About the Parasympathetic System

There was a time, not very long ago, that writing in this blog was very important to me. I would clear off my desk and set to my writing task as if it was my vocation. It was my voice and outlet and connection with the greater world. I craved acknowledgement that I existed, however meek and feckless my Internet utterances carried forth.

But over the past few months, I’ve been engaged in other assignments and neglected this space rather intentionally. For one, I have a real job, and for another, we’ve returned to Maine where family and friends are always nearby. I don’t crave the same validation I did nine months ago.

That’s not to say I don’t have my same existential questions, my yearning for happiness and truth and peace circle around me still.  I have days I wonder why I’m not completely at ease with my life, and why I can’t be happy just because I wish it so. I still wonder what success looks like on me. Though I’ve had fleeting moments of triumph and insight into the world, I regularly question whether I’m on the right path in life.

Mostly, these questions abide with the day and surrender to the back corners of my mind. They do not plague me with insecurity, and I’m not an aimless 20-something anymore. I have a family, and work that satisfies. We have a beautiful home on an island, and I can see the ocean from my bedroom window. These were the things I wanted, and now these are the things I claim as my own. Simple things and important things.

I couldn’t let this year close without one final thought to carry me forward into 2014. I need more blind trust and faith that things are going as they should. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for our quiet body processes. Rest and recovery, digestion. Crying. Functions of the body that we can’t consciously activate, but occur through our capacity as human beings.

I have goals and dreams for what my career and family life will look like in the future, but I think that I need to stop holding so tightly onto these projections. Because undoubtedly, there are parasympathetic happenings in the universe, occurrences for which we cannot know the causes. We will have trouble sleeping for no apparent reason, and failure happens no matter how hard we work at something. Letting go and believing that it is not defeat that defines me, but the ability to wake up the next day and to continue to work hard does.

While I’m unclear how often I’ll continue to write in this blog, be sure that I’m working hard on other aspects of my life. We have some amazing and exciting intentions and schemes for this next year, and all I can do is hold on to the people I love, work hard, and wait to see how things work out.

Until we meet again, my ever faithful readers…
1515035_10151883847257939_1601985783_n

Advertisements

Chrysalis Phase in Retreat

The last few months have been tiring, notable here on my blog by the glaring lack of posts. I rarely opened my computer, but when I did and saw the wordpress icon, I looked away guiltily.

I suppose I am guilty of overextending myself sometimes, my aspirations are greater than the minutes each day has to fulfill them; eyes are bigger than my stomach. 2013 has been a mostly quiet year so far. Introspective and temperamental, but not unhappy. Reassessing and planning, as I’m wont to do every 4 months (sometimes 3) I find there is a shift. Sometimes with the seasons, sometimes with circumstances, but routines get broken up and as we’re settling into our new ones, life can feel a little rocky.

I do not have enough words to express the gratitude I have for the few constants I do have in my life: yoga, nature, the sea, my family, my friends. Today I actually practiced on my mat at home while my son played with the combination lock on my train case, and explored the rest of our usually off-limits adult rooms. Seeking strength through my core, knowing the limits of my flexibility and wanting to push past them: these are lessons from my mat that I need so badly to apply to the rest of my life. Holding my spine upright as I walk into scary meetings with new faces just might be the edge that gets me the job I am interviewing for next week.

As always, I’ve been doing my best. Many mammals hibernate in the winter, here I am stretching out of my air chrysalis phase and ready to dig my feet into the earth.

“We can stop thinking that good practice is when it’s smooth and calm, and bad practice is when it’s rough and dark. If we can hold it all in our hearts, then we can make a proper cup of tea.” –Thanks, Pema Chodron!

If I can offer one piece of advice so far for 2013: accept your state, do not judge yourself on sad or lonely days because they will end, and when they do share your happiness freely.

One more thing: This morning at the gym I was in the bathroom, washing my hands. I looked up at my face in the mirror, for half a second, and the lady washing her hands next to me turned and said “you look adorable, so cute.” She wished me a happy Easter (after asking if I celebrate) and breezed out the door. She infused me with joy. Husband had left for work very early, and my sweet son does not have much of a vocabulary yet. That kind stranger’s words gave me a kick of confidence, as I dragged my yoga mat into a deserted wall space.

image

Instead of kicking up to warm up my handstands against the wall like I always do, I floated on my hands in the middle of my mat for a few moments of unexpected bliss. Thank you, kind strangers everywhere!

Image: http://www.deutschefotothek.de/obj87503021.html


National Novel Writing Month

I did it! Just wanted to share my achievement here. 50,949 totally original, unusual, & mostly incoherent words. I really had to stretch it out towards the end, the last 4,500 words are essentially stream-of-consciousness. Maybe I was channeling my literary heroine, Virginia Woolf (maybe we’re related.)


A Confession

I am a terrible stay at home mother.

I just want to admit it publicly, because too many people think I have it all together and apparently it looks like I know what I’m doing. Sure, I take my wee boy to play groups, feed him nutritious vegetarian meals, encourage him to express himself at the frustrating age of one. We go for daily walks, read for the prescribed 25 minutes each day, identify colors, practice sign language, sing songs. But I get bored spending 12 hours with a toddler every day.  I’ve minded him in his room while playing words with friends on my iphone hidden in my lap.  I do not always test the temperature of his bath water before dipping his toes in.  I’ve found dog hair in his mouth, in his snot, in his diaper.  His favorite hang out is the dog’s crate, and I’ve caught him putting his face in the water bowl.  I’ll turn his stroller forward facing so I can have time to myself on walks.  I use babysitters for no reason other than to catch a yoga class, or go downtown to get drunk with my friends.  I’ve eaten the last piece of burrata I know he’d love.  My bathroom needs come first when we walk inside after a long day.  He cried it out.  He has not tasted bacon. I secretly can’t wait until he wants to watch Sesame Street and doesn’t need my undivided attention.

Of course he is my joy, my beautiful son, and it is so rewarding spending my days with him, blah, blah, blah, but really, honestly……rare is the day I put him to bed and feel deeply fulfilled.  I’m often overwhelmed and exhausted, even today, when I had 15 hours off in between shifts.  It is this time, pecking away at my laptop, or the 30 minutes before this when I was on my yoga mat, that give me servings of self-hood.  I genuinely enjoy being a mother, but most days are frenetic and full of haphazard attempts to entertain my capricious offspring.  I was a great new mother, monitoring and observing every change to his tiny body.  But he’s now five times his weight from his birth day, and we’re necessarily becoming more independent and less reliant on each other.  He’ll always be a part of me, but not in the same sense he was when developing from a fetus to an infant, or an infant nourished by my breast milk.  Most changes are gradual, but they’re visible to us mothers all at once since we see our children every day.  I didn’t notice that his top 4 teeth were rupturing his gums until they were visible baby fangs.  I used to rue being a “working mother” during his infancy because I was so afraid I’d miss a first.  But the truth is, the first time something happens doesn’t have to be our official recognition of the event.  The first time daddy saw him walk is a precious memory to my husband even though he’d been doing it all day.  I feel like personal development is as important as time with my son now because we’ll get bored otherwise.  He needs to see other faces than mine all day, lest I have a 29 year old living at home with me in as many years!

So when I write, or practice yoga, I regain my mother courage, to step away from my son and let him grow and learn about the world without me hovering above. Writing and yoga are chances for me to step back and look around, or look at myself inside.  Everyone has their own definition of what makes them happy and there are many opinions on what constitutes a nurturing childhood.  I think I am doing my very best to give my son what he needs. Sure he entertained himself on my ipad for 15 minutes after his bath tonight, but earlier today he looked at squid and jelly fish, touched a sea urchin, watched an underwater pumpkin carving contest.  I’m not trying to justify my parenting deficiencies, just making sense of who I am and what I am capable of as a mother.  I’m happy to bake some peanut butter banana muffins for our weekly play group (with coconut oil and South Carolina peanuts, of course), but I am not so sure I will be a rapt observer each soccer practice, and karate kick that I once assumed I had to be.  There are all sorts of trendy labels people give their parenting style.  Maybe my ever growing album of “baby-in-a” pictures (baby-in-a fountain, baby-in-a kitchen aid, baby-in-a purse, baby-in-a miniature Ferrari) could give rise to some witty name.  Container parenting.  Shifting boundary parenting.  Senseless parenting?


The Most Stressful Things

There are lots of reasons I’ve been stressed in my life.   Studying for the LSATs (even though I didn’t end up applying to law school), library job hunting, planning a destination wedding from Boston, being a temporary single mother, having my little sister refuse to talk to me.

And then there are the smaller life hiccups that have stressed me out: not getting enough sleep, running out of oatmeal on a cold morning, headaches, ripped inseams, broken heels, running late, arriving early, public speaking, typos.

All this experience with stress should make me well prepared to greet the challenges that lie ahead in the next month.

We’re moving 1,000 miles away.  It is a logistical puzzle made of really awkward pieces:

  • a nine month old infant
  • a dog that hates staying in hotels (conservatively, the drive will take 3 days)
  • a husband who has to leave before the rest of us to start his new job
  • moving quotes upwards of $10K
  • years old house plants that said moving companies will not ship
  • storage units to pack scattered from Maine to Massachusetts to Washington DC
  • trying to visit with dear friends who I might not see again until October (or gasp, Christmas!)

They say that moving is one of the top life stresses.  And while I’ve moved countless times (I lived in 12 houses by the time I graduated high school), its never been this epic.  Or stressful.  Husband and I are definitely getting on each other’s cases a bit more than usual.  He reprimanded me for not putting my dishes in the dishwasher last night; I gave him a hard time for not buying the right types and sizes of moving boxes.

This morning, after spending the last few days recovering from dehydration and heat exhaustion, I was finally able to get out for an early morning run again.  Today was not one of those perfect mornings (you know, like the rarely achievable ones where I wake before the rest of the family, sip water and write 500 words before heading out the door to greet the sun, returning 40 minutes later to find the family still asleep, eat breakfast and shower in the quiet).  Even though I got in a solid 25 minutes plus 5 minutes of sprints, it wasn’t the goal I had in mind and I was a little hard on myself because morning runs are typically the one part of my day and life that is completely in my control.  But as I was getting dressed for the day, I noted that my bathroom was still perfectly in tact.  No evidence of the move is yet apparent there, and I carried on through my imperfect morning without another mote of judgment.

As I stumble through these next weeks of immense change, I will be sure to remind myself that at the other end lies a [bath]room of my own.  Whatever great trials I have along the way, it will calm me to know that lavender bubble baths always exist, that we decided to move for very rational reasons, and that my definition of perfection is always changing.