Extravagant

Been thinking a lot lately about things that stand out. Personalities. Hair styles. Cars. Life styles. Behaviors. Words.

I grew up thinking that something that was extravagant was a negative thing. Superfluous. Not necessary. Excessive. As a result, on some level, whether intended or not, I believe I sought to fit in, not stand out. To be average and not too much or too little. To fly below the radar as much as possible.

So it was rather annoying that the bulk of my childhood I received comments often about my smile and my cheerful expressions on my face. Even earning the nickname smiley at one point. It bothered me that people commented on my smile. I did not want to be noticed. To stand out.

A number of years ago, well into adulthood I read a book with the word exuberance in the title. The author told a bit of biography of Theodore Roosevelt and his love for and passion for forests and national parks and how he fought valiantly for their preservation and protection during his presidency. And I found myself nearly captivated by his drive and determination and his unwillingness to be derailed despite others views or scoffing at his hopes and expectations. He was not only passionate but he was exuberant. Which the dictionary defines as “the quality of having energy, excitement or cheerfulness”. While reading I found myself inspired and even impassioned, by his zest for life’s purpose that felt contagious.

Perhaps excess isn’t always bad.

Today I was listening to a song entitled extravagant, in which it described a love that didn’t make sense, that was unthinkable, above and beyond. I couldn’t help but pause.

If something that is extravagant is unnecessary and excessive. If exuberance is above and beyond expected, superfluous. Then wouldn’t something like extravagant generosity or exuberant expressions of compassion be encouraged, even celebrated?

Perhaps the goal should never be to blend in or fly below the radar. Not to say ones goal should be to be center stage or on display. But perhaps a more candid and honest expression of ones self should be encouraged. Less filtered. Perhaps when it comes to love and compassion, extravagance could be modeled, and portrayed as what it could be in full expression, beautiful.

I don’t think I’m advocating that extravagance be expected or demanded. But what if it were modeled on occasion. Without being magnified or downplayed. But simply seen. And felt. Witnessed. Experienced.

We have new neighbors in our neighborhood. And when they moved in they hung these brightly colored aerial swings in their large tree in the front yard. The first time I saw them I thought it was unique and strange and perhaps a bit dramatic to have multiple very colorful swings in their front yard tree. However I soon discovered that most evenings when I went walking I saw their daughters hanging and swinging in those swings. Night after night. Laughter abounding. Creative expression visible.

Extravagant? Maybe. Exuberant? Definitely. Negative or a bad thing? Not a chance.

Perhaps what felt unfortunate for much of my childhood turned out to be fortune after all. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t really adapt my facial expressions without really modifying my outlook on life in a negative way. So as quietly as possible, I owned my facial expressions. And I smiled often. And I smiled even more when someone commented on it. Cause that was me being me. For it just was what it was. And it seemed the sooner I accepted that. The sooner I was able to just be me. Sometimes too much. Sometimes not enough. But always true to myself.

Now that I have a daughter who openly prances around the neighborhood dressed up as a princess or a warrior or hula dancer or a magician, I find myself encouraging her self expression and her unique flare. I don’t ever want to stifle that. If exuberance comes natural to her. I pray it always will. Without encumbrance or shame.

I’m sure there are some who still describe me as over the top or unnecessary. Perhaps even excessive at times. But I feel okay with that now. At least I’m channeling my energy toward generosity and compassion and not resentment or judgement. A decision I would make and will make, again and again.

Advertisements

My journey as a new mommy

I’m not gonna lie, my christening into motherhood was akin to baptism by fire. I had dreamt of being a mom, I had prayed to have the opportunity to have a child of my own. I prepped, I planned…there were spreadsheets with graphs- timelines, needs, steps to action. I have no problem claiming my type a personality- an equal blessing and curse.

While I have counseled parents, have studied child development, parenting techniques, striving versus thriving, the impact of helicopter parenting, the need for attachment and so on…. The importance of routine, consistency, confidence, self-awareness, along with the impact of stress, and the challenge to a marriage of the new addition. I read the books, I babysat my whole life. I loved being an auntie and spent countless weekends caring for my nephews and practicing parent-dome. Nothing could have prepared me for my own child.

I experienced an incredibly shocking awakening when I had my daughter. She quite literally shook my world, spun it around and then flipped it upside down and then smiled.

Neither my husband nor I had any clue how drastically our lives would change when we had a child. Of course we knew it would be different, but in our naivety, we thought we’d adjust quickly like we always have to change, and after a short pause of adjustment, life would resume as we had previously known it. We were educated, experienced adults…

Come to find out, becoming a parent is not something that one can really prepare for. Sure you can educate yourself and collect tools for the journey (this I would highly recommend) but aside from that, no amount of prepping, planning, reading, babysitting nor studying can stabilize you for the earthquakes and the steady occurrence of aftershocks to follow.

Very early on in my pregnancy I made the decision to be open and honest about my experience. This was inspired by the perceived lack of truth-telling that I experienced from other women prior to embarking on the journey myself. I wasn’t going to be that flowery overly positive, see the bright side mom- hadn’t previously been that kind of non-mom. Not gonna start now. 

The day I hit my 6th week of pregnancy, I was washed over by a wave of nausea, fatigue, exhaustion and huge slap of reality of just how quickly life was to be modified and forever changed… The next 14 weeks were a daily assault of life altering changes to my body, my mind, my diet, my exercise routine and my sleep.

I was asleep by 7pm nightly, and routinely slept till 7am the next morning only to be hit with an overwhelming need to nap by 2pm in the afternoon. I questioned my sanity daily… I began forgetting little things here and there and before I knew it, I was having to write down everything like an alzheimers patient.  I had low back pain and hip pain and sometimes my joints would ache like i had arthritis. I was sick to my stomach constantly and had heart burn that wouldn’t give up for the first time in my life. To top it off, although I felt like the world had ended and I must be barely hanging onto life by a thin thread, I barely showed the signs of a bump, so no one even knew or could empathize with me unless I told my tales of whoa. But here comes my positive note: I got a  brief break at around 20 weeks that lasted to about 28 weeks…where I didn’t want to curl up and die on any given day.

However just prior to 30 weeks the desire to curl up returned only this time I was large (to me i was whale like, to others i barely looked 5 months pregnant), uncomfortable and down right unhappy about it. Food became infrequent and small snacks at best, as I routinely felt like food just camped out in my esophagus, waiting to send up smoke signals. It was about this same time that my husband and I began a holistic birthing class- mostly comprised of individuals seeking all natural birth experiences, some specific to water birth (myself included). We went weekly, making dates out of the classes, having dinner after, discussing our fears, hopes and dreams. 

At our 36 week apt with our midwife we discovered that baby girl was still head up and didnt’ seem to be interested in turning around. We began a multiple week onslaught of exercises, putting my body in specific positions, acupuncture sessions, even going as extreme to use close-pins on my toes while circling them with moxa- considered a natural way to help the baby reposition (in eastern medicine). We did this daily and sometimes multiple times a day. I was committed to having a non-cesarean delivery. Daily acupuncture continued. Inversions, music near my pelvis, smoke rings of moxa around the toes…

At our 38 week appointment baby girl was still bum down, head up. I left my midwifes office, called my previous OB and scheduled an appointment to discuss options. After much debate, cautionary concerns and emotional turmoil, we made the decision to schedule another appointment 5 days prior to my due date, to do one of three things. Option one would be to see that baby girl had turned and could be delivered naturally and I go home- chances were below 30% according to my doctor. Option two would be to do a manual procedure called aversion, to try and force baby girl to turn- also very low percentages on success rates (can also be painful for mama and cause “distress” to the baby). Option three was to head into the OR and have a cesarean section to remove baby girl, avoiding the risk of going into natural labor with a breech baby (which apparently doctors don’t get super excited about allowing). 

There are very few words. I went from refusal to acknowledge the reality to a numb sort of acceptance. I didn’t want to talk about it. It was what it was. I felt withdrawn and compliant at that point. It felt like someone else’s life I was hearing about, not my own. I was beside myself with frustration while simultaneously trying to gracefully accept the route this was going. I was swimming in the dark.

I remember waking up early the morning of my appointment “to be or not to be” ringing through my head. I wanted to go for a walk. So despite the rain, I suited up and walked my regular 3.5 mile loop. As I walked I cried tears of anger and rage, then I smiled tears of acceptance and surrender. I sang songs of comfort… even prayed that I would start contractions, for some assemblance of “natural” or “as it should be” to occur. Then I sat by the river and just let all the emotion flow for a long while. And when I got up and finished my route home, I felt I had shifted internally. I was ready to face this. Bring it. 

I got home- showered and got dressed, pack a bag for my baby girl and myself, took my husbands hand and walked to the car. I remember it vividly. When we showed up to check in at the hospital, the receptionist was peppy and friendly and confirmed that we were there for an aversion/c-section appointment and I burst into tears. She apologized profusely upon seeing me self-combust, was so “sorry for upsetting you”, but I put my hand up and reassured her, she was fine, I was fine, all was fine.

After I was shown to my room, the nurse came in to see us. I was all gowned up- and calmly stated that I would like an ultrasound and if baby girl was still head up and bum down, than I would decline to try and turn her- I couldn’t stand the thought of even more distress and uncertainty and watching a monitor of a crazy high heart rate on my girl.

The doctor came in shortly after, we looked at baby girl, who had not budged an inch…. and honestly the next memory I have is of me walking across the hall from my room into the OR, cap and gown and IV pole. It was cold. There were a lot of people in there and it was time for my spinal IV to numb me from the chest down. 

I remember not even being able to talk. Nurses talked to me, even held my hand, Drs checked in, the anesthesiologist was kind and gentle, very personable. I said nothing. I just lay there on the cold table trying to breathe and avoid a full blown panic attack. I was an emotional wreck. 

It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I was fully awake and present and terrified. I could feel minimal movement in my body as they cut and wiggled and jostled and dug into my stomach to pull out her little bum.

My husband stood beside me taking pics of the whole thing, talking to me the entire time, letting me know what was happening. Then her little bum appeared first followed by her body and head and her legs, which were so tight by her head the initial series of pics showed her legs slowly lowering down to her waist but no further until much later. Both OB’s present for the procedure commented that she was like a sardine in a can, tightly knit in the womb and would not have budged regardless of any of our efforts. This entry into the world was meant to be. 

They suctioned her nose, wrapped a towel around her, and handed her to my husband and he brought her immediately to my chest so I could kiss her face. It was surreal to say the least. Here was this human being, cheek against cheek. She was tucked away tightly inside me for the past 9 months and suddenly she is beside me, touching me, nuzzling me. It didn’t’ matter where we were, who else was there nor how it had come to be. But she was with me, she was healthy, safe and my very own. 

Image

It never ceases to amaze me what we as humans can go through, even put ourselves through, and come out the other side… wiser, calmer, stronger, more resilient. I had no way of knowing during those early mommy moments, that this was only the beginning of a lifetime of adjustments, compromises, lessons learned the hard way about control, and the necessary acquisition of flexibility. 

Fast forward two years and here we are. I have a beautiful, strong, brave, highly engaged and ever present toddler whom I am more challenged by than I could have ever imagined and I am more in love with literally everyday of her life…

She has taught me to be present. She has taught me to be silly. She has taught me to laugh and shared her contagious smile. She has been the hardest thing that I have ever done, truly. She has challenged me to my core and made me put my actions where my mouth is. She has called me out, humbled me and changed me for the better. She has repeatedly shown me that she is not a force to be reckoned with, but rather a very delicate flower in need of daily sunshine and water, and ever present attention. 

I am aware that I am NOWHERE near the end of this journey through motherhood… but I have to pause in celebration and acknowledgement that we made it to 2 years of age. I feel this is a milestone worth commemorating, as it has been by far the biggest thing I have ever accomplished. Surviving the first two years of a human beings life makes graduate school look like a walk in the park. I think that Aristotle said it best when he said “the heart has reasons for which reason does not know”. I truly believe that no one in their right mind would sign up to embark on such an adventure if they knew ahead of time just what it would entail and just how challenging and life altering it would be. That is why the heart is more often the one that makes these decisions.

We are not all cut out to be parents, to grow and then raise a being. For those of us who do end up with such a task, I now see it as a privilege and a gift. It is a privilege of tall order, of great sacrifice and unending calling to become even more than you ever thought that you could be.

Suraya Elise, you have shaken and stirred my world to the core, and for that I am forever grateful. I am honored to be your mommy and filled with gratitude for all you have brought to my life!Image

 

 

Be Inspired

Have you ever participated in one of those feel good groups where everyone goes around at the end and shares a word that summarizes how they are feeling post discussion? Well I have joined plenty of these “inspirational” endeavors, and along with the rest of herd, come up with my word, which is often a somewhat forced and made up last minute under pressure declaration, than it is truly a summary of what my experience was. I often feel like the outcast during “circle time,” you know exactly what I’m talking about, the tone is set, the mood is intense, the purpose is clear, which is to state the profound impact this has had on you. While it is true that often I have learned a thing or two and maybe even had an aha moment, I am rarely the girl in the circle with tears rolling down expressing how awe-inspiring this workshop was… it’s just not in my makeup. Nor do I feign interest very well as the rest of the group shares their oohs and awes….

Inspire has always been a word that I have coveted, quite literally. I connect with the word and what it implies and how I feel it compels me to be and do. In much of my education experience however I came to somewhat despise that word, feeling like it was overused, misunderstood and even abused! So I cut it out of my vocabulary for a while, to make a statement… kind of like love… “I love chocolate,” “I love grapes,” “I love puppies,” “I love this book,” “don’t you love this blouse?” These are the phrases that make me sick to my stomach when I hear them tossed around so lightly and without true intension.

To inspire, is to elicit movement, to arouse passion, to stimulate drive, to encourage, to challenge, to stir one to be more than what they are at present. So when some self-help junkie uses it to disclose how she felt during circle time, I find it somewhat offensive. The truth of the matter is that to be truly inspired is a personal experience, and not one that someone else needs to understand… therefore I would like to try to withhold judgment, however I stand by my belief that this notion should not be taken lightly. We all seek inspiration in unique ways and what speaks to one is different than another. The main objective here is to seek out a way to be not only inspired in theory, but also in action.

This morning I was at the gym working out on the rolling staircase, my nemesis and best friend rolled into one. I was reading my current autobiography by Susannah Cahalan, entitled Brain on Fire, as I have most days for the past few weeks… only this time I found myself feeling, wait for it; inspired. I won’t ruin the book for anyone who wants to read it themselves, but I will say that what this girl went through and how she came out the other side of her experience is nothing short of awe-inspiring. The kind of inspiring that elicits movement and arouses passion and stimulates drive and challenges one to hold on, fight hard, and transcend pretty much anything.

To be quite blunt and share my genuine interest, the point here is to challenge you to seek out something to be inspired by. If you find yourself without inspiration at present, then start searching, and keep searching until you bump into it, or create it yourself. Sometimes inspiration involves digging deep within yourself and whole-heartedly recognizing the strength you had within all along and how awe-inspiring that can be all on its own. Sometimes we have to reach out, claw, scrape, scratch, dig, juggle, and fumble… because sometimes you have to fall before you reach up or reach out. And “sometimes, just when we need them, life wraps metaphors up in little bows for us. When you think all is lost, the things you need the most return unexpectedly.” (Cahalan, 2012) Sometimes you have to realize you’re lacking motivation or disconnected from your purpose before you find something you value holding onto or are passionate about.

The notion that life will be simple, uncomplicated or filled with happiness without blemish or doubt is complete and utter bullshit- pardon my exuberance, but it is true! It simply does not exist, not for long anyway. At some point, the tide changes, the wind shifts, the sun goes behind a cloud, the thunder rolls and even the ground beneath your feet crumbles away and it’s in that moment, that you realize your own capacity to dig deep and power through, or fold and give up. In those moments is when we need inspiration most. Something to give us hope that we’ll come out the other side, at some point, even if it’s not today or tomorrow and even if we don’t know when.

IMG_3818

To my mini inspiration

Hope can keep us hanging on a lot longer than any one of us think, but we don’t even have the chance to know that if we haven’t experienced a period of time, even a day or an hour, where we weren’t certain of the outcome, or felt we weren’t in control.

So today, I’m challenging all of us to look within and look around… find something that inspires you, even if it’s just for this moment, and relish in it. I’ll end with one of my very favorite quotes from Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Finding Strength Within

I often times find myself encouraging clients to push through an initial emotion or sense of doubt or lack of belief in something… It seems all too common that we go through life holding back, stuck in indecision and even completely disabled in creating the life that we actually want to be living. I often get caught up on how to help someone push past whatever is holding them back, in order to find their own sense of purpose or fulfillment.

I often turn to my own experience or cling to a shroud of research or statistics that help build my argument for grabbing ahold of a strength rather than getting trapped by weaknesses or regrets. I have learned that I can give a mighty pep talk and maybe even leave a client feeling empowered and energized when they walk out of my office space… but a week later when they return, I am met with fizzled excitement, a new sense of self-doubt and a plethora of reasons for why change was not possible this week. There is something to be said for needing to find your own belief within… for it to truly move you to change. 

So how do we break out of our negative patterns of behavior and get out of our own way, allowing ourselves to forge a new path, and perhaps find the strength we were looking for, within, where it was all the time? I am convinced that this process is one more similar to the tortoise than it is to the hare. I don’t fully understand why we all want to be the hare and literally race through the seasons of our life and feel continually let down by our own selves when we don’t act or accomplish what we had hoped in the short amount of time we gave ourselves.

If it were actually possible to give yourself permission to be the tortoise, to slow down, to be more contemplative and possibly more intentional about our actions, and allow ourselves the grace to do this without the self or other imposed pressure to be something or someone we really are not ready to be, or perhaps even meant to be…. Imagine what we might be able to do with our lives!

I say this a lot in my office, and am often met with rolling of eyes, but I truly believe that the process of change begins with small baby steps. They need not be giant or monumental or earth shattering, or mind blowing as we often build up in our mind making it nearly impossible to succeed or even remotely reach the bar. Sometimes they are small, and small does not mean insignificant.

Sometimes small looks like a smile to someone at the grocers when you would otherwise not make any eye contact. Sometimes small looks like a 10 minute walk around the block, the beginnings of finding health through the discipline of exercise. Sometimes small looks like considering if forgiveness could ever be possible. Sometimes small looks like stepping outside your comfort zone and doing something scary or new or different. Sometimes small looks like glancing in the mirror and saying you’re beautiful, whether you fully believe it or not. Sometimes small looks like acceptance of what is. Sometimes small looks like agreeing to swallow that little pill that could potentially help you. Sometimes small looks like asking your partner what you can be for him or her today. Perhaps small looks like making cookies with your little one, or leaving dishes in the sink, or postponing an appointment to show someone you’re there for them in that moment. Sometimes small is monumental in that this one small step was the first of a miles worth of steps that led you to clean and sober, or helped you find hope, or let you forgive yourself, or laid the foundation for friendship…

So take a small step. Dig deep. That is my challenge to myself and to you. That we would choose to dig deep within, and find the strength that was there all the time, even if hidden underneath a lot of doubt or grief or cynicism or fatigue… Tap into that strength and take a small step, whatever that looks like to you. 

 Image