Stay in Your Own Lane

2014-04-10 17.58.49

La Chica runs over to me to tattle on her brother. She has deemed his table manners to be atrocious and is so offended by them, she insists I take immediate action. The Boy mutters, “Stay in your own lane.”

To which she screams, “Stop saying that! I’m not even on swim team!”

I have to give the points to the Boy on this one. I’ve been teaching the kids to Stay In Your Own Lane. Swimming lessons are for later this season. It’s time for Life Lessons right now. I am always barking at the kids that, “Words have meaning. Choose and use them wisely.” They are so tired of hearing me say this. But I feel the need to drill this into them. We must learn to use our words effectively if we are to have a remote chance of having our needs met. We must learn to express ourselves–who we are, and what we want, and what we need. Otherwise, you’re not effective in your life and work. Otherwise, your needs aren’t met. And the results of both are frustration and sadness.

When I was little, we were told to “Mind your own business,” which is a similar intent. But not quite the same. I don’t want to teach my kids to mind their own business. I want to teach them to mind everyone, and to care for everyone. We should pay attention to who is struggling, who might need help, who is marginalized, who is ostracized. We shouldn’t ignore those who need help, because one day it will be me or you who needs help. I promise you, this is true.

We should also pay attention to those who are effective in their boundaries and honoring who they are. We should pay attention to people who embody grace and mercy and kindness. Because we want to learn from those people. What are they choosing to say? What are they choosing to do, or to decline doing? How–in what tone? In what instances are they reaching out? In what instances are they reaching in?

I don’t want my kids to mind their own business. I want them to pay close attention to each and every one of us: to learn from each other; to seek fairness and justice and kindness, and when its lacking, to fill that void.

I do want them to stay in their own lane though. I don’t want them to see what someone is doing, and compare him or herself to that. I don’t want them to look at someone else’s life and cast judgments. I don’t want them to look over and criticize someone. I want them to focus on doing his or her own personal best. I want them to follow their own paths down their own lanes, to focus on that. Do their personal best, and let others be. Even if his table manners preclude any future dinner invitations.

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The Family That Bikes Together, Falls Together

bike lesson

I’ve done it again. I’ve done yet another thing I swore PK (Pre-Kids) that I would nevereverEVER do. I promise you, you will roll your eyes, and you will definitely lose respect for me if you ever had any in the first place.

Let me preface my confession with a pre-emptive defensive explanation. I’m a firm believer in doing things myself even if it’s not something I want to do. I am terrified of heights but climb onto my roof to clean the gutters. I’ve powerwashed lots of stuff. Put together raised garden beds. Conquered downed trees. Fixed retaining walls. I can show household problems who’s boss! Did I want to do these things? No, but I technically can, so I did, despite being a delicate soul. I hate outsourcing jobs if I can figure it out myself, as unpleasant as they may be. Plus I’m cheap.

Yet I’m outsourcing not only a job, but a rite of passage for my child. I’ve retained a hired gun to teach La Chica how to ride her bike. Yes, I’m well aware it’s like outsourcing potty training. I’ve tried teaching her. I really have. For years. I don’t want what should be a positive memory to turn into a battle of wills that leads to a trail of resentment. And at some point, she really needs to learn to ride her bike. Because I said so. And it’s because I said so that is precisely the problem.

We have a dynamic, she and I. She wants to be just like me, she tries to dress as “twinsies” and replicate my outfits and habits. But when it’s my idea to do something, she refuses. She needs to decide to do things on her own terms and timetable. In her quest to be just like me, she has no idea she already is. I do not like be told what to do. I run in pouring rain, snow, sleet, ice, below-zero temps, in the dark, in 100+degree temps, in every conceivable environment because I can. Because I refuse to let Mother Nature tell me what I can or cannot do. It’s my big F*ck You to her. I shout a lot of metaphorical F*ck You’s to the world at large, because I can. Is it mature? No. It’s also oftentimes neither effective nor helpful, but that’s for another post. It just is. So La Chica gives me her metaphorical F*ck You every chance she gets. She most certainly does not like being told what to do.

I understand also the need to actually parent a child. Provide guidance and parameters and rules and expectations. Those who know me would say I’m actually a pretty strict and conservative parent in most things. But here’s where I’m starting to experiment. I need her to understand her No means No. I need her to understand her feelings and beliefs need to be honored even if I don’t agree with them, even if others don’t agree with them. I need her to believe all of her thoughts and viewpoints are valid. She may not be right, and she may not get her way, but she needs to know that she’s heard.

Otherwise, she soaks in society’s messages of what is proper for a lady, what is beauty for a female, what milestones she should achieve to be deemed a success. Otherwise, she won’t learn that her No really means No, and she’ll be more apt to be pressured into doing things she doesn’t really want to. I want to support her innate ability to assert her self and her being and her needs to the world. The trick is teaching her to do this in appropriate and kind ways.

I don’t agree with her point of view most of the time. In fact, I don’t understand her most of the time. I don’t like her preferences and abhor many of her passions (princesses, make-up, more princesses, the color pink, Katy Perry). But these are the things that resonate with her, make her heart sing. So I need to honor these in ways that are appropriate for her, and acceptable to me.

So what does all this have to do with riding a bike, you ask? You’re wondering if I over-think things, aren’t you? Only when I’m not impulsive. Here’s the thing–she’s consistently refused to take my direction with learning to ride a bike. It doesn’t matter why–it doesn’t matter if she doesn’t trust me, if she’s just digging her heels in to be oppositional, it just doesn’t matter. What matters is she’s said no–she will have no part in learning how to ride a bike with me. So I have to honor that. Yet realistically, La Chica learning to ride a bike would make family bike rides so much more entertaining and mobile–forward movement is helpful with bike riding. So I have to figure out how to do this while honoring her decision. I knew I had to bring in a neutral third party to be the buffer. She is remarkable with teachers and other parents. And she was actually really excited for her lesson. Until it actually began.

But I tell you, it was a marvel to witness. I saw so much of myself in her. Every time she fell, she got back up, and she cried and screamed and kicked the bike. But she refused to give up. There was defiance in her posture, scrappiness in her picking the bike back up, fierceness in her face as she stared the teacher down. She has no idea we are indeed “twinsies.” We both love our metaphorical F*ck Yous.

The morning exhausted her. Being pissed off for 90 minutes takes something out of you. So I was surprised she let me take her out to practice some more in the afternoon. We talked about how she never gave up, and how in life we all fall down. We talked about how the important thing is how we get up. We talked about how we all get hurt, and that’s OK to live through that pain. We talked about how proud we are of ourselves when we are on the other side of the pain. We talked about how we do hard things. She got back on her bike, took some deep breaths, and said softly, “I’m scared. I can do this.” And off she went coasting down the hill.

She still can’t ride her bike yet. She’s still learning. And she’s still feisty: she said to me, “At least I didn’t get kicked out of class like you did when you fell off the motorcycle.” I may or may not have “helped” her down the hill then.

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Throwing Up My MEssiness–My Messy Beautiful

My MEssy BEautiful Carry On Warrior Glennon Doyle Melton

There are very few things I am good at. When I say “few,” I mean 5. I am a good baker. I am very good at yelling at my kids. I excel at injuring myself on a regular basis (traumatic brain injuries, staples in the head, motorcycle spills, and detached retinas to name a few). I’ve been told I’m frequently inappropriate even whilst sober, so I’m good at embarrassing myself and those around me.

My most useful talent though is that I’m a good writer. I can be poignant, I can be clever, I can be funny, I can even be modest. I finally pursued my passion of writing in 2011 after committing myself to a journey of living a life of loving kindness, compassion, authenticity and vulnerability. Of putting my shame and feelings of inadequacy down, of learning to be brave and scared simultaneously. Of doing hard things. Of tapping into the courage and strength that has always been deep inside me, but that I did not always honor. So I’ve shared my MEssy parts–my own naughty bits if you will, of body image issues, rape, parenting strugglesbroken hearts, longing, spirituality, health issues, divorce, and inadequacies among other MEssy things. I write to connect through vulnerability and authenticity. To show others we’re all in this together. To connect with each other, because connections require being vulnerable and authentic, and that has always been hard for me. So when this project came up, it resonated with me in so many ways and is in line with how I live my life and why I write. I knew I had to do this.

What is this project you ask? Glennon Doyle Melton’s book “Carry On, Warrior” is a way of living; celebrating our messy, beautiful lives instead of trying to clean up our lives and ourselves: “Parenthood and marriage and faith and friendship and healing and writing- they are all messy. And so we want to hear from you ABOUT THAT. We want your real story. Truthful and authentic and hopeful and encouraging, too. Stories that make us believe we’re in this together- that life is hard but good, and it is really possible to Carry On, Warrior.”

But I have now discovered I am also good at writing and vomiting simultaneously. I don’t think she wanted to hear ABOUT THAT. I have also discovered I am good at “writing” without generating a word when my brain freezes and I panic, and the only words I’m actually writing are “Help” and “Fuuuckk…” See, I choke when it matters. When it was my small, comfortable blog, I wrote when it felt right, and the words flowed easily and eloquently and smartly. But I’m choking now, when this matters, when you might read this. I am good at choking. Taking risks, apparently not so much. Story of my life. Humorous case in point:

A moment with my “boyfriend”–his name is Bradley Cooper, you may know him: When I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet him, I froze. He smiled kindly and said hi. I squealed. Out loud. He laughed at me, and since a one-sided conversation goes nowhere, he walked away. Choke.

So why is this My Messy Beautiful project such a big deal when I write every day? I’m afraid I’m not MEssy enough. I’m afraid I’m too MEssy. I’m afraid people will wonder why I think I’m good enough as a writer, good enough as a human being, to participate in this project. I’m afraid I’m not unique enough so people will wonder why I’m wasting their time reading this. I’m afraid my readers will wonder why I keep repeating myself and offer nothing new. I’m afraid this won’t resonate with anyone. I’m afraid no one will like it. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid the one thing I love to do, the one thing I think I’m good at, will be thrown back in my face in rejection. I’m afraid I’ll have understood the assignment all wrong. I am terrified of not being Enough in any and every way that matters in this very moment.

I want to be a MEssy, Beautiful Warrior. I am afraid I am not Beautiful in my MEssy. I’m afraid I’m just MEssy in a tilting of the head, cocking of the eyebrow, and walking away way. When it comes down to it, I’m afraid of not being seen, and of not being validated. I’m afraid of being dismissed and diminished. Because I wasn’t Enough.  Good Enough, Smart Enough, Witty Enough, Messy Enough, Beautiful Enough. Me Enough.

Today I don’t know how to share my story, all my mess in one short essay, despite having shared my story publicly for three years. Today I don’t know what to write about. I just know I really, really want to vomit. I keep writing though, I’m going to finish this. Even while I vomit. Even though I know this is not one of my better essays. I continue to practice being brave and scared and doing hard things. Because I know this to be true–I know once you know, you can’t un-know: And I know I am brave, even when I choke. I know I am just MEssy enough to be dangerous. I know the tears from not trying will taste so much more bitter than the tears of failure. I know the joy and peace that comes with being vulnerable and authentic, even when it hurts.

And I know I’m right when I fear I’m not unique. I know we’re all in this together. I can feel this truth when I write. If I can be brave and scared and do hard things, you can too. We all can. I know this to be true. I also know I am more apt to clean the toilets frequently when I’m prone to vomit often. These are my truths, and this is my story. And this is ME in my MEssy Beautiful.

Carry On Warrior Glennon Doyle Melton


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Running and the Art of Living

running art of living

I started running for weight loss. I continued running for stress relief and meditation. It made me feel alive. Now, I run for life. I’ve come to realize running is life. Everything about running can be said about life. Here’s some of what I’ve learned about life through running:

Forward movement: La Chica, who is 7 years old, loves to run with me. No, let me rephrase that. She loves the concept of running with me. During the actual running part of our runs, she complains and moans and whines and screams and spits and shoves. She never gives up, but she hates every painful moment. I remind her to just keep going. No matter what, just don’t stop (mainly because the car is parked by the finish line and I need to get her home eventually). You can run/jog/shuffle as slow as you want to, as slow as you need to, but whatever you do, just don’t stop. Keep going. Forward movement. One step in front of the other, and you’ll succeed. You may not know what the course looks like or where you’re going, but just keep going and in the end you’ll be right where you’re supposed to be, at the finish line. Or beer tent.

Each mile is different: A trainer told me once that each mile is different. Some are easier than others, some stronger than others, some more painful than others, some slower than others. No mile is the same. I used to be so black and white, all or nothing. I viewed races or runs either as I completed them, or I didn’t. I ran a good time, or I sucked. Was it good or bad? Since hearing this new perspective, I’ve paid attention and become more mindful in my runs, and sure enough, each mile is different. The first few almost always suck for me–it takes about 3 miles for my body and mind to work out the kinks and aches and really warm into my runs. If I quit before 3 miles due to aches, I would never feel the joy and exhilaration of mile 4, or 7, or 9. I wouldn’t see the heron by the lake or have the pleasure of being attacked by angry geese. Some moments in life are harder and more painful than others. But we need to keep moving forward through the difficulty and pain to get to the joy and wonder in life. Don’t generalize one bad mile into being a bad run. Don’t generalize one crisis or failure or hurt into a bad life. Not every mile is difficult, not every moment is hard. Each step adds up to a mile. One mile at a time. Each moment adds up to a day. One day at a time.

Just breathe: And the mindfulness leads me to breathing. When I’m in a really horrible mile, where I’m just feeling weak or tired, or everything aches, all I want to do is stop and go home. The beauty is I make sure I’ve run far away enough from home that this is not a possibility. This is why I don’t do treadmills well–because I am home so I do indeed stop. So when I absolutely hate the current moment while I’m running, I remind myself that each mile is different, and this too shall pass. And while I’m waiting for it to pass, I breathe. I focus on my breath and my form and my body cutting through the air and space. I breathe my way through the pain and difficulties. When a moment in life is hard or painful, I remember (most of the time), to breathe. And it passes. It may come back again, but I breathe through that too, remembering how happiness and peace and joy are interspersed through life as well. And I remind myself I am grateful to be alive and able to feel the pain, because I know that means I’ll be able to feel the joy that comes later too.

Buddy system: As you can see, running gives me the space to be very introspective. I need and love a lot of time to myself. Running used to be a solitary sport for me not only for thinking, but because I felt very inadequate about my running. I felt I wasn’t fast enough or good enough to run with someone. I felt great embarrassment about my lack of suave and graceful running form and speed. One day, a friend asked if I was interested in running a race with him. I had always refused to run races because in my black and white thinking, I thought races were about winning–why would you call it a race if it was just about participating and not about trying to beat everyone else to the finish line? Call it a playdate or festival or happy hour then, or something! But I agreed to do it with great trepidation and fear, and a promise of Bloody Mary’s post-race. And it turned out to be a lot of fun. I now have a trusted running partner that I really enjoy running races with. He is always supportive and kind and encouraging. I feel safe with him, I trust him. I know he won’t judge me, and he accepts my pace for what it is. Through running, I’ve learned to be vulnerable and to open space to trust someone. I’ve learned doing my best and having fun is what connects us as humans, and that’s the best swag in life.

Posted in Empowerment, Meditation, Mindfulness, Running | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Fool Me Once…

April Fool's Day

What was the best prank you ever pulled off for April Fool’s Day? I got married. In Vegas. In a free standing chapel on the strip. You know, because I’m real classy like that. To be fair, it wasn’t a prank, and to be fair, I’m not really all that classy even though I can clean up fairly well.

Elvis wasn’t there–it wasn’t a prank, even though I think it may have been the same chapel Britney Spears got married in. We meant to get married. We had been dating for years, and engaged for a year as we planned a real wedding with favors and guests. This spontaneous decision just seemed like the thing to do at the time, and we did it. Let me tell you, my parents were not pleased. We hadn’t planned on eloping. In Vegas. On April Fool’s Day. But we did.

We used to say if we ever divorced, we’d just shout “Just kidding!” to the other about the marriage. Well, coupling and uncoupling isn’t as simple or lighthearted or fun as an April Fool’s prank. We took our vows seriously, we worked hard at raising our family. More than anything, I believed in the commitment I made not at the ceremony, but when we got engaged. I had said yes, I would build a life with you and your family. I took that very seriously, and I really believed everything would work out in the end even through the difficult times. I had doubts, I saw red flags, but I wrapped them up tightly with hope and the belief that love always prevails. That’s what fairy tales and movies and society taught us–that in the end, everything would be ok.

That message is the prank, I’ve come to learn. Believing in that message made me the April fool. Things don’t always work out in the end. There isn’t always a happily ever after. There was nothing funny about the slow descent into uncoupling. There was nothing lighthearted about realizing the world as you knew it no longer existed, that everything you believed about life isn’t actually so.

On April Fool’s Day, many of the pranks are of the harmless bait and switch variety–tricking someone into believing in something that it’s not, like cupcakes made to look like spaghetti and meatballs, or swapping out sugar for salt. We thought and hoped and wanted and meant for this to last forever, and it did not. I’ve been divorced now longer than I was married. Somehow that sounds strange to me. Not quite a bait and switch, but I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to happen that way traditionally.

“Just kidding,” we were to say to each other if things went south. Instead, I think the words were actually, “I just can’t do this anymore.” I can’t say I was just kidding about our marriage, or that I didn’t take our commitment seriously. A lot of things happened, a lot of things didn’t happen. The demise, like our relationship, had everything to do with both of us. But it was no joke.

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When I Grow Up…

e.e. cummings

What do you want to be when you grow up?

We ask kids this all the time. We don’t ask: What are you good at? What do you enjoy? What speaks to you? What job do you want to do? What occupation might fulfill you or make you happy? What job do you think you would be good at? What do you want to be doing for the bulk of your days?

No, we don’t ask any of those questions, but we ask what do you want to be?

It’s no wonder so many people encounter some sort of identity crisis at some point in their lives. We’re setting people up at an early age by using the words, “What do you want to be?”–we’re tying a job, a set of duties, day-to-day activities, a paycheck, to who a person is. That’s powerful stuff.

And we tend to project characteristics of an occupation onto an individual–we assume priests are kind, good, trustworthy, and honest people. We assume pimps are generally not. We groom children for careers, and what those careers might say about you. Our careers become so much a part of who we are, what we identify with. One of the first questions commonly asked at parties is, “What do you do?” Doctors are smart, salespeople are personable, accountants are careful. There’s a lot of assumptions and judgments about your personality and lifestyle wrapped up in one word. The successes or failures of our careers and career choices oftentimes determine how people view us, and subsequently our own self-worth.

This becomes problematic when, as all things that go up always do–career trajectories must come down. Life never unfolds in a linear fashion. We have ups and downs. Life isn’t fair. We don’t all get promotions and bonuses for a job well done or for hard work. We don’t always get our just rewards. That really messes with our sense of self, and our sense of justice in the world. Depression sets in when you feel like you’re not providing for your family enough, or if you haven’t been promoted yet. You begin to question yourself.

Then there are times when we just don’t know what we want to do next in life. We may want to do so many things, both professionally and personally. Or we might not have any idea what we want to do at all. But through society’s message, we believe our career choices determine our self-worth and who we are. That’s a lot of pressure. One mistake, and well, I don’t even want to know. Anxiety paralyzes you, and then the depression sets in.

This is where we have it all wrong. You know I believe words have meaning, and we need to choose and use our words wisely. Let’s look at the definition of a career:
-a job or profession that someone does for a long time
Notice there’s nothing about a career being who you are. It doesn’t say anything about the character of your being, or your work ethic, or your interests, or your compassion, or your resiliency, or your humor.

Now what about this second definition?
-a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling

Why don’t we train for jobs that resonate with us, that we enjoy, that we’re good at, that pays the bills, that allows you to feed all the different parts of who we are? And why don’t we think long and hard about who we want to be when we grow up? Why aren’t we asking our children these questions?

I used to say even in my 30s, and as I turned 40, that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. But I do know. I want to be kind and compassionate and grateful when I grow up. I want to enjoy my life as I grow up. I want to make a difference in this world when I grow up.

I asked my kids what they want to do when they grow up. The Boy wants to be a horseback riding instructor, or an Olympic equestrian, or anything that remotely has anything to do with horses. He wants to enjoy his life with what resonates with him. La Chica wants to be a teacher–of ballet, or math, or Rainbow Looms, or any subject matter quite frankly. Or a babysitter or daycare provider. When asked why so many options, she says she just wants to take care of people, she just wants to love people.

Those are great career goals–what a permanent calling to have: to take care of people, to love people, to enjoy life. So long as they can pay their bills, I think being joyful and spreading love are the right goals in life. There’s no way you can have an identity crisis with that.

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Dancing Queen

Dharma Comics

Dharma Comics

I’m gonna put my dancing shoes on. No, not the glittery stilletos when I go clubbing. I mean good old fashioned social dance. Ballroom dance. Salsa. Tango. Foxtrot. I’ve got a date with Mr. Arthur Murray!

Why? It’s my acupuncturist’s fault. She’s like my own personal Yoda with little tiny needles and amazing glass cups, but regular shaped ears and normal skin tone. She and I go about living our separate lives, doing our own separate things, and sometimes we intersect in moments of life (we’ll call them “appointments”) when she’ll work wonders on my back and knees and neck and qi. Every now and then, BAM, she randonly throws some wisdom at me that I just wasn’t expecting. It used to piss me off.

But we’ve started getting friendlier because she sees me mostly naked more than anyone else these days. We make small talk, and she told me about her ballroom dancing hobby. I shared that I took a Social Dance class in college and it did not go well. I said I was surprised it was so difficult.

She remarked, “It’s actually not hard. You do hard things. You’re impatient and don’t follow well. The problem is you don’t like to be led.”

And then she had the nerve to leave the room. So I’m alone in the room with only her words, a thin sheet, and a bunch of needles in my back. Damnit if she’s not right. How does she do this?

I have to admit to myself she’s right. I hated that dance class. I hated not being in control. I hated that I had to relinquish control to someone who was supposed to gently guide me. I was supposed to trust someone’s abilities and intentions. I was expected to just go with the flow as a stranger defined it. And in a class setting, your lead differs with each class. You meet new people all the time, and I was supposed to just trust them?

I decided I didn’t like this topic so being the mature adult I am, I chose to ignore her when she returned to the room. But in a subsequent appointment, like a moth drawn to a flame, I asked more about her dancing. She told me where she dances, and then turned it right back to me. She said, “You must learn to trust to let someone lead. Let him make mistakes. Wait for him to come back to you. It’s OK even when he makes mistakes. Follow him. He’ll come back.”

Ugh. So there you have it. My next adventure is social dancing. Why? Because I need to practice how to trust and follow and relinquish control. I used to trapeze to trust. But since I can’t do that any time soon, dancing it is. It’s gonna be ugly, in all sorts of ways. “You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life…”-Abba

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