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Monday, June 21, 2010

"Happiness is not in another place, but this place....not for another hour, but this hour."
--Walt Whitman

Recently, I've tried to focus a great deal on the here and now vs. what's coming or what's happened. This is easier said than done for obvious reasons: (1) there's a lot of crap from my past that I have to go back and look at in order not to make the same mistakes again (2) there's a lot of uncertainty about the future and who I'll be when I grow up, and (3) we are not wired to just be in the moment (in particular, I am not wired that way.)
While it might be a difficult task, I am trying in earnest to focus on the now more often. Outside of to-do lists and checklists and pieces to make and pieces to think about, I have this little reminder each day who helps me be in the now: my son.
Children have this amazing way of not having any clue what's coming up next, or not even caring much about it. While I try to scoot Evan to the car to get to school on time, he's on the floor of the car looking for dropped Fruit Snacks. When he finds one, he pulls it up gleefully and shouts, "Mom! Guess what I found?!"
He has no interest in what time it is or that we will be late for school, no care that I am irritated and absolutely no worries about such things. I believe that our children come to us to teach us something about ourselves, to help us change the little things that tend to creep their way in over time and influence our thinking about the here and now.
Do I have a huge to do list? Yes. Yes, I do.
Am I worried that it won't all get done? Sometimes I am.
Instead of letting myself get whipped up into a frenzy inside about it, I tell myself "I can only do so much in a day." It actually helps to calm me down and helps me recenter on the things that are important.
This morning, my son woke me up with a Chuck E Cheese crown on his head and a flashlight. "Mommy, let's play super heroes," he said happily. I resisted the temptation to get up and get moving. Instead, I grabbed the flashlight and spent 5 minutes running around the house with a really neat little boy.
I may not have a cape or magic powers, but 5 minutes was all my son needed to have a little fun with his mommy.
And the lesson to me was an invaluable one.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Seeing the Forest Through the Trees

"Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here.
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers.
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two trees are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you."
--David Wagoner

Lately, life has given me a lot of things to do: Raise a son, grieve a long lost marriage; rise from the ashes and find a new life and reacquaint myself with the real me; grow a business; set the foundation for new financial opportunities so that I may take care of myself and my family.

All of this juggling sometimes has me forgetting to look in the forest of my soul and see what is
really there. What is beyond the trees? What is driving me? Is it a good thing or a bad, or neither? Is it rooted in fear or infallibility? Is it purpose driven, or driven by something (or someone) else?

Recently, I realized that in periods of crisis in my life, I tend to throw myself into as much as I can in order to reassure myself that I will be OK. I joked with this last week with my therapist that I don't know when to stop: why is it not OK for me to be proud of what I've done so far? Why do I feel like it isn't enough? I look at the accomplishments I've been able to make in this very difficult period of my life and I am so proud--but why isn't it enough!?

He explained what I already knew: that anxiety in times of crisis makes us feel like we have to put our energies towards things that on the surface relieve our anxiety. But as we look deeper, do they really make us feel any better, or are we spinning our wheels? Perhaps the distraction makes us feel at ease, makes us feel less anxious.

Rather than give into this anxiety-driven behavior, I decided to take a new revolutionary approach: I am telling myself that I am doing everything I can do at this very moment, and to do more does nothing more. In other words, Less is More. In other words, Carrie: CHILL OUT!

Just saying it actually took some of the pressure off of myself, the pressure I have put squarely on my own shoulders. The pressure that can sometimes feel like shackles around my soul.

I am looking into the forest of my soul--deep into the forest, and focusing on the beautiful things that are living there: I am healthy, like a vibrant green moss that has taken root on an old growth tree. I have a beautiful, happy son, who gives me joy like rays of sunshine streaming through the forest darkness. I have amazing friends and family, who wrap me with love and warmth like the thick blanket of the forest floor. I am strong and sturdy, much like an old tree that stands quietly in the landscape.

I am here, in the quiet stillness of the dark and light, old growth and new, the summer winds blowing gently through my limbs and shaking me to the roots.

I am born again.

I am alive.

I am here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Learning How to Say NO is a Fine Art....

"Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough."
--Joshua Billings
Perhaps it's just me, but lately I have had to say no a bit more than I am used to. This could be a result of me just having too many spoons in too many pots--a stay-at-home-mom by day, freelance writer/Sundance jewelry artist by night.
As a newly-labeled "single parent," I am trying to prepare myself financially and emotionally for all that being alone truly entails. And I am really looking at all of the things that I used to say "no" to and questioning whether I said no because I really didn't want to do them, or if it was a filter that I used for my soon-to-be ex spouse.

I wish I could say I've always been good at saying no, but I haven't. This time of my life has truly forced me to look at the things that are important and push out the rest; every single day I am looking at my list and wondering if I should/could do this or that.
Because I have such little time, I am always asking myself the perennial question: does saying yes speak to truly who I am? Am I saying yes out of guilt or obligation? Does saying no free me to be the person I am and honor
who I am?
This may sound like a silly exercise, but I encourage you to ask yourself the next time you are asked for a favor. Instead of saying yes on "auto pilot", stop just for a second and ask yourself whether it is right for you.
As women, we are not trained to think this way, but I can tell you that it is liberating to put yourself first and draw a little line in the sand--saying no can be the best thing that you do.
If you've said yes all your life, don't expect others to be happy with your newfound "no" button.
Recently, a store who sells my work on consignment asked if I would do a custom piece for a customer. She told the customer I would do it before I had agreed to it. When she asked me if I would, I weighed the benefits to me--and found out that my time was worth a hell of a lot more than spending a few precious hours on a project for her customer that would result in a measly $30 in my pocket. So I politely told her "no."
I got back a curt response, the kind of response that would have made me feel too guilty to ignore and in the past would have made me change my mind and say yes even though I didn't want to. But this time I didn't rescind my answer--this time I stood up for myself.
All too often we do things for others that aren't coming from an authentic place. In this current place in my life, I am forced to ask myself the "why" of doing things that others ask. I have to say that while this has been a very challenging time of my life, this lesson has been a huge gift. And for that, I am grateful.