Indulge yourself. Look up from your small screens to see the big picture.
Jump offline to jump outside.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Indulge yourself. Look up from your small screens to see the big picture.
Jump offline to jump outside.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Hello! I hope everyone in the U.S. enjoyed their Thanksgiving holiday.
It has been a while since I’ve written anything regularly. The last series I wrote with any daily dedication was the 30 Days of Jung where I took a quote of his and did my lay-person best to make sense of it while sitting in my cheap seats. I had a great time with that series and considered myself developing somewhat of a niche: the self-effacing, occasionally humorous psychology nut.
I fancy myself a writer and I love to do what all great writers say to do in order to become a great writer: read great writers. I love reading other writers, I love writing about them, I love imagining how they decided to come up with that phrasing and how I feel so merely mortal when I read it.
Because my life radically changed on Labor Day when my mom died, I fell off the writing horse, so to speak, in terms of being my old self; partly because I felt my old self was gone. One of the ballasts of my old self had died. In short: I was exquisitely lost, but I knew I needed to write about it. So I did.
Then I started to feel self conscious, as though all I was writing about was grief, and Mom and me and grief. I didn’t want to be a downer. So I changed my tune, perhaps a little too early or perhaps even announcing that I was changing my tune was something I shouldn’t have done. (More about my penchant / need for intention / purpose soon.) I regretted it almost immediately: that I shared my decision to stop writing about my grief, but I also knew that I needed to shift gears. I didn’t want to ignore it but I also didn’t want to focus on it.
It was all so hard. Is so hard.
Which brings me to right now.
I loved the Jung series. I feel it prepared me for the yoga retreat which ultimately prepared me for Mom’s death (I’ve written about that dovetailing in a post called “Wahe Guru“). The Jung series was regular, predictable, something I could count on being there, so I find myself needing and wanting that anchor again. So now, I’m going to start 30 Days of Brené Brown, whom is a modern-day philosopher of sorts. She is my “if you could have dinner / evening out with anyone you don’t know who would it be…” -person.
As with Jung, I selected the quotes as ranked on Goodreads by readers whom I believe highlighted the quotes in the books on their ereaders which were then uploaded onto Goodreads because Amazon owns Goodreads and everything between Uranus and the Degobah system (apologies to George Lucas). Each per-quote write-up will be in the neighborhood of 1,200 words (don’t ask why 1,200; it seems to be the point at which I start to run out of gas and I think you do too). I am picking 30 Days because well, why not?
This is “Day 0” — where I’m letting you know. It’s almost 10:00 pm where I live so I don’t plan on writing via Brené tonight although I can’t wait to get started. I also don’t want to jump right into this without sharing a little about my Thanksgiving, as I’m guessing both of you are curious about how it went this first time without Mom. It went well. It was momentarily bittersweet and graciously easy. We seem, as a tribe, to be navigating these waters with relative steadiness and patience for one another.
My brothers and I all recognize that we all had different “versions” of Mom, just as how my sons will have different versions of me based on our chemistry and relationships (although my relative health and awareness is vastly different from Mom’s to my brothers and myself).
In the early stages of our grief it felt to me that we clung to our various versions of her as though they were buoys. I am the middle child and I’ve got four years between my brothers and myself, so even those four years create quite a crevasse in her own personal development, any major challenges notwithstanding. Everything I have read about birth order and timing of children suggests that a span of four years or more between the children creates a space where each child is virtually an only child in terms of parenting attitude, fatigue and sibling relations. That theory was both myth and truth in those first posthumous days. I’d never felt closer to my brothers in those first days while at the same time I felt very separate.
While I was fiercely drawn to them both, I was reluctant, to tolerate either of their versions of her. I accepted the notion that there could be different versions, but I didn’t want to debate them or hear about them. I felt it was essential that everyone see her as I saw her, which (especially in those first days) was completely as the flawed saint and alternately undefinable. As time wore on, and we shared with each other more, the different versions became as real as the differences in our own persons. Mom occupied the same body, but she was in different places with us energetically.
This Thanksgiving holiday was the first time we were all together again since Mom’s funeral. For me, it had an almost challenge-like vibe: “We Will Get Through This 2013” — I should have made t-shirts. I was girded for anything and that girding was unnecessary. Having an adorable drunken-sailor -esque toddler bounce about the house wielding my sons’ various light sabers and make his own sound effects on top of the ones the sabers already make was a definite spirit lifter.
For me, it was nice, especially to have everyone in my house. Even though we have the world’s smallest kitchen, I loved it. Coming from a place of mental preparation helped too because I was ready for the “break” from the confusing drama and the heavy emotions that so often accompanied major holidays in my family: for so many years, the attention and energy were sucked away by fear and confusion over Mom’s condition. This year, we could focus and share and enjoy each other equally throughout the long weekend — that was a first and at times it was for me a little disorienting, but welcome nonetheless. We are all a little crazy, as both of my brothers have said to me and each other since Mom died. We have our quirks and unmet needs and we will always do our dances around each other; that’s natural — dysfunction or not — but there was no heaviness or fear.
As I pulled away from my brother and his team at the airport today, I caught a glimpse of my beautiful niece looking back at me in my car and we smiled and I waved hesitantly, I wasn’t sure she saw me so my hand went down as soon as it went up. A lump formed in my throat for her because I realized what was happening: they were going home and I already missed her, I missed them all.
In the final analysis: Mom gave us to each other as siblings and we figured it out somehow. The next thing we did was find impeccable mates, some of the strongest people in the world for our weirdnesses individually and collectively — they loved us enough to marry us, knowing where we came from. No one is perfect, but we’re good with that.
So the first Brené Brown entry will start tomorrow, December 2. I hope I will hear from some of you in the comments section. I often say that the comments areas to me are where some really great conversations can be had. It’s a real treat for me to be able to exchange ideas with you.
If you think this post is only about yoga, you’re wrong. This post is about life, intention, and something we all need some help with from time to time: staying focused.
When I was on the retreat (yes, I’m writing about the retreat again as a point of reference), we “tuned in” with a chant every time we did something new or began the day or the session.
The chant was usually “Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo.” If we’d already done that and took a break from a lesson but came back to the lesson, we’d do another chant, “Ad Guray Nameh” and that would be for the all-important purpose of: focusing, getting us all BACK on the same page, continuing the tone we set previously, and continuing the intention.
For the purposes of the yoga instruction, it’s not unlike the Pledge of Allegiance that is said in schools across the country. It’s not unlike the oath a witness takes with one hand on the Bible when in court. It’s not unlike “Amen” at church. It’s not unlike “to those about to die, we salute you” in the gladiator days. It’s not unlike singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” before a football, soccer, baseball, hockey game in stadiums and little league fields dotting America. Think: Henry V’s St. Crispin’s Day speech.
Doing all those things Sets The Tone for what we’re all about to do. That’s all it does. It doesn’t change your religion, it doesn’t make a radical shift in your already unique personality, it doesn’t mean you’ve joined a cult. It means you’re simply On Board with what you said you’d be on board with… it’s basically committing: putting your money where your mouth is for the purposes of what you’re about to do. Y’know, “checking your ego at the door.”
So while I was on that retreat, I realized about halfway through it that I hadn’t seen a mission statement for the organization I’d just begun presiding: the high school rowing team’s Board of Directors.
This was a big deal to me because I’m big on communication and intention and orientation: not only knowing what the hell we’re doing, but also WHY we’re doing it, it’s part of my 3 thing (see yesterday’s post).
The lack of the mission statement (to me) highlighted many of the previous Boards’ struggles: dysfunctional behavior, personal agendas, bias, the lack of neutrality, and a host of other really random, toxic and odd behaviors befitting an entire season of “The Office.”
So for the two days I was home between the vegan yoga retreat I’d closed and the bacon beach bacchus I was about to experience, I’d decided to come up with a mission statement. I had based it on the PTA mission statement I used as my e-mail signature and posted on my bulletin board during my tenure.
Having that verbiage kept me impartial, it helped me to remember, at the time, that my clients were people who couldn’t open their own milk in the cafeteria, or who couldn’t yet tie their own shoes, or who needed to ask permission and then get a buddy to go to the bathroom with them. I’d often reminded the past principal of her clients during one of our many heated exchanges and I often got the sense that she didn’t like that reminder.
So for the rowing team, I needed to keep my eye on the prize here as well. Who are my clients as the president of the board of directors that oversees and manages the high school rowing team?
Are my clients the parents? No.
Are my clients the coaches? No.
Are my clients the other officers? No.
My clients are the at-times gangly, pimpled, awkward, loud, self-conscious, diamonds in the rough we call high school students.
So when I’d proposed my mission statement to the other officers on the Board, I began with a simple relative comment, “All of you were informed that I was on a yoga teacher training retreat for basically 20 days, in total. If you’re at all familiar with yoga, you might know that many classes begin with a chant, ‘om’ before the work begins.” I got a couple weird stares, and a couple self-conscious snorts from some of my fellow officers… that was about them, not me, so I ignored them.
I continued, “I’m not here to make you do that. I have no expectations that any meeting ever will begin with ‘om.’ The purpose of saying ‘om’ at the start of a yoga practice, group or solo, is to ‘tune in’ to get everyone / your spirit on the vibrational level of what you’re about to do. I won’t go into the energy and the vibrational effects of chanting because that’s not what this organization is about, but what I am here to do is to create a mission statement to do the very simple-sounding yet difficult act of creating neutrality and inspiring all of us to work in the best interest of the rowers, not our children who happen to be rowers, but all rowers. Capiche?”
The awkward glances and snorts were replaced with seating shifts, focused eyes, throat clearing and “great idea.”
So the mission statement I’d created for the rowing Board is open for discussion, editing, critique, and intention with the other officers. We will vote on it at the next meeting after everyone gets a chance to process it and think of how it might need any changes. I’m pumped. One of my goals all along, in all of my life actually (as it’s becoming stunningly clear to me every day) is to clear the lines of communication; to encourage people to be more aware of the words they say and more importantly, to hear the words other people say.
I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face: 95% of all communication is nonverbal. That means eye rolls (contempt), shoulder shrugs (frustration), pursed lips (conflict, fear of speaking), pursed lips with puffed cheeks (‘you’re full of it and here it comes…’) dead stares (anger), fast nods (agreement, but rushing, ‘get on with it’).
I was speaking to my husband about this mission statement stuff this morning and we agreed that we should create mission statements for ourselves, on a personal level, to make sure we are honoring our own personal growth which will naturally affect the growth of the organizations we serve: our children, our colleagues, our neighbors, our friends, people in traffic with us, people in the coffee shop with us, people on retreat with us, our families of origin and … our Selves. Maybe when we get all that done, we can come up with a mission statement for our little team here at the house.
So, do you (at business, at home, on the street, in the car, at the water cooler, on the couch with your kid, in the bed with your lover, in the mirror with yourSelf ) have a mission statement?
What is your mission in life? To be world-class selfish or to be world-class awesome?
Mine is to be world-class awesome. As soon as I finalize it, I’ll share it.
It sucks in this day and age, when kids turn “pastries” (the last time I checked a pop-tart on its own was a weapon of mass construction) into guns, or West Virginia or New York State, that we have to be extra vigilant about items brought in for Sharing Day.
But in an obvious effort to cover my ass, I am sharing my letter to the teacher (while ccing the administration and my husband that I sent at 9:04 this morning) to let both of you know that while I agree with all policies to protect the children, sometimes a kid’s imagination needs its assurances as well.
Good morning Mr. Schautzenklampfer,
I just left the school after writing you a note to apprise of the fact that Thing 3 brought in what he calls the “staff” of whom I believe is the wizard Gandalf from Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.”
Essentially, it is just a piece of falling limb (about 4.5′ long) from a tree in our backyard with a blue Lego ball placed between the fork of the limbs by packing tape.
I left the note affixed to the packing tape and placed the staff behind your desk, to inform you that I wanted to make sure that I was doing my best to perform within any school policy regarding any “weapons” on campus even though it’s not a weapon, it’s a piece of wood with a Lego ball “suspended” from the fork of the limb. I also left commentary that if you need to have me come up and get the staff to please do call me. Again the staff is behind your chair at your desk, it is not available to Thing 3 or openly available to any of his classmates. The front office staff (Yanosh Greenblexter) and the temporary substitute teacher is aware of the situation and that I was leaving you a note.
Upon my leaving the classroom, Thing 3 realized that today is not his “sharing day.” But after I left the note and staff behind your desk I just figured that if you needed me to come get it you would let me know.
So what to do now? Do I sit by the phone and wait for the call that my kid has been suspended? Do I rail against the tide and fight for change of insanely fearful adults who’ve forgotten that childhood imaginations are places of wonder and security and safety?
My kid’s about as apple pie as you can get. Here’s a pic of him yesterday feeding grass to our dog. That’s right, he fed our dog grass. … Well, see for yourself:
So now I wait.
UPDATE 9:43am from Mr. Schautzenklampfer:
Hi Molly,Thing 3 can share today instead of on the 16th. No problem! Thanks for taking the time to explain and keeping us informed.
Phew! Now I can go to yoga with my cell phone off. 🙂