Grateful for the Wisdom of Others

BreneBrene Brown is well-known for her research and work on shame and vulnerability. She writes and talks about courage, fear, love and life.  I recently re-watched one of her TED Talks when I was looking for the link to email to a friend.  I watched it intently and tried to drink in her words like I was dying of thirst.  Watching her and listening to her message is so cathartic for me because it rings so true for me in my own experience of life.  I want to be on the ‘whole hearted’ list.  I want to live an authentic, grateful and vulnerable life.  I don’t want to numb out feeling the bad, because I don’t want to miss out on feeling the good.   Brene Brown talks about being your whole true self regardless of what that looks like.

And that takes courage.  She defines courage in the following way: “the original definition of courage, when it first came into the English language — it’s from the Latin word cor, meaning heart — and the original definition was to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart”. 

And the goal for all that courage, as Brene Brown says it (and as I see it), is “to let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee…to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?…”

And so with courage and gratitude I am working on letting myself be vulnerably seen by the world.  I’m working on telling the story of who I am with my whole heart.  Every day.

Grateful for path-pavers and poets like Brene Brown. 

Grateful for a vulnerable life and the freedom that vulnerability creates.

*Check out more about Brene Brown at http://brenebrown.com/ and see her TED Talk at http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.

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Gratitude for the Privilege of Life

life_is_a_giftI am at a very busy time of my life.  I’m raising a creative and rambunctious little girl, working an almost-full time day job, trying to work as a research assistant in my spare daylight hours and plugging away at my Masters Degree.  Of course between those things, I still need to do all the day-to-day things everyone else does.  Laundry, cleaning, shopping, cooking, car oil changes, snow shoveling etc. The days fly by and most days I go from one list to the other, crossing items off one list and adding items to the other.

Yesterday I stood in my kitchen cooking multiple meals for the week and typing a line or two on my open laptop.  My sweet girl played on the kitchen floor in the middle of it all.  She was happily ‘painting’ with water and cutting out her creations to put on the fridge.  While I stood there, mid multitasking, I was struck by how fortunate I was.  I could not shake the overwhelming gratitude I felt for how privileged my life was…I mean, is.  The thought continued to roll around my mind for a few hours while I thought more about it.  The word privilege has never been a favorite of mine.  I always felt that it meant that privileged people were above others. That they had been handed money or were in positions of power.  They were some how bestowed with privilege that they had nothing to do with achieving or earning.  The word has been used in many negative ways historically, primarily connected to race, religion and education.  I couldn’t identify with that.  I didn’t want to identify with that.  Yet, there just wasn’t a better word for how I felt.

So it turns out, I do feel privileged.  Not because anything was handed to me or because I am above anyone else, but because I am living one smokingly beautiful life.  Working on the first chapter of my thesis, although incredibly time-consuming, is a privilege.  Cooking in the kitchen, just the two of us- both happily busy- is also a privilege.  It wouldn’t look glamorous to many (and it doesn’t feel glamorous most days), but in that moment, it felt almost as good as it gets.

Sometimes simple is enough.  And sometimes a simple life is a privileged life.   

Life, in whatever form you choose to live it, is a privilege. 

And I am grateful.

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Grateful for Self Love

sky heart“You are the Sky.  Everything else is just the Weather.”  -Pema Chödrön

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day for self-love.  On this day- the day of love– you can bask in the glow of your own self adoration.  You can bask in it and nurture it and encourage yourself to cultivate more of it.  A little more every Valentine’s day.

 Then during the whole year that follows, you will hear that quiet confident self-love whispering to you your value every day.

Valentine’s Day:  The day for Self Love.

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Gratitude For What Is

let-it-be-2Sometimes life takes twists and turns that we can’t plan for.  Big dips in the road and little curves around the corner.  While we are busy making plans for our lives and trying to make good choices for ourselves, things happen.  And at some point it just seems like the best idea is to surrender.  Just surrender and go on the ride.  If like me, you are still in recovery for control issues, the idea of surrendering to the ride is an uncomfortable one.  Yet, the truth is, we really can’t know that what might first appear as an upset, may actually turn out to be a great opportunity.  

A potential great date goes wrong  and you feel disappointed as you shuffle home.  You add that bad date to the list of previous bad dates.  What you might never know is that you have actually been saved  from wasting anymore mascara on someone who could never have held your attention beyond date number two anyway.  It wasn’t a bad date. 

It just was. 

An upcoming career change that you didn’t choose appears like it might complicate your life.  You didn’t choose it. You can’t control it.  It might be a great move for you.  It might not. But you’re going on that ride anyway so you can either throw a fit and try to get off…Or, you can put your arms in the air and check out the view. 

It just is.

The interactions with people that we hardly notice and pay attention to- we realize later that they were profound and pivotal exchanges.  The interactions that hold a ton of emotion and feel life altering in the moment- years later they hold no value and carry no weight for us.

They just are.

If we can suspend our ideas of what is good and what is bad, it is easier to surrender to the idea that it just is

And in surrendering to what is, we can put our energy into riding the ride. 

Gratitude for the idea of surrendering.  Gratitude for things just being.

Gratitude for an opportunity to just ride. 

 

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Gratitude for Small Hands

hands-istock-infant-holding-mothers-hand-bwThere is something really special about the small hands of a child. There is something really beautiful about how it feels to have a small little person wrap their fingers around yours.  My sweet child, now 3, is all grown-up girl.  Rarely do I see a moment of baby left lingering around.  But the way she holds my hand always brings me right back…

While driving recently she was expressing some frustration and I reached behind the front passenger seat to rub her leg.  She grabbed my hand in both of hers. My pointer and middle fingers were in one of her hands and my ring and pinky fingers were in the other.  Two small little vise grips.  It brought me right back to the hours I spent driving around a colicky infant with my fingers held firmly by her hands.  I would have removed my arm at the shoulder if it would have made her happy (and quiet!) at that time. 

And last night while I was cuddling her to sleep, for just a moment, her hand found mine and she held on.  For a few beats, my ever-so-independant-must-do-it-herself girl just held on. It created such a feeling of stillness for me.

Is there anything more valuable than the trust of your child?

Is there anything more grounding than holding hands?

Such a simple thing, yet such a powerful thing.  In both moments I felt so much gratitude for her and for her trust in me…For our connection and for the comfort I could bring her.

Oh how I hope she always reaches for her Momma’s hand. 

And oh how I hope her Momma can always reach for hers.

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New Skills

How-to-Fix-a-Leaky-Ball-Type-FaucetAbout a year ago I wrote a blog post about having a lady plumber in my home.  I wrote about how great it was to work with a female trades-person.  At the time I felt really grateful her.  One year later I find myself grateful for my own plumbing skills.  The story goes like this… 

For a long while now my kitchen faucet has been leaking.  After finally realizing that my kitchen cupboard was getting gross and a little too damp, I called my neighbour to assess the situation.  Yup, I need a new faucet.  So I bought one.  He came back to coach me through the installation. I did a lot of tool handing and nodding from above the counter.  Days later the hot water stopped coming out of the faucet.  No problems anywhere else. Called my neighbour and asked if I should call a plumber.  He came back over and told me that there weren’t too many reasons why that could be happening.  He thought maybe the hot water pressure release valve in the basement was the problem.   He drew me a picture of how to replace that part, reassured me I could do it myself and then he left me some tools.  He explained how to do it twice, and twice I thought: I don’t know what this man is talking about.  I’ll just call a plumber. Nod politely.

Saturday 10am- I decide to tackle the valve.  I turn off the water, use said big tool thing to start taking the valve gadget a part and…Get the bucket! Get the bucket…Oh that’s right, I’m by myself…I’ll get the bucket.  Needless to say those old pipes take a while to drain.  So I got a little wet, as did a section of my basement.  While using all my body weight to hang off the pipe and pull on the giant-arm sized pliers, the valve popped off.  Hooray. 

11:30- Packed my 3 year old daughter into the car and the old rusty valve into my pocket and headed to Home Hardware.  Replaced the part for $6.00 and was back in the car in 10 min (Insert a hot chocolate and trip to the park here so that my wee plumbing assistant stayed happy and content).

2:00- Back in the damp basement I successfully attached the new valve.  Hooray.  Turned the water back on and raced upstairs to try it out.  Sadly, still no hot water.  Ugh.  So discouraged.  Well good effort. You’re not a plumber.

2:30- Phoned a plumber and left a message requesting an appt for sometime this week.

2:32- Got very very determined to solve the hot water mystery myself.  So armed with a flashlight, a towel and an array of tools (their names unknown to me), I crawled under my kitchen sink.  After some logical mapping of what went where I began taking the hot side apart.  First attempt ended with something falling in my eye (hurt so bad I had to regroup in the bathroom for a period of time contemplating this plan).  Lots of hand hurting, body twisting and nail breaking ensued.  It was ugly under there. Ugly.

3:30- Successfully got the faucet out and into the sink.  With some strategic blowing of air I determined that this brand new faucet was indeed a piece of sh&#. There was no air passing from the hot handle to the spout.  My blue-eyed tool ‘hander’ had long since lost interest and was happily half-naked watching Despicable Me 2.  I bribed her with a happy meal to come back to Home Hardware with me.  It took a while to convince her of the importance of the trip.

4:00-  2nd new faucet is purchased.  This time it doesn’t come with a hand sprayer, but that’s fine cause I’ll just attach the hand sprayer from the 1st new one (they’re very expensive!).  This was the exact same model minus the hand sprayer, so I was pretty happy about that (well happy might be a strong word, really).

4:30- Happy meal in one hand, new faucet under one armpit and toddler under the other we returned…my assistant went back to her movie and I went back under the sink. 

5:30- I think I have it installed.  Sadly, there is no way I can attach the sprayer to the 2nd new faucet (no opening in the base of the spout), but who cares about that.  I crawl out from under the sink and head back into the basement.  Holy Hannah there is a lot of water in the basement.  I had to take some of the pipes apart under the sink and I’m pretty sure there was some water running down the pipes and into the basement while I had been working.  Never mind. It’s just a cement floor.  I let myself panic for 1 minute.  5:32: I turn the water back on and wait….5:34: I frantically turn the water back off due the amount of water pouring down on me.  Turns out you must have those washers and pipes back on really really tight. 

5:45- I’m back under the sink.  Despicable Me 2 is over so my assistant is back.  She’s handing me all sort of tools- none of which I need- Oh thank you, just put them on my stomach, no-no, not on my face. So with a variety of tools on my stomach and a whole lot of water under my back and butt and a small stream running down my arms, I once again use all my might to tighten the pipes (very hard upside down!).

6:00- Wiggle into hip waders to return to the basement (JK!). Turn the water back on and brace myself.  No more water pouring out of the floor or pipes. I venture back upstairs and like seeing water in the desert, there is a perfectly working new kitchen faucet pouring water into the sink. Hot water with lots of pressure. 

6:02pm:  My assistant, who is more excited about the flashlight she has in her mouth then the working sink, gives me a high-five… and I pour myself a large glass of wine. No problem. Too easy.

A year ago I remember feeling really grateful for that female plumber (whom I’m sure I will be calling again for something else), but this time- I’m pretty grateful for THIS lady plumber.   And I’m grateful for the new skills I acquired through the experience. 

New skills are great things.  New skills feel great.

New skills that were historically ‘male’ skills, feel really great.

 However, if you ever happen to be at my house…Remember that the hand sprayer in the kitchen is just for show.

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Small Rocks

rocksMy wee girl recently warmed my heart by giving me a rock.

It was a regular, small and nothing-special rock.  Yet, I might just have to keep it forever.  She had a couple hard days leading up to the extension of this little olive branch of sorts.  In the days prior to the gift giving moment she had been challenging and emotional (read: exhausting for her Mother)…And then, on “rock day”, she came home to me after a busy day spent away.  She had been sleeping and was dead weight when her Dad slid her from his shoulders into my arms.  She stirred slightly as I clumsily tried to get her boots off and then, with her eyes barely open, she shoved her sweaty little hand into her sweater pocket and pulled out the above mentioned rock.  She looked at me and said, “I got this rock for you Momma”.  Moments later her head was back down- her eyes closed again- as I packed her upstairs to bed.

At some point during her day she had found that rock.  Out on a walk with her daycare? On her way to get in her Grandma’s car? In the driveway at her Dad’s house? Somewhere, at some point, she found it and tucked it in her pocket to give to me.  She saved it all day and then promptly presented it as soon as she was home with me.

I gently folded her into bed that night and cozied-in beside her.  I held on to the rock for a little while and thought about the sweetness of her gift and how there are such highs and lows as a parent.  Nothing about parenting is flat in nature.   It continues to be an epic and eventful adventure… Shortly after having this thought I must have dozed off, because I woke up to the sound of her vomiting.  Everywhere.  The flu bug had struck and the next 24 hours were a blur of sheet washing, Tylenol giving, cuddling and comforting.

Like I said, an epic and eventful adventure.

And one that sometimes comes with really special gifts–like small nondescript rocks.

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Small Gestures

acts-of-kindness-quoteIt is amazing to me how small gestures can create such great feelings.  Why do such small things make me feel so wonderful?  Is it their unexpected nature that makes them feel extra lovely?  I can’t explain it, but the small gestures I have experienced recently have had a big impact.

My neighbour moving my garbage cans away from the road and into their ‘spot’ in my carport.

A co-student in class smuggling a treat into my purse while I was away from my desk.  I had commented on said treat when it was on her desk and we had a brief conversation about how good it was.  I found it later that night when I was unpacking my books. 

A friend who dropped off dinner on a whim knowing that I had been eating crackers and cheese for days (I have no excuse for that, really).

An unexpected compliment that reinforced exactly how I hoped to be in the world.

Small gestures sure can pack a big punch.  And I feel mighty thankful for them today.

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When ‘Like’ is a Bonus

likeI recently met with a teacher from my undergraduate degree whom I hadn’t seen in 6 years.  During the usual re-cap of ones life that occurs when you haven’t seen someone for a significant period of time, I found myself beaming about my daughter.  Turns out, it may be impossible for me to talk about my child without beaming like a fluorescent light bulb.  So there I was shinning like a glow stick on steroids and talking about how much I liked her.  Yes of course I loved her, but I found myself needing to explain how much I liked who she was.

As a woman many primal factors come into play when you birth a child (and; I would guess, when you acquire one in another less biological but no less important way). The two biggest primal factors that presented themselves promptly following my stork delivery:

  • A powerful Momma Bear protective force that made me feel so intensely protective of my young I could hardly stand to watch her infant body in another persons arms.

And

  • An overwhelming love for her that was so all-consuming it felt like my heart was now outside of my body and firmly attached to her little being.

And so I loved her.  And so I love her.

My love for her is a short story and a long story. It is a stormy ocean and a still lake.

Like, un-like love, is not primal.  Motherhood does not come with a primal “like” for our young.  In fact, infants are pretty easy not to like when you think about it.  And, now that I’m on the subject, so are toddlers and preschoolers.  Little people are messy and exhausting and complicate your life in one-billion ways…In one-billion ways that make them not easy to like- regardless of how much we love them.

And so today when I was explaining how much I liked my daughter it felt like such a bonus.  To feel that your child’s little personality is such a joy to be around, is a bonus.  To just really like your child is a bonus of mammoth proportions.

I might not always.  But today I do.  And I am very grateful for that.

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Gratitude for Lonely

The word alone has been part of my internal dialogue lately.  For a couple of years it has been a big part of my quiet inner ramblings.   After one repeats the word alone enough times to oneself it quickly transforms into the word lonely.   This not-so-attractive word is a very normal one for single people; in particular, for single parents.  It can be isolating raisingSONY DSC children (or in my case, a child) on your own for many reasons.  Single parents are over-worked, exhausted, short of funds and short on time.  They are often stuck at home with sleeping toddlers while their single friends are out being beautiful and turning heads.  They are still stuck at home with sleeping toddlers when their married with children friends are having social gatherings where all the women hang out upstairs and all the men talk about manly things downstairs.

On top of the logistics connected to my loneliness, there is also some societal lesson I learned along the way… If we are attached to another human being in an intimate and traditional way, we are complete.  Someone and/or something taught me that If someone (in my case, a man) wants to be with me, then I am valuable.  And being valuable means that I am wanted; and, being wanted means security and safety. 

And somehow I learned that, as a woman, it is very important to be wanted.  

And when you believe this for years, it can be mighty uncomfortable to feel alone.  

I’d hedge a bet that feeling lonely is an uncomfortable feeling for many people.  And I’d also hedge a bet that it is a common one- regardless of a persons marital status.  And for many of us, myself included, it is a scary one.  Even if I don’t really know what being alone means (aren’t we all really alone anyway or maybe none of us are really alone?), I am still afraid to be alone.

But And, there is also a great opportunity that comes with being alone.  If I can lean into and welcome lonely, it isn’t nearly as scary.  And while leaning into it and really letting myself feel all of it, I have the opportunity to shed those silly ideas. 

Does being connected (or not connected) to another human being in an intimate relationship change my value? No. 

Does my current single-momma logistics change what I bring to relationships? No.  

Is it important to me to be wanted? Yes.  But fortunately I have many years ahead of me to work on that one.

Alone.  Lonely.  I welcome you.

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