Off the Mat: Being and Doing

Being and Doing

“To be is to do.” – Aristotle
“To do is to be.” – Sartre
“To be or not to be.” – Shakespeare
“Do be do be do, be do be do be…” – Sinatra

12212575524_5b9e2f06be_nI remember this list from days long ago, an era when we shared memes via T-shirt rather than gif. The fact that it keeps popping into my head indicates there’s a message for me here.

I’m a list person. The type who writes down a completed task to have the satisfaction of crossing it off. Kitchen chalk board lists the week’s meals and food in danger of spoiling. Mobile app separates TODAY/THIS WEEK/NEXT WEEK/SOMEDAY actions and includes a DONE column, the virtual equivalent to crossing it off. Placing a task on my list means its accounted for and needn’t rattle ‘round my brain during work hours or at 2 a.m..

Because I trust my list. It holds what I need to do so my brain doesn’t have to. Reviewing my completed tasks talks back to my anxious critic inner voice, the part that says I don’t do enough. My brain was raised on the Sartre perspective. Doing makes me who I am. You’ll be known by your deeds. Actions speak.

And yet, as social media replaces year end top 10 lists with New Year’s resolutions, the list in my heart focuses less about what I intend to DO and more of who and how I want to BE.

Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Dark Days

Dark Days

Driving his die cast metal school bus ‘round its pressboard wooden route, my kiddo hums under his breath. Tune recognition takes a while to reach my conscious mind.

Do you realize you’re humming the Darth Vader music?

Oh.  Mama? What’s the music for the bright side?

Setting the clocks back messes with my head. Don’t get me wrong, I relish the extra hour of sleep.  I can even appreciate how the “earlier” sunrise means we can stand in sunbeams not shadows while waiting for the bus. But the darkness is challenging. Over the years, I’ve tried exercise, high dose Vitamin D, natural light bulbs, to mixed effects. Mold allergies leave me head-achy and spent by mid-afternoon. Now mid-afternoon grows dark.

Do I rage against the dying light, pressing on full tilt through the December schedule? Hunker down and hibernate, slowing my pace to baseline functions only? Or seek a middle way – look for the light?  Read the rest of this entry »

Off the Mat: Constructively Compassionate at Home

Constructive Compassion

Open hands. Open heart. Loving gracefully begins at home.

My hubby and I are arguing in agreement. Again. This time about word choice in an online article about parenting boys. The content is almost irrelevant. Almost because these tiffs often arise when discussing parenting and gender. Societal messages to little boys and little girls. We argue in agreement, differing over minutiae born of perspective, gender, age, family of origin experience.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: The Great Balancing Act of Relationships

Positive reinforcement means longer living relationships

Some believe that the relationships you have with your children are the only “required” relationships, in that one must keep working on them for the rest of their lives. They are the only ones we’re not allowed to give up on. Some believe that parenting is a constant try and re-try. Some believe that a good parent is constantly evolving so that the connections we have with our sons and daughters remain strong.

I disagree. Not with the sentiment that as a parent we must work and work each day at the relationships that we have with our children. Not even with the idea that we shouldn’t give up on or break up (so to speak) with our children. Hindsight has taught me that our connections with them must remain the most important things that we hold on to as parents. As a parent, I do believe these things to be true.

What I don’t believe is the statement that your children are the ONLY relationships that one isn’t allowed to let go. I believe that marriage, one’s relationship with your child’s parent, also needs to be a priority and should be a relationship that we not only nurture, but hold on to, cherish, and work on, work on, work on. Now of course that isn’t to say that there aren’t toxic relationships; abusive, detrimental or one-sided that must be let go of immediately. But the OTHER kind of marriage; the-leave-the-toilet-seat-up-beer-cans-in-the-living-room-sticky-jelly-on-the-cutting-board-stop-yelling-at-me-did-you-just-flirt-with-that-waitress?-can-we-do-something-besides-watch-tv kind of marriage must not be given up on. I believe that like the relationship you have with your children, a marriage should be a perseverance for the long haul. Read the rest of this entry »

Hindsight Parenting: A Strong Woman

A Strong Woman

“When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you’re expected to move again only you don’t remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself. You never in your life think that love like this can happen to you.” (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

“I am going to get married.” This simple sentence was uttered two nights ago while Ila and I were sitting together playing. When I say that this phrase was completely out of the blue (we were playing with a Fisher Price car driving it to and fro on a mat of a city. We were stopping at the store, at the park…and BOOM!!! Out of the blue…there it was…”I am going to get married,” uttered from my beautiful two and a half year old’s mouth.

I know that perhaps this next statement will put some off, perhaps even anger others, but that particular statement uttered by my daughter was highly unsettling to me. It actually caused me a great deal of anxiety. It isn’t that I am anti-marriage (per se). It’s just that I want that particular life’s ambition to be towards the BOTTOM of her to-do list. And well, surprise, surprise…it got me thinking. I couldn’t stop wondering where she got the idea from…where she had heard the words…how she made the decision that that was something that “girls” say. (And she may have not been doing ANY of that. She may have just been repeating something that she’d heard or saw somewhere…) But just in case, just in case…

I won’t lie to you, I felt an urgent need to begin to pontificate the virtues of living one’s life to the fullest-travel, WORLD travel, jobs, apartments, roommates, a string of broken hearts that would reach across the states and double back. I wanted to tell her that she doesn’t need a man to make her feel complete, that the world was so much more than that. I wanted to open up to well worn passages written in Eat, Pray, Love that I had memorized so that she too could drink in those vital words and let them fill her heart. I wanted to read to her Francesca’s lament to Robert in that brilliant novel, Bridges of Madison County. You know the one, “When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details. You become a mother, a wife and you stop and stay steady so that your children can move. And when they leave they take your life of details with them. And then you’re expected to move again only you don’t remember what moves you because no-one has asked in so long. Not even yourself. You never in your life think that love like this can happen to you.” Uh uh uhhhh. Sing it girl. Sing it!

But then Hindsight crept in in its own sly way. “Get a hold of yourself,” it whispered. “For cripes sakes, she’s only two!” After reaching for a brown paper bag and breathing into it for quite some time, I decided to listen to my pal, Hindsight, to see if she had any wisdom, and it seems as usual, she did.

Telling vs. Guiding. Telling vs. Guiding. Keep those two words in mind dear readers. As I delved deeper into my memories of wanting the boys to do a specific thing or believe a certain value, telling them never got me very far. In fact, it usually got me the opposite. A very simple example of this would be wearing a winter jacket. Every morning before school the same fight would ensue. “Put on your jacket. It is cold out,” and like clockwork either Son1 or Son2 would refuse, roll their eyes, or just out and out say “No!” But say nothing and put on my own coat? Sit in the driveway for five minutes while the frosty windshield defrosted–me all nice and toasty while my coatless sons sat in the backseat shivering…YUP…THAT got them to wear their coats and I didn’t even have to say a word.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: