Life has been asking me this question lately, so it's fitting that it would pop up here as well. Synchronicity speckles the landscape of an authentic life.
The more I do what I love, the more IN LOVE I feel. The more IN LOVE I feel, the more happiness just sort of radiates out of my core like some kind of rainbow care bear. My experience of every thing and every one is defined, informed, and inspired by Love.
Love is the essence of The Big Hand/Great Spirit/Divinity/Source/God/Goddess/The Thing Itself/Present Moment/Mother Nature. To be IN LOVE means total connection, activation, and engagement. It is a space of infinite pleasure; a particular neurochemical nourishment for the body-mind. It is a "Yes, please and thank you!" to life. The ultimate turn-on.
Sometimes a sense for Love comes through feeling fantastic. Other times, it comes through feeling like shit. Clarification via contrast.
Being out of Love is painful. In this space, one feels separate, disconnected, in fear, in stress, in worry, in anger. An existential eye roll, a folding of the arms, a guarding of the heart. Prone to seeking pleasure elsewhere, anywhere but here, where everything hurts.
That's been me, much of the time, over the last five years.
Sources of Pain:
a.) Feeling out of Love with the adult closest to me, father of my children, primary partner in co-creating my parenting experience.
b.) Having motherhood SUCK so much of the time! Feeling isolated and under-supported and just generally ill at ease.
c.) The years I spent as a child feeling miserable at home with my own family.
d). Thinking that I've recreated that hell, with new twists, for my kids.
But guess what? Due to duality, inherent in the human experience, feeling out of Love is a trap door back into Love, the moment I become aware. Because after all, what's not actually to Love? What's not actually The Thing Itself?
Yes, the pain points might pinch, when they hit. Let me feel them to heal them. The blessedness of it all, the sweet goodness and silliness and growth, the warmth and the realness, the many moments of pure and mind-shattering bliss, and the grace of healing ultimately outweighs any dead weight that sits up my sleeve, waiting for a chance to slip.
Besides, as explored in the previous question, moving IN and OUT is the dance we signed up for. Might as well dig in and enjoy.
P.S. A journal is a safe space to deposit dead weight; one of the best, strongest, highest capacity places available.
Before I dive in, let's address the elephant on the calendar. It has been well over a month since my last MomX Quest. I've journaled elsewhere, here and there, but my dedicated practice of showing up to THIS platform and working THIS process has taken a pause.
1. Because I up and moved out of that little apartment in San Jose and landed, after some big adventures, in San Diego, where I'm just now opening up my computer again.
2. Because sometimes there is a gap between my thinking, or planned life, and my actual, or lived one. Sometimes daily practices take a month off. And, sometimes things happen so fast that there's no time to sit and process it all.
3. Because every time we fall "out" and then back "in" to a practice, we strengthen its cutting edge. The same mechanism exists in jazz. When a song travels away from the base track and then comes back, the music finds a deeper groove.
And now for the quest. I notice that the way I feel when I wake up is directly informed by the way I felt when I fell asleep.
The last few nights, I've been falling asleep irritated, overwhelmed, and depleted. I wake up feeling tired, and reluctant. Then I reach immediately for caffeine, and toast with avocado, and other comfort-items. While this helps incentivize my participation in the day, it undermines something else: my optimal morning routine. I am still developing a practice that supports me in coming into myself without reliance on something external. A movement meditation, an embodiment exercise, a song, a prayer, something inherent. Something so nurturing and connective that I wake up feeling ready to arise.
Leaving San Jose was like crawling out of another cocoon; I'm now experiencing that awkward sticky stage as I detangle my wings, again, while still on the fly. Wrestling with old coping strategies, updating my systems. Scraping out time for regenerative activity.
I've declared that I shall not live in any situation that discourages me from thriving as a mother. And, I have not determined how I shall finance such a life, or where that life will be most likely to occur. I have a vision, however, and I'm flexing faith.
By the Grace of The Big Hand I am also, lately, feeling incredibly GRATEFUL when I wake up because the first thing I see through a big picture window is the ocean stretched out in front of me. A wave of wonder washes through my cells, because it looks so fresh and different and totally new, every single time. In this sun-lit apartment my father has provided for temporary housing, I also experience a healing for my inner child, whom my father kicked out into the streets.
Every day I face my fear, my doubt, my exhaustion, and all the other feelings that accompany the human experience, especially when one abandons the beaten path and takes off into the wilderness. Especially with small children. I commit to courage.
I cry when I am being honest about how I feel.
Sometimes I tea-kettle: holding intense emotion in place
while it heats and heats and heats
until I'm blowing off steam from every possible opening,
of which my mouth is apparently the biggest.
Sometimes I make the space for tears to come out,
relieving the pressure, letting flow.
Sometimes the tears make their own way out,
and I just let them, now, even if I'm out in public.
I cry in pain, and fear, and exhaustion.
I cry in awe, and gratitude, and love.
I cry in receipt of life's true requirements.
I think crying helps keep me in real time;
a way of settling tabs of attachment with the past,
and the future.
At the Soil Not Oil conference in San Francisco earlier this week, I spent two whole days with my mom hat off and my listening ears on. Yes--two whole days without a single trigger to my inner child. It was glorious.
Upon return to my family, I was immediately presented with a fevered Rose, who persisted in being significantly miserable for the next 35 hours, until her temperature came down. I was additionally presented with a stressed-out Keith, who put in 30 days' notice on our apartment, and is scrambling to figure out how to make more money after the surprise-ending of his employment, and relies on my listening to his every idea. Sitting in the heat, caring for the kids, craving space to cultivate the seeds planted in me at the conference, I found myself depleting quickly.
Nourishment. So I can center, and sense my way forward. So I can focus, and figure out what's next for me and these kidlets.
I am nourished by the vision I see in my heart, which aligns with the vision of the brilliant scientists, activists, entrepreneurs, researchers, and thought-leaders present at Soil Not Oil. Here is a slice of it, from my wall:
The vision consists of living in deep harmony with the natural world, and with my own nature. Growing and eating food right off the face of the earth, on healthy soil. I have sustainable, healthy housing, in the company of mindful beings who love and support one another. I drink clean water abundantly. I move my body every day, joyfully, wildly, without reservation. I'm immersed in music, art, activism, community-building, learning, service, and sharing. My cup overfloweth, and my oxygen mask floweth freely, as I nurture the precious life within and around me.
Meanwhile, in my little apartment box, what can I do? Keep eating plants. Keep playing my drum. Keep writing. Keep moving and breathing, every day, no matter what--so kids are climbing on my back, or my belly? Work with that. Move with that. Breath as prayer, life as ceremony. Showing up in unconditional love for myself and this journey. Nourished in the core of my being by gratitude and faith. Nourished in the inevitable ups and downs of the day by radical compassion and self-acceptance.
This fundamental nourishment moves me toward the vision. And it feels amazing.
Especially when I'm taking good care of it, by tending to my microbiome.
(For a great primer on this subject, check out the Interconnected docu-series.)
I also trust certain members of my nuclear family. You know who you are.
Same goes for the members of my chosen family. You, too, know who you are.
Thank you, dear ones, for being such good eggs.
Then there are a few people that I wish I trusted, but alas, I don't, really, because they've been dishonest with me in the past. These are people in my immediate family; non-ditch-able folk. The lack of trust is traumatizing. I am in a space of prayer, healing, and growth with this--because the trust I want to live with isn't conditional, or dependent on any specific person showing up in any specific way.
Returning to an open stance is easier when I recall the deepest trust of all. I trust The Big Hand--that which others refer to as Great Spirit, Source, Force, God, Goddess, Life, Love, Presence. I trust my true Self which is inseparable; infinitely held, and holding.
My primary power tools are movement, writing, music, meditation, and dance. These activities build resilience, awareness, strength, flexibility, and creative self-expression, while scraping off mental, physical, and emotional crust.
I sharpen tools at home. It's all about rhythms, like taking time in the morning, once the kids are settled, to play my drum while I drink my coffee and wait for my poop to be ready. From that point onward, I watch for opportunities. If Rose pretends to be Lily's new puppy, I know I have at least 20 uninterrupted minutes. I scurry off into the bedroom and open my journal.
I sharpen tools at the gym. While plenty of moms rely on crappy gym childcare to get their exercise, I use my two hours for a variety of tasks, which helps to lessen my guilt.
My top choice for movement at the gym is the empty Pilates studio. I put on music and embark on an organic unfolding of stretching, core-work, and balancing practice. It's a yoga-inspired somatic dance experience that transfers an enormous amount of emotional energy--I have cried, laughed, and caught many epiphanies. I use the same space for writing, making videos, conversations, and other work that requires an absence of children.
My top choice for meditation at the gym is the sauna. It feels like a womb. There is no where to go, and nothing else to do, except sit there and self-actualize.
I also dance in public. When my friend Katie and I started The Momma Mob, it was with the intention to merge tool-sharpening with community-building and constructive-care-taking. We're all at the park getting fresh air and letting the kids run wild, but instead of standing around semi-bored, one eye on kiddos and another on Instagram, we're exercising and having fun! Incidentally, you can follow The Momma Mob on Instagram (@themommamob).
Ah, what flows. Easy to identify, because so many other moments feel like driving with the E-brake on.
Movement: Letting my body unwind and come to its senses. Working up a nice heat, and a cathartic heartbeat. Especially after a little wee drag on my vaporizer pen, in an empty room, with potent music.
Singing: Letting my voice find melodies and create worlds. Especially at bedtime, for the kids. Thinking to myself, as the songs tumble out, somebody should be recording this.
Tears: Letting myself cry. I've cried a million tears this week. I suspect this movement has roots in the work I'm doing with these questions, and I trust it. This is the melting of crusts, the shedding of skins, and the release of that which no longer lives in me.
Blood: I'm on my moon. Still a relatively new phenomenon, since it took 15 months to get my cycle back after Lily was born and 23 months after Rose.
Conversation with Key Personnel: My inner circle hears everything (welcome). Exploring my truths, my fears, my visions out loud with the witnessing presence of another mother, or a beloved family member, or a dear friend moves me forward, simply by opening up and sounding out.
Gratitude: This vibrational life-raft gets me through many a kinky corner. I notice something yummy or lovely or sweet or cute or just plain good, and think of how much I appreciate it, and then I start appreciating more things, and more things, until I feel a whole lot better about my journey. The better I feel, the more I lean toward my dreams, which in turn activates a whole flow of magic. Ba-boom.
Collaboration: Cross-pollinating with other change-makers exponentially amplifies energy and impact, AND I LOVE IT.
Setting the intention to allow for more "me" really opens a new pace of being. And considering the intensity with which I've been feeling, I'm doing well.
I catch myself standing with most of my weight shifted over my left hip. I breathe myself back to center, dance in and out. Eat whole food and drink water, as often as possible. Enjoy a few bites of NadaMoo. Not forcing my will, or wishing things different. Taking it easy, slow, and surrendered. Showing up in love, to the utmost of my capacity.
I'm moving with courage, commitment, curiosity, and compassion. Sitting in the center of discomfort, letting the tears fall. The tightness I discussed in Question #6 seems to be melting--and it's exposing all sorts of sharp edges, underneath.
It's over with Keith, I told his mother, today. We cried.
Rose missed her nap, today. Cried miserably for an hour at bedtime before falling asleep in my arms. I cried, too.
Just letting myself go soft, be water, receive waves of emotion without resistance or attempts to control.
Letting Lily see my sadness. She sang to me, and stroked my face. She told me I could switch off my bad feelings, and switch on happiness. I reassured her that sadness isn't bad; that it's important to be honest about how we feel.
Letting the emptiness of not knowing be what it is.
Interesting, to reflect on this when I'm still breathing the tailwind of yesterday's question. Who I think I am directly impacts my definition of "me" time. (Author's note: the pairing of these two questions next to one another was not planned, on my end. It just "happened.")
I've been thinking of "me" time as whatever scraps of space I salvage from the day in which I do not have children tethered to the side of my body-mind. I've been thinking of "me" time as something that someone or something else provides, please and thank you.
"Me" time has been looking like hanging with friends, playing my drum, writing in my journal, practicing yoga, catching up on a television show, or poetry band practice with Leo.
While all of these activities are incredibly valuable, perhaps real "me" time is simpler, and more scary.
"Me" time is when I am not doing anything outside of myself whatsoever.
"Me" time is when I sit in my skin and feel what I'm feeling and breathe.
"Me" time is when I integrate completely into the now.
"Me" time is that thing I'm speeding on.
Let me try slowing down.
When I do, my sense of self expands (time being relative, and all).