Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Zen on the Run


Back in 2004, when we were making weekly trips to Philadelphia, leaving our house in the cold and dark of early morning, I remember looking out the window of the car as we drove past the Delaware near Lambertville, and seeing the people running along the canal towpath.  Running and running. I so wanted to run, just run away from the nightmare we were living in—something about the act of physically running seemed so cathartic.

But I hate running, and back then I had a 6 year old fighting brain tumors and a 2 year old who wanted Mommy extra since things were so disrupted in our home and a 9 year old who was imploding.

Running wasn’t going to happen.

(I marvel at moms of young kids who get out there and run. If I got out for a walk when my kids were young I counted the day a major win and started imagining Olympic Glory as a walker).

Still, some part of my brain understood that there was freedom in movement, in running along near a river.

In 2006, one of the lowest points of my daughter’s illness, my husband realized that he seriously had to lose weight and get in shape, so as soon as we got home from my daughter’s Make a Wish trip he started running. 

Twelve years and countless half marathons, 5ks, and one full marathon later, Dave has not stopped running. He runs in rain and snow and gloom of night, he really should work for the postal service, nobody would ever miss their mail delivery if he took over.

While I use words galore to try and dig through the challenges of our life, Dave runs. And runs. And runs. For Dave, running equals zen. Always.

After cheering him on at a few races, and walking a few charity 5ks with the kids, I decided it was time. My G was off treatment. My 2 year old was in kindergarten.  My 9 year old was now an adolescent (so I NEEDED TO RUN).  My excuses were weak, but my desperate need to physically process the new moment of Life Off Treatment  remained strong.

 (Yes, off treatment should be awesome, but like Maria Von Trapp says in Sound of Music, “It could be so exciting, To be out in the world, To be free! My heart should be wildly rejoicing. Oh, what's the matter with me?”).  Not seeing medical professionals all the time was super unsettling, especially since the tumors were no smaller than when we started treatment.

Anyway, I dug out a pair of sweatpants and some old sneakers, and snuck up to the high school ball fields behind my house—and I tentatively galumphed around the soggy field. I didn’t even tell Dave for weeks that I was trying to start running, I was SO SELF CONSCIOUS. After all, I was always in the slow group for gym class, and once wore a paper bag over my head in protest…after college I would eat chips while one of my roommates vigorously did Jane Fonda videos. Ms. Fitness I am not.

But—it felt good. Not the running, that felt horrible, but moving, breathing fresh air, hearing the birds…it was good.

And thus it began.

Eventually I got actual exercise clothes, and real running shoes, and I ventured onto a road. I got a Road ID (hello, so many landscape trucks on such skinny roads!) and a headband that would stay in and a little handheld water bottle thingie.  After a few years I stopped always putting running in air quotes when I told people about my upcoming races.

Most of my running has been to fundraise for research for a cure, or to support friends who are sponsoring races to fundraise for research for a cure for NF or brain tumors or other smites.  I still don’t love it. I need MAJOR motivation to get up and go.  I only run slightly faster than global warming occurs. Officially, I run/walk--aka the Galloway Method (I love me a method). 
I only signed up for my first half marathon, having never run more than 4 miles, because my G had an MRI that looked like we’d be starting chemo again.  I was so angry I signed up for a race in defiance, like @#*&@^# you, NF! That actually was my training mantra (not kidding).  A week before the race a follow up MRI showed the tumors had stabilized and we had a reprieve.  That was awesome, but I still had to go run 13.1 miles!!

That 13.1 hurt. A lot. But crossing that finish line and NOT throwing up or collapsing was the most empowering thing I ever did. I beat my own doubts, insecurities, and memories of high school gym class. I DID THE THING. Not fast—but I did it. I got a medal and a t-shirt and EVERYTHING. I . Did. It.

And that kind of personal win IS a shimmering ZenFest.

So I did it four more times.  And honestly, by the last time it didn’t hurt more than it should have.

As of the last time—2016, when our family ran with my dad for his 70th birthday-- I officially retired from half marathons.  The training exacerbates my anxiety—thus undoing the zen of movement. But this past weekend I ran a 5k with my now almost 16 year old—the 2 year old who needed mom all those years ago. Neither of us had trained, she relied on youth and I relied on all the other exercise I do, and both of us relied on the promise of chocolate at the end of the 3.1 miles…and it was good.  The threatened snow/rain held off, and I gave her my marshmallows while we waited for Dave to finish the 15k.

It was good.

For me, running isn’t a quick fix for zen like it is for my husband, but getting outside and moving, even to walk, to notice nature—that’s really the benefit of running for me. Running forces me into present moment awareness in a way few other things do.  Races ARE zen for me because of the Camaraderie of the Slow – My People! Everyone chugs along. Everyone supports everyone else. THAT is zen.

Movement helped me.  I know not everyone can run. When it’s cold out, I don’t run—but I have found that even being outside to meander with my snoofly dog helps with zen.  And honestly, in the cold months I use different kinds of movement to help with zen (another post).

I hear that spring may FINALLY be coming to Jersey—and maybe I can head out to my favorite nature preserve on a Saturday morning and run/walk slowly through the flowering trees and around the many ponds.  And after a run, I found the perfect zen chaser…

But that one I am saving for next post. ;)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Zen and the Search for Purpose


This morning, even before I put on my coke-bottle glasses, I could tell by the whiteness of my window that snow was falling.

April is the cruelest month, indeed.

I refused to get out of bed in protest – since it’s officially my first day of spring break, that seemed reasonable—and until the hospital unexpectedly called with a scheduling question, I tried almost successfully to stay in the realm of not awake. 
If I did not get out of bed, the snow would not matter. 
That made sense before coffee.

Eventually, my plans for the day thrown off by 7” of snow, I had to make peace with chaos and get a grip.

This is pretty much the story of my life all the time, really.

Throughout Lent, the reflections I did each morning centered on becoming more authentically ourselves, living the purpose filled life we are supposed to each live. In the last week or so the focus shifted to leaning into the dissonance of life, living with the questions even when we can’t immediately find answers.

I like answers.

Answers are my favorite.

My entire job consists of planning and answers, on some level.

But life rarely presents a clear picture of which way to go, or what the best path is. History rarely does, either, so why I’m surprised by my own inner “which way do I go?” isms I am not sure. 

Finding purpose and authenticity scares me a bit, even as I try to reach out to new things—advocacy, getting on a plane AGAIN, discerning exactly where I am supposed to leap TO, in response to the compelling feeling that a leap is not only right but necessary.  In a lot of ways, the practice of being in the present moment sets up the ability to find purpose and authenticity.

I need a lot more practice.

But again last week we got a medical reprieve, one I did not expect (I never really do expect it. Expectations are my nemesis in medical land, I am conditioned to only expect the worst and be surprised and relieved when the worst does not pan out in a particular moment—I never think that one respite provides some kind of disaster immunity for the future).   And in this reprieve, in NOT having to get back in the life or death game of medical interventions, I have time and space and a strong feeling that I need to DO SOMETHING.

The chaos of schedule, medical anxiety, snow upon snow when it is supposed to be spring—I am trying to learn how to lean into these moments, to see what I can learn from them, to breathe through them and keep going. I have to practice the things I know while I have the space to remember what I know, when those knowings are not crowded out by terror or stress or helplessness.

Like I said, I need about 9,998 hours more of practice before I can reach the elusive 10,000 hours to excellence level. Last week I spent an awful lot of hours literally wandering in circles as anxiety clawed at my insides, despite exercise and prayer and decent eating and all my tools for settling the inner demons down.

Already the snow is melting (New Jersey has the weirdest weather EVER), and soon my spring bulbs will be revealed again. The days are longer and brighter. Despite my deep need for maps and plans and answers, sometimes those come only after the hike begins.

That is a terrible metaphor, DON’T EVER HIKE WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING. Find a well-marked trail and stay on it so you don’t get mauled by a bear or fall down a gorge or something.

Yikes.

How about… despite my deep need for maps and answers, sometimes the most wonderful things only happen, the most authentic moments of joy and purpose occur in the unplanned moments, the leap of faith, the step into the darkness? I know this is true, I just have to be brave enough to practice it without wincing every time.

I need to practice how to be present to challenges without being devoured by them.  My dad always used to say  “some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you” – figuring out how to live with the uncertainties is like hanging out with the bear without getting eaten.

THAT is going to take some practice.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Zen and the Little Things, Zen and the Heavy Things


“Thick, heavy snow is blanketing my yard as I type; a March “Kaboom” as our favorite local weather guy would say.”

I wrote this last week.

I have realized I cannot write anything if my family is around. And that 4-8” of predicted snow turned into 16” of high volume, tree-shattering, power-killing snowmaggedon. We spent a fair amount of time that day trying to save trees in our yard (mostly successful), and then spent 5 days without power.

Thank God for our post-Sandy generator. It can’t power EVERYTHING in the house, but water/heat/and most of the lights make all the difference.  We are so grateful to all the crews trying to get Jersey back up and running.

At the same time, a lot of our good friends in the brain tumor community have been in really challenging medical situations. The peril of having so many close friends in a community of smite, especially a community of smite characterized by the marathon-like duration of the smite, means that most of the time a lot of people we know are getting smote.

This past week or two has been Smitefest Extreme.

The heaviness of the snow and no power was dwarfed by the heaviness of our friends’ struggles. We have been in similar spots. I don’t know why we aren’t now, and I feel grateful and guilty and so deeply concerned for our friends who are mid-struggle right now.  One of my children scans in 2 weeks. That is heavy on my mind, too.

So last week’s blog was one line that never got published.

I have thought a lot this past week about the heavy things. 

I can’t lift them, or throw snow shovels at them (tried that with a horizontal cedar at the height of the storm, to try and get some of the high snow off, that actually worked), or make the heavy things change.

In the respite we’ve had, I have realized how much working to notice the little things helps me. It doesn’t make the heavy things go away…but noticing the little things lightens my perspective.

I tend to be a hyper-noticer anyway (survival skill for a teacher), normally noticing causes me anxiety or frustration, I notice ALL THE THINGS.  In a certain karmic balance, my husband notices NONE of the things, so…yes.  His response to my “hey, we scan soon!” reference—“Oh. Well, we can’t worry about that now.” AND THEN HE ACTUALLY DOES NOT WORRY!!! If he could sell THAT skill, we would be bazillionaires. Well, except that I would buy all of that, thus creating a weird market vortex between supplier and demander…

ANYWAY, In the last several months I have really worked to notice not just who is chewing gum in class or how many crumbs are on my floor, but I am trying to acknowledge and appreciate the world around me, to be in the present moment and to let those little noticings of nature and life and people soothe my troubled mind. Does that even make sense?

The peculiar pale blue cast of the snow crevices on our street (never seen that before!), the frost on the edge of each fallen leaf, the shape of my dog’s pawprints in the snow, the sound of the robins returning even though more fresh snow fell today…

These little noticings remind me that the universe is bigger than the heavy things. Heavy things are heavy…but life is not JUST defined by those things.

Noticing the little things enables me to be grateful for the little things. I can’t get a friend’s chemo approved or help a child in a dire spot, or ease the strain of medical testing for a child we love—but taking time to appreciate the smell of snowfall or the vibrant colors of my felt-tip pens or the soft warmth of the heating pad my sister made—in noticing these things I find strength to unbury myself from the heavy things.

THEN I can better support our friends. I need to be available, not buried.

This is a work. I have a long way to go, and if we get buried in smite again I am not sure if I will be able to maintain this practice.  But I have to keep practicing, strengthening the “notice the little things” muscle. Our respite demands no less.

What little things do you notice that help soothe your soul?

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Zen and the Present Moment


Shoes on? Shoes off?

In the moment of tackling my fear of flying and my fear of flying alone (no offense, other 149 people on the plane), the security line shoe thing plagued my brain. I kept trying to see what other people around me were doing…the line wasn’t moving, so nobody was really doing anything except listening to incoming passengers talk about how they would need to leave time for this security line when they went back to the airport for their return flight.

My anxiety rose, and I figured ok, let me text somebody or something.

My phone wasn’t in the outside pocket of my bag.

It wasn’t in the pouch with my bullet journal.

It wasn’t in the bag with the extra charger and cords.

I searched my bag about 8 times (while scooching ahead a few inches every few minutes). I could feel my pulse in my head, my panic rising, my mind racing.

In a moment of revelation, I remembered. Right before I walked out the door, I put my bag down on the futon to check to make sure I had my boarding pass for the 87th time—my phone had been in my hand, and I placed it on the seat of the stationary bike (2 feet from my back door) so I could check my paperwork.

And there it stayed.

Now, admittedly, the first 2/3 of my life, I did not have a cell phone. Until 2.5 years ago I did not have a smart phone. I know that civilizations have risen and fallen without such technology.

But the phone was meant to be my lifeline on this trip. I had carefully chosen soothing music and uplifting podcasts to get me through my crazy brain on the flight.  YoYoMa and Oprah were going to fly with me! I had Candy Crush. I had the directions to the hotel in my phone (I had gone to print them out and then decided not to).

Panic.

And worst of all, I could not call anyone to say help!

Side note, there are no payphones ANYWHERE any more. Even at gigantic international airports.

I knew Dave was flying down on a later flight, and that he would see my bright pink phone as soon as he walked in the door. I knew that another cheer mom would be on my flight, I could at least call Dave before we left. But all of my plans of zen were sitting on a bike seat at my house.

The best laid plans…

But weirdly, my massive panic/anxiety about forgetting my phone helped me. Stay with me here—in not having my phone, I had to regroup, focus my energy on getting through the present moment without a panic attack, and Do The Thing. I knew this was going to be work, but I was all in now.

By the time we got on the plane, I focused on breathing. I watched the flight attendants (who are so together) and all the relaxed people. I got my gum—I never chew gum, so the novelty factor of that was distracting. And then I took my bullet journal and started to draw. As we sat, I drew. As we taxied, I drew.  As we sped up I thought of the cheer mom who told me that at the moment of acceleration (when I tend to see my life flash before my eyes) she wants to say BEEP BEEP!! In celebration.  I wrote motivational words and drew clouds and the dragon that I was going to befriend. I had to be in the moment.

And it was ok.

I am still a little shocked, but it was ok.

Like, really ok. Not the 3 hour panic attack of my last flight.

The clouds were beautiful. The flight did not feel as loud or crazy as my last flight 8 years ago. JetBlue has Dunkin Donuts coffee. And I kept drawing. For about the first 90 minutes of the flight I doodled and drew and focused on befriending the dragon. It was ok. It was all ok. Planes are safe. I am brave. It is all ok.


And in the words of the Little Red Hen, cluck cluck, so it was.

I was relaxed. Not asleep or anything (SUPER AWAKE), but relaxed. And you know what? People at the airport helped me. The rental car guy wrote directions for me on the back of the receipt—old school!, and I got safely to my hotel driving a car that looked like a shiny red box of candy (Dave was not amused when he saw the car I was willing to take, but it actually drove pretty well , and we never ever could lose it in a parking lot).  It was ok.

In the last few weeks (especially as I’ve gotten into the season of Lent), a lot of my reading/listening has referenced the importance of present moment awareness, of authentically and fully being in the moment you are in. For me, the lost phone forced me to be in the present moment in a way that was ultimately helpful for me. I had to work through my fears in a way that was NOT the way I planned…but I did it.

So much of my life in the last many, many years has been spent in a struggle over fear of the future, fear of the present, fear of the past coming back.  This is the reality of life with a chronic catastrophic illness.  I make lists and calendars to help me feel in control of life, but at the same time these distract me from being in the moment I am in. Over the years, the present moment has sometimes been really dark, and clinging to future hope is challenging.

Escaping the current version of me by looking ahead/back/around is not a recipe for becoming the best version of me today. I have to be present in each moment to do that. I have to be in the moments, uncomfortable, challenging, and great, to really figure out how to live most authentically.

So while I do not plan to become a jet-setter anytime soon, I can see myself getting on a plane again. At the end of the day (literally, late that night) Dave brought me my phone, and I had it for the ride home—but I did not really use any of the stuff I had planned. I didn’t need it (and I had used up all my nervousness on my flight getting cancelled and then having to spend 10 hours in the airport, but that is another story for another time). While I am on the ground now, I am trying to find more ways to be in each moment—something I thought about months ago, noticing the little things, fits into this—and I will write about that more another time.

Increasingly, I know that zen and being in the present moment is something I have to work towards—there are a lot more dragons I need to befriend.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Zen and the Power of Why


Something big has to happen for me to leap.


A four foot snake sliding under my Adirondack chair—I am levitating in about 2.8 seconds.

A bad MRI for my brain tumor kid—I sign up for a half marathon, even though I hate running far.

But getting into a pool—I go slooooooowly. Oh so slowly. No leaping. Not enough reason to willingly freeze.

Even when everyone is yelling—I can’t leap.

In high school we went on a trip with a bunch of other families up to New Hampshire, and at some point in the trip we went to this rope swing on the side of a hill. Everyone was excited to try. You had to jump off a rock while holding this rope, and then sort of flop onto the board that served as a little seat thing.  When my turn came, I stood on the rock paralyzed. I just could not do it. The drop seemed so far, the chances of landing on the board so uncertain. The folks in charge helped me down to the little rock that served as a smaller leap spot, and I was still paralyzed. Younger kids were yelling at me, everyone was trying to get me to go…

I could not do it.

I was mortified, but finally gave up. I still remember the kids making fun of me.

I am not upset about it anymore, but I remember.

So leaping is not my thing. I have realized more and more the power of intrinsic motivation. I have to have a really, REALLY good reason for leaping.

I have to have a why. 

More accurately, a WHY. All capitals.

In some ways that is super un-zen, right? I should just zen for the sake of zen. But my zen needs a Why. Everything I do needs a Why.

Anxiety tries to outweigh the Why with worst case scenarios that will happen if I leap. Nightmares. Crabbiness. Ever-spiraling circles of thought.

But Why can be so powerful—more powerful than anxious second guessing. That snake was a Significant WHY for me to stand on top of a chair even though normally I would not recommend balancing on an Adirondack chair’s arms like stilts. . The bad scan was a huge WHY to make me run, even though I look like a cartoon character when I galumph along, and everything hurts–the Why was my daughter’s future.  As I slogged through the streets by my house in the August heat I kept repeating my why like a mantra … “bleep NF…bleep NF”…you can fill in the bleep.

As I try to work towards zen, I keep coming back to Why.

My brain needs order and reason at the same time my brain tends towards colorful chaos. I have to work to organize myself in a way that seems to come naturally for others.  And the anxiety really does work against my forward progress, stirring up all the thoughts even as I try to put them back in orderly-ish boxes.

But in this time of medical respite, I am finding I am able to grab on to the why to make myself do the “hard” things.

When my daughter was so ill, the Why—surviving the catastrophe, getting her well, keeping a brave face on for her and her siblings, getting out of bed in the morning even on the most hopeless days—that Why simply kept me going. I think in the midst of crisis that is what the Why does. When people would say, “I don’t know how you do this!” I was always a bit befuddled. What choice did I have? It was my kid. Anybody would try to keep going for their kid.
I see my friends who are navigating rough waters with their children right now,  their tenacity in putting one foot in front of the other, and the power of Why just shines through—even when that power is just barely enough to keep a family above water. The Why helps you survive, even if thrive seems inaccessible.

With space from catastrophe, I am trying to take advantage of the Why and to figure out what my Why is now, now that we aren’t at the hospital 4 times a month, or dealing with improbable yikes of other kinds. I am still not used to having the courage to commit to anything more than a few weeks out.  

So I am tackling “hard” things, trying to take little leaps (things that are admittedly not so hard for other people—but hey, I have to be ok with me being me. It is what it is). 

* I took on a new work project that ended up going really well—Why? Because  I need to figure out how I can best use my passion for education and research, and the only thing holding me back from this project was my fear of not doing it perfectly.

 * I scheduled (and went to-no wimping out!) my annual-ish physical—Why? I need to be healthy for my kids, my spouse, my own future. So far so good.

 * I then scheduled (and went to-gosh I wanted to wimp out) another annual sort of appointment that maybe I hadn’t done in 8 years. *cough. Same Why as before.  Even though I kind of broke the machine…another story for another time.

I am trying to be open to opportunities—WHY? Because I want to live with vision and purpose, and right now I am figuring out what those are in this new season of my life. I want to work at something that helps the world be better.

 * I am getting on a plane this week for the first time in almost 8 years—WHY? Because I know I need to be there for my R when she competes in Florida, this might not happen again, and I want to be there for her—and last year I could not go. I am remarkably zen about this, actually, which is a little weird.

(side note, if I don’t make it—because…airplanes-- know that I truly have no regrets about going. Being brave is better than hiding from life. I keep telling myself that. But really—you can pray for me on Thursday when I get on a plane (and then again on Sunday—and my husband and daughter who are on different flights), that would be awesome. )

Side side note: this is why I have not blogged. All my energy went to these things. Womp womp.

I want to do the things. I want to see the places. I want to not hide from the disasters that I still see around every corner (a Pavlovian response to 2004-20015). Why?

Because I want to be zen. For me. For my husband. For my kids. For my friends.

It’s like the old Hoobastank song, “The Reason”. This song helped me so much when I signed up for that first half marathon (I had 5 times worth of Why for 13 miles. Urp). Having a Why, a reason, can counteract the power of anxiety—especially when that reason is the people we love. I am working on having my OWN Why (ie for me) being enough—and I am starting to figure out that when I am intrinsically motivated to do things for my own improvement, that actually makes me a better wife/mom/friend for everyone else.  

Sorry, should have had everyone sit down for that Captain Obvious kind of newsflash. Hmph.

Anyway, having people cheer (or yell derisively) or push won’t do it. The motivation has to be intrinsic—helped along by the outside circumstances, perhaps (GIANT SNAKE!)—but the Why has so much power, if we can just take the time to identify what the Why is, and how it drives choices. Focusing on the Why helps me tell my anxiety to shut up already. I have more important things to focus on.

And yes, I have to repeat it a lot. My fears are super persistent and naggy and talk just as fast as I do.

So—what’s your Why? And where has it lead you to leap?

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Zen and Let it Go


The past week/month have resembled Chutes and Ladders a bit…climb up the ladder, work on good habits, work on focus, tippy toe out of my comfort zone, then Whoosh! Down the chute of a hospital visit or a weeklong headache or chaos I have to wade through but can’t alleviate.  I am not sure why this surprises me—I think it’s just that some days life feels like The Most Endless Game of Chutes and Ladders EVER (anyone who has ever played this game with a three year old knows what I mean…and unlike Candyland, you can’t really “help” the spinner avoid that last giant slide right before the finish. There is no Queen Frostine card that can magically get placed at the top of the deck…not that I have ever done that. *cough).

Slogging through some of my resolutions (side note, this January feels pretty endless), I am confronted again by the reality of how much of my mental energy is spent summoning the will to climb the ladders, and finding the peace to not wail in despair while I’m going down a chute AGAIN. Reframing in gratitude helps. Yoga helps. Even gentle yoga during the weeklong headache helped.  Keeping up with the simple habits (morning devotional, etc.) helps when the bigger stuff seems hard.

I am also realizing more and more how much of life is not just made up of metaphorical Chutes and Ladders, but how much of everything is a push/pull, a back/forth, opposite moments that both work together and pull against each other. I know I have to be braver about certain things, like being by people (still trying), or taking opportunities that come (writing work, check), or trying to conquer fears (booked a flight, like on an ACTUAL AIRPLANE, CHECK). I also know that sometimes being brave or taking care of my brain means pulling BACK from things—saying “ok” and walking away from chaos, avoiding certain situations, working to not care more about things I cannot fix than the people who are generating the issue care.  I am not very good at this yet, and that lack of skill creates a lot of frustration.

I need to go forth and get things done, while stepping back/away from other things.

This challenges me. 

For every flight I book (ok, one flight, and we’ll see if I survive—and if I don’t—for the record—no regrets. If it’s my time it’s my time, regardless of my altitude, you can’t avoid when it’s your time—that is how I made peace with this. Ok, and I bought some of my sister’s art on a backpack on Society6 as a reward), I have to get better at finding ways to step back from things without feeling bad/angry/frustrated about my inability to fix things or make things right.  I’ve gotten better at walking away—I just need to fix my response once I do—I need to figure out how to go all Elsa on that stuff (LET IT GO, LET IT GOOOOOOO!).

But just like a three year old who DOES NOT WANT TO LET GO OF THEIR SPOT ON THE TOP ROW OF CHUTES AND LADDERS, I haven’t figured this one out yet. How do you let things go? My husband can just do it. His brain just sends things on their merry way, while mine cooks up stress stew. THIS is one of my challenges for the New Year—to channel that frustration into more acts of kindness, or zen, or productivity.  I know I have to learn to BE more effectively, but for now…maybe I can use action to help let things go.

And yes, I am thinking this out as I type it. I am tired of being frustrated. And I am determined to get a blog done today—so thanks for thinking through this with me. If you have any insights on HOW you let things go, how do you shed frustration/walk away from situations that cause you mental ugh (and that you cannot remedy)—please comment below. I am crowd-brainstorming solutions here.

And now I have kind of an odd desire to play Chutes and Ladders…

(if anyone is interested in how I am bribing myself to overcome my deep seated and long held phobia of flying, check out Anne Appert Illustration on Society6 Roses by Anne Appert --the backpacks are the right size for the under the seat item on JetBlue. :) --and there are sales all the time, I had a really good coupon for this. I maybe also got a small flying pig tote because a pig flying is about as likely as ME flying, so... yes.  When Pigs Fly by Anne Appert)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Zen and the Slow Leak


My New Year’s Resolution sprung a slow leak that morphed into a gaping hole.

Ok, so in Australia it is Friday…but not last Friday. Nor is it Tuesday. Blog Fail warning horns are blaring everywhere here. Each day I have written BLOG in my bullet journal in increasingly larger letters. Today the word is about an inch high. And fancy.

Even now, I am forcing myself to write—mostly because the alternative is “grade history midterms”. Procrastination priorities are in order, at least…

One of the things I have come to realize is that I have a very limited emotional/mental gas tank. I work really hard to try and keep it full, or at least full-ish. For me, that refilling is a work, it doesn’t just happen. But there are things that put a slow leak to gaping hole kind of kibosh on my tank.

Last week was hospital week. Reports were good. Things are stable. I am grateful.

And yet those days take every bit of mental/emotional energy reserve I have.

I figured Wednesday/Thursday appointments, I’ll be golden to write Friday, heck, I can use my time at the hospital to write!

Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids. There is no concentrating at the hospital when you are holding a TGI Friday’s style beeper thing waiting for your child to come out of sedation. There is CERTAINLY no concentration when the time gets long, and then the hospital CALLS YOU ON YOUR CELL PHONE while your child is in the scanner, because your TGI Friday’s beeper didn’t work. Yikes. There is no concentration when you wait several hours past your appointment time to view the scans with a pediatric neuro-oncologist. I pulled out my school papers, looked at them, and put them back in my bag. I just had nothing left to use to think about that. 8+ hours total driving time over two days…car time left no mental room for metacognition. I just can’t concentrate on anything beyond National Geographic or looking out the window/praying for the WaWa coffee cart people to come.

Hospital stuff is just a keep on going kind of moment. I wish that this many years into it I could be less frozen by these days. I am less psycho about them than I used to be, but they still freeze me solid.  In the days after these hospital visits I had to set up the SAME series of appointments for another kid…more chillin’ in the quagmire…but it’s done.

Now that I understand how my brain works, I can plan for it, at least somewhat—but I can’t seem to find a way around that resource suck of hospital days/appointment making/planning/processing—and tackling things I dread. I made some appointments for myself in the last week—gave myself a gold star…and then went and sorted papers kind of mindlessly while listening to Daily Show clips on YouTube. That kind of task is a mental resource suck, too. I just can’t find a way around it.

I just have to make peace with it, and try to keep moving.

So in Australia it’s Friday already—I should be continuing to write about the Happiness Project, and I will get back to that. One of the valuable lessons of that book is to let yourself BE YOURSELF. It’s ok to be who you are, you will find more happiness in NOT trying to force yourself to be something you are not. Being Kristin means acknowledging that I have to regroup after challenging days.  I can’t just breeze through things. And that’s ok. Even when it doesn’t feel ok—that IS ok.  Being Kristin means I hate making phone calls and I have to bribe myself to do it. That’s ok. Being Kristin means even if we are running low on data, I might need to stream some Sia in the car to remind myself I’m unstoppable. That even on these days where I seem stopped, I really am only “like, totally paused”. ;) 

Just keep movin’ right along. If I miss a day, the internet won’t break.

But now, I really do have to go grade those midterms. Or eat lunch.  Hm….wonder which option will win?