Beginning Bunny Buddhism

I don't patronize bunny rabbits.
I don’t patronize bunny rabbits.

Late last week, my sister introduced me to a book I knew was a game changer. The minute I saw it I knew I needed a copy for myself because it fits right in there with two things that appeal to me…working towards my zen and coveting fuzzy things. (Yes. I know to be truly zen I would have to not covet things, even soft, fuzzy things, but this is why I said I am working towards my zen. I am not there yet, people.) The book is Bunny Buddhism by Krista Lester. It is an adorable tome filled with wisdom about life and illustrations of darling bunnies on the path to bunniness. As soon as I got the name of the book, I was one-clicking my way through Amazon to get it here as fast as humanly possible. (Yes. I know instant gratification also goes against my path to zen, but I can only make this journey one step at a time.) Today the book arrived, and I devoured 186 pages of bunny thoughtfulness, carefully marking statements that resonated with me. Fifty some Post-It tabs later, I realized I have a lot more travel ahead on the road to zen than I originally thought.

Last week, a fellow blogger (and all around kind gal) commented that she missed my blog postings. She told me she was planning to write every day in April. I was tempted to join her on her journey, but ultimately decided that after all this time off I’d gotten too lazy to commit to a whole month. That seemed like an awful lot of work. Then Bunny Buddhism arrived in my mailbox, and with it came my inspiration. And so for the next couple weeks, or until I am plumb bored with cute, fuzzy things or deep, life-changing wisdom, I am going to pick a thought from the book and blog a bit about it.

Today’s Bunny Buddhism mediation is this:

Even a reliable bunny misses a hop sometimes; then the important thing becomes simply to return to hopping.

That is what I am doing right now. I am returning to hopping by blogging again. Once I was a reliable writer, composing something every day for a full year, but I lost my way. I decided other things in my life were more pressing. I reasoned that because writing is not a paying gig for me, I had best focus on my primary job as wildlife manager (aka “mom to two sons”). I thought maybe all the time off blogging would give me more time to focus on writing a book. It didn’t. I found other ways to occupy my time when I put writing on the back burner. I rewatched all the seasons and every single episode of Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and LOST. I read way too many articles about our food system that scared the bejeezus out of me. I spent appalling amounts of time on Facebook. And through it all, the only thing I learned is that I am a first-class escape artist. But at the end of the day, no matter what I do or don’t do, the one thing I can’t avoid is the knowledge that I am a writer. I may not be a world-class writer or a published writer or even (gasp) a working writer, but I am a writer. It is what I do. Writing is as much a part of me as my blue-hazel eyes, my constellations of moles, and my stubby fingernails. Denying it doesn’t make it less true. It only takes me further away from my true self.

My writing is not unlike my path to zen. I have a great deal to learn and a lot of room to grow. But I can’t make any progress by freaking out and freezing up when I miss a blog. Life will continue whether I write or not, but every day I skip writing I miss an opportunity to be my most authentic, wonderful, flawed, and yet-somehow-still-perfect self. And so I begin again. They say a journey of a thousand hops begins with a single hop, right?

Queue George Michael’s 1990 Hit…FREEDOM!

Harry Flufferpants, Esq.
Harry Flufferpants, Esq.

One of the best things that has come from our sons’ beginning at a new school is the stress it’s taken out of my life. For years our boys were struggling to keep up in class, an issue that was never more obvious than when they would pull out their homework. Every night was a battle. Homework that, according to their teachers and reports from friends whose children were in the same class, should have taken no more than an hour or an hour and a half each night took our boys upwards of three hours. There was non-stop whining, pleading, bargaining, and crying, and that’s without even mentioning how hard the boys took it. Five evenings out of the week (because, let’s face it, the weekend’s homework was not worked on slowly over two days but was instead busted out in one heinous rush on Sunday night), there was no peace in our house. Math assignments, book reports, and spelling troubled me more than any other thing in my life, including midlife crisis and the amount of time I had to wait for the next season of Downton Abbey. Those days are gone.

In their place, we have creativity, laughter, and family time. Because the boys work so hard all day at school to overcome their learning disabilities and because the school understands that, our boys currently have a manageable hour’s worth of homework each night…with a little extra time needed when special projects are assigned. And as if the one hour limit didn’t provide me with enough solace, the school also offers a homework club each day after school. For a reasonable fee the boys can stay an hour after school and complete their work in a teacher-supervised classroom with other students. It’s pure genius. When I pick up my boys at 4 pm, they are finished for the evening. We are currently mulling over which outside activities they could do, like music lessons and tae kwon do, because they will at last have the time to partake. I’m giddy simply thinking about it. They are finally getting to experience what life has been like for their friends. I’m excited for them. It’s about time.

In the meantime, our boys have taken their extra time to try new things and exercise their imaginations. Joe has been discovering graphic novels (books with more pictures than words that are perfect for dyslexic kids…get your minds out of the gutter, people) and Luke has been engaged creating the Museum of Cute. He’s using his iPad to print out photos of cute things, like teacup-sized Pomeranian dogs and mini pigs wearing rain boots, and organizing a collection, which he plans to tour our families through in a few weeks on opening night. Tonight there was an explosion of cute when he brought me this picture of a tiny, white Pomeranian with a mustache. The photo is labeled, “My Lawyer, Harry Flufferpants, Esq.” I can’t make this stuff up.

I also can’t seem to get the chorus from George Michael’s 1990 hit Freedom out of my head. Normally, this would be a problem for me, but I’m so relaxed after my new nighttime ritual mug of chamomile tea that I can’t even find the residual daily angst to care. I think my zen just got a bit closer.

Find Your Bliss Any Way You Can

Guess which set belongs to the lone female in this family.
At least I will be easy to spot.

“If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge.”      – Deepak Chopra

Yesterday, in the peaceful falling snow of an early evening in January, the UPS delivery truck stopped in front of our house. As it pulled away, it left behind a box filled with things not meant for the snow at all. The large box contained snorkel gear for our entire family. I laugh at the absurdity of our family purchasing snorkel gear when we live in the middle of an already landlocked state, 1o00 miles away from the nearest beach which is a nearly 17-hour drive away in Malibu, California. We selected the gear while we were in snowy Steamboat Springs a week and a half ago. In spite of the wintery landscape there, we were absorbed with the notion that in two months we will be in Hawaii. So, in between cross-country skiing and trekking through a castle made entirely of ice, in front of a glowing fireplace we perused travel books and made mental notes of beaches we wanted to stand on. And, we ordered snorkel gear.

This morning, after an icy drive to deliver the boys at school, I took the next step in preparing for our upcoming spring break trip. I stopped to try on swimsuits. Buoyed by weeks of relentless work in yoga class, I felt fairly confident about my chances swimsuit shopping. I have a little less than two months left to finish whipping myself into vacation shape, and a swimsuit is exactly the motivation I need to keep my eye on the prize. I know it will be a bit odd to have it secured into place on the door of our stainless steel refrigerator in the middle of winter, but you do what you have to. For me, it’s yoga, fruit, and the fear of the suit.

And, as I stood in the fitting room today staring at my half-naked figure in the mirror, for the first time I faced the truth. My body is what it is, and what it is is a vessel that carried two children. It is strong and healthy. With nearly 45 years behind it and with a steady exercise routine, it endures more and is more flexible and balanced than it has ever been. It does things now that it couldn’t do a decade or two ago, like push ups. My body is powerful and capable. What it is not, however, is 20 years old. No matter how hard I work or how well I eat, I will never look the way I used to. Evolving over time, enduring childbirth and abdominal surgeries, my body has morphed to become something entirely different. It’s not bad. It’s simply not the same.

On the way home, I battled the negative self-talk that was bullying me into believing that I’m too old for the bikini I had just purchased. I told myself that as old as I am, I will never be this young again. And, if I am going to Hawaii for the first time and want to swim and snorkel in a two-piece suit, well…the rest of the world can suck it. I want to find bliss, and I will never find it if I’m judging myself or worrying about what others judge in me. I have only so much control over how the aging process will affect my body. Despite my best efforts, things will pucker and wrinkle and head in a southern direction. It’s inevitable. But, if cleaning grains of sand out of my navel makes me feel alive and happy, then that is what I must do. With each passing year I’m closer to peace and self-acceptance than I have yet been in my life. Maybe it’s blissfully naive of me to assume it’s not positively gauche for a woman of my mature age to appear in public in a bikini. At this point, though, I’ll take my bliss any way I can get it.

Finding The Zen In Writing

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…

When I decided to start yet another blog, I struggled to find a name for it. My first blog, Suburban Sirens, was created when I decided that my 8-year hiatus from writing needed to end. The name was appropriate both as the Siren song that was calling suburban-mom me back to writing, as well as the sirens I fully expected to hear as a white van with barred windows pulled up in front of my suburban house to take me to a place with padded walls where I could continue to bang my head in peace. Eventually, though, I rationalized myself out of writing by concluding I was too busy. My posts became more and more sporadic, and the Sirens stopped beckoning.

My next blog was called Moms Into Adventure. It was devised as a vehicle to report on the many adventures in parenting and life that I planned to take on in an effort to transform my midlife crisis into a midlife free-for-all. From a Polar Plunge to adventure races to a burlesque class I felt I needed to take, I went out and tried new things and I wrote about them. It was fun for a while, and then I just got dog tired of coming up with adventures. It was exhausting being a human doing rather than a human being.

As the end of the year approached last year and I realized I was running out of money for adventures I would love to write about, I decided it was time to go in another direction. Perhaps the third time would be the charm? My previous two blogs had fizzled largely because I’d been unwilling to commit to a publishing schedule. So, I offered myself a challenge to write for 366 consecutive days. I’d been reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now and A New Earth. I found myself looking to become more grounded and reflective. I wanted to stop focusing on my next adventure and learn to enjoy the present moment, a task which has never been easy for me. I figured I needed to live in the now and try to find my zen. I also acknowledged that I needed to live a little now and then. The two ideas merged and thus was born Live Now and Zen, the perfect balance of my previous two blogs.

As I’m on day 318 of 366, I’m starting to reflect on where I’ve come from and where I’m going with my writing. I’ve learned a great deal about myself as a writer and as a person through my posts here. I think writing daily for nearly a year has forced me to accept my voice for what it is. I’ve had to determine what kind of writer I am. That writer, I’ve learned, is honest. I’ve learned that sometimes what I think is my best work impacts no one and something I feel was a waste of my time touches many. You never know what people might relate to. I’ve learned that some days I write schlock, and that’s okay. It happens. The mere act of writing is more important than the creation of a beautiful work of art. From continued practice comes growth, and while sitting around waiting for the idea the only thing you grow is moldy and stale. Sometimes it’s more important simply to show up. And, I’ve learned that it’s okay not to have millions of readers. Writing something that impacts one other person is more than enough.

I started to write this blog as a means to find the zen in my life, but I’m not sure that I’m any closer to achieving that than I was 300+ days ago. I still get aggravated, lose my temper with my children, and swear at idiot drivers. Now, though, I have a daily outlet for all that emotion. And while I’m no more zen in my life, I have become more zen about writing. This is not the zen I was looking for, but it’s what I needed. Writing is my thing. When I don’t write, I lose something of myself. So, I’m learning to write and I’m practicing. On day 367, I might take a day off for good behavior and to celebrate my achievement, but then it’s right back to it because writing is what I do…whether or not I do it well.

Zen And The Art Of Arm Flaps

The point when I stopped to ponder my arm flapping.

So, after six solid weeks of not doing any sort of regular physical exercise, the kids went back to school and my workout time miraculously returned. Woohoo, right? Yeah, yeah, sure, sure. Yesterday as I was climbing stairs at Red Rocks (very slowly while sucking a lot of thin air and talking way too animatedly with my friend Heather), I noticed a little something disturbing happening with my arms. The back sides of them, where my triceps used to be and presumably still reside, were flapping. Flapping. They were swaying in harmony with the motion of my arms. Ew. Ew. Ew. I knew this would happen someday. I mean, this sort of thing happens to all women of a certain age, right? I chose to ignore it and not mention it to my friend because she is younger than I am and she doesn’t need to be burdened with this type of miserable yet inevitable discovery. When she is my age and starts to notice this same troublesome phenomenon, I will nod my head knowingly. I kept climbing the stairs and pushed the odd sensation at the back of my arms into a quiet spot deep in the recesses of my busy brain. I forgot all about it. Until today.

For today’s workout, I decided to hop on my mountain bike and do the 6-mile singletrack loop on the open space behind our house. It all started out fine. As I climbed steadily toward the top of the ride, my attention was fixed on my legs, still sore from the stupid stairs at Red Rocks yesterday. I started my descent. That’s when I noticed It was back. Careening down the hill, bouncing over rocks, the back of my arms flapped wildly like the wings of a chicken that is trying to escape from a mouthy red fox. Holy crap. Luckily, I have small arms so the arm flapping was not large enough in scale to knock me unconscious. Still, the depressing fact remained. What I felt yesterday was not an anomaly. My body is betraying me. Dammit! I thought about rushing home and pulling out my free weights to torture my triceps into submission. But, that would require so much work.

So, rather than trying to ameliorate the situation, I did the next best thing. I looked for the silver lining in my cloud. There must be one, right? One that would allow me to skip hours of free weights and kettle bell exercises. I scanned my brain for signs of my zen. Then it came to me….a way to make peace with my fluttering arm flaps. You see, this isn’t a sign of a breakdown of strength. It’s an indication of a loosening of spirit. I’m becoming less uptight. Yeah. That’s it. That’s the ticket. It’s not that I’m becoming soft, per se. I’m simply a bit more relaxed. I’m not falling apart. I’m yielding. I can live with that. My slackening skin, while a bit disconcerting and unattractive, is merely an outward manifestation of inward move toward zen. I’m grateful that I’m healthy enough, sagging flesh be damned, to climb stairs and ride a mountain bike. Those are the things on which I should focus. After all, what’s a little flapping skin among friends? I’m at peace with my wiggling and jiggling but otherwise healthy body. End of story.

By the way, I may or may not also have a bridge to sell you…if you’re interested.