I caught Maddie's cold on Sunday night. There goes a week of work, pretty much (I called all my clients and offered them the chance to rebook. Most decided to do that.) Sigh. I'm torn between wanting to lament the costs of self-employment and recognizing that I was in fact looking for a break in my very busy schedule to take care of things around the house. (How subconscious *are* our immune system crashes, anyway?) So, the upstairs is *finally* decluttered and cleaned, after several days of pecking away at it, and tomorrow I'll get to work on the taxes. It's a good thing. Really.
Knowing that our new friends will be moving on in a few scant weeks, we're spending all the time we can with them while we can. So we invited Karen and John and their boys to the wild animal park with us today. I realized halfway through the outing that there's yet another good reason to hang around with calm and non-reactive people. Not only are they genuinely enjoyable and peaceful to be around, but I find that when I'm feeling reactive, it's actually much easier to stop, focus on and learn from what's happening inside me if I'm not distracted by how others are reacting around me.
I noticed this today when the kids went through a spell of getting into various minor conflicts with each other. With most other adults, I'd be trying to tamp down my kids' reactions and worrying about what the other adults were thinking, or the other parents would be getting involved in in the conflict and (invariably) escalating it in various ways with their efforts to get their own kids to "behave."
Knowing, as I do now, that Karen and John give their children (and by default, ours) the space to experience their tumults, and seeing that they don't feel as compelled as I do to jump in and try to fix problems and manage behaviors, I was able to relax a bit myself. It was a huge relief to not feel that I had to make my upset children calm down before they were ready to, and it gave me the interior space to notice how long I hold onto my resistance to conflict and upset in my children.
As I was sourly thinking to myself that I was never going to try to go out with another family again because my kids make it too hard by not being flexible, I noticed these inflexible children of mine were in fact running around and playing happily with their friends, crises and tears forgotten, while I was still stewing in this world of horrible conflict (which existed only in my mind, of course.) I want to explore more this tremendous resistance I have to conflict and how it colors my perception of my day and my family, how it drains me and how I might release it.
Enough introspection for now. Here's some photos!
Maddie fed the lorikeets, while an initially-resistant Harry watched with growing interest...
then tried his hand at it as well.
The kids got up close with an African ball python...
And a very patient deer put up with a lot of petting.
On Friday, we organized a homeschool group tour of an organic CSA farm in Rainbow, not far from where my folks live in Fallbrook. What a delightful place it was, a balm for the soul, and the owner was energetic and organized yet quite relaxed about the sometimes intense energy of our group of 40 or so elementary-aged kids. She had them cracking and sorting macademia nuts, planting seed trays, feeding the llamas, collecting eggs and mulching an heirloom potoato field with alfalfa as she led us on a long and hilly walking tour of her 20-acre farm. (I had my eye on the doublewide mobile home she rents out for $1400 a month -- what a view you'd have from every window! Don't think I managed to talk the family into renting it out though... sigh.)
Maddie, Stone and a gaggle of kids gathering macademia nuts to put in the cracking machine...
Maddie and Saylor in the chicken barn
Our wonderful new friends Karen with Sage in the sling and Stone planting seeds
Harry and Stone and a llama
Maddie collecting some macademia nuts in the grove
I'll have to post more about Karen, John and their three children, who we've been playing with as much as we can, of late. I'm enormously grateful to have met them, as they've brought such fresh and wonderful energy into our lives. Ever meet someone who lives in ways you'd like to live and opens you up to new experiences and ways of thinking that you hadn't considered before but which feel wonderful to you? Yeah, they're like that...
I finally quit my marketing group this week. I'd been agonizing over the decision for months. I really like the people in the group, it has a wonderful energy and it has brought me business, but it meets every Wednesday at 7 am, at a time when I'm normally still asleep. Week by week, the dread was starting to seep into my Tuesday nights. I tried to get to bed early so that I could get up early, and I'd wake during the night, worried that I would oversleep or the alarm wouldn't go off. (And starting the day with a jolt of public speaking is not my ideal way to enter the conscious world either.)
Six or seven years ago, I wouldn't have recognized what I was doing to myself each week, that I was coercing myself (despite the stomach aches and anxiety -- how blind was I to the messages of my body and psyche??), and I certainly wouldn't have identified it as wrong. That's just life right? We have to do stuff we don't like, because it's good for us, or we should, or we don't have a choice, was how my thinking went. I don't believe that anymore. Parenting in so many ways has changed my life, and this is one way for which I'm tremendously grateful.
When I started trying to figure out how I wanted my parenting to evolve from attachment parenting (which is largely about those early months of life), I realized that I needed a different paradigm for relating with and guiding the kids as they got old enough to begin expressing their wants, needs and will. TCS (Taking Children Seriously) gave me a framework and a language for something that felt instinctively right to me, and one of its key tenets is not coercing our children or ourselves, but instead trying to see through apparent conflict to what is really going on, and finding solutions to true conflict that meet everyone's needs (far easier said than done, of course, but an invaluable skill for all aspects of human relations.)
I grasped pretty quickly why it was that I didn't want to coerce my children -- I wanted them to do what was right for them, to feel their own hunger, or tiredness, to experience a choice and its true natural consequence, to learn for themselves, to stay authentic and connected to their inner voice, to not distort their lives just to earn the approval of others. But it took me a while to realize that I could and should stop coercing myself as well. If I was resisting something, if it felt bad to me, then I shouldn't do it. At least not in that moment. I learned to notice and feel my resistance, to ask myself what was going on. Most of the time, I have found that I don't have to do what I'm resisting, that I'm only making myself do it out of fear or worry about what others will think or some other unconscious and unskillful driver. Sometimes, I find that it's the resistance that has at its heart a lie, a fearful story that I'm telling myself, and once I look at that closely, the resistance falls away.
So, I finally gave myself that grace, and realized that I was coming to dread those too-early Wednesday mornings, and I bowed out. I'm not letting the voice that says "But you need all the business you can get!" frighten me, because I know it's not true. I'm as busy as I want to be. And when it comes back with, "but business will slow down and then you'll be in trouble!" I take a deep breath and relax -- I know it's not true, I keep turning down work and quitting jobs, for heaven's sake, because I keep getting too busy.
I'm so grateful that I'm not driven by those fears and that I don't believe in coercing myself anymore, and I owe it all to my wonderful kids, who have never taken my coercive efforts quietly, they've always protested at the top of their lungs. Thanks, guys. Apparently, it has to get that loud to get through to me!
Today was a gorgeous day, about 80. We opened up the house and let the spring breezes in and I was inspired to head to Home Depot and pick up some bare-root strawberries, a few blackberry canes, some broccoli and spinach plants and some tomatoes for Steve. And for the first time in years, it seems, I gardened. I planted a bed of strawberries and added to the broccoli and spinach I have growing in raised beds and pots. It felt marvelous! I used to garden all the time in our old house, pre-kids, but all my nuturing energy must have been taken up by the kids these last eight years or so. The funny thing is, I've been telling myself and anyone else who will listen for several years now that I yearn to homestead, to have a few acres of our own and grow our own food. But I've hardly done anything in our gardens during this time. There's always been the house to pick up or laundry to do and often I'm just too tired or backache-y from work. Steve, on the other hand, has built wonderful raised beds and tended his grape vines and tomatoes and watered the apple trees and kept my few plantings alive for me. I've been acutely aware of this disconnect between word and deed as I avidly devoured Mother Earth News and Countryside Magazine, daydreaming of acreage and some free-range chickens pecking through the garden beds. But I'm a fraud no more! I harvested broccoli and spinach today and I amended and planted and watered in lots more!
After spending much of last Friday through Tuesday filling a dumpster with garbage and making several runs to the thrift store with vanloads of giveaways, we have eliminated several years of accumulated junk from our garage and moved a chunk of the kids toys from the house out into our new homeschooling/play area. As much as I hate wading through knee-high clutter and dream of living in a spare and zen-like space, I'm struggling with the feeling that I just wasted *days* of my life moving around random stuff, instead of hiking and playing with the kids and otherwise enjoying life. I was already feeling this way before I finally sat down to read "A Perfect Mess" (the premise of the book as Steve described it to me is that there is no inherent value to being ordered and neat, that we miss the chance to make random connections when we keep things systematized and we waste our time and money on organizing that doesn't make us any more efficient.) After a chapter or two I got thoroughly discontented that I had just wasted my evening sorting plastic toys into "dinosaur" and "animal" and "pirate" and "vehicle" and "miscellaneous" bins. I'm still struggling to reconcile the clear and obvious pleasure I get from being in a clean and ordered space with the ridiculousness of spending any significant amount of life energy on moving *stuff* from here to there in my life. I know that I feel a sense of energy and relief when I declutter, but maybe that's only because I finally stop haranguing myself internally about cleaning up every time I look at a pile of mess. Could I not achieve the same sense of energy and peace by just ceasing to believe that houses are supposed to be neat and tidy? Maybe so, but I'm not going to pretend I'm more evolved than I am. That bottom photo looks so great to me, I gotta' tell ya'...