Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Tiny Teacher

Reese turns two this weekend, and it's amazing to think about all the changes her life has been through since last year. Last May she took her first steps and her vocabulary was limited to just three words. Now she is running, climbing, and talking in full sentences. It has been quite a journey watching her explore the ever-changing world around her as she learns more and more each day. But what's even more incredible is everything she has taught me this year. I never expected to learn so much from such a tiny teacher who is completely unaware of the many life lessons she teaches her mom every day. In honor of Reese’s second birthday, here are some of my favorite life lessons through a toddler’s eyes: 

1. Control your energy. I'm talking about the invisible, emotional energy that surrounds the space around us. If I am aggravated or over-scheduled, it changes the air in my home. I have noticed that Reese is crabby when I'm crabby, tense when I'm tense, and relaxed when I'm relaxed. She has shown me how much my attitude affects the space and the people around me. Being more conscious of my energy helps me stay focused on the positive and makes for a happier mom and a happier home.

2. Be who you are. I love how toddlers are so incredibly carefree. Reese doesn’t care about being judged by others, nor does she have the ability to judge. In Reese’s world, everyone is completely free to be themselves. Her carefree nature reminds me to be less concerned about society’s standards and expectations, especially because I want to keep that ability alive in her for as long as possible.

3. Resilience is key. I’m amazed at how easily Reese can bounce back from negative emotions and physical pain. Whether she’s upset over a bump on the head or mad at me for derailing her plans to color on the wall, the devastation always ends as quickly as it begins. She gets some comfort from mommy and moves on to a new task. Suddenly the original problem is completely forgotten, and she leaves me with yet another example of what it means to “just get over it.”  

4. Sometimes you just need to have a tantrum. Adults have tantrums too. We just have a different way of channeling them. I’ve learned that as long as we develop appropriate ways to handle an occasional flood of emotion, there’s no reason to feel guilty about our tantrums. If Reese needs to flail on the floor for a minute after being told that we’re not watching another episode of Mickey Mouse, I can’t exactly say I don’t understand. I often have that same urge when I get off the phone with Verizon’s customer service line.  

5. Life is fascinating. Sometimes I wonder how long it has been since I sat in complete awe of nature’s beauty. Somewhere along the way I became desensitized to my surroundings and consumed by my routine and I forgot how marvelous the world really is. Reese’s excitement over simple things in nature – a squirrel in the yard, a purple flower, a really tall tree – reminds me there are so many reasons to look at the world and say, “Wow!” 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Searching for Serenity: The Beginning

I’m sitting on my patio, lemonade in hand, watching my new waterfall fountain, a mother’s day gift, pouring steady streams of water into the basin below. On my left, our hammock swings gracefully between two trees. The air is filled with peaceful silence interrupted only by the chirping of birds and the steady trickle of the fountain. Yet, somehow, among all of this beauty surrounding a home and a life beyond my wildest dreams, I am troubled.

I should start at the beginning. I have always led a stressful life. I was a straight A student all the way through grad school. Then I was planning a wedding; then I switched jobs; then I got pregnant; then I quit my job against my better financial judgment; then our family started to outgrow our tiny house. I always believed my stress was warranted, my worries were real. I was plagued by terrifying “What if’s,” many of which were neither foreseeable nor preventable.

Beginning exactly one year ago, a series of amazing blessings propelled me into the life of my dreams. Matt was promoted to a job that would allow me to stay home indefinitely and six months later we bought our dream house. Finally, all of my problems are solved, I told myself, and I truly believed it. A month after the move, I sat alone on my couch staring across the room at our stone fireplace with tears soaking the front of my shirt.  All of the worry, doubt, and anxiety had followed me right into my new life, and a whole new set of “what if’s” forced their way into my daily thoughts. My mind instantly entered guilt mode, “How can I not be happy with all of this? Am I really that ungrateful? Don’t I realize how blessed I am?”  Once I realized that a verbal self-beating wasn’t going to help me, I pulled myself together and resolved to find the root of my sadness.

Over the next few weeks, I came to a troubling conclusion. I imagine it is the same conclusion reached by those who find themselves in an endless series of bad relationships: It’s me. My worries were never about the external circumstances in my life. Rather, they were generated from an unsettled place deep inside me, and my ability to calm them relied not on solving my problems but on tapping into the internal sense of peace that calms the storm regardless of the problems in its wake.

Possibly the most bothersome aspect of my plight is that the concept of internal peace is not new to me (although the pursuit of it certainly is). I’m familiar with all the famous quotes about how money can’t buy happiness and moments that take your breath away. Live, Laugh, Love, right? For some reason, though, I always thought my situation was an exception. I believed peace was waiting right around the corner if only I could reach this goal, solve that problem, survive this busy week. It wasn’t until I had it all on the outside that I realized how much was missing on the inside. That’s what I should have been pursuing the whole time. Imagine my devastation as I thought back on all the years of my life that weren’t enjoyed to their fullest because I was plagued by worry, doubt, and a million what-if’s that never came to fruition.

Although it has taken me a long time to give my problem a name and a voice, I am now in the beginning stages of what I believe will be a life-changing journey. If you are bothered by worry, doubt, or anxiety; if you feel lost in your life and confused about your purpose; if your faith has been shaken by your inability to find true peace; then I invite you to join me. I don’t know that I will find definitive answers to all of those uncertainties, but I’m determined to try.

Today, as I sit on my patio and sip my lemonade, I am still troubled but I am filled with a new hope. I still worry and my anxieties still take over more than I would like to admit, but I am slowly working to change the way I process their presence. Each day is a miniature journey toward the ultimate goal – complete peace and serenity despite the many uncertainties of life. Many people say it isn’t possible. I say, let’s see.

Look for future posts titled “Searching for Serenity” for updates on the realizations, challenges, and discoveries that come my way as I work to grow a more positive mind and create a more peaceful life.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

25 Ways Motherhood Changes Us Forever

It’s Third Thursday Blog Hop time again, which is just one of many reminders in my life that the months go by too fast. The topic for May is, “How has motherhood changed you?” Becoming a mom tops the list of life events that resulted in permanent changes to my identity, attitude, world views, and outlook on life. Today’s challenge is finding a way to sum up those changes while doing justice to the topic and keeping my long-standing commitment to brevity. So without any drawn out explanations (which I shouldn’t need anyway because I know you all get it), here is a randomly ordered list of 25 ways motherhood has changed me forever…

1.      I will never again underestimate my ability to do anything.
2.      I actually want to exercise, eat right, and recycle.
3.      I believe in fairies, magic, and Santa Claus again.
4.      I can’t watch news stories where children are the victims of crimes, tragedies, or terminal illnesses without shedding a tear.
5.      I no longer need an alarm clock.
6.      I found greater joy in simple moments.
7.      I learned that when moms say they would walk through fire for their kids, it’s absolutely true.
8.      I am less afraid to die and more afraid to die for different reasons.
9.      I am fearless where I was once afraid and afraid where I was once fearless.
10.  I can say, “look, honey, a butterfly!” with genuine fascination.
11.  I discovered that I am still beautiful without mascara, heels, and push-up bras.
12.  I finally choose comfort over style when picking out shoes.
13.  I discovered that mommy’s kisses really are magical.
14.  I look at those perfectly formed fingers and toes and I know there is a God.
15.  I care less about reaching my personal goals and more about helping my kids reach theirs.
16.  I have more patience than I ever thought possible.
17.  I don’t feel like a loser when I go to bed early on the weekends.
18.  I stopped judging other parents based on their children’s public tantrums.
19.  I’d rather shop for baby clothes and toys than new purses and shoes.
20.  I cherish every minute of my alone time.
21.  I learned that very few areas of parenting have true right answers and trying to find them will drive you crazy.
22.  I appreciate simple things like showers and hot meals.
23.  I discovered that life really is too short and time really does go too fast.
24.  I lost friends I didn’t really need and reconnected with ones I never should have lost.
25. I finally understand the concept of unconditional love.