“Our energy follows our attention”

Being 37.5 weeks pregnant means I am not as mobile as I used to be — which means I am reading a bit more on the weekends. Since I have not gone for a run in 3 months (so hard for me) – it meant my reading had slowed down. We have filled our days and nights with planning and prepping for this baby boy to join us, but these last few weekends I have been reading more.

A recent book I finished, was “The Book of Doing and Being: Rediscovering Creativity in Life, Love, and Work” by Barnet Bain. It was filled with lots of exercises, which often bore me and I skip because I am not interested. In any case, I thought this demonstration Bain shares was fascinating. I tried it and had Chris try it with the same result:

“First, we need to understand the power of conditioning. The following demonstration will make the point.

Right now, wherever you are sitting, lift your right foot a few inches off the ground and then start moving it in a clockwise circle. At the same time as you’re doing that, raise your right hand and draw a number six in the air.

What happened? Your right foot switched directions, didn’t it? Try it again. The reversal will happen every time!” page 4

Frustrated? Did it happen for you or were you able to get past it? It got me interested enough to keep reading (even though I skipped a lot of exercises). The real nugget I wanted to share was:

“Our energy follows our attention, always.” Page 69

It is true is it not? What we focus on we absorb. What we absorb, we ingest. What we ingest impacts our energy, our mood, our body language, and often what comes out of our mouth. Chris and I often talk about the energy we allow into our home. I think about it at work and with friends. We have a choice on what we focus on, what we attend to, and if we redirect — we might actually have a happier and more “energetic” life.

What do you think?

I paddle my own canoe

For as long as I can remember I have been someone who has done my own thing. I am not exactly a rebel, but I like to chart my own course, find my own answers, and do not love to just follow someone else’s lead. That does not mean I cannot follow directions or stay the course as needed, I am just less interested in following others. I am not usually one to read a book that everyone is reading. Instead, if the right person shares a nugget that resonates with me — that is when I decide to read the book. Not because everyone else is doing it. I like jewelry that is a piece of art and potentially very few individuals have that piece.

Having been a fan of “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed I was eager to read her next book: “Brave Enough.” Until I learned that it was basically a book of quotes. I am not usually one to sit down and read a book of quotes, and then I thought, it is a small book, it will be a quick read — and it was. She also shared some great ideas. One particularly resonated with me, it is not hers but a proverb of sorts that she shared, and it was the first time I had heard of it. It made me realize that I have always been one to “paddle my own canoe.”

“Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.” page vii

Later on the same page she says:

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” Page vii

Right on sister. I know I think about that often. Yesterday Chris and I were chilling on the couch while the turkey was cooking away in the oven, and I came across an email between my sister and me from 2010 about my mom, and whether I was mothered. As I read it to Chris I was getting choked up. My sister and I were remembering the good, bad, and ugly from our childhood on the anniversary of my mom’s passing. The beginning of the email my sister says: “Thinking about you tonight – and about mom and how she has been gone for half your life.” That was five years ago, and my mom has now been gone for 21 years, and yet all that I have been through over the years only serves to allow me to see the light.

I have definitely seen darkness, but I have also seen years of light and love. Thank you, Cheryl Strayed, for the reminder that I paddle my own canoe, and that I live in the light.

Administrative Caca

Last weekend I was a book-reading fiend. I finished about four different ones over the weekend. One was short and the other three just had me completely sucked in. It was a gorgeous weekend with warm weather and sunny days which meant that other than errands, house chores, and yard duties, I tried to sneak as much time as possible to hide in between the pages of the books that captured my attention. The shorter one (at about 75 pages) is a book by Calvin Trillium who has been with the The New Yorker since 1963 among many other noteworthy achievements and books written.

Many of his books somehow connect back to his wife Alice. In the book I read over the weekend, “About Alice” it is a modern-day love story, but not in a cheesy, romantic style way. It is a genuine over-the-years deep love for his wife expressed over the 75 pages of this book. It is a quick read, but it left me with a deep contentment that love can and does last for that long, and only gets deeper with each passing year. I loved this idea on page 24:

“When we were in our early thirties, it occurred to me that one way to divide people we knew was that some of them were still dependent on their parents—financially or emotionally or some other way—and some of them had seen that role ended or even reversed. I never embarked on a study to see if that distinction was a predictor of how people handled what has to be handled to get through life—the small matters of logistics and maintenance that were known around our house as Administrative Caca, or serious issues of, say, catastrophic illness or financial disaster—but I suppose I always assumed that Alice’s early responsibility for her parents had something to do with her tendency to sit down and systematically deal with whatever problems came up.”

I obviously have never embarked on such a study, but for someone who began taking care of my mom at the age of twelve, I saw early on what it was like to have roles reversed. At twelve and sixteen respectively, my older sister and I were the mother to my mom at too young an age. When she passed, that role was then passed to my grandma who was in her nineties and needed more care than she let on.

I do think the shit life throws at you, as Trillium says the “Administrative Caca” (which is a new phrase I think I will adopt in my own vernacular), is telling to how we handle and manage our lives day-to-day. Maybe that is why I am a take-no-shit, deal-with-it-as-it comes kind of woman. I do not like things to fester. I like to deal with it and move on.

How do you divide? Have the roles reversed in your life?

Stories, reading, and my mom.

I never remember my mom reading books, and yet I think she would if she had the time. Often she worked all day, had a second job, helped us with our homework, made our meals, cleaned the house. As many moms out there know, it is a thankless job, and yet I never remember my mom complaining. She stayed up all hours of the night for months to make our Christmas presents so that we would have something to unwrap under the tree. I did not know that at the time, and yet thinking back on the gifts she made for us I know the countless hours it took for her to pull it all off. If she was purchasing the gift she would put it on layaway months and months in advance and diligently go and pay a little more each week until it was finally paid off. This was before she had a credit card so it was the only way she was ever able to get gifts under the tree.

She was the epitome of stretching things to make ends meet. While I never saw her reading books, I always saw her studying the Bible, our church books, and praying. She read those periodicals voraciously. She was adamant that we all read well and, while I do not remember when I started to read, I rarely got in trouble for staying up to read with the flashlight. She must have known that one day I would figure out that I could either get sleep and feel rested or not and pay for it the next day.

While I do not remember my mom pushing me to read, I think she gently encouraged reading and knew I escaped into a book often as a kid. My home life was not the greatest place, and somehow I would jump into the plot of a book, and I could transport myself into a whole different realm. We were her guinea pigs while she was getting her Masters degree in Education. We would read excerpts and have to answer questions and I absolutely HATED the reading comprehension tests she made us take for her classwork. I hated it just as much on the SATs. I like reading, but I hated regurgitating it later with a list of questions.

As I think about storytelling, reading, and the passion I have for stories, I have a smile on my face. My brother-in-law makes up stories for my 2 month old niece and I know that she will have the adventure of story in her life. While I will not make her take practice reading comprehension tests, I know she will carry on the tradition of voraciously reading, like her mom and my mom. Stories let us live an entirely different life, if even for just a few moments.

My mom was a badass. I only wish she knew it. Maybe she did, I will never know.

Letting go of the intensity

Life is an ebb and flow. Some years are full, intense, and feel like you are drowning in life and all that is required of you. 2013 for example was a year of crazy intensity for me, but not in the way you might think. The intensity was of what I had set out to do for the year, and not so much about working long hours, or balancing tons of competing priorities. I had set out to beat my goals from 2012, and with that continued my addiction to reading and running. I still have my addiction in 2014, but in potentially a more balanced way.

Last year I read over 100+ books and was running an average of 5+ days a week. I loved every minute of it. I loved wasting an hour of my time in a book, while running on the treadmill. It was “me” time. Moments where I could decompress from my day and jump head first into a novel, forgetting all else that happened that day, to pull myself out an hour later, refreshed, recharged, and ready for whatever came next in my evening. Somehow as 2014 has continued to evolve, my craziness over running and reading has not waned, but other things in life have taken precedence over my intensity to finish the amazing book I am reading, or to stretch my legs on the treadmill. I have played more, visited with friends, and worked on other creative endeavors. Maybe 2014 is my year to chill.

Has my life changed drastically to make this happen? Not really. What has changed? Mostly I have let go. I have relaxed and listened to what my body wanted at the end of the day. Sometimes my brain and body are so wiped out that I decide to take a hot bath and relax my body and mind for an hour instead of going for an intense run. I have relaxed more into myself and feel less guilty about not going for a run that day if my body is saying: “NO.” While I sometimes miss my daily hour of reading/running, I have begun to make other choices in place of my run/book. Every once in a while guilt will creep in and tell me: “You are lazy. It will hurt when you run tomorrow, or the next day.” Or I think wow, I have only read xx books and run xx times this year. But, who cares, right?

Do you have things in your life that you do not want to budge on, yet if you did your life might feel more balanced?