Tuesday, September 21, 2010

30 Day Challenge, Day 21: Finding the Gifts

I don't know how it is for you in your life right now, but I have to say that I am seeing a lot of people having a very hard time right now.  Lots of death, tragedy, and general unsettling news seems to be floating in the air all around us.  And I'm not watching the news or reading the paper.  A neighbor just informed me of her pending divorce.  An elderly friend suddenly died last week.  Someone else I know suffered a massive stroke and didn't make it.  And now, of all things, my kitten has fleas!

Today is the anniversary of my son, Jacob's, death.  He died of anencephaly a few hours after he was born 8 years ago today.  When I was going through the uncertainty of that pregnancy, a book ended up in my hands entitled "In the Flow of Life" by Eric Butterworth (copyright 1982).  The book is yellowed on the spine and stained on the cover- definitely well-loved before it ever came into my hands.  As I was flipping through the book this morning, I opened to a passage I read frequently during the time I knew something might be wrong with my baby:

"If you are faced with a challenge, refuse to be panic-stricken.  Life has not ended for you.  Life flows on.  Declare for yourself: I accept the reality of this situation, but not its permanence.  Certainly there is no point in hiding your head in the sand.  The experience is there to be met. Determine that you will meet it, but on your terms.  Do not let the outer happening squeeze you into its box, but open your mind to the flow of wisdom, love, and good judgment by which you can deal masterfully with it.  Stand tall as you affirm: I meet this circumstance in complete confidence that He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.  I do not deny its reality, but I deny its permanence.  I know that this, too, shall pass away."

And it was true.  Here I am 8 years later.  I do not deny its reality, but I can see clearly that it wasn't a permanent situation.  And somehow, I did manage to open myself to the flow of wisdom and love to have as many choices as I could regarding his birth.  He was born at home surrounded by loved ones.  And he was held for his entire life.  How many of us are half that lucky?

But even more than navigating through his birth and death, I now understand that this situation was to become the catalyst for me to have a deeper understanding of myself and of my oldest son.  And then my son, Josh, who came 15 months later.  And to understand what happens in a family when something overwhelming happens and how we can all navigate it together to become better and stronger than we were before.  Jacob brought with him many, many lessons.  And those lessons were the hardest ones of my life.  But I am grateful that he was here.  At the time, I marveled how much such a short life could have such a great impact on so many people.  And that was just the beginning.

I founded The Consciously Parenting Project and launched our website 3 years ago today in memory of Jacob.  It seemed like a much better place to put the energy that still remained from that experience to help others and make a difference in the world.  Somehow, I know that Jacob would have wanted it that way.

So if you are facing a challenge today, maybe you'll find some peace in Eric Butterworth's words.  Or maybe you have some ideas of your own that you'd like to share with us.  We all have our losses.  We all have our challenges in parenting and in our lives.  We may not have a choice in what happens, but we always have choices regarding how we handle it.  Is it a tragedy or is it an opportunity?  What story will we tell years from now about this time or this event?  And can we find the strength to find our way from the place of pain (which we have a right to be in for a while) to that place of recognizing the gifts?

Today, I nurtured myself as I remembered Jacob's life and his gifts.  And I am grateful.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

30 Day Challenge: Day 15- Half way mark!

Today is September 15 and that means that September is half over.  How have you done nurturing yourself every day for the first 15 days of the month?  I'm feeling like nurturing myself is becoming more of a habit and I find that I am not needing to think about it as much as I did on days 1-7.  I have enjoyed reading a book while I ate my breakfast (which I never do!), I've been going outside for a walk every morning before it gets too hot, and I've been decluttering my home and letting go of those things and situations that I no longer need in my life.  I'm even thinking about going to see a movie (Eat, Pray, Love) during the day while my family is at school.  Someone I know mentioned doing that yesterday and she was just beaming.  I've already seen the movie (and so had she), but it was something I hadn't even considered doing.  Happy to add that to my list!

I have to confess that this has been the best September that I remember (so far).  I've been much more aware of what nurtures me and what doesn't.  I've also taken the work of Ray Castellino and Mary Jackson and applied it to my life.  They teach slowing down, taking pauses.  When I went to California at the end of June to work with them on a project (watch for our upcoming series on Infant and Toddler Sleep later this month, which is about WAY more than just sleep!), they worked in a way that was very respectful of their own needs.  We took breaks to snack, nap, to go outside to walk, to sing, to just be.  I usually just work and work and work until I'm exhausted, so this was really different for me.  It felt really good.

This month, I'm striving to apply that to my own work life.  I get up in the morning and get my family off to work and school (together to a great school, which I love).  Then I go outside for a walk while it is still cool.  I come back and make myself breakfast, then clean up something in the house (today I tackled the laundry couch).  Then I shower and change before coming into my office to work.  I take breaks for snacks and food as necessary, or just to play with my kitten.  It feels really great to go at a pace that respects my body.  I'm getting a LOT done- way more than I thought I would if I was taking all those breaks!

Try it for yourself and see what happens.  What would happen if you allowed yourself to slow down and to take pauses to take care of yourself throughout the day instead of waiting until you HAD to take a break?  Try it and let me know.  I'd love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

30 Day Challenge, Day 14: Cleaning Our (Emotional) Closets

Last Friday, as you may recall, I had a dream that suggested my closet was a good place to start with my physical and emotional letting go and to release what was no longer needed in my life.  I hemmed and hawed, but finally managed to get myself into my closet (after thoroughly enjoying a little video on procrastination posted by a friend on Facebook).  It was overwhelming for me, but I knew it just had to be done.  And if I didn't do it, no one was going to do it for me.

I knew I needed to sort through clothing, so I picked an "easy" place to start- clothes that I had already sorted and knew didn't work for me. All I needed to do was pull them out and put them into the bag.  Instant gratification.  I had started!  Feeling slightly more confident now that I had accomplished something, I went in to tackle more stuff.

What I didn't realize was just how right I was about the emotional letting go that needed to happen and that it was going to happen in the closet!  As I pulled out more stuff, I came across reminders of people who were no longer in my life who needed to be released- several shirts, books, gifts, memory boxes.  I thought I was cleaning out my closet, but found that I was literally cleaning out my emotional closet, too.  And not only was I making the conscious decision to release these items (or not), but I was also making a decision about whether or not I was willing to let go of the emotional pain of these situations, people, or circumstances.

As I set aside the things that needed to be released, I realized that I was also letting go of the emotional baggage I had been carrying with me for so long.  I didn't need all of these reminders of people who had hurt me or of the negative events from my past.  I can acknowledge what happened, love each person and situation, and let them go.  I don't need all this stuff holding me down.

As I finished the work in my closet, I realized that I had done way more than tidy it up.  I felt like I was stepping forward into a new reality- one that didn't include all that clutter from the past.  I felt free! 

Have you been able to let go of things you no longer need or that no longer serve you?  I'd love to hear about it!  I'm going to keep going with this project, so I'll let you know how it is going for me!

Friday, September 10, 2010

30 Day Challenge, Day 10: Letting Go

Last night, I dreamed of cleaning.  Now, you have to understand that cleaning is not my forte.  In fact, I often remark that I have read the book Confessions of an Organized Homemaker by Deniece Schofield 22 times.  And I'm not making up that number!  Each time I've read it, I've gotten more great ideas and I'm reminded to compare only to where I've been and not compare to someone else.  However, the author, or some other cleaning fairy, has never shown up at my house to actually do that work.  I work very hard to stay caught up, but I know this isn't one of my...gifts. 

So for me to have a dream of cleaning is more than unusual.  But more than cleaning, I was actually simplifying in my dream.  I went into my closet and it contained only the clothes that I actually wear.  There were fewer things in the house.  The words, "The more you have, the more you have to take care of" from the aforementioned book echoed in my dream.  Seems like a pretty clear sign to me!

So my gift to myself today (and I suspect for the rest of the month, too) is going to be decluttering.  Simplifying.  Letting go.  I think that's perfect for a month that in the past has been defined, at least subconsciously, by loss.  And loss implies that I did not choose it.  Letting go is a shift in my words.  I choose to let go of that which I no longer need in my life.  I suspect that this letting go process will be about more than just the physical stuff that I've collected, but rather also about letting go of resentments, unfulfilled expectations, and the feeling of being a victim with no choice in what happened to me.  Instead, I will embrace forgiveness, acceptance, and peace.

But I know that I cannot simply jump ahead to the forgiveness, the acceptance, and the peace without first doing the work.  Just as the clutter in my closets isn't going to clean out by itself, I need to be an active participant in this process.  I need to be proactive.  As with the physical clutter in my house, so it is with my own personal work: I need to go in and take a look around at what I'm still holding on to so that I can let go of what no longer serves me.  This is a place I have visited many times in the past, but I am ready to go deeper now.  I am ready to let go. 

What are you holding on to?  Physical stuff?  Emotional stuff?  Are you ready to nurture yourself by letting it go?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

30 Day Challenge, Day 7: Finding a Nurturing Community

I have been a full time at-home parent of one or more children non-stop for the past 11 1/2 years.  I have worked at home with my children, I have homeschooled, I have done volunteer jobs that I could do with my children (like La Leche League and my work for Attachment Parenting International), and I have had stretches of time where I have been dedicated only to parenting and keeping up with the children and (trying to keep up with) the house.  I have looked for "my" time in the crevices in those times when I had very little support from others.  Most of the time, I was on my own with my kids while my husband was away at work.

I love my kids dearly.  I wouldn't have traded any of that 11 1/2 years with my kids for anything.  I have no regrets with regards to being home with my kids.  I don't look back wishing that I had been off at work instead or wishing that I had put them down in their beds when they were sleeping so that I could "go get something else done."  When my son went off to 1st grade today for the first time without hesitation, I knew that we had crossed a metaphorical bridge together.  All that time that I was home with them was an investment. All those hours holding and rocking made him ready to go be on his own, rather than it being something that he just had to endure.  There's a real difference when a child is truly ready to do something, as opposed to when an adult has decided it is time.

But if I were to find one regret, it would be that I didn't realize the value and importance of surrounding myself with a nurturing community.  It wasn't that I was a hermit parent who never took the kids out to see the light of day.  In fact, we had lots of friends and I was usually working on creating some sort of parenting group to have someone interesting to talk to who understood my cloth diapering dilemma or a conversation about my latest co-sleeping challenge.  Or someone to just talk about what it was really like to be a parent so that I didn't feel so alone. 

We all need that.  We all need someone who "gets" us.  Who understands that we're going to have good days and we're going to have bad days.  Do you have that for yourself?  Do you use your nurturing community to support you?  How did you find those others who support you as a parent? I'd love to hear!

Today, on my "baby's" first day of 1st grade, I went out to Starbucks with some friends to talk about parenting and what I'd really like to see happen in the world.  It was divine.  How have you chosen to nurture yourself today? 

Monday, September 6, 2010

30 Day Challenge: Day 6- 1-5 minute Nurturing

I think we have the impression that we have to set aside a long period of time to nurture ourselves.  Many of us feel that if I can't go away for a weekend or have a several hour block of time to do what I want, then it isn't worth the effort.  While that longer block of time is important every now and then, we can accomplish quite a bit in just a few minutes.

Several years ago, a friend gave me a CD entitled One Minute Meditations.  They were really short and sweet, but well done.  My first impression was, "What can I really accomplish in just one minute?"  Seriously.  But I decided that I had nothing to lose.  So, I created an intention to listen to one during the day at some point.  I found a quiet place, closed my eyes and listened to the audio.  Yes, it was short, but I did feel just a little more refreshed by taking the time and making the effort.  And it literally only took 1 minute!

Another friend, Carmine Leo, suggested taking time every morning and every evening- just 10 minutes each- and sitting quietly, clearing my mind and breathing normally.  When I did this in the morning, I felt really centered and ready to start my day.  I don't think I ever managed to stay awake for the whole 10 minutes at bedtime.  But even taking 5 minutes in the morning just sitting still made a big difference in my ability to start the day from a positive place.

I've also been using Janet Conner's Writing Down Your Soul process of writing really fast for the past several years, as well.  I am practiced enough at using this technique to get answers in just a few minutes of writing.  This is about accessing the theta brainwave state, which is a very relaxed state. Once you learn how to do it, it can be done in just a few minutes!

No matter what works for you, I'd encourage you to take that couple of minutes no matter when it happens and do something nurturing for yourself.  It does add up and it does make a difference!

So what do you do when you only have a few minutes?  Any suggestions for other parents?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

30 Day Challenge, Day 5: Balancing family and own needs for nurturing

Today is the 5th day that I'm focusing on nurturing myself specifically and intentionally.  It isn't that I don't do things that are nurturing for myself on a regular basis.  It is just that I haven't focused specifically on it, knowing that this is my goal for the next 25 days every day.  That does feel a little daunting, especially when I think about the schedule changes coming right up.

My kids start school on Tuesday and we'll be starting back into our school routine.  I'm guessing it is going to be more challenging once we add in making lunches and coordinating schedules, and driving far, far away.  I'd love to hear how you all manage to find the time to nurture yourself when life is in full swing.  Summer schedule is one thing.  The rest of the year is another thing entirely.  When do you squeeze it in?  Do you get up early?  Stay up late?  Wait until your kids are in school?  Sleeping? 

Today, we're heading over to some friends to let the kids swim while the adults talk.  I may even do some knitting while I'm there!  What a great way to nurture myself on this long weekend!  What do you have planned?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

30 Day Challenge, Day 4: Have You Befriended Alpha?

I'm sure it isn't a surprise for you to hear that we all spend a great deal of our time in the "go, do, hurry" state. Every one of us has a really long to-do list that calls to us when we're trying to relax or do something else that needs to be done, right?  Am I alone in this?  I don't think so!

I was amazed to read about the fact that there are different brainwave states that are important for us to be happy and healthy besides the "go, do, hurry" one.  When we're rushing around, multi-tasking, and trying to get a lot accomplished, our brain is in "beta."  But did you know that there are 4 main brainstates, not just "on" or "off"?  I had a sense that there was more, but really didn't understand it until I read Connection Parenting.  Yes, Connection Parenting, not some book about brain science.  This book by Pam Leo explained it in very simple terms that I could wrap my brain around and embrace.

So, there's delta.  Delta is important for a good night's sleep.  We all need delta.  Regularly.

The next most relaxed state is called theta.  Everyone passes into and out of theta every day twice a day (more if you nurtured yourself with a nap!  Bonus points!!).  We enter theta when we are falling asleep and waking up.  The great thing to know about theta is that we often find the answers to our problems when we're there.  Our inspiration, creative problem solving, and novel solutions are found right here.  Daily.  That's why it can be really effective to think about a challenge you're having right before you go to sleep and you'll often wake with the answers!

If you're familiar with Writing Down Your Soul, the book written by Janet Conner, the writing process she describes tells you how to access the theta brainwave state when you're awake!  I did an interview with her about this process and you can listen to it for free here.

Now, if you're counting along with me, you know there is still one more brainwave state left.  I totally saved the best for last.  I think this last one is the best kept secret.  If we all knew about this as parents and how magical it can be, we would try to spend all our time here.  OK, maybe not ALL our time.  But a lot of it.  Alpha could be considered in between theta (nearly asleep) and beta (go, do, hurry).  It is more relaxed than beta (go, do, hurry), but not as dreamy as theta.  I had no idea how important this state was until I did some experiments with it after I read Connection Parenting. 

Remember the list I wrote out yesterday about the things that nurture me?  Well, turns out that those things are all in the alpha brainwave state.  When we move out of beta (go, do, hurry) and into alpha (slowing down), we completely change the energy of what is happening in our own bodies and also with the people around us.  Pam Leo's book, Connection Parenting, had mentioned that knitting was great to calm everyone.  I laughed to myself, since knitting was about the least relaxing thing I could think of since I was unable to knit without extreme concentration (not alpha!).  But I stuck with it and practiced my knitting until I was able to do it without too much thinking. 

Then one day, I had my opportunity.  Both my boys were really loud and were driving me a little crazy.  I was hearing George Castanza's father on Seinfeld saying, "Serenity Now!" and knew I had to do something!  I pulled out my knitting (which felt like the craziest thing to do at that moment) and started in on my next row.  A miracle happened.  My children quieted down within about 30 seconds.  I'm serious.  One went off to read a book while the other went off to play by himself quietly in his room.  I didn't say a word.  I just began to knit.  I felt more calm and so did they.  Wow!

But what this did for me was just as impressive.  I kept going, tying all those little knots and let the world go for a while.  When I was done knitting and returned to my other tasks, I was able to focus and actually get some real work done.  All because I had stopped to nurture myself a little bit.  Important.  No, vital.

Alpha is another fine way to nurture ourselves.  Find alpha.  Become acquainted.  Befriend alpha, if you haven't already.  Let me know what puts you in alpha and if you have had or have any experiences with alpha or theta that you'd like to share. 

Today, I slept in until I was ready to get out of bed.  I give myself the joy of extra delta AND several more chances at theta, since I woke and decided to let myself go back to sleep!  Ah, the joys of a long weekend!

How's your 30 Day Challenge going so far?  What are you doing to nurture yourself today? 

Friday, September 3, 2010

30 Day Challenge, Day 3

I was thinking this morning that in order to nurture myself, I need to know what that means specifically for me.  What nurtures me might not be nurturing to someone else.  I started thinking about the pressure to come up with something every day for another 28 days, knowing that not every day in September has been a good clear thinking day in the past.  So, I decided that I needed to make a list for myself to have and use as needed.

I'll share mine.  What things nurture you?

Are you joining me yet?  Even if you missed the first day, consider joining me for this challenge for the next 28!

What nurtures me (in no particular order):
Going for a walk outside (which I did this morning)
Painting my toe nails bright colors (painted them bright purple again yesterday)
Taking a bath
Buying flowers for myself
Getting together with friends
Going to the beach
Sitting on the front porch swing with my husband and talking about our dreams
Writing Down My Soul (from the book Writing Down Your Soul by Janet Conner)
Reading a good book
Looking at pictures or old photo albums
Reading books to my children when we're all excited about a particular book

Those are just a few of the ideas I've come up with.  What ideas come to your mind?  I'd love to hear!  And please let me know what you're doing to join in. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

30 Day Challenge, Day 2: Defining the Rules

I figure if I'm going to have a 30 day challenge, I should define the rules.  After all, it feels like cheating if I'm doing something that just needs to be done.  But if it is a task that needs to be done and I can come up with a creative way to nurture myself while doing it, it counts. 

If you're playing along on the home game, you can use my rules or make up your own.  Make it fun and meaningful to you!

When something is nourishing, it feeds my body, mind, spirit.  It doesn't hurt me or anyone else.  When I finish with this nourishment, I feel good.  For me, this doesn't mean gorging on sweet, salty or fatty foods (comfort foods).  This isn't actually nourishing for me because I only feel better temporarily and then I actually feel worse.  So, for me, nourishing myself would include juicing.  This takes time and effort, but I always feel really good after I drink my juice.  It might include making myself a beautiful salad (rather than just lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes like I usually do). 

Surrounding myself with beauty also nurtures me.  This might mean buying myself flowers- something I normally don't do.  Or going outside for a nice walk.  Or maybe doing something crafty or creative.

I know that surrounding myself with like-minded friends nurtures me.  This is something that I do on a somewhat regular basis, but I will probably make more of an effort to do that this month.  If I can manage to get to the beach AND see some friends, I think that would be like a doubly nurturing event.  :-)

Do you have any other rules or are you just going free form?  I'd love to hear if you're joining me and what you end up doing.  I'd also love to hear how it is for you to do this!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

30 Day Challenge

In the past, September has been a rough month for me.  I have some really difficult days and have often dreaded the arrival of September 1 and pray for October 1- the day I feel like having a party.  I have lots of losses that happened in the month of September.  My baby, Jacob, who died at birth in 2002, was born on September 21.  I miscarried a baby the year before on September 30.  My cat left unexpectedly last year on September 15.  And that's just a sampling.  This tends to be the month that everything falls apart for some reason.  (Darn cellular memory!)

But this year, I've decided to do something different.  This year, I am going to make this the month that I nurture myself because that's really what I need during this time.  So my challenge to myself is to do one nice thing for myself each day of this month.  30 opportunities to nurture myself is way better than 30 days to get through to make it until October. 

So, that's my challenge.  Who's with me?

Today, I decided it was high time that I repainted my toes.  I haven't been allowing myself to take that time because I've had so many other things to do.  It is simple, but I feel better now that they aren't all chipped and grown out!

What nice thing are you going to do for yourself today?  Care to join me in my challenge?  Let me know how you're doing and what you're doing!