A Little Bit Extra

a little berserk

Photo by Claire Joyce

She is like a lynx stretching next to me- supple, taut, and smooth. After calm deliberate movements she sits poised in preparation for the hunt- her big push outward.

I, on the other hand, feel a tad chilly and also tired.  I am a little early for my second ever TRX class and I mentally prepare for my torture by glancing at my cell phone and pretending it isn’t going to happen. If I was an animal what would I be- a domesticated potbellied pig? Deep down my heart is a wild cat but, right now, my body is not so lithe or calculating. I’ll just do my best.

Push-ups, sit-ups, planks, kettle bell swings, ankles and arms pulling my weight with taut straps- over and over. My whole body is shaking, sweating. I can barely hold my position. I have to stop and catch my breath. I turn to glance at The Lynx- how am I fairing amongst the fittest? “You’re doing well” she says, “keep going.”

Fourteen hours earlier I am lying down next to my daughter. It is dark and warm and I hear her breathing shift into sleep. The warm calm peace of the moment pulls me in.  Sleep lures me. Maybe I will just stay in tonight. Once a month a growing group of “Mommy Friends” from the neighborhood go out and have a few drinks. Several of the people going I have never really had the pleasure of talking to without children chiming in or causing us to keep one eye focused away from each other.

I go.  I pull my tired body out of the warm envelope and splash cold water on my face.  Even after almost 3 years of motherhood (and many more opportunities to get out on my own than I had in the first year) I still feel this sudden shock as I step out of the door onto the street at night alone. “Oh yeah- there is this whole other life and world that exists.” I feel liberated and weightless. I show up late, laugh, commiserate, drink a little too much and stay a little too long.

Walking home, it is dark and extremely cold but I feel ignited. Pleased by the irreverent humor and the growing comradery of my friends. The street lights are shimmering and I am too- a sparkling combination of the crisp air on my face and the alcohol in my body.  Yes, when I go home I will take off my clothes and slip naked into bed with my sleeping husband. A seduction is the plan.

Things go swimmingly. My tired but waking husband welcomes my suggestions….

Then, as if out of some sort of deep biological imperative to remain an only child, my daughter who almost always sleeps through the night starts screaming. It sounds perfectly terrifying. A nightmare? “Mommy, mommy, mommy- I NEEEEEEEEEED you!”

I wake up in my daughter’s room, her warm little hand on my face.  Her nose almost touching mine. You might think it would be the opposite- but she always seems to wake up earlier if I fall asleep in her room. How will I ever make it through my TRX class today? A lot of coffee?  All the coffee in the world?  I completely ceased being a morning person as a teenager. I hug my daughter and squeeze her and rock her. “I love you. I love you. I love you. Good morning.”

After TRX class I chat with The Lynx. “It is okay to stop and breathe” she says “but then you have to get back up and keep going.  When I can, I always do a little bit extra.” I agree.  I am trying to do “a little bit extra” more often and for more things.

I feel a little high.  I came to class tired but I have an exercise endorphin thing going.  I am feeling really, really good.  The fact is that nothing I did in the last 24 hours was done to perfection or even to completion; however, in all things, I did “a little bit extra.” I feel stronger today than I did yesterday.

A friend recently received a fortune cookie that said- “If you want to win at anything- a race, yourself, your life- you have to go a little berserk.” I love the unexpected acceptance of a wild frenzy being required for winning.  Not just hard work, not just care, not even always doing extra- also a wild, rage or excitement.  With every “little bit extra” I do I feel something growing with in me- an inspiration to tap back into my wild cat heart.  So while today my new motto is “a little bit extra.”  Tomorrow perhaps I will even go a little berserk.

 

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Don’t Fear the Chaos Climax and Other Thoughts on Change

 Everything you tolerate drains your energy, makes you irritable, and wears you down. Talene Miedaner

 

Is this true? Is Talene correct? Does everything around you that you just “tolerate” drain you? Bring you down, and suck your energy?

I am talking about the little things. That broken door jamb. The light hanging from a cord in the ceiling in the bathroom.  Chipping paint on your front door.  Flat surfaces covered with piles of paper- some essential and some worthless. Does walking by these little annoyances as if they do not exist, or seeing them and wincing before moving on drain your motivation and deplete your resources?

I am going to say- yes.  YES! And it is a terrible catch 22.  The more little irritating annoyances around you the more drained, overwhelmed and paralyzed you feel- making it harder to get rid of them.

I started this blog SIX MONTHS AGO. I have not published a post in almost two months and not nearly enough has been done to reach my many other goals. Becoming Vivid has been moving much too slow. However, reflecting on my humbling (and embarrassing) standstill has illuminated a few things.

If you want to change:

Expect pain- or at the very least, expect serious discomfort and expect it to last longer than anticipated.   I made a pretty major life change in the past when I went from being a totally lackluster student in high school to an honor student in college.  I always told myself, “I could if I really wanted” and when I got to college the stakes were too high not to try.  My first year was painful.  I had to learn habits and skills I should have learned and maintained since fourth grade.  I thought my intelligence would carry me but my success came down to grit.  I had to make up for a lot of lost time. I had to just keep pushing. I had to avoid distractions and the comfort of my old patterns.  It hurt.  At one point, I felt like I had ropes all around me and I was rubbing against them to get out- or rather to stay inside the new constraints and demands I had put upon myself.  I felt very raw.  Until, I toughened up.

If I want to stay true- or rather really get down- to the business of this blog I need to accept that the next six months (at least) will be very uncomfortable physically and emotionally.  There is an element in our culture which suggests we should be aggressively happy all the time.  This is just BS.  Not only is not possible but I would venture it makes people lazy too.  Sometimes we really NEED to feel uncomfortable.  Sometimes comfort is a trap holding us back from a better future.

Expect things to appear worse before they get better.  The blank page is so perfect, so limitless, so clean, until you put your pen on it and mar it. Or how about moving? Anyone moving houses will tell you that there is a point in their packing process where the disorder and workload seems worse and more out of control than before they even touched anything.  Fearing the chaos climax will only keep you from a hurdle you really need to cross. (I am talking to myself of course.)

Expect every single little step to take longer than you estimate.  When you manage to get your task done in the time allotted you can give yourself a pat on the back.  You can even feel a little smug. However, remembering that things which seem simple from the outside are often a bit more tangled once you get into them can help prevent frustration and burnout.  Exercise is a good example of this.  Everyone wants the quick fix but it can take months to see results.

Do something every day.  Start somewhere every day- even if no immediate results seem imminent. This is the numero uno.  At some point you will turn a corner. I really believe this to be true. And I am going to prove it to you.

Becoming Vivid is both an internal and external process.  The initial excitement of starting a new project or committing to some form of self- improvement is great.  The time almost immediately after that- when the journey is still almost all up hill is difficult.  Once the rush of embracing your new vision wears off- you are left with work, much of it tedious.  Pushing on in the face of no apparent results can be challenging.

Right now, as a motivation, I am embracing the idea that if I continue to put one foot in front of the other into the darkness and chip away at these little annoyances I will also be chipping away at a metaphorical boulder resting on top of me.  Eventually, enough weight will be removed I will feel flooded with energy- free to soar.

 

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Monday Lovely Monday

Monday is my “day off.”  My husband who really does have the day off takes my daughter out for an adventure.  I have no responsibilities except all the millions of responsibilities of the house which clamor and plead trying to convince me to pay them their due.

The bathroom sink is dirty.  There are piles and piles. There are too many junk drawers- a source of a shame.   A light bulb hangs from a cord in the ceiling it needs shelter- a cozy home. Crumbs from toast sit on a plate in the kitchen sink.

I look around. I want to throw every single thing out. I want the weightless freedom of nothing.  I want to leave.  I do.  I walk and walk.  Today I am alone. No child to teach and comfort. No stroller to push.  No other adult with whom to keep pace. Only myself.  Only my body.  Only the city, the warm sun, the perfect spring breeze.

I go into a thrift store and buy a book.  Sixty seven cents. New Selected Poems by Mark Strand. I find a café and refill my travel mug with strong coffee and cream.  I sit outside on a wooden chair on a tree-lined street with brick row houses.  The breeze blows.  The sun shines. “Ink runs from the corners of my mouth./ There is no happiness like mine./  I have been eating poetry. (Eating Poetry 1-3)”

 

Today’s post was inspired by the Random Moments of Delight Writing Challenge.

Works Cited:

Strand, Mark. “Eating Poetry.” New Selected Poems. New York: Knoff, 2007. Print.

 

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Why Do You Even Bother?

sidewalk art 2

“Why do you even bother,” I hear her say to my husband as I walk back into the room.  Internally, I let out an exasperated sigh and since my Mother in Law is not facing me I give my husband a look that says at once, “Seriously? What the F- and I love you.”

Why do you even bother?  This is an attitude that really gets under my skin. There are many different ways to say it or convey it and if you have ever been the recipient of the “why do you even bother” attitude so prevalent in our culture- you also know how annoying it is.

Do you have a talent or a skill or a craft that you enjoy? Are you of a certain age? Perhaps you are no longer in your twenties? Are you making money from your art? No? Really- then why do you even bother?

My husband is a musician.  He started playing the drums when he was ten years old.  Shortly after that he started playing in bands.  Punk bands, metal bands, hip hop bands, art pop bands.  Think of a genre of rock and roll and he has probably spent years playing that style of music in a band. This means he has been practicing, performing and creating music for forty-one years.  It is a part of him. It is a form of self- expression, discipline, physical release, it is community and connection.  But, honestly, I really don’t know why he even bothers…

The idea that if you are talented enough you will eventually “make it to the big time” is, unfortunately, not true and too simplistic.  On top of a lot of dedication and hard work, there are many other factors that influence whether you become wildly successful in an art- including perfect timing and luck. Van Gogh died penniless and largely unknown. And I could list countless other now famous artists from all genres who did the same.  I am sure there are plenty more who lived, worked and died without discovery or fame- EVER- even after they were dead.

The belief that if financial success or fame doesn’t happen for you –you are wasting your time by creating art is both ridiculous and offensive.

You can think I am biased if you want- it is your right- but my husband is a great drummer.  And both of the bands he plays in are also good and have achieved a decent level of local respect and popularity.  But without question there are less talented musicians out there who are making more money from their music.  You can hear some of them on the radio. Have you ever heard Nickelback? I am guessing they make a lot of money putting the suck on like they do….

And, actually – good for them- I don’t begrudge Nickelback a single penny. I don’t even really care that they are making average music.  In my opinion more people should get out there and try to do and make new things- even if they suck at it.  Maybe they’ll be lucky and make a living doing so.  Maybe they won’t. However, I believe this socially acceptable insistence that making money or becoming famous as the only “point” of ALL your activities is a type of mental lobotomy.  Essentially it is a form of partial personality suicide- “oh hi, this part of you that you have devoted so many years to- it has to die now. Go ahead- didn’t you hear me- I said KILL IT.”

What people who express this view are saying is that pure creative struggle is for the young only.  Anyone else involved in such activity that is not getting money or accolades as a result should just stop and sit on their couches.

According to them, being a sensible adult means squashing that part of yourself who likes to learn new things and play.

I have a friend who is a painter and also a mother.  She recently dismantled her studio to make a playroom for her kids.  She made a sacrifice of something she loves for people she loves even more.  It is sad but this I understand. This- I get. I don’t judge her negatively.  Someday she may rebuild her studio- or maybe she will find a way to paint again in less space with less time.  Sometimes life pulls us away from activities that we love.  Sometimes we just lose interest or we are too afraid to take risks and so we block ourselves-and then we are forced to deal with those consequences in our own private ways.  But ceasing to do something you still enjoy, that you still feel compelled to do, that you still have the time and energy to do simply because you are no longer young and aren’t making money from it- is one of the dumbest and most life limiting ideas currently prevalent in our culture.

Have you ever noticed the very same people who make comments like “why do you even bother” have no qualms about spending hours and hours watching OTHER PEOPLE do things and make things.  The most important thing seems to be that they make no effort without a tangible monetary reward.  All of their experiences must be paid for and then fed to them by others.  But are these people any happier?  Are they any wealthier? Not usually.

And can we be REALLY honest?  Getting paid for something complicates your relationship to that thing. How many of the “why do you even bother” people even like their jobs?  I would venture-very few.  Because most people that are lucky enough to enjoy their jobs wouldn’t ask this question.  It has been my experience that those who know pleasure acquired through work (paid or not) don’t tend to negate other peoples.

If most people don’t like their jobs then what is so great about getting paid? I can think of a million things great about getting paid. Sure money can complicate things….  But I am not one of those anti-money people who thinks money spoils everything.  And I don’t think taking money for your art makes you a “sell out.” I would be incredibly happy for my husband if his band blew up and started making real money. I just believe that some things have inherent value.  Creation has value, trying and failing has value, pushing your mind and body has value, making new connections internally or with others has value.  Not spending all of your free time as a passive consumer has value.

It is nice for me that I actually enjoy my husband’s music.  It makes it much more fun to get a sitter and go to a show and watch him shine (sexy!), and dance my face off.  But even if he sucked I would still encourage him to play- because to quote the great Kurt Vonnegut, “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow.”

I hope you enjoyed my rant- I got paid lots and lots of money for it.

“If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

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Writing into the Glorious Grey

Something about reading that book made me go out and get a job.  Around four months earlier I had dropped out of high school in a state of depression.  Yes, real depression.  Not your typical moody teenage angst but straight up deadening, lackluster, hopeless depression.

At sixteen I had realized a few things- 1) I no longer had faith in God and 2) people were not necessarily inherently good. After years (my entire life) of feeling everything too intensely- down to the bone and through my whole body- all of the time.  I felt almost nothing- blank.  Therefore, school was pointless- as was almost everything else.

The book that broke my malaise was Searching for Caleb by Anne Tyler.  It could be due to my mental state at the time but I don’t remember that much about the book now except that there was a fortune teller involved.  I’m not sure why but I’ve never reread it.  I googled it and according to a book jacket from 1983, “it is about growing up and breaking away, rebellion and acceptance.”

Prior to reading Searching for Caleb my days consisted of long walks, binge reading a wide variety of books, dumb TV, and weekly trips to the shrink. And sleepless nights.  And blankness.  And nothing.   Only when I read could I feel things- relief, escape and understanding.

I finished the book and immediately went downstairs to grab the newspaper. I circled an ad for a cashier job at a pizza place.  The next morning I met one of the owners and was hired on the spot.  Getting a job at a pizza place may not sound like a big deal, even to a sixteen-year-old, but after months of withdraw and frozen hibernation it was my reentry into the world.

The manager was a bleach blonde middle-aged Iranian woman who, years earlier, had fled Iran- leaving her husband and great wealth behind- so that her sons would not have to fight for Khomeini.  The owners were brothers and Iranian as well- both had been successful engineers before they left Iran.  I did not get to know them that well.  But I respected them. Every day I worked there I wreaked of pizza- my hair, my clothes and my skin.  I smiled at customers and I slogged through.  It was good to be back in the world with people who could leave the past behind and start over.

Part of what I love most about literature and great writing is that unlike so much around us- it often lives in the grey. Rarely is it simply black or white.  Few great characters are without flaws. Seeking to understand and be truthful it dwells in the messiness and imperfections of life- and when done well it does so with grace and beauty.

Great writing illuminates the dull.  Scraping away the ordinary moment to expose the extraordinary life underneath….

Many of us that want to write- want to write because we have been changed and challenged by what we have read.

I could write several very different essays on why I want to be a writer.  This is just one of them- I want to try my hand at illuminating the glorious grey.

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The Selfless Gift of a Simple Name

“Anne Shirley,” reluctantly faltered forth the owner of that name, “but, oh, please do call me Cordelia……. Anne is such an unromantic name.”

“Unromantic fiddlesticks!” said the unsympathetic Marilla. “Anne is a real good plain sensible name. You’ve no need to be ashamed of it.” –L.M. Montgomery Anne of Green Gables

Words can make you laugh and they can make you cry. They can stroke your ego and make you feel puffed up. Or they can smack you around.  They can reach out across the open space- of a single moment- like fists against a bare body.  A few choice words can suck all of the fun out of a perfectly sunshine-y day.  They can shatter your easy contentment- and bring the mood in a room full of happy people right on down to the ground.  Words can dissect you, pick you apart, define you and then put you in a neat little box.

And what is a name– but a word?  Our first name is usually a single word that almost everyone we meet will use to address us. Certainly, reflecting on the power of words can add some pressure to the question-how and what do we name our children?

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Michael Jackson had two sons.  They both have formal names but casually he called one Prince and the other one Blanket. You heard me- Blanket. I can imagine the boy named Blanket thinking, to himself, as a teen:  “My brother is called Prince and I….I am a…..a…… ‘blanket’….are you f-ing kidding me…”

I can also imagine Blanket several years farther down the road- perhaps he goes to college in Colorado where marijuana is legal.  He inhales a little puff and then leans back and pulls his soft blanket up over himself.  Suddenly he realizes: “blankets are AH-MAY-ZING.  They are the most amazing thing EVER. They are warm and soft and cozy.  They make you feel snuggled up, secure and happy.  Almost everyone I know from almost every background has enjoyed the simple pleasure of a blanket but what has a Prince ever done for me?  Nothing. What is a royal name but a pretentious nod to a bygone era?  Being called Blanket is SO MUCH BETTER than being called Prince.”

Okay. I jest.  While I am a fan of simple and straightforward names- I am not advocating that anyone name their kid blanket.  Even as a nickname.  That is just- not okay.  But- neither is Prince.  Unless, you are the truly and completely awesome pop legend that is The Artist Formerly Known as Prince and you anoint yourself as such.  Otherwise, Prince is just too weighted- too defining.

Even as I sing the praises of the simple name, I really do think all sorts of names are great.  And there are plenty of very unique names or hard to say names that I think are wonderful.  I am not an old school traditionalist about names.

The names that I think get tricky and problematic are the names that define the child in too specific terms and/or that don’t allow for growth.  A person has to carry their name through all stages of life and what if the name you give them is in direct contrast with who they actually are or how they feel inside.

A friend of a friend, who lives in Europe, named her daughter Bella.  It is a nice sounding name. It is easy to say. Translating it to English from Italian- it is the same as naming your daughter “Pretty.” I can imagine Bella’s parents with their hands on the mother’s full belly thinking about their soon to be born, perfect, sweet, pretty little girl.  I am sure they meant well.  Here is the problem- while their girl is wonderful in many ways she is not, in fact, pretty.

Unfortunately, other children- many of whom are multilingual (this is Europe after all) and whose cruelty knows no bounds- started calling her Fea, meaning ugly in Spanish.   Now she gets addressed as Ugly- every day.  Might she be teased if her name was Anne instead of Pretty? Absolutely.  Would she be teased in such a constant and searing way? I doubt it.

That is what I call an accidental but epic parenting fail. Welcome to parenthood!  Congratulations! You messed up right out of the gate!

When you are deciding on a name for your child I think you should ask yourself a couple of questions.  One of which is- why?  Why THIS name? Is the name you have chosen a reflection of YOUR personal wish fulfillment? As in- I want my little girl to be pretty. Are you trying to craft your new little person’s persona before they have even given you the first glimpse of their itty bitty little bodies?

Basically, is the name you have chosen a reflection of your own ego or pride?   If after being brutally honest you conclude that your love for a particular name is not about all about YOU but about THEM- then go for it.  But if you realize, “actually, it is ALL ABOUT ME.” Then maybe you should reconsider.

And if you are reconsidering- I would like to suggest something simple and straight forward.  It doesn’t have to be ubiquitous.  There are a lot of simple straight forward names that won’t be taken by every kid in your child’s class.   A name that doesn’t predefine or “image craft” gives a child freedom. They can be anything. Do anything. The possibilities are limitless.

“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Some may think parents of sensibly or simply names children are uninventive or lazy, and on occasion that may be true- but I think most parents of simply named kids are acting selflessly in honor of their child.  The name they choose is not about them.  It is about their baby.  That little person whose personality- THEY DO NOT YET KNOW.  As far as they are concerned, “nobody puts baby in a corner.”

But if you call me Anne please call me Anne spelled with an E.”

“What difference does it make how it’s spelled?” asked Marilla with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.

“Oh, it makes SUCH a difference. It LOOKS so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can’t you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. If you’ll only call me Anne spelled with an E I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.” -L.M. Montgomery Anne of Green Gables

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Don’t Speak Until You Are Spoken To

I am eight.  Adults live in a separate world from me.  I look up to them and I fear them. I do not speak to a group of adults unless someone has spoken to me first. I stand next to my mother who is sitting at the table with my Aunts and Uncles and I wait for her to acknowledge me.  I don’t interrupt. Ever.

This is just simple good manners. Or is it?

As a child, I was always so nervous and self-conscious around adults, especially adults that were not my parents.  At ten, eleven, and twelve- I was always amazed by other children who could have what I considered to be “real conversations” with adults.  And I was blown away by the kids that could joke around with them.  They seemed to feel totally relaxed and comfortable in their skin.  While I was always afraid of doing something wrong.

“Don’t speak until you are spoken to,” is an old school expression that reflects an authoritarian style of parenting. “Children should be seen and not heard,” is its quick follow up.  If you were a child in the Seventies or earlier and you had traditional parents you probably heard these expressions in the background- over and over and over.

Erica, the creator of this week’s writing challenge “Golden Years” at The Daily Post wrote about the age gap people often feel in their heads.  The common disconnect between how old you are and how old you feel. For years, Erica told people she was sixteen because that was how she FELT inside.   I can relate to this.  I think most people can. Sometimes if I sit down with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a glass of milk or a grilled cheese and bowl of tomato soup- I will actually feel five inside. Five.

For most of my (childless) thirties I felt and acted like I was in my twenties. So- when does one even leave childhood and become an “adult”? At eighteen?  Just like a small part of me is still a little bit in love with every man I ever loved.  Some of us- no matter how vast our life experience- will always feel a little bit like a child inside.   Our past is a part of us.

The problem with the expressions, “don’t speak until you are spoken to” and “children should be seen and not heard” is that they imply that the small child is not yet a whole person.  Therefore, they must wait for their “real life” to begin.  What they wish to express, what they feel is not a priority.  One day they too will be adults and then they can assert themselves, then they can call out for attention, interject or make some noise.  But for now, while they are little- they must defer. They must wait.

If what Peggy O’Mara says is true, that “the way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice” then what happens to the young adult who has internalized the belief that she is not yet whole (and therefore not worthy of demanding attention) when she is at her first professional job? How does she interact with her colleagues and bosses- if she has a belittled sense of what it means to be a young person?

There was a period of time in my youth when I remember feeling that what I did- did not matter.  It didn’t “count.”  This is, of course, wrong.  Everything builds on everything else.  Always.

I don’t want to be overly reductive.  I am not one to blame my parent for all of my shortcomings.  Yes, my parents embodied some of the authoritarian parenting styles from their era.  Yes, it probably had its effect on me. However, they also loved me unconditionally- and I knew it.  In a lot of ways, I was one of the lucky ones.  Raising kids is not a question of nature versus nurture.  It is both nature AND nurture.  We never know, for sure, how what we do is going to interact with the unique individual that is each child.

As a parent these questions haunt me: Out of all of the things that we do to and for our children- what is going to stick with them?  What is going to shape them?

I respect my parents desire to have well-mannered children. I have a young daughter and I am all for raising polite children.  I just think HOW we get there matters.  And it matters a lot.  You can unintentionally belittle children with your words.  You can yell. Or you can even beat your children into behaving how you want- but have you really taught them anything but fear?

Adults can teach children how to be courteous of other people’s time- both young and old- without diminishing them in the process.  And they can show them how it feels by respecting their time, as well.  To do so is more nuanced and requires more effort but if the end result is a child who behaves well and also knows his or her full value as a human being- it is well worth it.

 “As adults, we must ask more of our children then they know how to  ask of themselves.  What can we do to foster their openhearted hopefulness, engage their need to collaborate, be an incentive to utilize their natural competency and compassion…. show them ways they can connect, reach out, weave themselves into the web of relationships that is called community.” Dawna Markova

 

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My Descent into “Mom Jeans”

 

mom jeans

Those are my jeans.  True- classic mom jeans they are not.  They are not two sizes too big or stone-washed but I wear them almost every single day and therefore- they might as well be.  Also, they have holes growing in the inner thighs.  Given the holes, it is unlikely that any of those white sneakered, classic-mom-jean types would even deign to put these on. So why do I?  How did this happen to me?  How did I go from someone with at least a little style, sass and pizazz to someone so predictable and frumptastic?

holey jeans

Black stockings underneath help camouflage holes?

Many years ago, when I was in my twenties and my little sister was still in her teens we sat together in a park and watched too many moms hurry by in poorly fitting jeans or, even worse, oversized sweats.  We swore that no matter our life path we would never allow ourselves to “frump out” like that.  “Never,” we said- “NEVER!  Avoid the frump!” We vowed to be brutally honest, if necessary, should one of us start down that path.

Recently, I received a package in the mail.  It was from my little sister.  It contained a new pair of black boots and a note that said- “it is time to throw away your hobo shoes.”  She had not forgotten our talk.  And she was taking action.

hobo shoes

My “hobo shoes”

Some people could care less about style or fashion and might find this post shallow.  To them I say- “Fantastic, you are being authentically you.  Keep at it.  Keep your mind on loftier things- as you prefer to do.”  However, I believe style matters.  And it matters in most things- from what font you use when you format your resume; to how you link words together; to what color you choose to paint your front door.  All of these things are expressions of self and, yes, they are artifice too.  But even artifice can be authentic.  You’ll know when it is authentic because it will feel right. It will ring true.  As a fellow character described Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s– “She is a phoney, but she is a real phoney.”

So, back to the question, how did I get here?  How did I- someone who once enjoyed both the sensual pleasure of feeling good in my clothes and the self-expression of dressing to impress end up with pretty much nothing to wear but a pair of holey jeans and boots?

I blame several factors for my demise:

I got pregnant and had a baby. I quit my job to stay at home. I experienced postpartum anxiety and depression.  I am inherently frugal and this trait is grossly exaggerated when I am not making any money.  I briefly got back to my pre-pregnancy weight and then I quit breasting feeding- rapidly putting on twelve pounds. I simply must see, feel, and try on clothes before I purchase them and it is challenging to do so with an energetic toddler.

Let’s look at some of these factors a little more closely:

Pregnancy– Who the hell is going to spend any real money on clothes during pregnancy? All I bought was a couple of key pieces to tie together all the hand-me-downs I collected.  And even if you have the cash to drop or you simply must invest in maternity clothes for professional reasons- you’re not wearing them after you have the baby.  And thank god!  So passes nine months of no true wardrobe enhancements.

Postpartum anxiety/ depression–  I was never diagnosed but if you find yourself feeling nervous almost all the time or crying endlessly you might want to talk to a professional.  I probably should have the day I spent one of my daughter’s naps crying because being a mom meant I could no longer kill myself… if I wanted to.

I remember thinking- “sure my family and friends would miss me- but that is nothing compared to leaving my daughter motherless.”  There were several months in which all I felt capable of doing was caring for my daughter.  I was too sleep-deprived to even realize what was happening.  Some women have a hard time bonding with their newborn when they experience this. I am just so grateful that during those months, in the midst of all the worry, I was still able to bond with my daughter.  I was able to focus on her and be happy and present- when I held her.  I was able to feel (and share with her) the joy of having her in my life- but not much else. Usually, when they’re that little it is actually easier to get out of the house and get things done but, at this time, I was not shopping for new clothes.

The convergence of frugality and body discontent– Combine almost two years of very few new purchases and then add weight gain into the mix and what you have is a woman with nothing to wear.  People say they have nothing to wear all the time but they are lying.  I am not lying. The few nice things I did buy or had left over just don’t fit.

Here is the crux of the problem- I do not accept my current body and I HATE to waste money.  Why would someone with no income (AND aggressive financial goals) spend money on a bunch of clothes they have no intention of fitting into in six months?  I consider myself a feminist and I honestly believe that women are beautiful in all sizes and shapes.  Other women.  I, however, want to be 12 pounds thinner and in decent- if not great shape. I have no desire to be a skinny mini.  I’ve never been one and I am cool with that.  I just need to stop eating massive amounts of food (seriously, I eat massive amounts of food!) and start sweating again.  Physically, I just don’t feel like myself.

Not feeling like myself makes it so much more difficult to find clothes I feel good in and love.  As a frugal shopper, those are the ONLY clothes I like to buy.  I’ve always taken a lot of time to shop but now the process is depressing and more time consuming than ever.  I guess I gave up.  I just stopped going to places where one could shop for clothes. (Please note- this is how hobo shoes happen.)

I could never get away with this if I had a job. For me, this is the biggest problem with being a stay-at-home mom. There is no way I would ever go into a professional office in the exact same outfit every single day.  I would make the time to find at least a few new things even if I didn’t absolutely love them. The other parents at playgroup might wonder what the hell is going on but they can’t choose not to promote me or hold me back from meeting with important clients.  If I had a paid job I would be forced out of this self-imposed bind.

Just to further highlight my craziness- I’m sure you are wondering about my husband and he definitely doesn’t approve.  I am sitting on a nice sized gift card that he gave me, and I don’t need his permission or approval to spend more money either.  He’d be happy if I did.  And frankly, I owe it to him.  Monogamy is hard enough.  Must I always wear the same thing?  It is ridiculous.

Every woman’s journey into “mom jeans” is a little different.  This is mine. It is up to me to revive my style.  I simply must.  I miss that sparkley feeling. This is no way for a sassy, if frugal, fashionista to live.

I haven’t managed to wear these down to the bone and they still fit me- maybe I should wear them to playgroup on Monday?

sassy heels

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How do you change? Start somewhere

WP installed 

How do you change?  Start somewhere….

Start somewhere.  Start here.  Here at this table which is the perfect size but is covered in hideous laminate. Start here- in this unfinished house that I willed into being, but needs so much work that I rarely- if ever- invite anyone in.

Start somewhere.  Start here- in this body with too soft flesh. Sweat is surely its only salvation. Start here- with this mind so filled with ideas.  Perfect ideas, coddled ideas born in fantasy and daydreams.  Smash them against the hard rocks of doing, trying, failing.  Sharpen them, hone them- now- on this very page.

Start somewhere. Start here- a floor below my sleeping baby- no, my sleeping toddler.  Here- a floor below my most all-consuming responsibility.   My daughter she sleeps on a soft fleece blanket in a small sweet room- her innocence reigning. All the while, her fearless curiosity and tenacity quietly grow.  Start here- enveloped by the weight of motherhood- which presses its two warm little hands against my cheeks, and looks me straight in the eyes.

Start somewhere- start here- with my very first blog post.

We’ve all heard the cliché “you have to start somewhere.” And it is a cliché- but it is also true.  The only way to get anywhere is to start from exactly where you are.  Do something.  Stop waiting for the right time or moment.  I have lost so many years by not doing things, by just thinking.  SO much progress wasted.  Perfectionism will sink you.  Shame will sink you.   Your hopes and dreams no matter how mundane (to have a clean house) or magnificent (?) need to start somewhere.

This blog, Becoming Vivid, is about embracing life- about being vigorous. It is about learning to be unafraid of my desires. It is about doing things I usually just think about, and getting dirty.  It is about releasing the shame of imperfection in order to make room for a better, fuller, more alive existence.  It about is not letting any more years slip away.

Maybe you are trying to do the same thing?

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