On Taming the Temper

One of my biggest struggles as a parent is controlling my fiery temper.

It’s not yet 11 am on a Thursday. This morning, I pulled shots of espresso from my beloved machine and made crepes from scratch. I read today’s entry from The Book of Awakening and a few pages from another book. I loaded the dishwasher and cleaned the bathroom and cleaned the stove and wiped down the counters and picked up toys and clothes. I helped with homework. I bathed my children, washed and conditioned and brushed their hair. Packed their lunches and snacks. Made and ate my second breakfast. Snapped a few photos. Posted on Instagram stories. Spoonfed vitamins. Re-filled water bottles. Unknotted shoelaces. Found ballet outfit. Delivered one to school. Delivered the other to ballet.

I lost my temper, too. All those tasks piling up, the tension mounting, the relentless juggling, a full day of solo parenting that stretched long before me. If we could only get where we were going on time. The dam that held a spring of emotions snapped open;  my stress came pouring out, and onto my baby. I yelled and grabbed her hand and she started crying. Her sadness pulled me back to reality, to my true priorities, which have nothing to do with arriving on time. As usual, almost immediately, I repented.

Where does that heat come from? How does it rise and boil over with such speed? What happens to me when I snap? Why can’t I, the observing presence, catch the fire, contain it, control emotions instead of letting them control me? How can I model emotional stability for my children?

I decided to look for the stars for guidance by following the wisdom of my rising sign. (Your Ascendant [or rising sign] reveals the ways in which you present yourself to others, as well as the ways in which you immediately respond to the world around you – source.)

Believe (or don’t) what you want about astrology and the power of the cosmos, but I have found that it reveals what I already know to be true. Such as:

  • Those born with an Aries Ascendant are quick to anger and quick to let it pass. – source
  • Their temper is quick, too. It’s also quick to disappear. Rarely do you find Aries rising people holding grudges. – source
  • It is important to recognize the need to expend a good deal of physical energy when you have Aries rising. Exercise and activities often help to keep the nervous system from becoming overwhelmed. Inactivity can often lead to moodiness and emotional overwhelm as your innate need to expend energy has nowhere to go. – source
  • One of the pitfalls of the Aries rising is that with warring Mars as their chart ruler, their rash delivery and heavy-handedness can intimidate people. However, when channeled through physical and creative outlets, their fury becomes a force to be reckoned with. – source

By generating heat from the inside and letting it erupt in the form of sweat, I notice how I am better equipped to manage my feelings. Going hard at the gym shakes up something inside of me, grounds me into my body, empowers me. I can do this. The center of me contains multitudes, with far more power than the tides of stress and anger.

By writing creatively, whether its a page in a novel or a poem or even a thoughtful Instagram post, my fury becomes potent, usable, a force to create.

When I lost my temper this morning, I had neither exercised nor written. It seems simple, but the maps are not always easy to read. After all–I had done both of these things the day before. But, I had also been emptied the night before at dinner and clean-up and bedtime. I did not re-fill before bed, nor upon waking. In retrospect, after an extra-loaded evening followed by an extra-busy morning, of course my nerves were frazzled.

I’ve been trying for a while to meditate/read/soul-search my way to inner and outer peace, to equanimity and absolute calm. I thought I could use willpower to achieve it, but I’ve started to revise my thinking: perhaps my greatest control is not over my emotions, but how I spend my time, how committed I am to filling my cup. 

As the sages have said before and will say again: one cannot pour from an empty cup.

GOING HIGH (Plus 7 Action Steps We Can Take Today)

I realized that I was avoiding people, avoiding real conversations, worried I would not be positive and upbeat enough, that I would fail to communicate how much I love life and how much progress I see happening in our collective society. I could get caught up in how many things need to change, how divided and sick we are as a country.

There’s so much happening in the external world that curling inwards can seem like the only way to cope. How else can we make space for everything there is to process? I hear people lamenting over “the wall” in the gym locker room and I cringe. I don’t want to be reminded of it in that moment and I don’t want it to be real and I don’t want xenophobic bullshit to be the subject of conversation between friends in passing. Why do humans keep forgetting we are all One? 

Many of us feel helpless and I’m writing this post to tell you (and me) that YOU CAN ABSOLUTELY MAKE A DIFFERENCE. You are not, in fact, helpless. But, there’s so much happening, so much already on your plate, where do you start? START HERE:

    1. Read these viral tweets to find out how to effectively talk to your members of congress.
    2. Download the Call The Halls guide which includes actionable steps to get in touch with YOUR representative.
    3. Sign up with Daily Action to receive messages that will tell you exactly what to say to your rep.
    4. Make the calls. 
    5. Donate to the ACLU who is actively working and succeeding to block Trump’s discrimination. Every dollar adds up.
    6. CHOOSE LOVE. Don’t let fear of this new world order make you angry or scared or small. Practice gratitude for that which remains the same: children are still innocent, flowers are still blooming, the earth is still spinning around the sun. In order to lift the vibration of this broken world, we have to LOVE like we have never loved before. Love our neighbors, love our enemies, love ourselves.
    7. GO HIGH. What is your greatest good, your highest purpose? Your good is good for the world. Follow your heart and your passions and go all in. (Scroll down for more ideas on how to go high.) For me, going high means taking care of myself so that I can take care of my kids and other children in my community. I hope they will understand why we must impeach our newly inaugurated president, but I hope they will not chant their hatred for him. Hate never helps. He’s a human being, like us, albeit one infected by greed, bigotry, and insanity. Going high means having compassion for the mess that is DT. It also means getting him out of our government as soon as possible.

OTHER WAYS WE CAN GO HIGH:
– HEAL. Do healing work to release fear and trauma. Invoke our inner guides, spiritual teachers, bodyworkers, therapists, friends. Healing ourselves is healing the world.
– CREATE. Make art that expresses our feelings. Make and share art that educates, empowers, and enlightens others.
– CULTIVATE. Do business where the bottom line is not money, but progress.
– GIVE TIME AND/OR MONEY. Find organizations that are making this world a better place. We must not limit ourselves to political causes, rather we must open our hearts to that which we feel passion. Anything that lifts up the planet is The Work.
– GATHER. Organize communities of like-minded people for camaraderie, activism, and support. Together, we can do more.

“When they go low, we go high.” – Michelle Obama

We Are Never Stuck

Right now, there is clarity. The zeitgeist of January. The patina of the holidays. Today I return to regular programming, the magic of the season like a contrail in my tailwind. Today I see the point in everything, the sacred place of process. I want to pause in the middle of it, but there will be none of that. We simply cannot stop moving. Life does not allow it.

It helps to attempt stillness, to make friends with the impossibility of it. When we recognize our inability to be completely still, our unwillingness to stop breathing, we will understand that our worst fears are not true: we are not stuck, stalled, or trapped; we are never actually any of these things. We are perfectly dynamic creatures.

Lately life is a series of snapshots. A grid of burners, hot with potential. I tend each one in turn. Sometimes I turn my back at the wrong moment and something or someone gets burned. Sometimes we salvage, or we start over.

Despite my optimism, my idealism, the ripe promise of a new year, I haven’t forgotten what it feels like to see the point in nothing. We teeter over it by the sheer act of living. And so I feed myself carefully. Presence is still a slippery thing.

Resolve

The beginning of things. Mondays. The first of a month. The stretch of a new year before us. If we have nothing else, we always have possibility.

New Year. New You. I’m starting to see these words in strange places. On the Amazon.com header. On the marquee of my mind. Lighting up centers of hope. Sometimes, sadly, the realist comes in and takes over with a thwack. Yeah. Right. It’s a calendar year, not magic. Change happens quickly, but also slowly. Change happens in one step forward and one step back and (if you keep on keeping on) two more steps forward.

How many times must we see or repeat something before it becomes built in, part of us, another screw in our hardware. How many beauty magazines must we read until we grow fearful of aging? How many rejections must we receive until we condemn our dreams? How many barriers must we construct before we can love? Conversely, how many resolutions/intentions/goals must we set in order to find progress?

Make it a mantra. Write it down. Put it where you can see it. Put your money where your mouth is. Believe. The past has no bearing on the future. What has always been done need not determine what will be done.

I don’t know the occult formula, the foolproof strategy for growth. Aside from faith.

Resolutions are not one-size-fits-fits-all, not one-size-fits-forever. Resolutions are mutable, discoverable, breakable. And nothing is foolproof. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is forever. Yet everything is forever, because God is forever, and God is everything, and we are God.

Resolutions themselves will not change a life. It’s the energy behind the resolutions that make them powerful. The momentum of the new year brings a surge of energy. A fresh wave to ride. I like to take advantage of it, tending to the spark until it becomes a fire that clears space for new ways of being. The sacred ten days between the solstice and the new year, this is when we set the goal posts. The resolutions.

Here’s 17 things I want for 2017. (Fun fact: I didn’t use numbers as I wrote them, just happen to come up with 17 things.) Can I call them resolutions? Not sure. They are behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs that I seek to practice and master. I am sharing them because it’s a kind of accountability, and because I hope to inspire, and because I want to remember.

  1. Make my bed in the morning. And by morning I mean MORNING, not right before I get back in it at night.
  2. Be curious, not judgmental. Finding curiosity instead of judgment feels like breathing in ocean air instead of carbon dioxide.
  3. Balance creation with consumption. Stop the soul-sucking madness of mindless scrolling through social media. Yeah. That.
  4. Practice kindness. Even when I want to growl or yell or howl. Especially then.
  5. Go for quality over quantity. Run faster, for shorter distances. Lift heavier, for less reps. Buy less. Buy from socially and/or environmentally responsible companies. Read favorite books again, rather than seeking to read all the books.
  6. Cultivate inner peace. Use meditation, mindfulness, and deep breaths. Don’t worry if my youngest wants me to lay down with her for an hour until she falls asleep, use this time to be with her and be still. Know without a doubt that everything I need is within me right here, right now. There is nothing I must accomplish or accumulate in order to find inner-peace. It is within me all along.
  7. Simplify. Letting go of things/activities/habits/beliefs I no longer need. This is all-encompassing, a continuous work-in-process. We must always edit, or we risk stagnation. Our best life comes from whittling away the detritus to arrive at the shiny center.
  8. Count blessings. Have gratitude for everything, even if it’s hard to see the good in it. Refrain from comparing my life to other lives on social media. Want what I have. Rejoice in the gift of life.
  9. Call people. The quickest way to connect with far-flung loved ones is to call. Call them first, call them back. I’ve fallen into the comfort zone of texting, but nothing replaces a conversation between human voices.
  10. Make more art. Yes, stories and essays and ramblings, but also collage art and installation art and collaborative art. Feed my inner artist. Let my inner art monster loose.
  11. Share my art fearlessly. Actively share and seek ways to share. Submit. Query. Apply. Publish.
  12. Focus on the process rather than the end result. Love the process. Have gratitude for the process. The process is the only thing we can control. The process is the reward in and of itself.
  13. Let presence eclipse productivity. “Ours is a culture that measures our worth as human beings by our efficiency, our earnings, our ability to perform this or that. The cult of productivity has its place, but worshipping at its altar daily robs us of the very capacity for joy and wonder that makes life worth living.” – Maria Popova
  14. Go on more adventures. To places I’ve never been, whether that’s a city or a country or a street in my city. And to my favorite places more often, like the beach just to watch the sunset for 10 minutes.
  15. Practice peaceful parenting. Show empathy. Listen to and respect their opinions, wants and needs. Say “yes” when I can. Don’t get in power struggles. Delight in my children. Put aside special time every day to connect with them on an individual basis.
  16. Practice rituals religiously, and create new ones. I like to write my intentions under the New Moon and use fire to release that which is no longer serving me during the Full Moon. I like to read something spiritual with my coffee in the morning, and read fiction in the evening. My family likes crepes on Sunday morning and kisses when we say good-bye. In the coming year I would love to declutter and clean the house as a family on the spring and autumnal equinoxes. I would love to host gatherings on the summer and winter solstices. I would like to bless my food before eating it. I want to see my life bookended by rituals of my own choosing and making.
  17. LOVE MYSELF. Befriend myself. Shine my light. Be true. Be vulnerable. Be a badass. Be inspired. Be love.

Here’s to trying, and believing. Here’s to the rebirth. Here we go.

Imagine

Imagine what a beautiful, balanced, educated, nourished, whole society we might have if there existed no offshore accounts, if the 1% paid taxes at the same rate as the rest of us, if we we weren’t afraid of our differences, or our power.

We came so far, we came so close.

Until the collective “we” sanctioned a master of the 1%, while the majority looked on, horrified and powerless beyond one vote. We watched as America sold itself to the highest bidder, a demagogue.

Across the planet, death. A holocaust. Rape, murder, and war. Mankind doing what it has always done. We know, maybe we’ve always known, that it’s madness. Man failing to honor the divine in every life. Men killing out of fear, in the name of power. The greed of man tipping the scales dangerously.

And despite having awareness of all that is wrong with the world, we feel powerless beyond one donation.

We can bear witness, so we do. We can cry.

It is no wonder that many of us with porous natures are caught in the tangle. The slow drip of sadness, loneliness, confusion. We are part of the mad world, and so the madness is part of us.

The only thing we can do in this smudge of a moment is LOVE fearlessly and show that love to ourselves and others.

We can raise the frequency.

“We go high.” – Michelle Obama

The Beginning

(11-9-16)

Last night I held energetic hands With Every Woman I’ve Ever Known.
So much red. Blood spill. In the darkness I lay still between my
Young Daughters. I sing to them for a miracle. They sing with me.
In the night, I wake up, knowing. God, I can’t see the miracle.
All I see is red. Trapped awake writing poetry in my head.

No waking from this nightmare. Feels like. Grief.

I have to tell my brown baby. Someone told her Trump
doesn’t like brown people. I don’t want her to know about
racism. I know she knows about racism. First grade. Loves
Hillary Clinton. L-O-V-E-S. She doesn’t believe me. I was wrong
before. Two year-old sister knows his name now. Pink lips innocent
to hate, fledgling voice violated by this bigotry embodied.

At school, public/urban/diverse, see a gay dad but not the
mothers in hijab. Don’t look at anyone too long. Sunglasses.
Closed slash of mouth. No crying in public. Children chattering
his name. Shame. The liberal bubble. Popped. A hush over
San Francisco. My daughter interviewing my husband for answers.
Meanwhile, a gas station in suburban Cleveland, someone to a
Young Black Woman: “soon enough you and all your family will be
eliminated.” Eliminated. This isn’t fiction. My cousin knows the
mother of the victim personally. I said, This isn’t fiction. This
happened, is happening, and what the actual fuck have we done.

I have gray hairs and fine lines and children and this morning damn
how could I be so naive, positively smug. We have seen too much
come too far to let this happen. Don’t I have enough reasons to worry
about my husband? Now half of our country condones the man
endorsed by the mother-fucking KKK. I don’t know what to say
anymore. Trump doesn’t love you, America. He loves power.

Extinction burst: a sudden and temporary increase in the response’s
frequency, followed by the eventual decline and extinction of the
behavior targeted for elimination. Racism. Misogyny. Homophobia. Xenophobia.
What else. Millions awakened by the cold truth, corruption revealed.
People talking about rebirth, evolution and revolution. No more time
for distractions. Conserve energy. Heal. Hope. Fever burns away the old,
clearing space. This isn’t the end of the story. It is the beginning.

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3 Reasons Modern Life Makes Parents Crazy

A 24 year-old mother of three injected her children with heroin to make them sleep. The horror of this headline is enough to pull otherwise contented mothers into an abyss of despairing solidarity. Because we cannot un-see this evidence that our own kind, at this moment, are desperate, alone, unsupported, deranged. All humans are suffering deep wounds and fighting dark demons. We are winning and we are losing, fragile and gritty, attached and dynamic. No matter how disconnected we feel, we are forever members of the same universe, our joy and pain transmuting into frequencies that wrap the earth with love and fear.

Though I cannot imagine doing what this mother did, I know the ways she felt trapped, the impossibility of motherhood without a magical solution. Though I do not know the pain of her childhood that shut the doors in her heart, I know how it feels to have children who don’t fall asleep or stay asleep, and to be desperate in this way. I cannot understand what she did, and yet in a way, I do. How many steps are there between a mother feeling crazy and going crazy?

Her children live in foster care now. They are very young, very tender. Their struggles and their suffering have only begun. They have messes to untangle, a world to be-friend. Will they ever believe the universe to be a friendly place? Will they find adults for meaningful connection before it’s too late? Will they process the abuse or will they become addicted to whatever numbs the pain? Will they forgive or will they try to forget? Will they find God or will they find heroin?

Stories like this do not make me feel better about myself as a mother. Instead, I am humbled. How easy it is to lose everything, including your mind. I had and have good parents and still I struggle to parent my children to the best of my knowledge and abilities. I make mistakes while knowing they are mistakes. Did Ashlee Hutt know it was a mistake? Does she know now? Does the guilt eat her alive at night or is she beyond guilt? How did she get this way? Why is madness so common to parenthood? Reproducing seems like a basic component of being human, something that should be instinctual and natural, but for many of us, it doesn’t end up that way.

Why? The list is long and never-ending, but worth exploring because awareness always precedes change. Here are a few ways we’re getting tripped up:

  1. The decentralization of family. We are a transient species. Immigrating, Emigrating, following jobs and money and new experiences. We live without the village. We live in single family homes, in detached cocoons. Grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins are mostly too far away, or too busy, or too preoccupied to help regularly.
  2. The individualist perspective. America, founded on the individual’s right to the pursuit of happiness, raises us to value our individuality. We learn early to ask the question, “what is best for me?” a mentality that does not serve us well when we become parents and must learn selflessness on the fly. On the other hand, parents in collectivist cultures view themselves as members of a community first and foremost. They value their work as parents as it ensures the survival and progress of the citizenry.
  3. An unsupportive government. Mothers in the UK are required to take two weeks of maternity leave, and permitted to take up to a year. Ireland’s tax code gives generous breaks for children. In Denmark, day care is readily available and heavily subsidized. The Swedish government provides parents a monthly allowance to help with the costs of raising a child. Considering our vast wealth, the United States is famously stingy in our support of parents.

And still, despite the madness we are driven to, the desperate measures we take, the guilt we harbor, the sleep we lose, every sane parent I know agrees that above all, it’s always worth it. Which may be the craziest part of all.

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