Slow Down

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Photo credit: Famlii

Today was a juggling running around catching up with course work almost forgetting to order cupcakes for the birthday party kind of day. Wondering if/when I’ll catch up, find my equilibrium. I do much better with a routine, and I’ve been knocked off mine for so long now, I feel like I can’t quite get traction.

When I become impatient and an edge creeps into my voice, my daughter says, “Okay, mama, just slow down.” I have no idea where she got it from. But it works so much better than “relax” or “calm down” or “take a deep breath” or “count to ten.” Just slow down, mama. Okay zen toddler, lead the way.

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What To Do

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I feel a strange foreboding. Maybe it’s just a mood. Or a sense of imminent change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of separation. Unease. Maybe it’s overconsumption of the news cycle. The way it renders me inert. What is the next right action? I think, smile. First, just smile at the kids. Toss the ball in the air. Notice the cranberry-colored leaves and the white leaves covering the grass like confetti, like wedding petals, like evidence of a grand party, like so many wishes, a soft, extravagant carpet for your feet to tread. Notice the light. Lift your face to the sun. Watch the way it spills through the branches and scatters itself over the ground. Then think of the next thing you must do. Choose one thing. And see it through.

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Pre-nostalgia

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Pre-nostalgia. Some nights, like last night, when I am at the library, I get a text with a picture. And I am reminded that, no matter what challenges we’re feeling right now, we are also inside one of the sweetest moments in time. Pause. Look. Breathe.

(Post 226 of 365)

Meet Me Here


Last week I read Pamela’s Erens’ Eleven Hours, a portrait of childbirth that juxtaposes the stories of two women, one who longs for a baby and the other in the throes of labor.

A passage I keep returning to: “She would like the surprise of children, the way they bring pieces of the outer world back to you, pieces of past, present, and future. The way they are always in a place where you cannot quite meet them.”

It’s true in a way, that children often seem to be in a place just shy of our grasp. The moments we’re able to shift our adult brains to child-wonder, to allow ourselves to be fully immersed in that world, are transcendent and fleeting. Just as I come to fully understand exactly where my daughter is, the phase disappears and she transforms again. I wonder, is it less about capturing these ephemeral joys and more about seeking to meet her right where she is?

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Grace State

I can’t get enough poetry lately. The free-fall, the economy of language, and, as Jane Hirshfield says, “the clarification and magnification of being.”

Today I got to see my writer-cousin Kathy, a wonderful surprise. We talked about writing, and she said, You’re doing it. You’re practicing such mindfulness everyday on your blog. Automatically I become self-effacing, respond doubtfully. Really, though, am I? My 2-year-old was verging on a tantrum and I was distracted. But still, I kept knocking this around the rest of the day. Mindfulness. This writing practice.

Again, Hirshfield: “Here, as elsewhere in life, attentiveness only deepens what it regards.”

This is the line I find most consoling when it comes to the art monster/mama-writer dilemma, when I feel like a time thief alternately staring out the window and typing typing typing. But the more I write, the more I believe in the work of writing and the importance of noticing.

“Every good poem begins in language awake to its own connections — language that hears itself and what is around it, sees itself and what is around it, looks back at those who look into its gaze and knows more perhaps even than we do about who are, what we are. It begins, that is, in the mind and body of concentration.

By concentration, I mean a particular state of awareness: penetrating, unified, and focused, yet also permeable and open. This quality of consciousness, though not easily put into words, is instantly recognizable. Aldous Huxley described it as the moment the doors of perception open; James Joyce called it epiphany. The experience of concentration may be quietly physical — a simple, unexpected sense of deep accord between yourself and everything. It may come as the harvest of long looking and leave us, as it did Wordsworth, a mind thought “too deep for tears.” Within action, it is felt as a grace state: time slows and extends, and a person’s every movement and decision seem to partake of perfection. Concentration can also be placed into things — it radiates undimmed from Vermeer’s paintings, from the small marble figure of a lyre-player from ancient Greece, from a Chinese three-footed bowl — and into musical notes, words, ideas. In the wholeheartedness of concentration, world and self begin to cohere. With that state comes an enlarging: of what may be known, what may be felt, what may be done.”

-Jane Hirshfield, “Poetry and the Mind of Concentration”

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In Search of Energy: 55/365

You know those people who only require six hours of sleep? I’m not one of them. I need a full eight, but I’ll take seven hours if I can get them. If.

I knew I was doomed last night when I stayed up writing until 11:00 pm. Daylight Savings steals that one little hour and my toddler’s circadian rhythm reverts to newborn, waking again and again and again throughout the night, and then rising bright and bouncy at 5:30am.

I am searching for energy everywhere, currently in this giant mug of coffee. But I’m looking at the real energy thieves: lack of exercise, glass of wine, sugar, late bed time. Recently, I’ve taken a serious assessment because I’m desperate for an energy boost. A month ago, I decided a glass or two of wine on the weekends wasn’t worth it and I cut it out completely. I’ve been running five days a week for well over a year. I maintain an organic, no-packaged-food, fruit-and-veggie-rich diet. But I’ve let sugar creep back in, an occasional sweet. Beginning today, I’m eliminating sugar. And I’m going to bed by 10:00 pm. Writing it down seems important.

I’ve noticed that one of the benefits of daily writing is increased mindfulness. It strengthens the ability to consistently pay attention.

If anyone out there has any natural energy-boosting tricks up their sleeves, let me know. As for Daylight Savings and the lost hour, it’s still well worth that extra hour of evening light. Spring is almost here!