This is not one of those times.
I am grateful for technology on the days when I FaceTime with Atticus – 1200 miles away and we get to have dinner together.
We are now in our final week apart before we get to come together for the last month of school and summer vacation. Back in September, I cried every day because I missed him. I longed to hold him. I feared for his safety. My mind attempted to drown me with fear and worry. So much was unknown. I worked, meditated and prayed daily to access the strength and acceptance to weather our first school year apart with grace. I gave up the fight for what I believed was right and best to find peace. I surrendered to the harsh reality of divorce…
When we divorce our spouse, we divorce our children, too.
Then Grace came. Rosemary Grace was born on October 12, 2015. She arrived wide-eyed and barely breathing. By her side I practiced breathing peace. I sobbed. I surrendered. I believed. After 9 days in the NICU we were able to take our sweet girl home. Atticus was there, too, and my mom. It was the sweetest homecoming I have ever experienced! I now understand how full my mother feels when she has all her children around her, together, in the same room. Magical.
My personal work this year has been forgiveness. Forgiving myself every time I question whether or not I made the right decision. Forgiving Atticus’ father for his part in the shared hell we had created. Forgiving myself for my part in the shared hell we had created. Forgiveness is a beautiful concept and an neverending practice. To say it is not easy is a gross understatement. I don’t even think I understood what the word meant until recently. It was just an idea. Now forgiveness is a daily practice.
When I notice my thinking turn catastrophic or I step into fear, I practice stepping to the side and looking on. I breathe. I notice how everything is as it is. It is ok. In healing myself, my broken first marriage will be healed. Atticus benefits from my inner healing far greater that he would benefit from sitting by my side when my spirit was broken. I am whole. I always was. I just lost myself in the midst of the drama and the pain. In the deep nights of quiet sadness I became reacquainted with my soul.
Now it is May. Spring has come and I have survived. Atticus has survived. Do I think this placement situation is the best solution for him? No, I still do not. But what I do know is that in letting go and surrendering, I have healed. I still ache at night when I wake in the night with thoughts of him. But I send him love, surround him in light and go back to sleep.
Next week I return to Wisconsin. I will hold both my blessed children at the same time and I am filled with gratitude. Parenting is a profound spiritual retreat – a journey of self-awareness and growth. It is a wild ride! It is easy for us to take our children for granted because they are right there… often illuminating how easily we can get nutty. In the separation, the time apart, we have the opportunity to experience their absence. We are able to express gratitude for who they are separate from us. Atticus is a treasure.
Soon I will see him, hold him and breathe him in. I will rest in the sweet, quiet moments in the morning when I am awake and he still sleeps. I will witness the changes in his features, in awe of the man he will one day become. I will cherish every breath. For the days we are together I will hold him tight, and when the time comes again, I will open my arms and let him go.
And so it is with parenting…we draw our children to us in love and we release them in awe. Magical.
We get wrapped up in what is not working.
All I wanted to do was pay my health insurance bill. It was almost 9 pm last night and I couldn’t get the webpage to load. I sat patiently, I got up and walked around, I stared at the spinning circle and then I started to lose my peace.
What the hell was going on?
It felt as if this was happening to punish me for some unknown transgression I had committed against the internet gods. Maybe it is Blue Cross Blue Shield! They should make it easier for me to pay them money. Verizon is responsible, this damn Jetpack is worthless. I witnessed my mind begin to come undone.
I took my hands off the keyboard and exhaled, deeply. I smiled because I remembered that it doesn’t really matter–not in the long run. I shut my computer and moved on to other things. I wrote for a bit and read the last pages of Wild. I watched the moon rise in the sky and noticed how bright it still was, throwing shadows around our yard. Then I went to sleep.
This morning when I went online to try again, the page loaded quickly and my payment processed without issue.
Accept what is.
Because the alternative is to come undone, and that won’t help the situation.
I find it helpful to practice in these simple moments on a daily basis. It is often the big stuff that trips us up. My big stuff right now is living 1200 miles away from my son for the school year…not so easy to accept. It is like strengthening a muscle. The more often I accept what is when things appear difficult, the better able I am to accept the big stuff. I loosen my grip on my own heart and my chest opens up a bit so I can breathe.
There is great work to be done in the tiny moments.
photo credit: Michael Moore
“You sure have a way of complicating your life.”
Last spring, this statement was made to me by an almost stranger when I informed her I was remarried, pregnant and moving to Montana. It stung, not because I thought it was true. It stung because at the time I didn’t understand her. I was sharing the exciting, happy news in my life and she heard only…complications.
Atticus and I have spent the summer in Montana, in our new home with our new, expanded family. He is learning to share (toys, space, time, and me) and I am learning to keep my peace in a new and beautifully challenging world. No longer is it just the two of us. Our family has grown to five, and soon we will be six. Parenting more than one child at a time requires a different set of skills, some I have just begun to develop. This work is even more challenging because two of them are not mine by birth.
When we were leaving last week to return to Wisconsin for a visit, I asked Atticus how he felt about the summer so far. He responded in a way that summed up my feelings in words more simple than I could compose.
“It has been challenging at times, but it has been a lot of fun.”
I have spent the last week as a guest in my mother’s home in Wisconsin. Atticus has been with his father for a visit. Nick is in a combine in Montana and his children are visiting their mother – all spread apart. I have had a lot of time to think. I miss the energy and and activity of our new tribe. I miss the mountains. I miss the bull named Cat who comes by for a daily visit, hoping we will open our gate and let him eat the rich, green plants growing in our yard. I miss the arms of my husband wrapped around me, late at night after everyone has fallen asleep. I miss sitting in the dark, when the stars and I reflect on the day.
But mostly I miss how much my heart grows daily. Letting go is not a catch phrase or a hashtag, it is way of life that takes a hell of a lot more courage and patience than I had realized. Staying open is a state of being that sometimes leaves us feeling raw and exposed, but always leaves us feeling very much alive.
My new home, my marriage and this baby growing inside me are not complications, they are opportunities. It is really a matter of perspective, like all things. My experience of this life is contingent on my attitude and actions. Looking in from the outside my life might appear complicated. But whose life isn’t sometimes?
This is why I love the strength of the mountains and the possibilities of the wide open sky of Montana.
… and February and most of March?
Today is the day I decided to break my publishing silence. This morning I launched my blog for the first time in a couple months. In drafts, there sat a post with the title, “What happened to January?” I recall starting this post back in February, writing about starting fresh this year in alignment with the Chinese New Year to give me more time to settle into a new direction for my writing and the blog.
But today when I opened this post there was nothing—not a word. I reloaded twice thinking that the slow internet connection on the ranch was causing my words to remain invisible. Montana provides many things to enhance my writing, but a speedy internet connection is not one of them.
According to my blog, the answer to the question, “What happened to January?” is apparently “Nothing.”
Nothing happened on the blog and very little happened to me on social media. However, during my social silence my entire life has shifted profoundly in some very beautiful ways. I took the last couple months off to be quiet, to write for myself and to live.
I breathed through the difficult days and the joyful ones in much the same way—breath by breath. I committed to live my life as if each moment matters, because I know they are all I have. I found joy and contentment in even the darkest hours just by redirecting my thoughts.
I focused on myself and on my practice. I got clear on the difference between a yoga practice for personal reintegration and a yoga practice for community and social interaction. There is a place for both practices. I find my time alone to work though whatever is happening in my mind and body each day to be the yoga practice for me. This I do in silence, alone.
I stopped saying yes when I want to scream, “Hell no!” This is a new practice for me and I highly recommend it. For so long I have done things (or agreed to do things) that I didn’t want to do. No more. I take time to consider the needs of others, yes, but I am getting better at listening to the wise voice in me and honoring my needs.
What happened to January, February and March?
Let’s call it my social hibernation. I passed the months of winter getting quiet and sill long enough to be able to hear myself again. We can only make change when can discern what needs to be done and what needs to be left behind.
Today marks my half birthday (why celebrate only once a year). Here are a just a few things I am celebrating…
I made my writing time sacred. I wrote simply to create. This has taught me much about my writing habits and my focus. So many habits I had to distract myself! I found writing to be of great benefit to me, even if I never share the words with anyone. I have felt words flow; I have mentally choked on the thoughts I did not expect to arise. Through it all I have kept on writing.
I wrote without publishing. Sometimes keeping quiet and doing our solitary work it the best choice. Change the mind and the life will change. We have all heard this. We may even have found this to be true. But still we focus outside ourselves and find fault with the world all around ignoring the messy, often painful work of cleaning up our own minds and minding our own business.
I spent a lot of quality time with the people I love. This included generous, regularly scheduled periods of solitude. Yes, I love myself and I deserve time to unwind. My time alone makes me a better mother, sister, daughter and wife.
It is spring. It is official. Pay no attention to the dusting of snow on the ground.
Time to purge and clean out the clutter—get rid of things that no longer serve us so we can stop stumbling over them as we move forward in our ever-blossoming life. This should include faulty thoughts and old mental tapes.
Start with the closet if that helps you, even the fridge can be very therapeutic and healthy too. But don’t neglect the mind. This is the most important work to do to free us from regret, worry and fear. We all seek more happiness and this can only come from within.
So where does this leave the Daily Breath Blog…
I remain committed to being of benefit and to leaving the world better than I found it. Soon I will be launching a new website focused on my writing. I am working on my first book, to be released sometime in the fall. Over the next few months I will be moving my residence to Montana. Our new house is almost ready to be occupied. Summer will be filled with digging in the dirt and enjoying the simple practices of daily living—gardening, cooking, exploring and spending time with family.
And the most wonderful news last…
Winter months in Montana can get pretty cold and I was told removing all your clothes is the best way to stay alive. Turns out it is a very enjoyable way to pass the cold winter months. It is also a fantastic way to create new life. Enter baby Bean (nicknamed by Atticus), expected to arrive sometime in late October. Our family is growing!
What will come first the Bean or the Book?
Stay tuned and we will find out together. Thank you for sharing this journey with me. I have missed you!
Mountains carve a solid boundary between the light of the sky and the dirt of the earth.
We may not see it.
But it is there.
Explore the lines.
Follow the curves of our bodies as we shift from entangled movement to stillness.
Watch each other closely.
See past form and gesture to spirit.
We move whether we want to or not.
Even in stillness we move.
We are carried on the current of our breath until even it leaves our bodies behind.
The road ahead is blank, washed in white.
Decide what colors to add.
Choose the bold or the subtle.
Let the light in or dip in darkness.
Become intimate with discomfort.
Sit with it.
Don’t cling—just be.
There is wisdom to be found in our stillness and our silence.
“You are so brave and quiet, I forget you are suffering.”
~ Ernest Hemingway
Photo: I shot this on 12.29.14 in the Highwood Mountains of Montana. I am grateful the road ahead has been marked by those who went before me. There is no need to feel fear.
“What the hell are we celebrating?”
I found this note today while preparing to cook breakfast for three children, written on a page in a tiny, handmade two-ring binder entitled, “Spirit Lifters: One for Each Day.”
Spending the next two weeks in Montana is my Christmas present to myself; being with our new, expanded family of five is Atticus’ Christmas present, too. But change, even positive change, challenges us to either grow in spirit or grow in anxiety. We have a choice, but it is not always easy to make.
Peace on Earth has a new meaning. It is no longer a matter of world peace or making everything appear peaceful on the outside. Instead my wish this season is for us to keep our peace—even in the midst of full family chaos.
This work is breath by breath—and it is the best gift we can give our children.
Mindful parenting is not a philosophy, it is a practice. It requires us to show up every moment open and aware, ready to act rather than react. By modeling kindness and love, we teach kindness and love. And what better effort to make around the holiday season.
Our hearts are healing.
They heal every time we show love and not anger.
They heal every time we exhale deeply and begin again when we feel we can’t go on.
They heal every time we let go of expectations of perfection to embrace the beautiful chaos that family life brings.
Our hearts heal every time we let go and feel what is actually happening in and around us.
The spirit of Christmas exists. It is the awe of unknowing, the mystery of something greater and more expansive than we can comprehend. We may not choose to put Christ back in Christmas, but it would serve us to get clear what we are celebrating. Our intention this holiday season will determine how we experience the coming days.
All the details, the shopping and the trimmings, aren’t half as important as what is in our hearts and how we show up for the ones we love.
Ask the question: “What are we celebrating?
Let your answer guide you home.