The Hard Work of Being Deliberate

I wrote this post last weekend, on an airplane. Here’s to being deliberate!

I’m on a plane back to San Francisco, and since it’s Saturday, I’m cautiously continuing my Sabbath experiment with no media use for the day.

Only I’m flying on Virgin America – with those nifty seat-back media screens – and I’ve had to press the off button no less than four times in the first hour of the flight. It seems the pesky thing keeps turning itself on again – tempting me with a movie or a distraction from the sitting still with my own thoughts for hours at a time.

I’m realizing that’s the way it is with anything worth doing. That it’s not just a decision in a moment in time, but a steady pressing of the off button to what the world wants me to do, versus what’s right for me in this moment. Like cleaning my desk! I gear up to spend hours to get it done, and then a week later – it needs maintenance. Continued attention.

My friend Andjana sent me a New York Times article about the The All or Nothing Marriage today. The jist is this: people today have the possibility of more satisfying and enriching marriages than ever in history – but marriages take more work than ever before. The connection and work and loyalty of a shared life isn’t something that can be taken for granted in a mutual need of each other  – but is something that must be invested in, or lost.

I just finished a great novel “The Story of  a Marriage” by Andrew Greer.  It’s full of twists and turns and is set in San Francisco which is fun. But ultimately it’s the story about relationships, love and passion and the movements in a long span of life that define us.

So I’ll keep pressing the off button today. Only four more hours to go!

The Risk of Hope

My friend Scott asked me why I started this new blog – Step into Growth – instead of continuing Bald Mama Speaks.

I guess at some point I decided I didn’t want to be bald anymore.

I tell people that losing my hair has brought me closer to God and my faith. I say that I’m grateful for this journey. I recount that, despite the pain at times, I would choose to do it again.  I say that being bald has forced me to embrace being comfortable and confident in my own skin.

All of this is true.

Yet I don’t want to define myself by this state of being, by this journey, that truthfully I hope will end. To change from Bald Mama Speaks to Step into Growth is to speak with intention.

And still. I’ve lost more hair in the past two weeks than I have in a year. Half my head is now hairless, after a trembling period where I had more than before. Before the month is over, it may all be gone. My eyes tear up with grief at the thought of what I’ve lost so far, and what’s left to lose.

And though I can survive and thrive in anything, I still must dare to hope.

In the end, it was only losing my hair that started to loosen the grip of perfectionism and control that had engulfed me. For this — these hairs falling out in clumps overnight, and then in some places, inexplicably growing back in gray – this, in the end, is the one thing I can not control, plan, or predict. And that, of course, has led me to my one defining truth:

There is a power out there so much greater than myself, in this wonderful amazing universe. I am but a speck in this vastness. Despite my many desperate attempts, I can’t control the movements of this life. And yet, I can profoundly impact the people around me more than I know. I am enough.

Embracing hope is a risk. I may be disappointed. A head full of hair may not be in the plans for my life. Yet stepping into growth requires this of me.  For if I can’t imagine change, then how will I move forward?

What do you risk hope about in your life?

Interruption: a Communications Fast

I know that I’m addicted to being online and on my phone. The funny thing is, I’m horrible about replying to emails, particularly those coming into my personal inbox. But I’m compulsive about checking them and reading them, especially on my phone.

So when my running friend Gretchen mentioning trying to not watch TV/videos/Netflix or check email for a day, it was a challenge too nagging to ignore.

I had recommended a book to her that I love, and one that I try to re-read at least once a year. The Blessing of a Skinned Knee – using Jewish teachings to raise Self-Reliant Children and in it Wendy Mogul mentions the “Blessing of Time” and the Jewish concept of Sabbath.

The concept is pretty amazing, actually.  It’s the idea that we take one full day a week, to do nothing at all. To rest.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

My friend Nicole told me about her dear friends who are observant Jews, and keep the Sabbath by not cooking, turning on lights, or doing any number of activities. It’s hard for me to imagine not even cooking for an entire day, but in the spirit of taking a small step toward growth (and with Gretchen’s invitation / challenge) I thought I would start with my online and phone use.

I picked Saturday. Mainly because I knew I would want to check my email and phone calls on Sunday before the work week!

Nonetheless, I woke up yesterday resolved to have a phone & media fast.

Honestly, it was so, so hard.

I was making breakfast and needed an egg substitute. I stopped myself from grabbing my phone and looking up an answer, and looked at the back of a package for ideas. We were talking about summer plans (my obsession for the week) and I had to literally stop myself from texting my brother-in-law. I kept walking by my phone and wanting to instinctively pick it up in a moment of downtime and check my emails. I had to bite my tongue to keep from suggesting that we all watch the Olympics that night.

Finally I hid my phone.

And then, I picked it up to take a photo of my son and his grandma, and I just could.not.stop.myself from responding to a text.

Small steps.

Yet, despite it all, it was good for me. There were so many “to-do” things that popped into my head – calling, emailing, texting, online shopping – that I just mentally filed as things for tomorrow. And it really was a sense of rest. I guess if I’m honest with myself I haven’t felt that sense of rest in a long time.

So maybe next Saturday, I’ll try it again.

Have you ever tried to do some kind of fast, or a day of rest? Tell me about it!

Life with a Soundtrack

I was so surprised watching the Olympics this week when I saw the snowboard champions pull earbuds out of their ears at the end of their runs to talk to the media.

Really? Listening to music during competition at the Olympics?

The Blaze posts this article about Olympians listening to their own beats on the way to victory.

Life with a soundtrack.

Music has often been an afterthought for me. I’ll spend all day in a room, and then someone will turn on some music and I’ll sigh, thinking about how different I feel. Or I’ll only realize, after a CD has been on continuous repeat for two hours, that I am really angry and will march over to rip those speakers out of the walls!

Power of music.

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One of my favorite parts about the church I attend, Cornerstone, is it’s unconventional worship format. Twenty-five minutes of music, followed by a sermon, followed by one song. That’s it. It was way different at first from the church I attended where I grew up, but now I love it. I “zone out” during the music set in the beginning and I start to reflect on the day, on the week, on the year. The music is joyful, pensive, inspiring.

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown has been on my mind a lot lately. In it she mentions in an off-hand way her music playlists – one for running, one for something else?, and one, essentially, for God. That is, thinking about God and spirit and life.

So what are my playlists? What are the songs that bring me back to that feeling, whatever it is?

Today:

– Instant Dance party with my Boys: This time for Africa

– Remembering What Was:  Wonderwall

– Pensive about the Present Moment: Good Riddance

– Grateful of Spirit: Be Still

One of the things I miss most about my college and post-college days is living in close proximity to my friends who would introduce me to new music. So here’s your chance friends. Post some songs from today’s playlist & the feeling it evokes for you. Post your Pandora station. Expand my life in soundtrack!

Saying No to the Good, for Yes to Best

It was late Saturday, and I got an invitation I couldn’t refuse. A mom in my youngest son’s class invited us with a tentative voice to come over for a “un poco de algo” to eat to celebrate her son’s birthday the next day.  At our public school, despite good-hearted attempts by both sides, the English-dominant and Spanish-dominant families don’t mix much.

“Si!” I said. Of course we’ll come.

Actually, I just didn’t want to say no. Our second invitation to a classmate’s home, during the critical kindergarten year.

The only problem was, the day was already packed. I couldn’t bear to tell my son about the invite until after our other friends had left for the morning. He was *super* excited to see his soccer buddy from class, for about five minutes. Then he announced he wasn’t going. I made a half-hearted attempt to ask him if he wanted to wait ten minutes, and then decide? before I realized, that the truth of the matter was that I was feeling too tired to go too.

I was grateful for the sensibility of a five-year-old to reign me in from my precious plans (made in the spirit of helping him no less).

There’s a saying these days – The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) – that is apparently a real defined thing on Wikipedia. I’ve heard it sometimes in the context of not wanting to commit to any plans – but for me, it’s definitely about not wanting to say no. No to really good things. No to things I want to do.

Instead, we stayed home, texted a “lo siento mucho” and I finally published this blog that’s been percolating since the fall. The boys played and watched videos. Yes to the Best.

I’ve been reading a bit of an ancient sacred text called Tao Te Ching. I want to dive into this text more in the coming weeks, but tonight this piece of poetry spoke to me:

Close the openings,
shut the doors,
and to the end of life
nothing will trouble you.
Open the openings,
be busy with the business,
and to the end of life
nothing can help you.
 
(Tao Te Ching, excerpt #52, translation by Ursula Le Guin)

Is there something good you need to decline this week in your life so you can say yes to the best? How do you discern what the “best” is for you, this week or this moment?

To Begin, Again

Somehow January slipped out of my hands.

I thought I started the new year energized, and with intention, and yet there are some things that feel stuck to me at the moment.

Like my writing.

This blog was born in months of dreaming and scheming and planning. And yet the new year started and I just couldn’t (didn’t) write.

In truth, much has been happening this past month. Those of you close to me know I’m an action person. I make lists. Get things done. And this month, I got stuck, got sick, broke some commitments to folks in my broader circle – realized that was okay – and got lead by God (working through friends) to a few common themes.

I am enough.

This will take a lifetime to realize. And yet I will start. To know that I am a child loved by God, first and foremost. Loved by this higher power of mine that I don’t always understand and more often ignore. And all this work I’ve been doing, mostly unknowingly – to make sure everyone else’s feelings don’t get hurt, and that I don’t let them down – is distracting me from taking care of myself and cultivating some of these burning gifts inside me. It took a divine push of three separate friends mentioning Brene Brown for me to pay attention. Her book The Gifts of Imperfection has really brought me to this theme of I am enough.

Just start.

I think my expectations get the best of me, most of the time. I can’t start this blog until I’m ready and committed to do it everyday (but when would that feeling ever just happen anyway?). I’ve been learning so much from the mom who co-leads the lego club we’ve started for my son’s class. First she is great with kids and has endless patience. And she also has a great sense to let things evolve. Lego free play will evolve to building kits will evolve to using motors. I don’t have to over-complicate things. And so here I am writing. Letting this blog and this project evolve as it will!

Let go.

I’ve realized I need to let go of some things in my life to make space for the new things to grow. Some are things I’ve loved dearly in the past but aren’t meant for this season. Some things are those commitments that hang over me with endless anxiety and take up energy.  Mostly I need to let go of the thoughts that loom over me about what’s next, which distract me from the present moment.

I am enough. Just start. Let go.

And so, this new year begins – again!

Forget Resolutions, pick a Word

My friend Zohary introduced me to the One Word 365 movement last year – that instead of picking an endless list of resolutions (and then beating myself up if I don’t keep them) – I will pick one word that defines the year.

For example, if I pick “Energy” I can view everyday through the lens of that word – maybe tonight I’ll go to bed earlier, tomorrow I’ll try to make better food choices, and keep on going! It’s not a resolution to keep or break, it’s a reminder, a mantra! for the year.

Last year I picked “Home” and shared with you my intention on BaldMamaSpeaks. Truthfully, I think it was a good year in the Home front. I spent time making our living space cozier and more organized, and despite the piles and piles of lego surrounding me at this very moment, I think I’ve made progress!

And this year?

One word keeps returning to me again and again.

Breath.

As I was driving down to LA with the family, I found my chest tight for no reason. It was as if I forgot to breathe deeply if I wasn’t thinking about it. Or if I was having any stressful thought at all, I hold it in my chest.

Breath is also connected to the divine, as many others have explored before me. I’d heard that YHWH, the ancient, unpronouceable Jewish name for God, was connected to breathing – and was in fact, a prayer in itself. I stumbled upon this post by Rabbi Arthur Waskow that explores this concept further – in essence, that the name of God is unpronunable in words, but pronouceable in breath.

I breathe in the Divine. I let go of my cares. I breathe in the Divine. I start every moment fresh.

Breath!

What’s your word for the new year? Post your intention in the comments!