A bag of fireflies

The other night, when I was feeling lost and panicky and completely out of touch with myself, Matthew sat me down and gave me a challenge: Before I spent any more time envisioning the future, making plans (and despairing about how to carry them out), I was to look in my bag of fireflies.

How he came up with that image doesn’t matter (it made sense at the time, I promise). His point was that I needed to sift through my creations and experiences before anything else. And I agreed with him. I have a very short memory—I forget I’ve done things almost immediately after the glow fades.

So I’m sifting through my bag of fireflies, seeing what’s there. I’m reading old word processing documents: blog post drafts, class notes, write-ups. I’m being reminded of who I am, who I’ve been, and who I want to become.

And as firefly after firefly shines out from my bag, I see how they form a path that leads me forward…and how I may have wandered here and there, but I’ve (almost) always been heading in the right direction.

Stop, look, and feel the love

When Matthew and I first got together, we had one mix CD that we listened to over and over. I don’t remember half the songs that were on it, but I do remember this one:


I remember this one, because every time it played I stopped singing along with Matthew and just…watched him. Every time. I sat in the passenger seat and watched him sing – the way his whole face lit up as he sang, the way he smiled to himself, the way his breath moved his body. I took a moment to really look at him and let all of the love I felt for him surge through me.

When Xander was a tiny baby, he used to nurse to sleep and snooze for hours a day on my lap. I spent a lot of time on the sofa with his warm weight on my crossed legs. Sometimes I would watch TV or read or listen to an audiobook…but sometimes I would just sit and look at him. I would look at this tiny curled fingers, at the adorable pucker of his lips and how they phantom-nursed the air as he slept, at the rise and fall of his tiny chest. And as I looked, I felt how much I loved him – so much it hurt. He lit up my world.

Who could resist the snoozybear? NO ONE, that's who!
Who could resist the snoozybear? NO ONE, that’s who!

Time passed, and I sort of…forgot…about taking time to truly see my family this way. I caught myself taking them for granted, not taking time to be fully present with them. But when I started slowing down…I found myself seeing more and more. Like the other evening, watching Xander watch the Lion King on my lap –  absent-mindedly sucking on a finger and staring wide-eyed at Simba on the screen. Like the other night, as Matthew and I read to Xander (Matthew did the voices) – Matthew didn’t know I was looking, but I was. And it filled my heart to the brim.

When I stop my usual bustle of thoughts and to-do lists and take a moment to gaze at the people I love, they touch my heart in new ways. I remember how much they mean to me. I feel how much I love them – feel it physically as well as emotionally. It’s such a simple thing…and it’s so important. I hope I can always remember that.

Dear Universe, Message Received

I believe that the Universe sends us messages. Sometimes we miss them altogether. Sometimes we see but don’t understand. And sometimes it feels like the Universe is an aggravated friend watching us hesitate over a big decision and then finally going “OHMYGOD. GO. JUST EFFING DO IT. JUST…GO!!! GAH!!!” over and over again.

Message. Overload.

That’s the way it’s felt for me lately. I’ve been hesitating on 3 or 4 things, telling myself I can’t, finding reasons why I don’t have the time, watching So You Think You Can Dance instead. But the messages keep sneaking in:

Songs play on the radio with lines like “time is wasting, life’s not waiting”
People I respect write posts about death and fear
People I love pass away. People I don’t know at all pass away
People I know make their dreams real

Today at lunch, Matthew called me up in total disbelief. “WHAT IS THE UNIVERSE TRYING TO TELL US?!” he practically shouted. He had just heard “If Today Was Your Last Day” on the radio and then BEEN DIVE-BOMBED BY A BUTTERFLY. Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

“What am I supposed to DO?” he asked me.
“You already know,” I said, “You really do. You just need to do it.”

And so do I.

OK, Universe. Your message has been received. I am officially accepting your invitation. I’ll see you on the dance floor.

Let’s dance, and see what magic happens.

Catching Up: Slowing Down

I had a bit of a silent May. Not because I didn’t have things to say…more because I had SO many things to say that they all piled up on top of each other and it became impossible to say ANYTHING! And now I feel like we’re way behind on our correspondence, and like I can’t commit to Business As Usual without a grand and glorious Catching Up session. Consider this Episode One, I guess!

May may have started with a spectacular Mother’s Day celebration, but it went downhill abruptly: The next week I found out that a dear friend’s mother (also a dear friend) had passed away after an insanely lengthy battle with cancer. At the funeral, her eldest daughter spoke, and she said something that stuck with me. She said “No matter how angry we got at each other, we never doubted for one second that she loved us.”

And I wondered if my son could say the same.

I didn’t write about it, but Xander and I went through a rough patch this spring. I was stressed about work, all too often bringing it home with me, and all I wanted to do when I got home was zone out. It was so easy to plug him into a video (which he loves) and do my own thing. The more I did it, the easier it was…and the more I did it, the more separated I felt and the harder it was to connect with him, and the more we pushed each other’s buttons, until the whole of April stands out in my memory as one long, resentful, conflict-filled UGH.

Not fun.

Then my friend lost her mother…and I realized that I was Doing It Wrong. And the rest of May was about Making It Right Again.

I implemented little changes:

I started cooking my breakfast the night before, taking it to work with me, and then spending the newly-freed-up morning time drawing with Xander. This has been a rousing success – not only am I engaging with him while doing something he loves, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the 15 minutes before work begins where I sit in the lunch room with my omelet and my steeping tea and my book.

I discovered and joined the Hands-Free Revolution: I committed to staying off my phone as much as possible while Xander’s awake. I cut way back on the computer as well. I admit to slipping up sometimes, but on the whole it’s much better.

And here’s the big one, and what those first two are really all about:

I committed to staying fully present with my son during the short time we have together every weekday. That means really listening to him, engaging him in conversation, asking him to help me cook or clean, actually focusing on whatever game he asks to play. If we do watch TV or a movie, it means actually paying attention to what’s on the screen and enjoying spending time with him, not dragging out the laptop and computing while sharing sofa space. When I read to him at night, I point out each word instead of racing through with my mind on something else.

The past month has been about parenting wholeheartedly, fully inhabiting the space I occupy in the Universe. It’s also about shifting my priorities and figuring out how to still do the things I want to do…like write this blog post. That part is a major work in progress.

When I die, I want Xander to have memories of interacting with me, of feeling loved and valued 100%. And I want him to know without a shadow of a doubt how much I love him, because saying it isn’t enough – I need to show him too.

<3

The gift of minor illness

This past weekend, I was sick. The weekend started with a trip to the emergency room and a diagnosis of strep throat (SO FUN!). The next few days were a weird cross between “Huh, this isn’t as bad as that cold I had in January” and “Oh God…sicker than I thought. Must…nap.” And, probably because I’ve never had strep throat before and had no preconceived ideas about how I “should” feel, I listened to my body every step of the way:

I took a long nap (and didn’t feel like crap afterward)
I lay on the sofa and vegged out
I asked for help when I needed it
I only did housework when I felt up to it
I read an actual book, you guys!

And when Sunday night came around, something magical happened: I didn’t feel that overwhelming sense of “wait…wait…I’M NOT READY” that the approach of the work week often brings. I was calm, I was rested, I was feeling pretty darn good.

There’s a lesson here for me (still…again…it’s a lesson I learn over and over and then forget, it seems). I’ve defined myself for years as Meg the Cardinal Sign, Meg Who Can’t Sit Still. Matthew the Taurus keeps telling me to be still (“be earthy”) on a regular basis, but I have a hard time listening.

This illness was a great reminder that stillness is fun and has benefits I’d almost forgotten. My goal now is to take that quality and bring it into everyday life, be it taking my full 1-hour lunch break and reading a book for fun, taking some time to unwind before bed, or simply not-stressing about not completing every single task on my to-do list. I’ve been working on that this week, and it feels pretty darn good!

Thank you, strep throat, for teaching me this lesson! Now, if I could stop waking up with a sore throat every morning, that would be swell!

Things That Get Me Through the Work Week, Part 2: Don’t Just Stand There…Stretch Something!

As promised, here is part 2 of my ode to alignment-nerdiness and a peek at what keeps me sane and pain-free(er) during the work week. Part 1, my love letter to my standing desk, is right over here.

Here’s the harsh truth: while standing (in bare feet or flats) is miles better than sitting, if you just stand there for 7 hours a day, you’re going to have aches and pains and varicose veins and all those other things that people suffer from when they sit too much. It’s just a fact – we’re not meant to be still in one position All. Day. Long. So I’ve been working on systems to help myself keep moving and healthy (you can do this if you have a sitting desk too, for the record).

The first thing I did was set up a system of reminders that cue me to stretch, move, and hydrate.

My list of reminders - they ping me every 30 minutes.

Sometimes, if I’m busy or in a meeting, I’ll ignore the cue, but a lot of the time I’ll at least walk around the office, do some chair squats, or do a couple of stretches, even if I wait until I’m done whatever I was working on when the reminder popped up. It takes 1-5 minutes and makes a huge difference.

The next thing I did was make a to-do list of the stretches and exercises I want to do in a day. I don’t always manage all of them, but it still helps me cover my bases. This list is evolving, but here’s a shot of what it looked like a couple of weeks ago:

My ultimate stretchy to-do list

I swear, I really do work during my day…a lot of those stretches can be done at the standing desk anyway (which is part of the reason why I love it so much).

 

Don’t just stand there…stretch something! I dare you! 🙂

Things That Get Me Through the Work Week, Part 1: Behold, my standing desk!

In case I haven’t mentioned it, I’m turning into a major alignment nerd. I read multiple biomechanics and alignment blogs. I’m seriously considering taking a course in alignment and Restorative Exercise because the exercises I’ve learned from the DVD series have completely changed the way I stand (not to mention my PMS, my lower back pain, my leg pain, and the overall shape of my lower body).

I mention this now because one of the #1 signs of an alignment nerd (along with calf stretching equipment and barefoot shoes) is the standing desk. Once I was comfortable enough in my job to let my (alignment) freak flag fly, I started out using a stack of boxes and standing up to work.

Standing desk: Before (boxes!)
…not the prettiest desk in the world…

For the record, people thought I was insane. Also for the record, while my feet got sore by the end of the week, the rest of my body felt pretty freaking awesome.

The cardboard boxes worked OK, but I really missed having work space to, you know, do something other than type – like take notes, put papers where I could see them, etc. And then I found the perfect solution (short of a $4000 standing desk, anyway).

Behold, my standing desk!

Desk After

That, my friends, is a corner TV stand from IKEA. It happened to be the precise width and depth of my existing desk and within a half inch of the height of the boxes I was using. Plus, you know, AWESOME and about $100 including shipping.

The day this arrived I was ecstatic. #1, it FIT PERFECTLY. #2, HELLO, workspace! #3, PRETTY!

I’ve even developed a system to help the aching feet! I take my shoes off to work and stand on those cushy interlocking mat tiles wrapped in a yoga mat.

Cushy mat
Just the yoga mat pictured because a kindly professor donated the mat tile thingies after I took this photo, bless her.

Also pictured: my Vivobarefoot work shoes (because high heels are the cigarettes of the future and wearing them undoes all the benefits of the standing desk), my half-dome for calf stretches, and my yoga block for hip lists (both of which I do daily…but I’m going to tell you about that a little later on).

Stay tuned for Part 2: Don’t Just Stand There…Stretch Something!