Everything’s Changed

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“We got a baby now, H.I. Everything’s changed.
–Holly Hunter to Nicolas Cage in Raising Arizona.

I love the movie Raising Arizona. It cracks me up every time I see it, which is often. I first saw it long before I became a mom–I mean, it came out in 1987 for christ’s sake–that’s almost 30 years ago.

(Pause while I stare at the wall, terrified and awed by the slippery nature of time.)

I love the humor, the hi-jinx style of the writing and direction. I love the actors and the acting, the beautiful dream/vision sequence at the end that always leaves me in a puddle of tears. I quote favorite lines in my every day life just because it delights me.

“He’s a lil’ ol’ outlaw, he is.”
“No, he-he-he-he’s a good boy.”

“I mean–what? We got us a family here.”

“Watch his little fontanel.”

“H.I. Sometimes it’s a hard world for small things.”

(I could go on and on.)

I thought of it yesterday on the long drive to the Boston area for our final visit to the new school. It’s so clearly about parenthood. I mean, duh. It’s called Raising Arizona, about a couple who steal into parenthood by taking a baby from a litter of five (after all, those parents had “more than they could handle.”) And the odyssey begins, the wild passion and drama and terror, more than H.I. and Ed could handle. It nearly gets them killed, arrested, divorced.

Actually, what I thought was, parenting is like going through a tunnel only you don’t know what the tunnel will be until you’re in it–will it be short? long? cool? moist? dark? lacking enough air? Will it be sparse? lush? smoothly surfaced? strewn with debris?

Will it, I thought as I drove and drove, be fitted like the inside of a drive-through car wash? With sudden jets of water, gyrating sponge monsters lathering enthusiastically, violent bursts of air, ginormous buffers whirring and polishing until your skin is raw, pink, too new.

That’s the tunnel I’ve been in (in which I’ve been?). It’s not malevolent. But it has been, hmm, unexpected, and uh, a workout–yes, that it’s: It’s been a workout.

I leave you with the final words of the movie:

“But I saw an old couple being visited by their children and their grandchildren too. The old couple weren’t screwed up and neither were their kids or their grandkids. And I don’t know. You tell me. This whole dream, was it wishful thinking? Was I just fleeing reality like I know I”m liable to do? But me and Ed, we can be good too. And it seemed real. It seems like us and it seemed like, well, our home. If not Arizona, then a land not too far away. Where all parents are strong and wise and capable and all children are happy and beloved. I don’t know. Maybe it was Utah.”

Final Visit to the New School

What is it that Hemingway said? We’re all broken by the world but that “some of us are strong in the broken places.” That’s the trick then–not to avoid getting broken, hurt, wounded by the events and people in our lives, but to become stronger, wiser, larger versions of ourselves because of it.

Today is Tito’s last school visit at a brandy-new, small, independent school about two hours away. (More on this in future posts.) We’ve been making these visits every other week since the start of the new year.

This afternoon, there will be an event at the farm where the school will eventually move, once they’ve completed their capital campaign and done various other things to ready the property. It will be the first time the four new students (Tito among them) will merge with the eight current students for an afternoon/evening of games and food.

Send us your best thoughts!


“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”

–Kahlil Gibran

It’s Not Too Late–What if it’s true?

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I’m reading Barbara Sher’s book, Wishcraft (copyright 1979–I know! I’m late to the party!) and I love that she says it’s not too late to have a life you love-no matter your age. I love love love that.

I am on the cusp of believing this is true, really believing, deeply believing.

It makes me think of this section toward the very end of Finding Your Own North Star:

“The compasses inside you will always be pointing the right way, even if you forget to check them, even if you fail for a while to hold your course. You can begin again at any moment, and the instant you turn back toward true north, every mistake you’ve made and every minute you’ve spent following the wrong path will become the raw material of wisdom, compassion, and joy.”

–Martha Beck

Life Coaching

I’ve been doing the Martha Beck Life Coach training since January. I love it. I love learning and practicing the tools. It’s like spelunking, finding what’s been in the caves and corners all along.

Martha has two mottos–well, she has hundreds but these are the biggies: Life it to Give it and Be the Light, not the Window. Life it to Give it is happening automatically. There’s no way to avoid my ‘stuff’ as my ‘stuff’ is being unearthed and explored each week when the ‘cadets’ in my group practice the tools with each other. It’s an on-going process, (clearly–I don’t imagine there is an end to my ‘stuff’) but I really am feeling more alive, more spacious, more connected, as if aspects of my essential self are waking from a long sleep. I am closer to living the thing I want to give.

That’s the second motto–the giving is the lighting, not the view. I don’t have answers, advice, suggestions. How can I know what is right for anyone else? But the tools make it possible for the client to see what they need to see.

The dream analysis tool is the coolest. I just wish I had more to work with, more dream material. I’m trying to establish the habit of recording them figuring along the ‘if I write them, they will come’ mindset. I have snippets, some of them about as hard to interpret as a door slamming in your face (whatever are they trying to communicate?). For example, the one where I am shouting at the top of my lungs, “I’M NOT GETTING MY NEEDS MET!” But the other one, where I’m in the kitchen with Barack and Michelle Obama as they cook and joke and laugh, stopping every once in a while to dance to the song that’s playing over and over (Pharrell’s Happiness), that one was a ball to investigate.

What about you? Do you dream? Do you write them down? Do you ever wonder what the beings in your cave (or attic) are trying to tell you?

 

 

“Playing improves creativity and problem-solving skills, minimizes burn out, and maintains a high level performance. Iron-willed self-discipline may be just the right thing if you’re planning to be a ruthless psychotic despot. Otherwise, let the games begin.”

–Martha Beck, Finding Your Own North Star

 

Good Morning Gorgeous

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Good morning, gorgeous.

Yes, you. You are gorgeous.

Why? Because you are. That’s the truth of it.

Air is invisible, struggle is universal, and you are gorgeous.

You were born gorgeous and you’re still gorgeous, even if you can’t see it in this moment. It’s in a part of you that can’t be touched by time and potato chips, heartbreak and disappointment.

It’s not the what; it’s the how.

th We think that once we change the way we feel, we’ll be able to change what we do. Or, when our situation changes, then we’ll do it differently. But the research says otherwise. The research says that emotional and mental changes happen as a result of behavioral change.

That’s not necessarily what my inner developmentalist wants to hear. But then again, I don’t take it to be all or nothing–it’s both behavioral and developmental, or behavioral and emotional/psychological, yes?  That is, if you define the word ‘behavior’ as simply what one does rather than a defiant and intentionally disobedient response to a medical and/or neurological condition that people find inconvenient, confounding and, at times, downright threatening.

Behavior is not always a dirty word. It simply means action or lack of action, something that happens internally or external, in gestures big or very subtle.

When I was in acting school, we learned to create character from the inside out: what do we feel, need, want? But we also discovered that our physical attitudes and postures had an almost immediate effect on us, internally. Just walking around whimpering, slumped over and dragging a bum leg isn’t enough to make me a believable victim of a wild monkey attack, but it could help me discover something key about this made-up person that I may not have been able to find just by using my head.

I’m sure by now you’ve seen or heard of Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on body language, about how ‘power posing’ can change your life, mentally and physical–in fact, physiologically. Yet, how often do I stop mid-pissyfit to plant my feet wide and lift up my arms up in an open V? I’m usually too busy grinding out whatever story I’ve got playing inside my head, (which apparently needs to be accompanied by loud noises and a frightening scowl) even though nothing about that story is helping me feel or be more open, flexible, creative.

I’d put power poses in the mostly internal, smallish gestural category of action, the ‘Don’t Just Do Something; Sit There’ (or rather–Stand There), along with other scientifically-proven ways to change your feeling state: deep breathing, meditation, kind self-talk. Some people might toss in prayer, and frankly, during particularly painful period when I was working as a faceless temp, I set an alarm every 30 minutes so I could go lock myself in the bathroom stall and pray.

Most of us know what to do when we’re upset. Nobody says, “The best thing to do when your son is stalling and complaining and dragging his butt through the morning routine is to yell up the stairs at the top of your lungs, GET THE HELL IN HERE AND DO YOUR GODDAMN MEDITATION.” It’s not that we don’t know what to do when we feel stressed, stuck, reactive, immobilized, but rather, the how to get there. How do we escape the enormous gravitational pull of our habitual reactions? To step out from under the control of our not terribly enlightened lizard brains?

Great January Give-Away

Why do I have so much stuff?

I mean, listen, I love my stuff. I do. But there’s too much of it. I can’t even begin to list the number of books I’ve purchased that I have not read. I’m not even saying finished. I’m saying, not read, as in, not even one page. Last year I simply had to have Far From the Tree and aside from a brief dip into the chapter on Autism (because I had to find out for myself whether I felt Solomon had done a disservice to Autistic persons), I haven’t cracked the cover. Why? Well, first of all, it’s heavy. Have you lifted that thing? Secondly, I’m lazy. I love reading (I say) and talking (obviously) but I love watching really good television more (apparently).

I want to clear things out, not to make space for more new things. (Please, Kyra. No.) I want to clear things out to make space for space. I want to clear things out because it always feels good to simplify. (At least, at first.) I want to clear things out because someone out there may actually read that book sitting on my shelf, or wear that cocktail dress that never fit, or fill those scrap books with something other than dust.

And so, on the first day of the new year, I am embarking on the Great January Give-Away. (I’ve discovered I really like projects, schedules, check-lists, countdowns.) This means I’ll be giving away a number of items equal to the date, each day, for the entire month. Ie:

January 1st = 1 item given away
January 2nd = 2 items given away
etc.
etc.
etc.

By January 31st, I will have cleared out 496 items. 496!

Anyone want to join me?

Sweet Memories

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I’ve been on a Martha Beck bender, reading her many books in preparation for my Martha Beck Life Coach training that begins in January. The Four-Day Win; Ending Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace isn’t on the reading list for the training but I’m making my way through it slowly, one 4-Day Win exercise at a time. It’s all about changing your mind first before trying to change your body, changing your brain, your wiring. I love that.

Today’s exercise includes visualizing your brain as a circular room with chests lining the perimeter. Each chest holds memories from your life, all kinds–the sweet, the stinging, everything in between. See yourself move toward one of the chests that hold treasured memories. Open it up, lift one out and step inside.

I always go first to the memories of nursing my son in the Shaker-style glider rocker in the living room of our old house with the high ceilings and the big windows and the gas fireplace that lit with the flick of a light switch like on a movie set. He was a champion nurser with a perfect latch, so perfect that the lactation nurse down the street once came to take pictures to display at a breast-feeding conference. (Somewhere, a giant slide of my boob with my son clamped to my giant cigar nipple was seen by however many attendees go to those things–a handful–dozens? thousands?)

Things could be pretty stressful in those early parentings months (years) but nursing was almost always a pocket of peace for us, my son’s honey brown eyes staring up at me, a smile at the corner of his mouth, the milk pooling and then dripping to the end of his chin when he stopped to beam up at me like a crazy drunk. Every time I think of it, I am back there, my whole body warm, relaxed, peaceful. I’m smiling. I’m grateful. I’m open.

That’s the first one that comes to me. But there are more. And I’m tasked with gathering some over the next four days, capturing as much detail as I remember–how I felt, what I saw, heard, smelled, tasted, before placing them back in that chest in the round room of my mind. It’s all about “getting accustomed to playing with moments of pleasure and delight” when your brain wanders, as Martha Beck writes, “instead of engaging with the bitterness and fear.” Which, presumably, will help create Thinner Peace, a mind that is settled and satisfied, rather than one that tells my hands to shove cheese and potato chips and wine into my mouth at 2:00 AM.

What about you? What’s in your treasure chest?

Reboot

Percolating

I’ve been percolating for a few years now and I’m finally ready for a reboot.

I’m calling this, Tiny Umbrellas & Other Signs of Life, because I remember the day after a hard rain when the ground was covered with tiny mushrooms and they looked to me like tiny umbrellas and I thought about how everyone of them was connected to something not tiny at all–something, in fact, vast.

I wrote about it here. It gave me hope, the image of this mycelium network, waiting underground, dark and silent, waiting for the day after a storm to send its troops up through the soggy ground.

I’ve got a new fangled theme with new fangled features but it’s going to take me a while to figure out how to make everything do what I want it to do…

See y’all in 2015.