breath

I am not breathing.

I noticed it yesterday. Every time I tried to take a deep breath, my lungs took in only so much oxygen. I felt them stop. My body literally can not relax.

There are reasons for this. And I’m sure it’s happened before in my life when I have  experienced emotional distress and I just haven’t noticed. The cleanse facilitated this awareness. (Here are parts one and two) I began to sense and feel the connection between my body and spirit more firmly.

I feel rooted and a little more established in my voice, my wisdom, and my intuition. I trust my gut a little more.

So I’m noticing the breathing pattern. I am sensing how my body is in distress and I am caring for it as best as I can. I’m accepting where I am. I accept my limited view. I acknowledge my weakness.

And I hold space for and love my body as it signals that it’s hurting—just like my soul-spirit is hurting.

I stop when I need too.

I silence the words and voices.

Yesterday that looked like leaving a meeting early, coming home to watch a movie. A little later I went over to a friend’s house who helped me make curtains.

Today that looks like putting Gloria in charge of making lunch so I could sit and write as I continue to process through what my body is sensing, what my spirit is sensing and searching for wisdom and discernment. 

For almost a year the only prayer that passed my lips was a breath prayer.

I breathe God in. I breathe God out into the world.

I am praying that again. In peace. In surrender. In hope. In love.

I am praying it in recognition that my breath is weak and failing and limited. Yet still there.

practicum

The summer heat was less noticeable in the shade of the fig tree. I was thankful for it’s invasive girth as it shielded and protected us. Except for the whining mosquitoes it was as pleasant as it could be in the early evening of July. My neighbor, who I hadn’t seen in a few months, surprised me with her candor and vulnerability as we talked about things from parenting to body positivity to self-acceptance.

She told me she admired the young parents she saw around her, including her own daughter, who had access to all this information and were able to do so much better by their kids. She loved watching her daughter parent. 

Her perspective refreshed me. I viewed the onslaught of information as a curse. There’s so much just a few mouse clicks away it feels like falling down a rabbit hole. No matter what I decided to do as a parent, I had people either berating or praising me for my choices. From co-sleeping, to breast-feeding, from natural birth to consequences, to vaccinations…there doesn’t seem to be the kind of scientific all-conclusive evidence one would hope to find.

I learned a long time ago to make the best decisions I could with the knowledge I had at the time, to be tender-hearted, willing to learn and to watch the parents around me. I read a few books, recommended by friends and our adoption agency. There’s a mound of information to get lost in and I decided that often the best thing I can do is trust my intuition.  To share what I’ve learned with an open hand, letting the people around me take up what works for them while I’m learning from them.

Here’s a few tricks I’ve picked up over the years:

1. KID OF THE DAY

Basically, ALL THE THINGS became sources of contention—who sat where when, who got to use the blue cup, who got to open the garage door, who got to hold the IPAD while they watched a movie. We instituted kid of the day and most of those conflicts dissipated. 

2. CHORES

Each morning the kids pull six craft sticks out a jar and they have all day to complete them. At the end of the day, all the sticks go back into the jar. This simple system works great for our family rhythm. I googled age appropriate chores for kids and picked 18 that need to be done every day (or at least checked on daily). Helping with laundry looks different between the 13 year old and the six year old, but they’re both able to participate.

3. ROOM CLEANLINESS

Each kid has a mason jar with 30 craft sticks, every day (or when I remember) I do a room check which means relatively clean bedroom (beds made, no clothing clutter, and able to walk across the floor) and bathroom (towels hung up, sink and counter free from toothpaste). If a kids “fails,” I take a stick. At the end of the month they get one dollar for every stick.

4. DISRESPECTING JAR

Ever seen New Girl? Remember how Schmidt often had to put a dollar in a jar? I borrowed it. This one is a newer system so we’ll see if it sticks, but so far it’s promising. When a child is being disrespectful, they have to put a quarter in the jar. It’s hopefully a playful way to remind the children that thoughts and feelings are OK, but that no matter what our words and attitudes need to be respectful. I hope it will teach me too.

Those are some things that as our kids have gotten older I’ve seen help with the day to day rhythm of cohabiting. What are some things you’ve tried? What worked? And what did you release cause it just wasn’t working for your family?

choosing (part two)

by Liz from Love Grows Wild
by Liz from Love Grows Wild

Sometimes it’s hard to choose freedom.

I am thirteen days into my twenty-one day cleanse. (Read here for part one). So far it’s been a very spiritual practice as I learn to listen to my body, my spirit, and my heart. There has been invitation and opportunity.

Wednesday night was the end of the fruit and veggies portion of the cleanse. The program I’m following allows for lean meats to be added back. But I was cooking a sausage-based sauce with sweet potato noodles for my family. There was chicken in the fridge I could eat and I went back and forth.

The law was to first, wait until tomorrow. And second, to eat only the chicken. It would have been easy to stick with that plan. Simple. Rote. Mindless.

But I felt an invitation to consider why I was cleansing and what my specific goals were. I was cleansing to break the nightly ritual of reaching for a glass of wine, sometimes four times a night. I was cleansing from the three shot latte that greeted me every morning. I was cleansing from the sugar-carb laden meals that had become my staple over the summer.

This healthy meal I was making for my family? Not really the thing from which I was trying to escape.

I listened to what I knew my body needed. Depriving myself of a nutritiously dense meal with my family would have been a practice in asceticism and it wouldn’t have been beneficial to me. I realized the habits I was hoping to break, had loosened their hold. I didn’t need to carry it out to the letter of the law further than this space.

So I ate and enjoyed the meal with my family.

I’m beginning to see a trend in how I disconnect the spiritual from the physical. I treat them like they are two separate entities, instead of understanding while one may house the other, they both need to be tenderly cared for. They are intimately connected. With this cleanse I’ve seen how I can and need to listen to both. Letting go of the law allowed me to listen and I was able to make choices that were so healing and good for me. It was hard because I wanted my box. I wanted to win and “finish strong.” But that would have been an exercise in control and power. Not a relationship.

In that moment I chose the harder thing for this rule-following, law-loving girl. I chose to live by the Spirit of grace that I long to know more fully. I chose to let go of what I knew and trust myself to walk forward as well as I could in this place of less certainty.  And that has been the journey of the past year. So much not knowing—but a sense of calm surety that this, here, is good too.

I am not running towards gluttony. I am not giving up or caving to the bad habits. I’m not undoing or forgetting. For me this is the healthy space. The space of in-between and learning true balance.

I’ve started cooking dessert for my family a couple times a week. Because I can and there’s freedom.

And for once there’s a leftover glass of wine sitting on the coffee table in the morning and it’s not mine.

This week I chose freedom.

when I notice

DSC_1909-XL

Freedom is hard for me.

There’s so much openness and opportunity. It calls to my soul and I indulge, running after the things that feel and sound good.

My freedom sometimes (often) leads me to excess and overindulgence.

I haven’t figured out how to balance it. How to exercise the freedom in a way that honors and cares for my body, my family, and my community. It’s hard to find that chord. Harmony. Rhythm.

I started a cleanse on Monday. I feel a little silly that I can’t just cut back on the alcohol or the caffeine when I notice I’m consuming too much. If it’s there and I “can” have it, I will.

I do better within a framework. Abstaining completely for three weeks comes easier to me than cutting back. I don’t know why that is. I don’t know what about freedom and ableness (to do something) causes me to consume to a place that borders on unhealthy.

I can be disciplined. I mean, foregoing all things but fruit and veggies for ten days takes a lot of willpower. But it’s simple. This is in the “good” pile. This is in the “bad/avoid” pile. Viola. My brain and desires are taken out of the equation. I don’t have to cut through layers of emotions to figure out what’s motivating the behavior or desire. I don’t have to over-analyze any one thing.

Don’t get me wrong.

I think the cleanse is good and healthy and will lead to a rebalancing in the long run.

But I’m wondering where else this longing for parameters comes into play. Or rather, it’s highlighting how much I miss the parameters. Life was simpler when there was a good pile and a things to avoid pile. I mean, I was pretty isolated cause it’s hard to be in relationship when you’re silently, constantly judging people (a habit I have a hard time not falling back on when I’m in certain social circles.) Now, I allow for experience and story.

And yet I feel lost in the midst of my own story. I wonder about the experiences and the way I was shaped. And there seem to exist nothing but questions.

Nothing feels secure under my feet anymore.

It makes writing and processing hard. I have no answers. Nothing to offer—except that I miss the parameters. I miss the apologetics and the wrapped up, prettily delivered Jesus from my Sunday School days. I miss a faith that didn’t require…faith.

I am living. I am making mistakes. I’m learning that I wasn’t as grown-up as I thought I was. I’ve come so far and I still have a long way to go before I’m done. Some days that promise is full of hope. Some days it seems bleak and despairing. And some days it just is.

That is my today. I just am. Here. Present. Noticing.

Freedom is hard for me.

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