My Own Hula Hoop

Being a parent has introduced me to a state of generalized anxiety. They are everything to me and there they go wandering around trying to touch sharp things and fall off high places. 

Ben is voicing a strong fear of the dark. There was a break under the door and a pair of socks was casting a shadow and he thought someone was standing there. I was alarmed at his sense of fear of the unknown intruder- where did he even get that? Why does he think that’s possible? 

But of course  it’s technically possible and I have so many fears that are just as unlikely. But also I want to communicate to him that in this moment he is safe and make that feel like a blanket over him. Do you trust mama and daddy? You are safe. Leave it to us. And yet if we could protect him from everything I wouldn’t be waking up in a cold sweat every morning around four. Alina has been sleeping badly, and so we all sleep badly, and when I get in the habit of sleeping badly, anxiety and general craziness becomes The Thing.

I went to my awesome Al-Anon meeting yesterday (friends and family of alcoholics) and found that the same message was trying to find its way to me. I am safe. Not from everything but from far more than my list of worst case scenarios that I like to visit. 

And at any rate, most of life is not in my control. It’s not in my hula hoop and I need to put it out of my mind. In order to shut down the thoughts of fear and anxiety that come with no sleep and having your heart walk around outside of your body, I have to put different thoughts in. I try to focus on the next thing. I try to tell myself that I am safe. I ask myself if this problem is mine to solve. I ask myself if that person has asked for my help or advice. I try to stay in my hula hoop.

One of the members said yesterday “just being in the presence of women is powerful”. There were no men there that day but I find their presence powerful, too. It’s an unbelievable force, a quiet gathering of strangers for the singular purpose of collective support. The fact that we feel the safest there, with these strangers that already understand so much of our deepest fears, is astounding. 

How do you find your peace? Not just a bubble bath or a quick walk but your sustainable practice? 

Share it here!

It’s always helpful to hear new paths to achieving that sense of deeper calm. Especially after kids… 

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Trying to Trust

Yesterday I was laying in bed reading, my huge fluffy duvet tucked under my chin. It was morning, and Scott had taken the kids so that I could take a break. I was warm and listening to the cat purring loudly and the banging of toys, toddler giggles and gentle reprimands in my husband’s baritone. As always, I wanted nothing more than to be out there with them, and exactly where I was, both at the same time. Ben stomped down the hall with his glowworm and asked him seriously what it was that HE dreamed about last night. Sometimes I am so tired and sometimes I am just trying to figure out why it is so hard to keep enough food in the kitchen, because my toddlers are secretly a football team that devours pantries in the night. Sometimes I am distracted and in a mild amount of pain and frustrated by laundry. But most of the time I am breathing in these moments of clarity, where there is nothing else but a beautifully glowing “right on, sister” resounding in my heart and my mind and my soul. Right on, sister. This is a good life. You did well. You had no idea how you would get here and it all seemed extremely unlikely that you could ever be so lucky but you are and you did and IT IS.

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Twelve years ago I was driving around my college town on my way back home to my wonderful boyfriend from somewhere doing something that I can’t remember now. A somewhat cheesy but beautiful and haunting love song came on the radio and suddenly I was struck in the heart. I pulled over and just listened. I stared up into the beautiful, late afternoon sky where a huge bird was soaring in circles, hanging on the air currents by enormous strong wings. The voice inside me that I had been hearing for so long, whispering daily over the past two years, was suddenly screaming at me. Something was on the horizon and I was going to rise up to meet it and I didn’t know what that meant. All I knew was that this song was about a relationship that was coming to me, and not the one I was in. These moments are what calls me back to a faith that is rickety and human and flawed. Just when I am feeling a bit disconnected from a greater force outside myself, I have no choice but to trust in this call and in doing so, I am tucked back into a sense of sweet surrender.

But sweet surrender in this case always comes after a period of confused obedience. I went home to my beloved, supportive boyfriend. A wonderful man who I didn’t even realize how deeply I loved until I just couldn’t stay with him anymore. It was nothing he did or didn’t do. I can come up with reasons why it likely would have unraveled anyway, but that wasn’t really the reason I left. I endured his suffering and I endured my desperation to go back to him and all the awful things that I did because of these two forces. I broke my own heart, I broke his. It seemed so stupid to get out of the cozy, warm and loving apartment and go back to my own dark lonely room and just lay on my bed miserable. I chose to do that and it felt insane. I listened to music and tried not to call him and failed. I tried not to see him and failed. I tried not to email him and failed. And eventually we both figured out how to live without each other over a great deal of time. There were a lot of moments when I really thought I had made a huge mistake. Mostly, though, my gut was clear on this being the only road I could take. The one out into the sun all by my lonely self. To say it sucked would be an understatement.

I can’t tell you how alone I felt at the time. I was giving up my warm heart home for a quiet few who supported me more than I realized at the time. Looking back now, with the perspective of time, I can see clearly how many loving people I had quietly surrounding me, supporting me as much as they could. I was so down in a dark place it was hard for me to really appreciate that then as much as I do now.

But then the quiet magnetic force of my husband arrived on the scene, and despite all the other roads I was busy exploring, I was pulled into his orbit instead. This was not a clean, easy, happily ever process. It just always felt right. Although I was very confused and not sure and was asking a million questions, that voice rang out like a symphony with the song that had been calling us together in my soul. This was the path, that would lead who knows where, but somewhere I was supposed to be. The voice was deafening in it’s righteousness.

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I always want the answers. I want to know that ultimately my decisions are good ones and that they will cause me and those I love the least amount of pain and will lead us all to amazing places full of validation and acclaim. But the truth is, a lot of my best decisions and the relationships that gave me the most were steeped in poor decisions and suffering. My husband and I have an understanding of each other that is easy but an intimacy that is not. We struggle to remain close, to keep sharing, and arguing and saying the hard things because when we say the truths that scare us, we get the most out of this life we have built together. It’s sometimes messy and we don’t always agree, even about the big things, and that is so scary. But we agree that this is what we want most and we struggle toward each other.

I am hearing that voice lately. It’s rumbling about change and new opportunities and scaring the pants off of both of us. I am loving this city and our home and our life like I loved that sweet boy in my past. He gave and gave and gave and I loved him. And then I had to go and it was so awful and I could give no good reasons. It was probably clearer than that to those around me but I was twenty one and couldn’t see past the nose on my face. I wish I could say I had more answers this time, for my family of four. We are headed toward something together, us four, and I really, desperately wish I knew more than that. I am looking to the horizon, trying to calm my nerves about what might pop up, and trying to trust.

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