Stop It

Non-sequitur cute photo of our puppy dog, Ruby.
Non-sequitur cute photo of our puppy dog, Ruby. STOP IT!

A couple of days ago, my insightful, life-coach friend Heather (shameless plug for her here) commented on my last blog post about my need to apologize constantly for my choices and the way I live my life, even when I don’t feel sorry about those things. She simply added this comedy sketch by Bob Newhart to my Facebook page and told me I might appreciate it. In the sketch, Newhart plays a psychologist counseling a young woman about her fear of being buried alive in a box. She relays to him that this thought of being buried alive is so terrifying that she can’t go in tunnels or be in elevators. She is desperate to break free of this pattern in her life. He tells her he will give her two words that should help her put this fear behind her. Then, from across the desk he yells at her, “STOP IT!”

Now, I know that it’s not really possible to stop instantly the thought monsters that lurk in our brains and sabotage our attempts to be our best selves, but I can’t help but think how transformative these two words could be in my life. Look in the mirror and feel like an old hag. STOP IT!  Make a mistake and start berating myself. STOP IT! Hear my kids screaming like banshees at each other and feel the urge to intervene. STOP IT! Sit in a quiet PTO meeting and raise my hand to volunteer to take over a committee. STOP IT!  Witness hubby folding the towels the wrong way (yes…there is a wrong way) and open my mouth to comment. STOP IT!  Have a donut and reach for seconds. STOP IT!

I know I have some giganotosaurus-sized monsters in my head that won’t be quieted with a mere STOP IT, but perhaps those two small words could shush them long enough to keep me from threat-level-red insanity. I mean, if I could just keep myself from volunteering for things I don’t want to do, that would be a colossal step forward. I have invited my hubby and sons to tell me to STOP IT if I am going off the deep end, and I would like to invite my friends to do the same. So, if you see me and I seem to be coming unglued, tell me that you spoke with Bob Newhart. That should be the hint I need to get back on track. Either that or it will cause me to have an inexplicable urge to visit a bed and breakfast in Vermont. But, that might help too.

Mid-Century and the Mona Lisa

Forgot to take a photo of the house, so here's a photo of my son holding a light beer instead.
Forgot to take a photo of the house, so here’s a photo of my son holding a light beer instead. That works, right?

My sister and her husband have been house hunting. They sold their house last month and need a new one. In a week. They’ve done a lot of looking, put in some offers that didn’t go through, and they’re about to be homeless. (Not that they’ll be living in a van down by the river or anything. Instead, they’ll be moving back in with parents. I think I’d take the van down by the river.) I’ve gone to look at some houses with them and even proffered my sage wisdom about the homes they are looking at, and they are still undecided. Tonight, my family and I went with them to look at a house I accidentally found for them yesterday while driving to pick up lunch for the boys. It is a small, but beautifully restored mid-century modern home. It’s affordably priced, has a two-car garage, and it is like getting a perfectly wrapped package with your favorite gift ever inside. Not that I have any opinion on mid-century modern homes or whether they should buy this one. (They should.)

My sister was a bit iffy about the whole thing. She’s concerned about the lack of decent storage and not thrilled that it’s only two bedrooms. (She wants a guest room. Seriously, though, everyone in their families lives in the same city. Why do they need a guest room?) I think my brother-in-law, who was not present because he’s a coach and was working a high school track meet, would love it. It might not be their forever home, but I totally think they could make it work for a while. And, it’s a perfect situation because it was a house flip and they seller needs the money and they could move in fairly quickly because no one is living in it.

While my sister was unconvinced, my husband loved it and was trying to figure out if we could push a wall out and put an addition on. He was ready to move in. We’ve been talking for a while about downsizing. We’ve got too much stuff, and our stuff is vexing us. I feel the unused “company” dishes throwing shade at me every time I open the cupboard. We want to lighten our load, save money, and travel a lot more. This house would be too much of a downsize for us. We’d lose 2/3rds of our current space. That would be one heck of a downsize. If we’re going to go that small, we should just sell our house, buy the Airstream he’s already wanted, and travel the country while homeschooling our boys at picnic tables like gypsies.

“I think it’s too small,” I said, trying to reason with him.

“We could make it work. It would be an adjustment.”

“The boys cannot share a room. Sure they’re small and cute now, but they’re on the precipice of becoming real teenagers. They’re not going to fit on that bunk bed forever.”

“That’s why we’d push that wall out and make another bedroom.”

“Steve, we are not getting this house,” I said very slowly and clearly, in case he wasn’t hearing very well.

“Okay,” he replied, sullenly. Then I saw him perk up. He’d had a brilliant idea. “We could build our own mid-century modern house.”

This is the point where I looked at him like he was crazy.

“You can’t build a mid-century modern house now. By definition, that’s impossible. Mid-century moderns were built in the 1950s. That’s what made them mid-century.” You never, ever miss with a writer. Words matter.

“You know what I mean,” he replied. “We could build a house like a mid-century modern.”

This is the point where I looked at him like perhaps he’d gone past crazy and straight over the cuckoo’s nest.

“Dude…that would be like repainting the Mona Lisa. It can’t be done.”

He just looked at me and got in the car. I guess I told him.

This is our marriage in a nutshell…my husband, the eternal optimist, and me, the perpetual pragmatist. Someone’s got to keep him grounded, and someone has to remind me to lighten up and dream a little. Nineteen years and we’re still dancing the same waltz. We are planning to move in the next couple years. We’d like to reduce our carbon footprint and go from living large to living less. It’s time to jettison things, like panini machines that collect dust, and lighten our burdens. I don’t know if we’ll build the straw bale house he’s talked about forever or end up in a classic mid-century modern, but we’ll get it figured out. We’ve made the biggest decisions of our lives in minutes. Just don’t ask us what we want for dinner. That’s when things get really ugly.

 

I Stay Home…Get Over It

I have the best job ever.
This is my career. How could it be worthless?

Ever since I made the choice to leave my career and stay home with my sons, I’ve been overwhelmed by my choice. There have been periods of time when I felt like I was nothing more than a butt wiper or a housekeeper or, in darkest times, a slave. Some days it is hard to find the silver lining in my current career. But, no fail, right about the time that I am feeling 100% certain about my decision, some working woman or man asks me what I do. The standard response I get when I tell a career person that I am a stay-at-home mom is a simple, one syllable, “Oh.” Conversation over. Clearly, I have no longer have anything current or intelligent to talk about, and no one wants to hear about kids, so they leave. I am a serial conversation killer. I’m not exactly sure when the decision to expend my energy solely as mother and homemaker vaporized my IQ and decimated my inherent worth as a human being, but it happened. Working people get to ask me ridiculous questions about my personal choice without feeling an iota of impropriety. I wonder how they would feel about it if I questioned the validity of their career choice? Really? You’re a programmer? I’ve heard they’ve taught monkeys to do that.

I was fortunate enough to have a choice to make when I was 32: 1) have a career and no kids, 2) have a career and kids, or 3) have kids and no career. I chose what was behind Door Number Three. When Joe was born, I knew that what I really wanted was as low-stress of a life as I could have. To me, that meant not trying to juggle too many things. Steve worked. We could afford for me not to work. We came to an agreement. He puts money in our bank account. I run the house. We share duties with our sons. Our weekends are free to enjoy because I take care of the busy work during the week. As with any choice, it has both good and bad points. The choice I made means I clean toilets and mop floors like Cinderella because we can’t afford a maid. It also means, however, I can go to yoga during the day when my kids are in school because I am my own boss. Like anyone else’s life, my life is a balancing act to keep things working. But, make no mistake about it, I work. Every day. Seven days a week. I get no paid vacation. No bonuses. No salary. But it’s worth it to me because our four lives are more peaceful because of what I do.

To be fair, I know that the work I do is invisible to those on the outside (unless they catch me at Starbucks having coffee with a friend while they’re on their way to work and suddenly I’m no longer invisible). And this is why people feel free to interpret something they know nothing about. Still, I get tired of answering condescending questions. To that end, today I invented some succinct responses to lessen the agony of being asked them repeatedly:

“When do you think you’ll go back to work?” Never. Work sucks.

“What did you do when you worked?” I was an adult film star.

“What do you do with all your free time when the kids are in school?” Day drink.

“Don’t you get bored?” Oh…when I get bored watching Oprah, I take a nap. Crisis averted.

Really, people. I am doing the right thing for me. I only get one shot with my boys. I have to do my best the first time around because it’s the only time I have. Ask any adult child about their relationship with their parents and you will know this is true. Time with our children goes by fast. I have six years left with my beautiful, deep-thinking, first-born son. It will be over in the blink of an eye. I know I have been fortunate to have a choice, and I know that what is right for me is not necessarily right for others. I don’t begrudge anyone their choice. I simply wish others would believe that there’s more to me than my lack of a paycheck. Right now, I’m somebody’s most important person, and that won’t always be the case. Someday they will no longer need me. I bet I will not be on my death-bed regretting the inordinate amount of time I spent with my sons in their youth. I will only regret acknowledging stupid questions about the smartest choice I ever made.

What Difference Does It Make

Something British that I truly enjoyed last night
Something British that I truly enjoyed last night

“One must hop toward the light rather than sit in a shadow and wonder why it’s dark.” ~Bunny Buddhism

I’ve been a regular concert goer since I was a teenager. I saw my first concert (The Police on their Synchronicity tour) when I was 15 years old. My friends and I were in the rafters in seats labeled on the printed tickets as “Possible Obstructed View.” It didn’t matter. When Sting took the stage and I saw the tiny dot that was HIM, the magical concept of the concert was solidified. I was taken in hand by the spirit of live music. Game over.

Last night I had the opportunity to see in concert an artist I’ve followed since I wore black on the outside because black was how I felt on the inside. As much as I adored Sting and The Police (and I’ve seen Sting, either with or without The Police, approximately nine times), The Smiths were my anchor, Morrissey my preacher. Need a pithy lyric? I’ve got an entire cache of Smiths’ lyrics stored in my brain, the same brain that can’t remember my own phone number some days. After two failed attempts to see the Moz (he cancelled the shows both times), yesterday afternoon I started to believe it might be my night. I crossed my fingers and hoped the third time was a charm. Please, please, please let me get what I want. Lord knows, it would be the first time. To celebrate the evening’s potential, my friend Heather and I had dinner at the British Bulldog. We were taking this experience as seriously as Morrissey takes his PETA affiliation.

When he finally took the stage last night in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, all the self-inflicted misery of my teenage years resurfaced. The show started out better than I could have hoped with Hand in Glove. His voice was spot on, clear, smooth, and without any hint of the ill effects of high altitude. Having resigned myself long ago to the knowledge that I would never hear a Smiths’ song live, I could not have been more happy to be wrong. As the concert progressed, however, I found myself becoming increasingly agitated. A steady dose of morose songs are the norm with Morrissey, but his solo catalog also includes musically upbeat tunes…even if they are accompanied by lyrics that are she-was-found-face-down-in-a-bathtub-of-vodka level of depressing. I kept waiting for the uptempo songs. They did not arrive. Worse than that, I was seated next to an aggravating couple that included a gentleman who believed he himself was Morrissey. He sang each and every word quite loudly and with the utmost conviction of his own vocal talent. I wanted to kick him in the eye. I was not surprised when Morrissey performed Meat Is Murder while onscreen a graphic, five-minute long film of the industrialized food machine abusing and murdering animals played for our edification. I gave up hope and focused instead on my double vodka and soda. At least there was a chance for temporary mental respite at the bottom of my plastic cup. I checked my phone for the time and found myself disappointed that it was only 10:11. All I could think was heaven knows I’m miserable now.

Toward the end of the show, Heather and I checked out. I think we might have left if it hadn’t been for some sort of misguided optimism that perhaps Morrissey would come out of his self-indulgent drama long enough to play something lively and redeem the show. I know Morrissey was simply being Morrissey. It’s not his fault that I didn’t get the concert I had hoped for. He was the same Morrissey he has always been. I have changed. My mentality has caught up with my biology. I’m older now and have less tolerance for intentional misery. I am weary and wary of wallowing for wallowing’s sake. Life is short, and our thoughts determine our relative level of joy. Based on that notion, Morrissey must be the most disconsolate man on earth. Don’t get me wrong. I will always enjoy his songs because they are wry, poetic, and clever. He rests on the other side of the scale from brainless, pop fluff and creates a necessary balance. Somewhere along the line, though, I decided that choosing to live in misery doesn’t make you deep. It just makes you dark. I will never see another one of your shows, Morrissey, but I’m still fond of you.

Pigs in Pink Aprons

Little pig indeed
Little pig indeed

I had all kinds of really good intentions today to get a lot done and not rush my way through a blog at the end of the day like I usually do. That was my grand plan. But then something unfortunate occurred. My nearly teenage son reminded me this morning that he needs another costume item for his school play. And he needs it by tomorrow. You see, Joe is a pig in a fractured fairy tale, performance next week. Last Wednesday when we were both suffering from colds and should have been home in bed resting, we went on a grand excursion to the costume store thirty minutes away to spend $15 on a pink snout, ears, and a curly piggy tail for his costume. (We did not, however, make it make it to the market, have roast beef, or cry wee-wee-wee all the way home, in case you were wondering.) These items were such a hit with his drama teacher that she decided to reward me for my fine work by adding another costume item to really bring the cuteness home. A pink apron. Was she kidding me? This is not exactly an item a mother of two boys would have in a drawer or closet. Pink is verboten in this house, you know. Sometimes I think teachers just do shit like this to test me.

Despite my relative annoyance, I asked around. I could not locate a pink apron that would fit Joe. So today after getting in my workout (3860 stairs at Red Rocks), I began the grand search for a pink apron. My only stipulation was that it had to be under $10. I was not spending real money on a pink apron that I would never wear. Truth is that I already have a good apron that has been my tried-and-true buddy for 15 years, and I am faithful. I started out by going to a couple of discount stores. I got a little distracted in Gordman’s for about an hour (didn’t find an apron but I did find a 24-ounce sippy cup to hold my wine incognito at the pool this summer). Then I moved onto Ross. There I found a full pink apron covered in cupcakes but I thought Joe might balk at the frilly ruffles so I left it. From there I headed to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but all their aprons were over $20 and I would have had to dye a white one pink. No thank you very much. I hit Party City. I was beginning to get a bit desperate. I found a full paper apron that was only $3.50 but it was white, which meant my son and I would have to spend our evening coloring it with pink markers. And, let’s face it. Joe would color for five minutes and then use the excuse he always uses when he’s trying to get out of something (“I have to poop”…you want to mess with that if you’re wrong about his faking it?) and I’d be coloring that dang thing alone. Nope. Not gonna do it. I finally gave up and ran to Target. While they didn’t have an apron, necessity became the mother of invention and I found a pink hand towel and pink, fabric ribbon totaling $8 and decided I would make my own pink apron because why not? Isn’t that what moms are for?

I had planned to sew the ribbon on but realized that the bands on the corner of the towel were capable of breaking multiple needles. (I realized this after I’d broken multiple needles.) I resorted to my glue gun. My glue gun and I worked magic again, and in short order we had a makeshift apron for my little pig. I made him try it on to verify its efficacy. It was perfectly functional. He seemed satisfied with my handiwork and, well, he should be because I’m a talented genius who can pull pink aprons out of thin air. I ironed it, put it in a gallon-size Ziploc to protect it from boy hands before the dress rehearsal, and handed it to him. That was when he told me he doesn’t actually need it until Friday because that’s when the dress rehearsal is. I would have choked him if I hadn’t been so tired from the stairs and the shopping. He’s a lucky boy.

Some days being a mom is a whole lot of pointless work. You finish the laundry, and someone drops a sock into an empty hamper. You clean the kitchen and before you put the rag down someone has crumbs on the counter. You go to five stores to find a pink apron, end up making one, and realize that it’s an exercise in insanity because it’s only going to matter on a subconscious level for less than two minutes of your life and no one else will even notice it for that long. On days like these, I try to remind myself that this is how I earn my keep. I am the behind the scenes miracle worker. What I do is invisible. If I didn’t do it, though, someone would notice.

The Littlest Teachers

Me and my little teachers
Me and my little teachers

Thirteen years ago, I was about one month away from becoming a mother. Back then, I thought I had a fairly decent grasp on who I was. Thirteen years and two children later, I realize that I had no clue who I was or what things I was capable of. Becoming a mother is one thing. Being a mother day in and day out is another thing entirely. Mothers (and fathers too) are capable of incredible things, things far beyond what we imagine ourselves capable of. Back then, I thought the biggest obstacles to overcome with parenting would be cleaning up puke and missing out on sleep. I laugh at that now. All the things I expected would come easily to me did not. And from out of nowhere came new lessons about myself and about life. Tonight I want to share three things I have learned because I became a mother:

1) I am really good at reading aloud. Considering how much reading aloud in school caused near panic attacks that could only be lessened by mentally practicing every part of the story in front of me in class while waiting for my turn to read, this is a shock. Lately I’ve been reading The BFG by Roald Dahl to our boys. I do a voice for the Big Friendly Giant. It’s different from the one I did for Willy Wonka and the one I did for the Fantastic Mr. Fox. I have fun finding the character’s voices and acting out the books like plays. I look forward to reading aloud to our sons, not just because I enjoy it but also because they enjoy it. They may not be amazing readers themselves, but they love hearing a good story. We don’t read together every night, but on the nights that I read aloud I find that I feel pretty good about this talent I never realized I had.

2) I am actually quite okay living in a pit. Before I had children, I had things in my home under control. Everything had a place and everything was in its place. Bathrooms were cleaned regularly. My kitchen was spotless. In college, I would pick light-colored lint off the brown rug in my dorm room. I exchanged my sheets for fresh ones weekly on the assigned day. I would scrub the bathtubs in friends’ homes because the soap scum and filth bugged me. After having two boys, this monkey is no longer on my back. I get around to cleaning eventually, but I’ve learned that a clean house is overrated. If at my funeral someone says, “She kept such a nice home,” my life will have been a failure. A clean house is a sign of a dull person. Clearly, I am not as dull as I once was. This does not mean our house is up for condemnation or is overrun by a large colony of rats or anything. I’m just not losing any sleep over unmade beds or dusty ceiling fans. Life is too short to sweat these small details. I’d rather play Battleship with my son than wash his sheets, and I have to believe that is a wise choice.

3) I am wrong a lot. Before our sons were born, I believed I was fairly intelligent and was right a fair percentage of the time. I thought I had answers and my job in parenting was to share the answers with my children. Parenting has been for me, therefore, a thirteen year lesson in how little I actually know and how much I have to learn. Luckily for my personal growth, my children are gifted at pointing out how adept I am at making mistakes…like the time my three-year old son went on and on to anyone who would listen about how I got on the highway to drive them to school when, in fact, their school was nowhere near the highway. He told everyone. At first, these little lessons in my humanity were hard to swallow, but in time I realized that not having all the answers (or needing to have them) is a huge weight lifted. I’ve gotten good at admitting that I don’t know. Letting go of my need to be right has given me great freedom to be a goofball. And I’ve learned that goofball is far preferable to know-it-all.

I went into motherhood under the assumption that it would be a great education, and that it has been. I like myself far better now than I did thirteen years ago back when I thought I knew myself and had it all under control. Chaos is much more interesting, and so am I.

 

I Got My Report Card

So proud of these little monkeys
So proud of these little monkeys

A bunny can only learn what he has the humility to admit he doesn’t know. ~Bunny Buddhism

About five days ago we received a large and rather heavy envelope from the Havern School. From the cumbersome nature of the package, I sort of figured it was something dull (like an Annual Report) and I have no energy to deal with things like that. I’m lucky if I read all the way through the weekly email newsletters that have information I need to know (the same information, incidentally, that gets printed out and sent home in our sons’ backpacks but that I don’t get for three months because they forget to share anything that’s not a cold, a booger, or a piece of trash ). On the counter that large envelope sat while I went about my usual routine of ignoring the mail until it overwhelms the space and I am forced to reckon with it. Last night I finally opened that bad boy. Lo and behold, it was an annual report of sorts. It was the boys’ annual Academic and Therapy Reports.

As I’ve mentioned before, the boys’ school doesn’t provide traditional letter grades because students with learning disabilities typically struggle with standard assessments. Included in this large envelope was a cover letter from the Head of School explaining that “the faculty at Havern takes delight in the many other ways we observe and experience a student’s growth during the year — academically, emotionally, and socially.” In place of an online report card comprised of impersonal and mostly comment-free letter grades, I held 58 printed pages of precise information on my sons, what they have been studying, their strengths, their struggles, strategies that have helped them to improve, and recommendations on what we can work with them on over the summer. Fifty-eight frigging pages. I started to imagine that perhaps their school knows them better now than we do.

This was the first report card that reflected our sons back to me. Sure. Letter grades can offer a sense of a child’s success, but they can also mask problems. Luke had mostly A and B grades last year despite the fact that he was in third grade and had tested somewhere around a first grade reading level. These new reports, while overwhelming at first glance, provide an accurate picture of how far they’ve come and what’s next for us to tackle. The Havern School prides itself on seeing the whole child and, after flipping through the report pages, there is no doubt that the boys’ teachers, speech therapists, and occupational therapists understand and appreciate them as individuals. If you’re lucky, this is what a private education affords you.

For years while our boys were struggling and coming home with less than stellar grades, I felt like I was failing too. I mean, this is my job. I don’t work outside the home. I have no paying job. The boys are my job and, dammit, I take my job seriously. Letter grades don’t accurately reflect the amount of effort a parent puts into raising their child. Last night, though, as I leafed through the pages of the boys’ reports, I felt some validation because in with the information about how our boys are doing were words about who they are: respectful, well-mannered, reliable, hard-working, good sport, and conscientious. Admittedly, there were also some things in the reports to have a good giggle at. Luke’s report, in particular, mentioned his “enthusiasm” quite a bit. Enthusiasm is a teacher euphemism for talks-too-much-and-can’t-sit-still. And I had to smile at Joe’s occupational therapist’s mention of his  “mild gravitational insecurity” when it came to climbing the school’s rock wall at the beginning of the school year. I too suffer from mild gravitational insecurity. Joe’s classroom teachers mentioned what a deep thinking young man he is. Luke’s teachers mentioned his affinity for “cute, fluffy puppies” and his tendency toward being too hard on himself.

While I may not possess the unique neurological differences that our sons have, after reading the reports there’s no mistaking that these apples fell right under their family tree. I’ve often felt sorry for our boys. Having a hyper-critical, tough-minded, perfectionist mother when you’re struggling with dyslexia probably seems like a cruel joke. I see now, though, that my drive and determination to conquer whatever I attempt has filtered into my children in a way that might actually help them in the long run. These days, I make accommodations for my sons when they reach their threshold with school work, but along the way our boys learned from me that their issues are not an excuse for lack of effort or a bad attitude. I’m beyond proud of them for coming as far as they have this school year. It seems like just yesterday I left them on the school steps in August and crossed my fingers. All year I’ve been telling them to work hard and to believe in themselves and they will land squarely where they need to be. Turns out I should have taken my own advice.

I got my report card this year and I finally believe it’s one worth celebrating.

 

Closer To Buddha…Sort Of

This is as close as I've ever gotten to Buddha.
This is as close as I’ve ever gotten to Buddha.

Other bunnies are probably not trying to make me suffer. I choose to react compassionately because they also suffer.

Since starting my journey with the Bunny Buddhism book early last week, I’ve read and reread the book several times. Some of the bunny wisdom is immediately accessible and applicable. Some requires deeper reflection for absorption. And then there are the quotes that vex me because I understand what they’re asking for and I know they are going to require some additional effort on my part. Today’s quote is one I have been working on for quite a while because I find opportunities everywhere. Every time another person’s actions negatively affect me, I have a choice: take it personally or realize that this is probably not about me and react compassionately.

This morning I was driving home after dropping the boys at school when a guy in an older model, full-size Chevy pick up came barreling up in my rear view mirror. I was doing the speed limit in the right lane of a three-lane, city street, and he was coming up fast on the car in the center lane. I knew he was going to try to squeeze in front of me to pass the two cars driving side by side in the other two lanes. I thought about speeding up and blocking him in, just because sometimes it’s fun to do that to obnoxious jerks even though it’s not very zen, but I decided that would not be the safest choice. So I let him squeeze between my car and the center car so I could be rid of him. I watched him weave in and out of traffic, cutting other people off left and right, for at least a half a mile up the road until he at last turned into a mall parking lot. The whole time, I tried to be a good bunny. I tried to be compassionate. I tried to envision that perhaps he was late for an important job interview or was running out to get his very pregnant, very cranky, donut-craving wife some breakfast. Then I decided that I should have compassion for him because he is clearly missing the big picture. He doesn’t understand that he’s not the center of the universe, and it’s a burden to live life that way, devoid of inner peace. Yes. I actually had that thought. I know, right? I felt it was pretty evolved of me too.

I could not get that guy out of my head all morning. I kept wondering what his burden was. What was it that made him that impatient, aggressive, and obviously not at peace? What was he suffering from? Finally after recreating the scene this morning in my analytical brain, in a not very bunny way, I decided he was merely suffering from being an asshole. That could be the true depth of his problem. Many people behave nastily because they are carrying a bigger burden than they can bear…the unexpected death of a loved one, the loss of a job, depression, loneliness, poverty. Then there are those people who simply are their own problem. Somehow I’m certain that guy in the truck is the same guy who would yell at the little old lady in the express lane at the grocery store because she was one item over the limit. He’s the same guy who would hog both arm rests on his airline seat. The same one who would repeatedly drop the F-bomb in front of a bunch of Cub Scouts at a hockey game. He’s that guy. And when I look at the quote again (and excuse me for getting technical here) it asked me only to react compassionately, which I did by letting him cut me off so he could win whatever Indy 500 race he was imagining in his little pea brain head. The quote didn’t say I had to like him, so there’s no moral obligation there, right?

Yes. I know. Not very zen. I told you I have been working on this quote for a while. Apparently I still have a way to go before I can say I nailed it. While I’m working on it, though, I suspect Buddha would suggest I find a quote about forgiveness and letting go. Apparently I can’t drive the road to inner peace aggressively…you know, the way that guy was driving this morning.

 

Look Out, Nemo! Dory’s Got A Twin Sister!

It's too bad my inner zen is not quite ready to be my outer zen.
It’s too bad my inner zen is not quite ready to be my outer zen. It’s also too bad I’m not quite flexible enough for lotus pose just yet.

In moments when I cannot access my inner bunniness, it is enough to know it is still there somewhere.

I am wiped out. A week after I started writing again every day, I’m officially down from an average of 8 hours of sleep per night to 6. You see, I am a night writer (not at all related to Night Rider) and a morning person. I often am up past midnight writing, but I have a six a.m. wake up call. Now if I miss two hours of sleep on one night, it’s not a big deal. But, cumulatively speaking, sleep-deprivation damage on me is plain ugly. Today it became glaringly obvious that I am not functioning on all my cylinders.

Case in point…while scrolling through Facebook on my iPhone, I saw a recipe a friend had posted that I wanted to try. I thought about sharing her link on my own wall so I could find it later, but I try to avoid that type of visual noise in my personal space. So I copied the web address for the recipe and pasted it into an email to myself. Later I’ll be able to open the link, bookmark it, and then I will always know where the recipe for Buffalo Cauliflower Bites resides. So I composed the email and hit send. I put the whole process out of my mind and moved on. Not two seconds later, I heard the telltale ping of a message hitting my Inbox. I got an email! I thought to myself, like a squirrel giddy over the discovery of a new nut. I opened my mail, anxious to see who was checking in with me. Guess what? It was me. Of course it was me. It was the message I had just sent to myself. I shook my head and rolled my eyes. I am losing my mind. Talk about short-term memory loss. I know I will be turning 46 soon, but I think that’s too young for these pervasive senior moments.

I hate it when I do brainless things. I pride myself on being an intelligent, capable, and self-aware person. As important as these little reminders of my humanity are to my humility, I’m growing tired of their frequency. So tonight I am composing this short post so that I can get to sleep earlier and hopefully return to my mostly full-brain self tomorrow. On my trek toward zen, I am learning to be more accepting of my shortcomings. It is a process, and I know that recognizing, acknowledging, and then being able to let go without judgment are all crucial components of my personal growth. I am working on it. I swear I am. But, holy mindless mayhem, Batman! I hope my brain checks back in soon. I miss it. Inner bunniness…if you’re listening…send me a reminder that you’re still out there, please. An email on my iPhone might help. 😉

I Am The Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog

What? I don't look like a killer rabbit to you?
What? I don’t look like a killer rabbit to you?

Tonight I am celebrating because today I did something way out of my comfort zone. And I survived!

A few weeks ago, the boys’ school hired a company to make a promotional video that would be used on its website. The company planned to interview teachers, administrators, and students. They also wanted to interview some parents. Anyone who knows me knows that I cannot stand to be on video. I hate it. Emphasis on the word hate. Did I mention hate? It makes me so uncomfortable I want to puke. I loathe video chat. I wholeheartedly believe Facetime was invented solely as a torture device. If someone brings a video camera within 20 feet of me, I disappear faster than a case of cheap beer in a college freshman dorm room. I would honestly rather have a full on Brazilian bikini wax by an aesthetician student than appear in front of a camera. When I first saw the email asking for parent volunteers, I immediately resigned it to the Trash folder. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities at the school, I reasoned. There’s no need for you to jump in on this one. I was not going to do this. No way. No how.

But as the week wore on, that email vexed me because I knew I was exactly the kind of person that should be talking about that school. With not one but two sons with learning disabilities there, with our six years’ worth of struggles as we tried to discern how best to help our boys, with the exponential growth we’ve witnessed in them over the past eight months, I was a poster-child parent for this project. I was being a coward and I knew, that like Emmett in The Lego Movie, the self-doubt that plagued me was keeping me from reaching my true potential. I opened the Trash folder, found the email, and responded that I would be happy to help with it. I clicked send knowing that I was doing the right thing. The minute I heard the whoosh sound, I felt the bile rising.

I put the whole thing out of my mind because I figured there was no point stressing about it for weeks. Deep down I knew it would all be fine and that I was doing my usually brilliant job of making mountains out of mole hills. Over the weekend, with the video date rapidly approaching, I made a conscious decision not to think about it. I would not pick out an outfit or practice speeches. I was going into this with the most laissez-faire attitude I could muster. I’ve been working on this skill lately…trying not to borrow trouble. It would all be fine, even if my hair wasn’t perfectly coiffed and I stumbled over some words.

Today was video day, and I went in more or less off the cuff. I had an inkling of things the interviewer might ask. I prepared myself for those questions. I was feeling fairly confident…right up to the point when I walked into the room with the big video camera, boom mike, and lighting set up, and saw a single wooden stool in front of it all. I did my best to give useful answers, but found it challenging to be articulate while I was simultaneously reminding myself not to slouch, touch my hair, or look anywhere but at the interviewer. I’m not sure how long I was on that stool, but it felt like forever. As the minutes wore on, I felt my cheeks turning pinker and rounding the corner to full-tilt-embarrassed red. Finally I gave an answer that seemed to satisfy everyone, and my time in hell was over.

As I was walking to my car afterward, I found myself somewhere between needing a drink to relax and needing a drink to celebrate. I’d done it. And, despite the fact that I was now rethinking every single comment I’d made (on camera about my children in front of school staff, nonetheless), I was proud of myself. I had gone out of my comfort zone and faced a dirty, rotten fear. On the drive home from school, I quizzed the boys about their fifteen minutes of fame and then I talked about mine. I told them how good it felt to do something I really didn’t want to do but knew I should. They asked me if I was glad I did it. At the next stoplight I grabbed the Bunny Buddhism book (I carry it everywhere these days) and shared this:

Bunniness is not learned in safety. One must seek unfamiliar ground and hop without fear.

Like the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog in Monty Python and The Holy Grail, I go forward prepared to leap upon any challenge that darkens my path. There are no fluffy bunnies here. Bring it!