Hello friends. We all know that as we live our daily lives, we also are engaged in a longer personal journey to figure out what matters to us, how to be happy, and how to have a positive impact on others. Since I’ve been spending so much time thinking about these issues over the past few years, I’ve decided to try to dedicate THURSDAYS on the site to a reflection post on this personal journey. I’ll be writing about happiness, wellness, motivation, peace of mind and other goodies that I’ve been striving to achieve. I hope you will tune in and help me think about these issues, and weigh in with your thoughts!! Welcome to Reflection Thursdays and here’s my first post!! xoxo Melissa
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Last Monday I had, well, one of those days. I raced, ran, felt frantic, and was late. Nothing seemed to be COMING TOGETHER. I felt like a feeble raft adrift a rough river being tossed, thrown, and drenched and just battling to stay on top.
Later that day, I sat down for dinner with the kids. While we ate together and talked, I breathed and felt more centered. A feeling of relief and calm swept over me as we laughed about someone’s day. Those peaceful moments were following by more activity and racing and running around the house as I concentrated on getting everyone done for the day and in bed.
As a Mom to five kids between 4-10 years old, my life veers between such moments of frenetic activity and calm. The calm moments dot my day, happening less frequently than the frantic moments. Here are some of the times during which these peaceful moments happen:
- When chatting with Marc (my sweetie) at the end of the day
- when watching one of my boys’ soccer games
- when having lunch or dinner on a weekend, if our sports excursions, play dates and birthday parties are officially done
- in yoga
- when reading my book
- when taking one child somewhere.
Such peaceful moments pop up as small islands in the overall sea of frantic, anxiety-ridden “doingness” that constitutes my life. By “doingness” I mean: emailing, texting, making calls, signing forms, trying to keep adrift of all the planning, clothing, camps, sports, meal planning, and just plain stuff. Families depend on “doingness”. No one could get out the door without it. Yet for us moms, when there is nothing other than doingness, our souls can ache from the lack of peace and serenity. Such has been my state of mind during most of the years I’ve been a mom, which is to say for the past 10 years.
Lately, I am happier than I have ever been.
Not as an escape, not as a remedy, but as something that makes each day better, I’ve started to take yoga twice a week at a place around the corner. This amazing instructor named Jackie — also a mom of 5 — doles out words of wisdom as I sweat and try to twist myself into the various positions. I stood on my head for the first time several weeks ago but now my neck hurts. You get the picture. I’m not a professional and certainly not as skilled as the power yoga mamas in the class.
But being in that class has become a cornerstone of my life not because I am a yogi or even able to practice yoga nearly as much as I like, but because of what yoga represents. Sure, I come out feeling refreshed and happy. Physically I feel better and stronger. But even more meaningfully for me, the class has helped me to understand how to find more moments of happiness.
Jackie talks about the NOW, about being in the moment and how that is reality. To me, reality is always subjective (each person sees and experiences “reality” from the perspective of his own conscious, subjective mind) but what rings true is that when we sink into “doinginess”, we gloss over what is actually happening in front of us. If I’m reading a book to my little one, but anxious in my head that I didn’t send in her Kindergarten application, I am not enjoying anything, and I am missing the BEAUTY OF THE MOMENT. I am actually missing a slice of life. She is sitting in my lap, she wants me to hug her, she wants a certain book. That tender moment won’t happen again. If I’m thinking about her Kindergarten application, I am simply not paying attention to the moment, and I am more stressed and less happy.
I don’t mean to sound tragic, but if you exit too many precious moments with your kids, you are giving up the joys of parenting.
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I have never studied mindfulness, nor read anything about how to practice mindfulness, and know that different people have their own interpretations, but to me, mindfulness means staying PRESENT, in the moment, so that you don’t miss the moment, so that you experience what is happening (rather than worry about the past and what is to come). This is why mindfulness requires us to surrender, to give up. In a sense, we need to stop thinking and worrying and allow ourselves to just experience what is right in front of our eyes.
I am not always able to be mindful. In fact, I might be one of the least mindful people I know. I am always planning, organizing, setting up the future, figuring out when I will take my next adventure, trying to get things aligned for some other day.
But lately, I’m realizing that even though my “doingness” will always be there and is in fact essential — it’s a part of what makes me tick (and what my family depends on) — that if I can try to isolate it into sessions during my day, I am freed up to enjoy my life more and on my way to finding instances of inner peace. Here are some ways to carve out the peaceful, meaningful moments:
- leave your phone in your room when you are with the kids
- leave your phone in your pocket when you are at the park
- schedule lunch with friends and don’t check your phone during lunch
- do yoga
- do the dishes together as a family – not kidding. In any activity where you are driven to finish a task, no mater how basic, you will be less likely to step away and get distracted. This is why so many people love to iron or even clean — it’s therapeutic because your mind is at ease, rather than full of decision and doubt.
- schedule “admin” time — do everything you can during that time, and then save future admin for the next “admin time” — this is what I mean by isolating “doingness”. Otherwise, it will takeover your entire day.
It’s now 6pm and I’ve finished my first Thursday Reflection post. So now I’m going to try to leave the phone here in the office, leave the doingness aside for several hours, and just go BE with the kids. As Jackie said to me today, we are not human DOERS. We are human BEINGS.
In your book, what makes a good parent? Is it someone who says family comes first and puts the needs of their child first and foremost, or can carving out some time for yourself help the whole family? Weigh in!
Thank you for reading.