While he smiled.

And said nothing.

But, the Mama nodded. Understanding. Accepting.

Grace turned in her walker and looked at me. I congratulated her on being such a great helper.

She beamed. And waved goodbye, shaking her arm emphatically.

And Peanut and I moved on to the next aisle to continue our search for high-calorie, non-dairy, foods.

But then my eyes started leaking. Badly. And, I had to wait it out in the refrigerated section.  And I folded my body forward protectively, over Peanut, and let the tears fall. For a long time, unable to hide that there is a place deep inside. That is broken. Still.

Trying to pull myself together was like trying to sew up a seam that’s been ripped open. When the garment is two sizes too small. (FYI – That’s never happened to me.)

And, like Grace’s Mama avoided eye contact with me, I’m afraid I gave the same treatment to the cashier. Which of course fooled him into thinking I was fine.

I’m sorry I didn’t get Grace’s Mama’s name.

I’m sorry I didn’t give her mine.  It would have been good for me, and hopefully for her, to have a friend in the area. Someone who understands being a special needs family.

But the pain took me by surprise and overwhelmed me.

I guess there’s part of me that isn’t fine.

Just like all those other blogs, where women are grateful, and happy even, for their little ones, regardless of whether they can’t yet call their names.

I guess I’m still hurting. Or hurting again. Either way, it’s the same thing….

Having this little one, my child, is a gift.

But it’s a gift that hurts.

I can’t protect him.

And, he can’t protect me.

But, we can be vulnerable together, which brings great joy. And we can be grateful, for the beauty that fills our lives. Grateful for the amazing memories we share, and the love we infuse into each other’s lives.

You may not have seen the news last week about a car crashing into a daycare in Florida on Wednesday. But I can’t speak about it yet.

I watched the short news clip, taken from a helicopter circling above and was immediately reliving the overwhelming panic of that day, four years ago, when a car drove through Peanut’s daycare, forever changing our lives into ‘before’ and ‘after’ that day. And it somehow triggered the sorrow of each day since.

My heart is broken for the family of the little girl who died. For several of the twelve injured children who are still in critical care. For the day-care worker, suffering with pain, sorrow, and irrational guilt, for being unable to protect her sweet charges.

I can identify with what they are facing.  I can glimpse what they may continue to face for their lifetimes. After the hospitalizations are, hopefully, behind them. After the external healing has long since taken place, and their bodies are well. But the post-traumatic stress from overwhelming, prolonged fear, made worse by the news helicopters hovering above their heads.  And the daily therapies. And the walkers and communication devices. And developmental delays. That are here to stay.

I can say to these families that life will be hard. Brutal even.

But, life together will also be precious.

Each hug, each milestone accomplished will be celebrated that much more for all the months and years of work required to achieve it.

And as last Sunday was Easter, I’ve been thinking about Jesus. (Did you know that only 18% of the people in our world don’t believe in God? Most of the world’s religions do believe in God, and believe Jesus was either God or a Prophet.)

I’ve been thinking about how he gave up his life to carry love.

And that on Easter Sunday, if it was me (we can all thank God it wasn’t), I would have come back to KICK. Some. Ass.

He didn’t. He came back to love. Again.

So I can carry my heart, filled with pain and love, and ask God to rain down on me, please, to try and grow the love part.

And I read this morning that “The broken places heal first.” So, there’s that. And I’m holding to it.

 

Look Mom, no hands!

Look Mom, no hands!

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Filed under March 2013

Today’s choice

I am moved to tears. Daily. By a blog. (Well, I was. BWIHIA – Back When I Had [regular] Internet Access.)

And Dreamboat finally asked me to stop reading it before I come to bed.

The family behind the blog continues to experience heartache that can be overwhelming, and I deeply identify with some of their circumstances. But, do you know what is emerging from their pain? Beauty. Because they, the writer of Chasing Rainbows and her family, choose to learn from every circumstance. Because they choose to overcome. To not just continue living. But, to thrive. To practice gratitude for the good things in their life.

I want to be like that. I want to focus on the silver lining. The joy that exists alongside the darkness and the despair.

I firmly believe that joy comes through gratitude. 

Just let that sink in…Without actively cultivating, or practicing, being thankful, we don’t have joy.

As a mom, it drives me crazy when my kids ask for something the second after they’ve just received a treat.  Can’t they be grateful for a little while?  Gratitude doesn’t seem to come naturally to them.

But, unfortunately, that sounds just like me. Maybe they got my ‘wanting’ genes.

Or, maybe it’s human nature.

I (and possibly, you) want and want and want something, like a house or a job (which is something I really-need-to-find-right-about-now-when-our-bank-account-has-been-depleted-from-this-year-of-travel), and the minute I achieve it, I start wanting something else. The minute I finally get the shoes I’ve lusted after, there’s another pair I must have. That’s true for me, even with groceries. Especially the fresh, organic kind.  I constantly have to remind myself to be grateful. To say thank you. To Dreamboat. To the kids. To friends. To colleagues.

And, of course, the more I speak out my gratitude, the more I become aware of how blessed I truly am. Which then, makes me grateful.  See the beautiful cycle?

We have a family rule, which I love. Before the kids can ask for something, they have to first thank us for three things. Isn’t that awesome? Even though I know they’re saying ‘thank you’ to get something else, it still has the desired effect of making them grateful, and reminding them of how much I do for them, and it makes me happy too. It’s a win-win.

“When we lose our tolerance for vulnerability, joy becomes foreboding.” Think about it. (Quote from Dr. Brene Brown).

We get to choose our attitude. We can choose to live and be content in our circumstances. To open up to others and allow them to get close to us. To be vulnerable. To be present and find the gifts in our lives right now. To find joy.

I know this may sound trite to some of you who are hurting. Suffering. Grieving the loss of someone, or something. But we all face pain. Life can be hard (I would actually say, “Life IS hard”).

Just this week, two hours after finally arriving at our destination in Colorado, joyfully reunited with our two older kids, we sat down to eat with family. For what should have been a raucous reconnection.

But. Instead. Peanut reached out to poke/pet (interpretation dependent on whether you were the toddler or the dog) the family dog. And it bit him. In the face. One tooth went into the outer corner of his left eye. Five additional bite marks were so covered in blood, it was difficult to see how badly his face was hurt.

My darling Dreamboat, concerned about the blood dripping all over my shirt, was trying to stop the flow of blood down Peanut’s face. (Good thing Dreamboat wasn’t aware of how much I spent on that shirt, or he might still be standing in the kitchen, mopping up blood from Peanut’s face.) Within minutes, we decided to bundle him back into the car that we had just gratefully exited (after ten days of driving). We waved a hasty goodbye to the older Littles, and drove an hour to the nearest emergency room.

During the five-hour-visit, Peanut was treated, his eye examined, antibiotics administered, and one bite-mark was stitched up.

Dreamboat and I came crashing down from the adrenaline rush, me with uncontrollable shakes and he with an overwhelming desire to sleep; and had to explain, repeatedly, again (as we have to do as least once a day), that yes, Peanut is four years old, but he doesn’t speak. At three-and-a-half-months-old, he was hit by a car that drove through the wall of his daycare. And since then, he is developmentally delayed. That this dog bite doesn’t even register in Peanut’s Top Five Medical Emergencies. We interpreted his signs, answered their medical questions, and their curiosity, as they treated our frightened, hurting, little boy.

We finally left the hospital, drove an hour back up the mountain, and climbed in to bed just before 3:00am. To wake the next morning and learn, that the dog had been put down.

This sweet dog was well-loved. By all three of our children. By its family. By me.

Just recently it saved the lives of two family members from a pack of coyotes when they were lost, trapped, overnight. It had defended their car from thieves. Their house from intruders and bears (yes, this is Colorado, wild bears get hungry and daring, especially in the spring). But, it had started biting non-thieves, and children that frightened it (Peanut was the second child to be bitten, and its owners were deeply concerned about potential, future, episodes).

That night, through our tears, we raised our glasses and made a toast to the sweet, life-saving, Peanut-biting, dog.

You see, life IS hard.

We all have heartache. Sometimes it is fleeting. Sometimes in comes in the form of a little boy, and stays with me, for each day I am lucky enough to spend with him.

But, there is beauty, and deep joy in life as well. I am grateful to be reunited with my older kiddo’s. And that my Peanut’s eye is going to be fine. And that his little face is healing nicely. And I am grateful for each day I am lucky enough to spend with him.

I am grateful for the beauty and tranquility of these magnificent mountains, restoring my soul.

I am deeply grateful for friends with whom I can be vulnerable with my pain and fears, who bring me great joy.

Today, I am choosing joy. Tomorrow, I hope to choose joy as well.

Will you join me?

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Filed under August 2013

Trailer Trash

I live in a trailer.

And most of the time I love it. Especially on the rare occasion when everything is put away and I can actually see and use the miniscule ‘dining’ table. (As long as I don’t put any weight on it, because the screws around the legs have lifted out of the thin flooring, and it’s about to fall over).

When our family arrived back in the US, we spent three weeks on the West Coast, visiting friends and family, and finally taking the kids on the long-awaited visit to Lego Land…the one thing that we had originally used as bribery, to get them to at-least-not-fight this year-long-adventure.

Then, in a stroke of luck (from Dreamboat’s perspective. My opinion wavers on this one.), an Keystone Outback Ultralight 230 RS (I had to ask Dreamboat to repeat that several times) was for sale in Michigan. (That’s 2,500 miles or 3,582 km from where we were in Seattle.) Dreamboat went and picked it up. Yep, he drove 5,000 miles to go there, hook up the trailer, and tow it back to meet us. So that we could head out again. But, for the first ten days, without Miss O and G-ster. After I safely (and tearfully) deposited them on their flight as unaccompanied minors, to go visit my parents, Dreamboat, Peanut and I, headed out on our last 3 months’ adventure. A US history tour, living in our trailer.

Early morning coffee al fresco

The beautifully described plan, as Dreamboat explained it to me, was to drive a few hours a day, find a lovely place to park (and have electricity, water, and wifi). Then we would hike, or take a bike ride to explore the spectacular scenery. And enjoy hours of job searching, reading, and quiet. I would have plenty of time for my workouts.

While we have seen countless awe-inspiring vistas, our desire to travel without a plan, hasn’t gone to plan. Most of the RV parks are full. Those that aren’t, don’t have hooks ups. And, then I wanted to see Banff. And it was ten-hours-out-of-the-way. Each way. And then, we decided to take up my aunt’s Facebook birthday message to Dreamboat, and go visit her. But, after another ten-hour-drive-to visit her in Kalispell, our emails, phone, and Facebook messages, didn’t connect. And so we left the next morning.

In reality, so far, we have finally stopped driving and set up the trailer after 8pm (the night we went to Banff, it wasn’t until 2:00am). Then, we get up early in the morning to see what the area has to offer, grab some breakfast, and race through packing up the trailer and tying everything down in order to hit the road by the 11am check-out. Then, we sit in the car, enjoying the views, but not able to enjoy internet access or exercise or even much phone access, for another nine to ten hours.

 

Banff!

We’ve been lucky enough to see a stunning array of wildlife. We’ve taken countless pictures of mountains and waterscapes so beautiful they don’t seem real, while still buckled in our seats. And, I’m more grateful than I can express, that Peanut has been a happy, delightful, traveler. And, without the older Littles, I’m able to spend a vast amount of time chatting with Dreamboat, or alone with my thoughts.

Wildlife crossing. Really.

While my thoughts swirl around my dreams and hopes and fears, my inner peace and direction have grown. I keep reminding myself of this inner calm I’ve reached, as I have watched the heat of the tranny (‘transmission’ for you car lingo neophytes) rise steadily into the danger zone. Then to finally hit the top of the pass and breathe a sigh of relief, knowing the engine will get a much needed break from puling the trailer uphill, only to start worrying about the breaks, as we head down miles and miles of steep grades, with runway truck ramps after every turn, and the acrid smell getting stronger and stronger.

Things took a definitely downward turn, for our transmission anyway. And our trailer is currently parked in some friends’ neighbor’s driveway, in Idaho. (Yep. You read that right. Right now I’m grateful for friends around the country. And grateful they’re really good neighbors.) Tomorrow we have an appointment, three hours away at the closest dealer, for the transmission.

Ironically, while this trip so far hasn’t gone according to plan, I’m much happier than I expected.

And, I’m embarrassed to say, that I spent a lot of time and energy complaining to my Seattle friends about it.

It’s true that this portion of our year of travel is my least favorite. There are countless reasons: I find the adventure of visiting other countries more exciting. I am clean/neat obsessed and living without space to put things away might make me require a strait-jacket at the end of two weeks, let alone three months. I dread all five of us being in such small quarters all day, every day. I have driven across the US before, so there’s not much novelty to this trip.  I am not the history-buff my Dreamboat is, and while I enjoy the occasional historical marker, I’d much rather get the Cliff notes version. I am deep-down, unapologetically a City Girl who will miss the activity and sparkle.

And, most importantly, after a few days with my amazing friends in Seattle, it is even more painful to say goodbye, again.

But, life is bitter sweet, right? There is joy to be found, deep joy even, while in the midst of things that are painful, or simply not fun. So, I am loving the time with my Dreamboat. Celebrating his joys. I am soaking in the quiet without my oldest Littles. I am sifting through my dreams and working through my fears. I am working on some long-overdue posts.

It’s three days until we’re supposed to meet Miss O and G-ster in Colorado. Fingers crossed we make it on time, without having to rebuild the transmission, or worse. But, if we don’t, they’re in great hands, and Peanut is getting unlimited time and attention from me and Dreamboat. And I am mostly loving living in a trailer.

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Filed under July 2013

Part 2 (the better part) of “Bad attitude”

There’s no question, I have been blessed with some of the best friends in the world. Truly.  Here’s a response I got this morning, to yesterday’s post:

——————-

I’ve been keeping up on your blog posts and loving how real and true you are.  A few thoughts to cheer you up:
1. The days are long but the years are short. You are making the most of these short years!
2. You are forming lasting, life-enhancing, incredible memories that will last a lifetime.
3. The kids are thriving – even in a foreign country!
4. You are still calling the husband Dreamboat.
5. Keep track of any movies you really want to see. I will rent/watch them all with you when you get back! Girls movie day/evening!
6. Your view is better than mine (and just about every other mom we know).
7. When we are uncomfortable and/or unhappy, it’s usually a time when we are to learn something meaningful.
8. Toothpaste is overrated.
9. I despise laundry. In any country. I do not like it on a boat. I do not like it with a goat. I do not like it, Sam-I-am.
10. Across oceans and time zones, someone is missing you dearly.

Enjoy your adventure!!  Too soon you will have all the Target and Costco amenities at your fingertips…..embrace the adventure that awaits you now, each and every morning.

—————

I feel loved. And reprimanded. And supported. And reminded of how very, very lucky I am. And now I have some of my equilibrium back.

Isn’t she amazing?

So, I’ve gone and done all the laundry. Hired a housekeeper to come over once a week and clean the floors. (Dreamboat and I had a lengthy ‘discussion’ about cleaning today. And a housekeeper was his recommendation. I think to keep me happy. Looove that man.) And made pizza and brownies for the kids tonight. And Dreamboat and I are going out for a drink after dinner.  And I’m going to start on a list of movies to watch with my friend–the anticipation of time with her will make watching them together, even sweeter!

I hope all of you are blessed to have friends just like her in your lives..

H

xoxo

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Filed under January 2013