Impromptu

The other night as I was finishing up at work in the late evening after a long day of clients and chart notes, my husband text me to prepare me and let me know my daughter was “wired” and “running laps” around the house. I responded with one of my great ideas and suggested that he take her out on a short bike ride to help get all her wiggles out and then I would be happy to get her to bed after. He countered my proposal with the offer for me to take her out on a brisk bike ride in the cool fall air. I swallowed my own advice and said I’d be home in 15, have her ready for me.

I did a quick clothes change and threw on my running shoes while my daughter snapped on her bike helmet and donned her raincoat, and we were off. The air was crisp and the ground was damp from earlier rain. The sky was a vivid blue with hues of orange and pink beginning to color the earth around us. My daughter rode fast at times making me pick up my pace. At other times I lead the adventure and she followed close in tow. It felt like we were free, unencumbered, no schedule or routine, no agenda.

I was surprised by how such a simple decision to blow off stories and bedtime routine, to instead zip off through the neighborhood and down along the river, just the two of us, made it feel like we were in some kind vortex or universe of our own. I was surprised by how present I felt, how joyful my mood, and how the spontaneity of the evening seemed to set us on a trajectory of exuberance for adventure. My daughter had squeals of delight each time we raced to the next point along the path and she won. Even as the sun slipped below the horizon and darkness slowly descended, it was just the two of us, racing against time, soaking up the final moments of the day. It was bliss.

I vow to make more time for moments just like this. For spontaneity. For saying yes. For adventure and zeal. For laughter and racing. For unscheduled moments of joy. These are the moments that bring the meaning and the memories and balance out of all the other moments where we are scheduled to our max, down to the last minute, racing the clock to be on time in the morning for the start of another day with back to back to dos and places to be.

I need more moments like this. Impromptu, joy filled and unfettered. I think we all do. In a culture where routine and schedules, predictability and protocol drive us into order, we desperately need a counter balance. Otherwise we become rigid, stressed, irritable and tethered robots. And we miss out on the gift that life has to offer. We miss out on joy. The peculiar thing about joy is that it cannot be scheduled or contrived. It really only happens in the midst of fleeting moments, where opportunity and participation meet and the result is a spontaneous combustion. In smiles and laughter and squeals. In silliness. In togetherness. In attuned presence.

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To know and be known

Reflecting on my week, there is a natural pause, a quiet honoring of the stories I heard and the people I sat with. The aches, pains and longings, the hurt, confusion and loss… The joys, the celebrations, the gratitude, the tears. There are moments I am overcome with my own emotions and questions around how to be present in a way that encompasses compassion, respect, and gratitude that I am privy to these stories and wisdom that would allow me to provide insight.

There are honest and raw moments of grief. As my heart aches on others behalf, and honestly, how could it not? The human experience is one of struggle. There is beauty of course, amidst the chaos and rubble, there is sheer joy and moments of happiness… yet alongside that, there is often a counterpart of fear, worry, sadness, anger, doubt- and at times, we can become weighed down, weary and even frozen.

As I walk into and alongside more and more stories, I become more fully aware of our connectedness as human beings. How powerfully similar we all are in our need for connection, to be known, to know, to share our story with another person who cares- unconditionally and without judgement. We are so desperate for it, we lose our mind without it. We spiral into anxiety, worry, fear. We plummet into doubt, even despair. We seek fillers, sometimes in desperation we are willing to fill that gaping hole with literally anything.

We grapple. We are uncertain of many things and constantly seek insight, validation, confirmation, signs that we are not alone, that someone else feels like this too, and that someone else gets it. I believe that we really come to know ourselves in the presence of others. We see ourselves, we explore who we are in our multi-faceted parts, in the company of others who are doing the same. Sometimes we like what we see, other times we do not and are forced to dig deep and explore our own strengths and weaknesses. There is inherent need for time to ones self, to pause, to be still, to reflect, to check in, to listen to our own voice and not get caught up in all the other voices. However that does not change the reality that we grow, and learn and explore and even heal in community. But we really struggle to accept this.

We both love and hate the need to connect with someone else. When we feel a deep sense of connection and things are going well in relationships, we crave them, we rest in them, we believe in their significance. However when a connection has been broken, lost, destroyed, we become aggressively defensive of our own self and our desire to be alone and not allow anyone else in or near. It is primal to protect ones self. It is how we survive. However I also believe that is can be how we die. We can isolate so well, insulating ourselves from hurt and others, that we can suffocate in silence.

We grieve. Individually. Collectively. Sometimes alone and sometimes in pairs or families or even communities. And eventually it passes, the acute grief that is. But there is residual grief and questions and longings… that we do not know what to do with, so we set aside, and we move on. We keep getting up, going to work, doing our thing, all the while, there is a nagging sense of desire. A desire to share our journey with someone who cares enough to listen, to notice and hold a space for us, to love us.

Over the past couple of weeks I made it a point to slow down, to notice the people around me, to make eye contact and not be so hurried and focused on my task or my multi-tasks, that I don’t see others. It has been a powerful experiment for me, as I look into the eyes of gas attendants, waitresses and waiters, baristas, receptionists, even those I walk past. I have seen people who are hungry for interaction, for connection. I have exchanged more smiles, more conversations and a more genuine sense of presence for the world around me, and I have been amazed.  I have seen peoples faces light up with surprise. I have heard a snippet of their day or their job duties and gotten a sense of their world, and I have had respect for them. What I have seen is people who long to be seen and who shine when they are.

We are so distracted, busy, hurried and absent minded so much of the time, we are missing out! We are missing out on seeing people around us and realizing we’re not alone. We are missing out on opportunities to share in our journeys. We are missing out on brightening someones day by looking into their eyes, by seeing them! We are missing out on a chance to show another person value, by validating their presence next to us or right in front of us. And we are missing out on giving ourselves the gift of being present where we are. Which is a powerful gift, in a world where we are often pulled in multiple directions by multiple needs/responsibilities and are often overstimulated with noise and to dos… We need to pause, slow down, see and be seen. Its not really optional. We need each other.

 

 

Find your Song and Sing it

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Ever just find yourself incredibly frustrated with your own lack of follow through on something that is so unbelievably important to you, but you just repeatedly sabotage your own efforts? How is it that we can want something so badly, and yet thwart our own efforts so precisely that we often can fool ourselves into thinking that it’s not possible to accomplish the goal itself?

 At the end of a very long day of therapy sessions, I found myself spun up, impassioned and simultaneously irritated with the seemingly universal experience of the cyclical pattern of self-sabotage! I ask these questions and make this statement without judgment of self or others, but more with a very exuberant expression of “come on people, we have to figure this out, and get out of our own way”…

 I will be completely candid; It is incredibly disheartening that there is such a global experience of lacking self-acceptance… in addition to having ongoing feelings of discontentedness, and lacking the self esteem to push through and fight for something so worth fighting for! How is it that we have become such a lost and fragmented society of individuals that feel so alone and so inadequate? The world is quite literally at our fingertips and we have very little to hold us back from living life, aside from ourselves… yet so many of us are wrecked with feelings of “I’m not good enough”.

 I say this without judgment and instead with much grace and a hope for strength to push past the negative inner voice of “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t have anything to give” and instead, give like you have THE WORLD to give! Cause you quite literally do have so much to give- to yourself and to others!

 It might sound incredibly cliché, but the reality is that sometimes we have to fake it till we make it…. I don’t intend to say that we should stick our head in the sand or ignore any realities about our lives, or ourselves, but we get so caught up and stuck in our negative spirals of self-doubt and chaos that we miss out on SOOO much potential to actually live our lives!

 The way I see it, the goal should be to live as genuinely and authentically as possible. If there is something that is getting in the way of that for you today, then figure out how to get rid of it or push through it, because it is causing you to live a stunted and unfulfilled life.  A life in which you are held back, restrained and confused when you want to be able to be passionate, engaged with others and interactive in your world.

 If your inner voice is asking you to shrink, or disappear, to be quiet or to hold back, then perhaps it is time to tell that voice to shut the hell up, and show yourself just how present, loud, and alive, you are capable of being.

I have a 16-month-old daughter who just so happens to be really good at letting her presence be know, her opinions and what she would like to contribute. It’s just so natural for her, that we actually designated the song “Roar” by Katy Perry as her theme song. If you haven’t listened to the song, perhaps today is a good day to put it on and turn it up loud and dance~ But regardless of whether this is your song or not, my challenge for you this week is to Find Your Song and Sing It!

Unplugged

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I had the very humbling experience of being without my iphone 5 for just over 24 hours this past week. I stepped out of the shower to find that my precious toddler had ever so cleverly placed my phone in the toilet bowl. I imagined that she stood there and watched it sink to the bottom, tiny bubbles rising to the surface, and then walked away as if there was nothing more to see here. By the time I found it, she had long moved onto to more interesting endeavors. I stood there for what felt like a very long time, felt my pulse began to quicken, and then slow once again, as a state of defeat washed over me. I calmly reached into the bowl and retrieved the now saturated and dripping phone. I walked out to my husband and told him in a very apathetic tone of voice “found this in the toilet, probably should try to put it in rice” to which he immediately came over and did, no further words exchanged.

I finished getting ready for my day, all the while contemplating just how different life would be without an iphone, all the while completely in denial that this was my reality. I’m sure I don’t need to do a lot of elaborating  as most of us are in the same situation, in that we have come to rely very heavily on our phones, not only as means of communication, but also for our entire calendar, our to do’s, notes, addresses, phone numbers, pictures, music, podcasts, videos, online shopping, email, even a calculator and of course a Starbucks app tracking points toward free drinks! What do we even have without this phone?

After the first hour or two of constantly looking for my phone or habitually seeking to check my email or text messages, I actually found myself settle into a kind of freedom that I did not even realize I missed.  As the minutes passed on and I came into more of an acceptance  of not having everything readily accessible to my fingertips, I quite literally found myself relaxing my shoulders a little, paying less attention to the time and my agenda and more able to just role with the flow a little, feeling less confined. My husband even offered to lend me his phone for an afternoon outing, and I declined, honestly thinking to myself “it might be really nice to be unplugged, unreachable, unfindable, even if just for a couple hours”.

How is it that I have allowed such a small device to have such a big presence in my life? I gained some perspective on this and realized that I have allowed this electronic piece of equipment to dictate how I spend so much of my time, whenever idle, just using it as a pass time filler; facebook, pinterest, amazon prime, stocks, NPR news… I even have apps that track when my daughter sleeps and eats and fills her diaper. Modern day conveniences? Yes, absolutely. But perhaps time consuming, creativity zapping, low brain usage, ADD fostering distractions from real life moments, that simply pass by, without our even noticing.

Seriously, tic through your day and ask yourself, “what did I use my phone for today”?, and honestly answer perhaps with a bulleted list of what all you did… and then follow up that question with this one “how much time did I spend on my phone today”? The truth can be unsettling.

For some of you, maybe your phone isn’t your vice, maybe you use it sparingly and you don’t simply use it as a go to whenever there is a free moment, but I am wagering that most of us would not say that we are balanced in our electronic usage (maybe it’s not your phone, but it’s your ipad or your macbook). Try something for a day or two; track your usage of your electronics, be that phone, computer, ipad, tv etc., just track the amount of time, even if it’s in 30 second-5 minute increments, track it, just to take an honest look at how you’re spending your time, your minutes, your hours, your days, you life…

One of the complaints that I hear more than any other is that “I just don’t have the time”, and for some of us this might be true, we don’t have time for certain things because we have prioritized what we want to have time for and we have filled up our allotted hours and have no more to fill. However for many, there is little to no prioritization and much wasted or unintentionally filled time, and what is the outcome of this?

Well, we appear to be creating, busy, tired, fragmented people who feel that they never have time for what they really want in life and are missing out, and somehow despite all the “connections” that these devices provide for us, feeling disconnected and alone.

I don’t mean to say that we should all throw away our smart phones, to the contrary, I believe that they can be very effective tools in helping us be more time efficient and productive, in order to have time for those things that matter deeply to us, like exercise, and time for our families.

I am challenging myself to re-prioritize my moments, for there are many of them and yet not enough of them each and every day.

May we all find more moments filled with meaning and less idle wasted.

P.S for those of you who were curious, my phone did not come back to life, even after 24 hours in rice, and a lot of blow drying…. I in turn got to purchase yet another iphone. Long live Apple.