If You Ask a Mom to Meditate…

ifyouaskamomtomeditate

If you ask a Mom to meditate…

She’ll have to close her eyes.

If she closes her eyes, she’ll be at risk of falling asleep.

If she falls asleep, everyone will see her drool.

So, once she closes her eyes, she’ll have to find a way to distract herself from falling asleep.

Before she’ll have a chance to start thinking, a song will pop into her head. It will be that Taylor Swift song, “WeeeeeEEEEE are never, ever, ever getting back together”.

And she’ll think it’s a catchy tune.

But then she’ll feel sorry for the boy Taylor is singing about because he must feel like Alanis Morissette’s muse right about now.

She’ll want to get that song out of her head, so she’ll clear her mind in an effort to meditate.

But she’ll be sweating. Not because it’s 89 degrees in the room. Because she won’t be able to get Homeland off her mind.

She’ll want Nicholas Brody to be a good guy.

She’ll think about how Brody and Carrie click.

She’ll kinda want Brody to end up with Carrie.

She’ll wonder, Is that so bad?

Then she’ll think that maybe Claire Danes isn’t really acting.

And she’ll wonder if Claire Danes is really just a little bit crazy in real life.

Thinking about Claire Danes’ complicated character in Homeland will make her worry about her sons falling in love with batshit crazy girls, and how falling in love with a batshit crazy girl could ruin their lives.

Thinking about batshit crazy girls will remind her of a line from another song…that Ne-Yo song, “Let me love you until you learn to love yourself.”

And then she’ll think about how sweet a song that is…in sentiment.

But she’ll know in reality that bitch he is singing about is straight up cray-cray.

She’ll wish she could tell Ne-Yo to run away from that crazy broad. She’d say, “Ne-Yo, if she doesn’t love herself, she’ll never love you.”

She’ll want to make a note to explain that to her two older sons when that song comes on again. She’ll know she won’t remember it if she doesn’t write it down or chant it.

But she’ll be unable to write it down, because she’ll be trying to meditate in hot yoga.

And she won’t want to chant it because chanting about Ne-Yo falling for a girl who doesn’t love herself will sabotage the entire yoga class for her.

So she’ll try to think of a way to remember to tell her boys.

While trying to come up with a strategy for remembering, she will become keenly aware that she no longer has feeling in her right ankle.

She’ll probably think it’s because 38 year old Moms of four don’t typically sit Indian style criss-cross applesauce for longer than two minutes a pop.

She’ll hear one of the girls in the row behind her shift her position, and she’ll feel that they are kindred spirits, quietly losing feeling in their extremities together.

She’ll send that stranger behind her a silent, telepathic Namaste for making her feel like she’s not alone in her pins and needles experience.

Thinking about having no feeling in her right ankle will prompt her to think about the two toes on her left foot that go numb when she runs in the cold.

Thinking about running in the cold will make her smile, because she’ll inevitably think about the coveted one-on-one time she gets with her sweet second son, who runs cross country.

Thinking about cross country will trigger the memory that she has volunteered to make orzo with roasted vegetables for his team banquet on Monday night.

Thinking about orzo with roasted vegetables will make her picture her crisper drawer in her mind.

And she won’t see any bell peppers in there.

She’ll wish she could write that down too.

But she’ll be unable to, because she’s supposed to be meditating.

Thinking about writing down bell peppers will make her think about Christmas lists.

And thinking about Christmas lists will stress her out.

Because she has 4 kids, and Christmas will be expensive.

She will really wonder what to get her 11 year old son because he’s at an in-between age.

She is seriously considering the Kindle Fire, but then she’ll wonder if he should have internet access.

Thinking about her 11 year old having internet access will make her think about the phone call she got from his teacher because he Googled “the spinning wheel of death” on his school laptop.

She’ll remember that he explained it to her as that thing that pops up when you’re waiting for a website to load.

She’ll remember feeling a sense of relief that he hasn’t Googled porn on his school laptop. Yet.

Then she’ll recollect how she got up on her soapbox at the school meeting with the IT people telling them that her 11 year old son has no fear on the computer.

She’ll remember that she went on to tell everyone in that meeting that Google is a verb in her house, and she’s worried her son will Google anything. And that maybe he shouldn’t have a laptop.

And then she’ll think, Well, I kinda called that one, didn’t I?

So, that will settle that, and she’ll decide her son certainly doesn’t need a Kindle Fire.

But then she’ll remember that movie quote, “If we don’t start trusting our children, how will they ever become trustworthy?”

Thinking about that movie quote and how it applies to her children will give her a lump in her throat.

She’ll think about what a beautiful lesson that is…and that maybe it’s time to show that 11 year old boy that we trust him.

She’ll feel like she’s maybe going to cry…and she would almost rather fall asleep and drool in yoga class than cry in yoga class.

So, she’ll try to distract herself from that quote by thinking.

She’ll think, What movie was that quote from?

Speaking of movies, she’ll think, when will I get to see Breaking Dawn Part 2?

She’ll think about how part of her is dying to see it, but another part wants to hold off.

Because once she sees it, she’ll think, it will be over.

Not wanting it to be over will remind her of reading the last chapter of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

She’ll remember devouring the series night after night in her bed.

Then she’ll remember sitting in her backyard, feeling the warmth of the summer sun on her legs and hearing the sound of her tears hitting the open pages of the last chapter of the book.

She’ll remember how she slowed down to savor the last chapter because she knew it would soon be over.

Thinking about slowing down to savor things will remind her of when she was young and the way her brother always saved one of his Christmas presents to open up after everyone else had finished opening theirs.

And speaking of Christmas presents, she’ll think, where should we put the tree this year?

She’ll think about how she prefers to put it in the living room. She’ll think about how much she loves to see it from the window as she pulls out of the driveway.

But then, she’ll think, only if they boys agree to white lights.

She’ll remember that last year the Christmas tree was in the family room.

Then she’ll remember that the boys insisted on colored lights on last year’s tree in the family room.

She’ll remember how it was a shit show of a tree, and that they hung all of their homemade ornaments on it to junk it up even more.

Thinking about last year’s ugly tree will make her remember her favorite Christmas tree…the tree she and her husband bought for their first Christmas together in their tiny apartment.

She’ll remember her sister coming over to that apartment to watch movies, drink wine, and string popcorn and cranberries for that perfect tree. She’ll remember how fragrant it smelled and how beautiful it looked, with its popcorn and pine scents and beautiful, twinkling, white lights.

That will make her wonder if she could string popcorn and cranberries this year.

Then she’ll realize that, if her two young sons don’t eat the popcorn every time she leaves the room, the cats certainly will.

Thinking about the cats and the Christmas tree will remind her that last year the cats liked climbing the trunk of that ugly tree with the handmade ornaments and the colored lights.

Thinking about those colored lights will remind her that she really prefers white lights on the Christmas tree.

Then she’ll wonder when her husband will want to string the lights up outside the house.

Thinking about her husband putting up the outside lights will remind her of the time he brought their oldest son onto the roof with him to hang the lights.

Remembering the sight of her oldest son on the roof of the house alongside her husband will make her think about how she wanted to call her husband a moron and a jackass from the driveway.

She’ll remember how she struggled to maintain her composure and not show their son how stupid that stunt was by giving his Dad a come to Jesus right there in the driveway.

Remembering that rooftop incident will make her worry about whether her husband has their oldest son on the roof now while she is at yoga.

The thought of her son on the roof will stress her out.

She won’t be happy about feeling stressed out because she’s supposed to be meditating.

But she’ll be incapable of meditating.

And it’ll be her husband’s fault that she’s unable to meditate because he’s probably having a roof party with their first baby right now!!

Then she’ll hear the fidgeting of the guy two people away from her. And she’ll hear him breathing.

Hearing his breathing will remind her to breathe, which has become a good strategy for calming her down.

She will count 1-2-3-4 on her inhale, then she’ll pause and count 1-2-3-4 on her exhale.

She will do this a few more times.

Then she’ll relax and send him a secret, telepathic Namaste, because it was his fidgeting that distracted her from her stress. And his breathing that reminded her to breathe.

Then she’ll think, since she’s already sent two people a secret, telepathic Namaste, she should probably just send everyone in the class a secret, telepathic Namaste.

She will quietly give herself mad props because she’s had her eyes closed for 10 minutes in the middle of the afternoon in a room that feels like a sauna and she hasn’t fallen asleep.

She’ll think about how grateful she is that she’s taken this time for herself, and that maybe she should try this more often.

And, chances are, that Mom will want to meditate again.

 

Trying to Go With My Flow

gowithmyflow

In the summer of 1997, the tall, dark, and handsome boy I’d been dating for 2 years asked me to marry him. I had just turned 23 years old, and I thought I knew exactly who I was and precisely what I wanted. I was just a little girl with big dreams.

I liked introducing him as my fiancee, but I couldn’t wait to call him my husband. The year we spent planning our wedding was one that I wished away because I couldn’t wait to begin our married life together.

Our first home was an adorable two bedroom apartment in Narberth. Instead of enjoying the stress-free living that one can only experience before carrying a mortgage, we eagerly embarked on the hunt for a house. We bought our first home in March of 2000. And, naturally, I was pregnant by December.

When I was in my first trimester, I couldn’t wait until I was in my 2nd trimester. Then I’d be showing. When I was in my 2nd trimester, I couldn’t wait to be in my 3rd trimester. Then I’d be that much closer to holding my first baby for the first time. After he was born, I couldn’t wait to leave the hospital so that we could have him home, where he belonged. Once we were home, I couldn’t wait until he was on a regular schedule so that I could get some sleep. He sat up, and I looked forward to his crawling. He crawled, and I bought him shoes because he’d soon be walking. He took his first steps, and I was already pregnant with his younger brother, because I totally had this Mom thing down.

By 2004, I had two little boys, both still in diapers. My tall, dark, and handsome husband was working two jobs so that we could scrape the money together to afford for me to be home with the kids. He was never home. And I was exhausted. Physically and mentally exhausted. I couldn’t wait until the boys were just a little bit older…and until my husband was making just a little bit more money…because then I’d be able to breathe easier. It was then that my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. And I stopped breathing. And, for the first time in my life, I willed time to stand still. Or to reverse.  For the first time in my life, I was afraid to look ahead…because I was scared of what the future might hold if it was a future that didn’t include Dad.

It was then that I started running. I’d always hated running. But I felt powerless. And I wasn’t breathing. I needed to cry, and I didn’t want to do it in front of my babies. I needed to gulp the fresh air and feel alive. I doubled up my sports bras because I was carrying extra weight everywhere from having two kids in 19 months. And, I tiptoed out of the house early in the mornings while everyone slept. And I started running. One block at a time. One mile at a time. It became my time. And it is one of the reasons I fell in love with running. Because it was the one thing I was doing for me. After three years of dreaming only for my kids, running allowed me to dare to dream for me again. I put myself back on the list. And it didn’t feel selfish. It felt healthy. What are my goals? What am I made of? How deep can I dig?  I couldn’t wait until my legs and lungs were strong enough to take me out of the neighborhood. Once I was out of the neighborhood, I couldn’t wait to run at Valley Green…because that’s where real runners go. Once I was on Forbidden Drive, I looked forward to signing up for a race…because that’s what runners do. Once I started racing, I thought about finding a running partner…because the miles go by so quickly when you put them in side by side.

Running is my love. I flirt with TRX. I had an affair with kettle bells  But I always come back to running. It gives me what I want…more patience, a sunnier disposition, leaner legs, toned arms…and time to think. Occasionally, I use that time to reflect. Sometimes I use that time to connect with a girlfriend. Other times, I use that time to rock out to whatever is playing on my iPod. Most often, I use that time to plan ahead. Because that’s what I do best…plan ahead. Running allows me to multi-task. My arms and legs switch to autopilot, and my mind is anywhere but there. I’m making the grocery list. I’m writing a story in my head. I’m willing the beds to make themselves and the laundry to march itself up the stairs and put itself away in everyone’s drawers. I’m vaguely aware that my body is moving. I’m checked out. It’s exactly what I want. But not at all what I need.

Last spring, one of my running partners started pestering me to give yoga a try. Hot yoga. I had zero interest. 92 degrees. Indoors. 6 inches from a stranger slick with sweat. No cardio. Confined to a mat the size of a beach towel. Nothing about that appealed to me. But I trust her, so I gave it a try. Grudgingly. I was strong from TRX. I had lungs from running. I figured I’d kill it. I figured wrong. There was shit going on in that studio the likes of which I’d never seen. I couldn’t keep up. What’s crow? High plank…again? Can’t we just hang out in child’s pose a little longer? Happy baby…oh, I like this. Chair pose…ow, I don’t like this. Push ups again? Twist what way? Put my hand through where? Are anyone else’s legs shaking like mine?

I heard the instructor, time and again, “Breathe. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe through it. It won’t last forever. Breathe.”

I left after that first class feeling very intrigued. No, my life hadn’t changed. But I felt calm. Relaxed. Tired, but in a good way. Possibly dehydrated. I like to challenge myself, and I’d seen people doing things that I aspired to do as well. So I went back. Every week. I stopped wearing running shorts to class and bought a great pair of tights. I practiced crow at home. And I was finally able to do it in class…without the help of a block. I listened to my instructor. I heard her again and again, “Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe through it. It won’t last forever. Breathe.”  When calling out a particularly challenging pose, she’d say, “don’t think about it, just do it.” She knew our inclination would be to stop and think about what she’d asked us to do. And stopping to think about it would allow room for doubt and fear to creep into our heads and onto our mats. So, she’d say, “I want you to kick back. Don’t think about it, just do it.” And always, “remember to breathe.” I sat down and reached for my toes one day, and my instructor whispered to me, “You’re ready for your block,” and she placed a block under my feet to deepen my stretch. And I couldn’t believe I had that flexibility in me. I was seeing results in class, and it kept me coming back for more.

Yoga was offering me something running had ceased to offer me. Personal bests. I’m not getting any younger. Unfortunately, I’m not getting any thinner. So my race times aren’t getting any faster. I’m training smart and I’m training hard, but still falling short of running goals I exceeded just a few years ago. And my stupid jeans are tight. And that bums me out. I love putting in the work, but I’m also a results person. It’s different with yoga. Yoga is about working, working, working, and achieving. And it never stops. There will always be a goal for me to strive for and hopefully achieve. For a girl who loves to make lists and cross items off after completing…this is a beautiful thing.  And my yoga pants are stretchy. So they’re never too tight. Bonus.

What stood out most for me about my time in yoga was that I had room in my head ONLY for yoga when I practiced. I’m not mentally navigating the aisles of the Acme to create my grocery list. I’m not complaining to my running partner that if I come home from work one more Sunday to the lunch dishes still on the table, I’m going to go batshit on tall, slightly gray, and handsome. I’m right here. Body and mind. On this mat. In this 92 degree studio. 6 inches from this stranger, both of us slick with sweat. And I am digging it. There is an energy in that room that is electric. Like a low hum. Similar to an Om. We each have our own practice, but we’re striving to get more from it as a unit. It. Is. Exhilarating.

I wrote a piece about yoga over the summer for my blog. One comment stood out for me: “Balance and flexibility are great outcomes of yoga, but the best part is the breathing…surest way to that peace of mind you’re looking for.”

At that point, I’d only been to yoga about 10 times. I was still concentrating on my poses. On my balance. Challenging my flexibility.  But I took the comment to heart. I brought it into the studio with me. And I remembered my breathing. And it’s taken my practice to the next level. And been a valid distraction tactic for poses I’ve found exceptionally challenging.

I’m a planner. I’m a worker. In the dynamic of my home…and for anyone who knows my husband, you understand why…I am the packer of all things and the anticipator of all needs…

Thirsty? Mommy packed water.
Bleeding? Angry Birds band aid or Muppet’s band aid?
Cold? I thought you might be…here is your sweatshirt and a hat.

I plan so well that I’m often planning our exit once we arrive somewhere…

OK, we can only be here for 40 minutes because the Verb has to be in bed before he falls apart. And that will happen in exactly 45 minutes.

I’m constantly checking my watch. Thinking about what’s next. I’ve spent most of the last decade like this. And I’ve missed out on moments because of it…

Verb: “Mom, can you do this puzzle with me?”

Me: “Not right now, honey, Mommy has all of these dishes to do.”

Interrogator: “Mommy will you bounce me high…really high…on the trampoline?”

Me: “Wait for Daddy to come home to bounce you…Mommy is folding laundry.”

Kenyan: “Mom, want to play Battleship?”

Me: “Maybe tomorrow, buddy, since I’m obviously the only one who can smell that this cat litter needs changing.”

When I came into my breath…I examined the way I’d been living. And I wasn’t thrilled with what I saw. I love my family. I take care of myself. We are all healthy. But I’ve spent too much time going through the motions, looking toward the next thing, and unable to enjoy right now. So I made a conscious effort to breathe. And to be alive in this moment. Instead of planning for what lies ahead.

I breathe through the good…

I took my kids to my parents shore house this August…B&B stayed home to work. My Mom was there…but it’s not the same as having B&B there. Mom doesn’t swim, and she is not a digger of sand castles. In the past, I’d have gone with a slight sense of dread. Because this is what it sounds like when I take the kids to the shore…”Yes, I’ll dig you a hole, Verb…this one is 3 feet deep, Mommy can’t dig any deeper…I have to go in the water now with your brothers…OK, Interrogator, I jumped 20 waves with you, now I have to go out deep with Waldorf. Yes, Waldorf, we can swim out over our heads, but we have to turn around and come right back.  I can’t be out here too long because I have to get back to your brothers. The Kenyan wants to body surf, so I have to give him some pointers. Kenyan, we can practice on 5 waves, then I have to check on the Verb. He’s running away from your grandmother, and he’s pretty fast. Yes, I’ll take you on the kayak. But only to the bridge and back because I told the Interrogator I’d read this book to him.” This is usually in a 20 minute span.

It’s constant. But I went with my breath…hoping to keep my mind aligned with my body. Determined to enjoy the now.

We arrived at my parents’ house at 7 PM  Typically, I’d begin the bedtime routine. And I did with the Verb. I unpacked the car, changed him into pajamas, brushed his teeth, read him a book, kissed him goodnight, and mentally prepared to do the same with the Interrogator.

Interrogator: “Mom, look at the sunset!”

Me: Breathe. “It’s beautiful!”

Kenyan: “Wow, Mom, the sky looks awesome!”

Me: And breathe. “I love those purple clouds.”

I stood on the deck, and I looked at 3 of the 4 boys I love most in the world. I watched them watching the sun sink behind the bay, and I thought, “Are there any moments more perfect than this?” Although it is just about bedtime so I should start getting them ready…

Waldorf: “Hey, Mom, it’s high tide!”

Me: Breathe. ”It sure is, buddy, look at how high the dock is!”

Waldorf: “Mommy, I have a great idea…let’s go night swimming!”

Chorus: “Yes! Yes! Can we please? Don’t say no…you always say no! Just this once?”

Breathe.

Son of a bitch, that’s a shitload of work. We all need bathing suits. The Interrogator will need a life vest. They’ll want to pull out the boogie boards. There will be requests for cannon balls. And this is the bay, so everyone will need a shower afterwards. It’s too dark for the outside shower, so we’ll have to do it inside. The Verb is sleeping in the room right next to the bathroom, and the boys will be so loud in the shower that they might wake him up. They will still wake up at 6 tomorrow, so they’ll be cranky. All of them. And, most importantly, I see that glass of wine on the counter, and I know it’s for me.

Breathe.

I hear my yoga instructor, “Don’t think about it, just do it.”

Screw it.

Me: “Yep. We can go night swimming.”

Chorus: “YES! She actually said yes! Woohoo!”

We changed into our bathing suits, grabbed the Interrogator’s vest, put our boogie boards under our arms, and raced to the dock. I was the first one to jump into the water, and it was with a grin on my face. My 3 boys cannon balled their way into the water one after another. We swam into the middle of the of the bay and waved to the boats that drove around us on either side.

Waldorf: “Mommy, look! Look over there! It’s a full moon! Now we’re really night swimming!”

Me: Breathe. “The sun is down. We can see the moon. We are officially night swimming.”

Waldorf: “And this is officially the best night of summer! Thanks for letting us do this, Mommy. This is my favorite time ever swimming in the bay.”

My heart will hang onto those words forever.

On a high from our night swimming success, I got slightly carried away the following night. And did this.

“Don’t think about it. Just do it!”

Well, maybe think about it a little bit. Don’t be fooled by my crazed smile. That snake smelled horrific.

I breathe through the hard…

There are nights I lay in bed, unaware that I’m grinding my teeth with my jaw clenched tightly closed. How do we parent this moment? How do we get past this hurdle in our marriage? How will we pay for all of these braces? Are we doing the right thing for this boy who’s so special, yet so different?  When I catch myself in these moments…and they are far more often than I’d like…I listen to my breath. I slow it down. I come into it. And I feel myself relax.

Most days are a blur. One blends into the next. I can’t remember what I’ve eaten for breakfast this morning. But some days, there is magic. Moments that will imprint themselves on me and become my mental snapshots of my kids’ childhood. Moments I’d miss if not for the things I’ve learned in my short time on the mat. Practicing yoga has changed my life. It’s taught me to live this moment. To be here right now. And nowhere else. Because of yoga, I’ve stopped to breathe. I’ve seen the full moon reflected on the water surrounding me and the looks of joy on my boys’ faces on that August night in the bay. I soaked it in, and I was present for it. I want to give them more moments like that. I want to give me more moments like that. As my little boys grow into the men they’ll eventually become…as my love for them grows stronger, and our relationships more complicated, as they leave my house but reside in my heart…I’ll keep those memories close.

I’ll go back to my mat and I’ll breathe.

I’ll feel the energy of those who practice around me, and I’ll dare to dream.

For them.

For us.

For me.

 

*Thanks to Schuy and my dear friends who came to listen to me cry my way through this piece last week. You girls rock. XO