“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.
It is still the Year of the Horse for 23 more days.
This time every year I have seasonal amnesia.
I forget who I am. I forget the intentions I set back in January. I get wrapped up in the flurry to prepare for the holidays and I lose sight of what really matters—being present.
It is always about this time in December that I realize my grand plans for creating handmade gifts for all my loved ones are too grand to be accomplished in two weeks. Every year I seem to forget. Then I struggle with the decision to run around picking out odd gifts or show up empty handed. Either way I run the risk of disappointment.
This year is different. I still haven’t made all the gifts, but I am no longer struggling. I am focused on where I was and where I am now.
2014 is the year I committed to writing regularly (and letting people read what I write). I committed to my business and stopped sacrificing my dreams in the name of job security. I committed to marriage. I set an intention to live like I mean it throughout the year—especially in December—when the year’s last days often get buried beneath the “should have’s” and discarded wrapping paper.
This was the year I stopped living in fear.
I had lost a part of myself. It was buried, stuffed down and hidden in a place so dark I could no longer see it; hidden so long I had forgotten it was once a part of me. The place I was told never to touch, buried and abandoned before I realized what it was I was losing.
As a child a fire burned in me, its force drove me on as I would run through the woods to our hideout—Scary Wheel—a grove of trees bent over and intertwined by the years. I ran hard and fast into the darkness, my heart beating in my head. I ran alone straight into those woods, and into myself. I stayed, even when my heart beat so hard it hurt. I stayed to prove to myself that I was strong. I relaxed into the nest and surrendered to the stars and the sky.
I was wild then.
For the last twenty years I struggled to find out who I was. I searched outside myself for labels and roles—masks—I hoped would help me remember. My hair, once thick and wavy, grew thin. Tiny red lines appeared on my cheeks, like something fiery and hot, exerting pressure under the surface and dying to come out.
I accepted too little, believing I didn’t need any more. I stopped listening. I stopped listening to the voices that speak through the holes in well-worn old wood, spirits locked in trees that had fallen ages before I was born.
It was summer when my wildness returned to me, in the shadows of the Montana mountains. Under the big, wide-open sky, she entered me, as the feverish July wind whipped the tall grasses in a violent dance. I shook in that wind, until the bits of my fragmented self fell back into place.
I screamed out to release the pain, to feel whole again, and the echo came back…
You are here.
I opened my heart to life again this year. This is the gift I will share this holiday season.
We are already here.
We are already whole.
Open up to wildness and find freedom on the wind. Giddy Up.
Photo Credit: Nick Mehmke
I am flesh and blood and spirit.
As I child I loved to go to church. I was raised Catholic; we had mass every Sunday. It was all incense, Latin chants and long robes. And then we were no longer allowed to attend communion or confession because my parents got divorced. We could attend mass, but we could not participate.
I asked my father why he never attended church with us on Sunday and this is what he had to say (or what I remember)…
I was a young boy. We came out of mass (this was in Chicago, on the South side). Two grown men who had been in church with us approached the newspaper box, chatting like friends. One man opened the box and took the last newspaper. The other man got upset. They argued and their confrontation escalated to blows; this in a city with a newspaper box on almost every corner. I don’t need to find God in the Church, God exists in me.
We stopped going to that church and tried many others until my mother found a community she connected with and she stayed. I went off to college.
I studied philosophy. I embraced pragmatism. I embraced rationalism. I embraced Ferris…
I don’t have all the answers. I know this. I am more than the sum of my parts. I am more than I can share in words. I am more than I can even begin to comprehend. There is a spirit which animates me. I don’t pretend to understand it. And I am grateful for the mystery.
Babies have it going on. They are in awe. Every gesture, every shift in light, every breath is enchanting. This is why adults take drugs—to fall in awe with life again. But we don’t need drugs, we need only pause for a moment and consider the sunset or sunrise (if you can get up that early). Magic is all around us, God is that magic.
Fall in awe with life.
Find God in every breath.