gratitude, Life and Randomness

breath inside

This was one of those work weeks that somehow felt so much longer than only 5 days. Little stresses here and there that add up to so much, and I was always dashing from one thing to another – both literally and mentally as well. It’s hard to just be still with yourself in those times. It takes a lot of effort on my part, effort to stop frantically moving from one task to another and just slow down.

I’m listening to the latest album by The Oh Hellos lately. There’s a lyric in one song (click here for a listen) that cuts me softly every time I hear it: I’ve learned a lot about the way of things. I learned that everything has breath inside. I forget I have breath inside sometimes and that everything else does to. I forget the power of breath. Yoga and meditation are so good to remind us of this, but outside of those experiences, I forget to listen to my own current. That steady reminder of life’s continuity.

I’ve changed so much in the past year – the past few months even – that it seems strange at times to think that it is the same beating heart in my chest, the same breath moving in and out. Same as it ever was, only maybe not. Because I feel it differently now than I did before. I feel everything differently.

The kids and I spent time today at my grandparents’ place which I’ve written about often as it’s so central to my own memories and my own identity. It feels good to come home to these associations, like the breath inside I mentioned before. A continuity that steadies you. This week was stressful, and yesterday was bitterly cold and rainy. But today we stood in the familiar and the sun made up for yesterday’s chill. Winter sunshine feels like such a gift. We collected eggs from the hens and walked what is left of the fall garden. Jude munched on raw kale that he’d surely push aside if offered on his plate, but somehow it felt like a treat when he plucked it himself.

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In the song that initially got me hooked on The Oh Hellos, they echo Hello my old heart, how have you been? Are you still there inside my chest? I’ve been so worried. You’ve been so still. Barely beating at all. I remember the first time I heard it when it appeared on my Pandora station last summer as I painted a room in the house soon after we moved in. It was late and the kids were sleeping, and I was working to bring something of my own to a place that felt new and foreign. The lyric resonated enough with me in that moment that I teared up a little.

We’ve all felt like that at times, I think. Like you’ve ignored your own voice and you have to press an ear to your own soul and listen hard to see what’s there. It’s easy to listen to the clamor of what’s outside and ignore that whisper that is only heard in stillness.

It’s coming back to me, my old heart. It’s changed shapes in many ways, but I finally feel it beating as it was before. Like that same breath that moves in and out. Those long-forgotten but familiar spaces are coming back. It happens in bits and pieces, but it feels so needed, like winter sun.

I ran across a Facebook post yesterday that featured one of my favorite Rumi passages I’ve quoted before. Elizabeth Gilbert expanded on that passage by suggesting, “Maybe the worst thing you ever endured was a crucible through which you became YOU. Maybe you could not have become YOU through any other means except by going through that trial.” It’s a weird thing, right? To journey so far and in ways feel like you just made your way back to the beginning. The you that you always should have been. The old heart emerging again but softer and braver than it was before, feeling the pulse underneath the noise.

 

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divorce, Life and Randomness, single parenthood

Life. This week.

I’m not sure where I am going with this tonight – only that it has been more than a week since I’ve last written here, and I like to stay current in my journaling right now, so I want to check in for a moment and reflect.

The daily activities that make up my days leave so little room for breathing space. I’m not alone in this as so many working parents are in the same position. But it seems especially challenging in this past week when academic papers are flowing in and stacking up faster than I can grade them.  Tuesday had us at the ENT for Jude’s appointment and Wednesday had Norah and I home for her school’s teacher work day, so I’ve missed desk time and the week has become disjointed and overwhelming. All the little things. They feel big this week.

We did make it to Jude’s school for lunch yesterday though. He was excited to see us, and they place you on the stage when parents come to eat with you. He felt special, I think. And Norah was fascinated with the experience of eating at “kindergarten school.” She walked in carrying her Frozen lunchbox and wearing a dress she chose for the occasion. Little things go a long way at these ages. I’m so grateful for that at a time when little things are all I can muster sometimes.

UntitledI’m fighting hard to rest in the good enoughs right now and stop demanding more more more of myself. But to be honest, I am failing miserably. I’m nearing the one year mark of when things changed for me, and things are finally settling in and smoothing out around here, and I’m feeling itchy. Feeling like I should be doing more than I am. I’m dancing on that line of comparison we all feel drawn to, and I need to work harder to fight that.  I’m so tired of working hard though. I’ve learned immeasurable lessons and grown so much in this past year, but I’m tired. I’m ready for something to be easier, and I’m mostly talking about my relationship with that inner critic. I’m ready for her to quiet down for good. But I think maybe she never does for some of us. This is just life. Working hard to simply determine when to demand more of yourself and when to say you’ve done enough and rest in that for a while. It’s hard, right? To figure out when I need to push forward and when I need to take a seat.

I’m not sure this is making any sense at all tonight. But it’s been hard week. It’s been a hard year. I’m tired of hard. I know I’m not starting from scratch, but sometimes it feels like I am, and I’m exhausted at the notion that I am alone. I’m worried that the scars are too thick for anyone to see past them and I’ll be alone forever. Wouldn’t that be his final accomplishment to be proud of? I not only left you to begin again with two kids and married my new soulmate immediately, but I screwed you up so profoundly that you are too broken with self-doubt for someone else to deal with.

I’ve read that Rumi quote a thousand times The wound is the place where the Light enters you. I’ve felt the Light and I’ve seen it, and I know from the voices of my friends that I’ve illuminated that Light, too. That other people have seen it in me. But sometimes it just feels like a wound. This week it’s a wound, and it’s more dark than light. The smallest stabs still ache sometimes, and I want to know when that stops. When that skin thickens and the scars fade.

But I’m seeing – when I have the clarity to look without my distorted view – that I offer others so much more kindness than I offer myself. I’ll see the best in others, and never in myself. I give them the benefit of the doubt and not myself. I need to get better at this. It’s like the imposter syndrome I wrote about before, except worse because I inflate others and see the very best in them so much so that I often give them more credit than is due. And by contrast, I refuse to see myself without the faults screaming loudest.

I can learn so much from my kids sometimes. The way they don’t really care what others think unless you are in that circle they’ve come to trust and cherish. They don’t have an inner critic to silence yet. Past experiences haven’t given them a soundtrack of criticism on loop. They see only what is right in front of them. The start of a new day and all the chances that it brings to practice the very best of ourselves.

Norah was singing some song of her own Tuesday morning as I brushed her pigtails at the start of the day. It cracked me up, and I snapped a quick picture.

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I’m so tired all the time – 5:30 am alarm, kids, work, life. All of it alone. It’s a lot. Some weeks it feels like more than others. But these little faces –  their little stories and smiles and quirks – I can learn a lot from them. And I just want to see myself the way they see me, without the scars and baggage and doubts. Everyday new and worthy.