Saturday, July 20, 2013

Love cloud

After I had Desmond, a friend, an artist, told me that her artist friends with children have all said it takes six months to get back into a working groove. It has taken me much longer. And that’s okay. Desmond is just shy of two. It took me nine months to begin to feel of this world again, and I am just now beginning to feel centered again and beyond capable of living and managing and feeling and nourishing every aspect of my life, spiritual, professional, family and home, and personal.

For the first nine months, I was adrift, floating on a lovely pink motherhood, pure-and-raw love, connected-to-my-child Cloud. What a terrific space to occupy. It is a place all it’s own, a realm you never know exists until you have the fortune to occupy that space. It’s a discovery like the secret garden.

I heard a friend say recently that she was surprised that another friend who is a new mom is posting so many pictures of her child to Facebook. She said she didn’t think the friend would be, “that kind of mom.” It’s the thing people say all the time. I’ve made identical statements in the past, and I remembered my statements when I saw myself become "that kind of mom," but I was compelled. I couldn't stop myself, nor could I make reasonable sense of my compulsion. 

Hearing the "that kind of mom" statement recently, I paused and thought about it for the first time in a long time. That posting pictures frame of mind, it’s a wonderful state to be in, it is a place of declaration: “I’m in love and I don’t care who knows it. I’m mucking about in the thickest, most raw love, and I can’t see or feel anything beyond that love.” It's a beautiful place.

I know now, when I hear people say, “It took me six months to get back to myself after having my baby,” or nine months, or a year, that what they’re getting back to is occupying the day-to-day world again. Their other senses are returning, sight, smell, sound, touch, taste; it makes me wonder if love is the sixth and mysterious sense. 

When the love cloud releases you, the day-to-day senses return, and you transition. You are not “of” the cloud any longer; the cloud is of you. It moves inside of you like God or spirit or soul, while you once again occupy the ordinary. You get to remember that space you occupied, wrap the memory like a present, and tuck it inside of your heart, where it helps pump your blood.

So, I made that transition at about nine months. The transition itself is magical, much like waking from a dream and realizing you were just having the dream. You move back into the every day and begin to integrate yourself and your love cloud with all of the other parts of your existence, and it is the first time you recognize that you were away floating on that love cloud.

This is what my love cloud looks like, now that it’s inside of my heart: It is wrapped in a package as weightless as a balloon, as smooth as an egg shell. The package is magenta, tangerine, strawberry red, and every shade in between these. It is secured with ribbons: peacock golds and blues and greens, emerald, turquoise, ocean, midnight, copper, bronze, sapphire. The ribbons fall around the package like long, loose hairs of a girl-child. This package that is the infinite colors of all of love and all of love’s intensity and the shape-shifting pale pink cloud that lives inside of it, this is the most precious and protected part of you. 

Before it was in your heart, there was an empty shelf, awaiting its arrival. You never knew. When it’s there, where it should be, working as it should work, you work again. You write again. You exercise again. You cook again. You clean again. You socialize. You read. You think. Your intellect expands. Your spirit expands. Your capability expands. You find your way back to the day-to-day. Then you are there, with much greater ease than you have ever had before. And you know you are blessed. You can see what your future looks like; it shows itself to you, lives in a clear, glass ornament and hangs in front of your view like a third eye. You know that you are making your way toward that life; but the miracle is that you are enjoying every present moment as you never before knew how to do.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Late blooms, still blooming

Continued from last post (Late Blooms).

Five: Write down your 2013 vision. 
In 2013 I am laying bricks. 

I have longed for financial stability, not just stability, but financial comfort - financial means that are beyond adequate. I have never identified the greater purpose of desiring riches. If materialism had been the stem of my desire, I would have made many different decisions regarding my education, career, and my life's purpose. 

My longing for wealth (and I use the word "wealth" with modesty) has been a base desire that is rooted in the fear of suffering or wanting for anything. That kind of desire is not healthy or productive. I think that kind of desire is actually counter productive; it's what makes a person financially reactive and reckless instead of measured.

I do not desire money for the sake of material riches. In fact, I do not want stability at the expense of being able to practice writing or at the expense of nurturing the woman I saw in my original snapshot image -- the woman who grows herself and her surroundings.

I desire financial stability for the very purpose of providing myself with the opportunities to grow the many gardens that lay dormant in me – writing, familial experiences, and further, intense exploration of the world and its places/lessons.

This year I am, for the first time, pushing the goal of prosperity to intersect with that lovely snapshot that revealed itself to me in 2006. I see myself building prosperity, and building the opportunity to grow my family’s financial wealth, but simultaneously, creating the time and space to write and to grow my writing endeavors and my family and the experiences they will deserve. I am, thoughtfully, purposefully, laying bricks.

Six: What are you saying NO to in 2013?
1) lack of belief in my ability to be prosperous and successful and authentic to my truest talents and ambitions all at once 
2) lack of focus 
3) lack of discipline

Seven: What are you saying YES to in 2013?
1) continued gratitude
2) finishing projects 
3) another child
4) writing 
5) gardening
6) my health: running and yoga
7) supporting my husband’s business endeavors
8) laying the foundation for long-term financial stability and all that comes with that

Eight: Review what you’ve written and refine.
To be completed.

Nine: Write down your 2013 goals and why you want to make them happen.
Start a savings account that is more than a "back up account" for tightness at the end of the month. Long-term financial stability means planning for the future.

Finish the book I’ve been hired to write. I owe my client a good book, and I owe it to myself to give her what I promised. 

Get pregnant. But not just yet. The year is young.

Install raised garden beds and plant them. 

Create and stick to a schedule for work, writing, family, and self. Discipline and focus don’t happen on their own.

Stay out of credit card debt and repay standing loans. Long-term financial stability means not relying on loans.

Ten: Create an inspiration board. 
Underway on Pinterest.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Late Blooms

I came across a ten-step goal setting roadmap; I’ve changed the order of the steps, which I think is a good thing. I hope it’s indicative that I am already seeing more clearly in 2013 how to make my own path toward the life I am meant to lead.

Most people do this sort of thing at the start of a new year, but it really does suit me best to do all things late. For now, I’m sharing my responses to numbers one through four. I’m still working on the rest of my roadmap.

One: Write down what DID work in 2012.
Practicing gratitude worked. Instead of bemoaning what I did not have – financial stability at the age of thirty-seven – I focused on what I did have in my life to be grateful for: a brand new human being to love and to learn from, a husband who is unafraid of hard work and who is equally true to himself and willing to take risks, like having started a new job outside the field of architecture, and who, everyday, shows himself to be a great dad. Sisters who were willing, in 2011, to set aside busy, complicated, important families and lives to guide me into motherhood. I was grateful in 2011 when they came to stay with me, but in 2012, that gratitude felt so big and completely unbreakable. 

One: Write down three lessons you learned from what DID work.
What came of practicing gratitude? I learned that gratitude is more fulfilling than desire.
For the first half of the year, I was seeking employment so desperately that I’m sure prospective employers could smell the desperation. I wasn’t getting hired. I came to a point at which I just stopped feeling disappointed and instead, felt entirely blessed to have mornings watching Desmond develop. Early in the morning, I used to sit in bed drinking coffee and watching him; we cooed at each other, smiled, discovered one another's personalities. There were so many moments of simple joy; I heard him laugh out loud for the very first time in his life. That sound and all of the sheer pleasure it communicated remains so distinct. I had a full nine months with him. Watching a new person learn the world kept me so near to the most exciting, breathtaking, and basic of human experiences. Financial stability or not, I began to see myself as the luckiest girl. 

I learned that faith is more powerful than doubt.
It was in the midst of recognizing and embracing how lucky I was that I stumbled into work and a long-awaited return to financial stability. Within days of each other, I was hired for a part-time job with the university and hired by an individual to co-write a book. When these jobs came about, I went on the hunt for daycares. They either did not have openings or did not feel like a right fit. Two weeks before my start dates (also within days of each other), we found a nanny for Desmond

I learned that the introduction of new people into your life who help you grow is immeasurably valuable. In 2012, two new people, Des's nanny and my book client came into my life. I don’t think there is any coincidence that I see parts of myself in each of them. In some small way, I think they learn from who I am and how I approach life, and I know that I learn from each of them. 

The overarching lesson I learned in 2012, be it out of practicing gratitude, or not, is that my mother is still looking out for and taking care of me in this world. It’s becomes more challenging, in the years after her passing, to really feel her presence in my life, but I was reminded repeatedly in 2012.

Three: Write down what DID NOT work in 2012.
Fixating on the negative, on what my life lacked, did not work.  

Losing sight of my vision for the future, for what my life is intended to be, did not work. After my mom died in 2006, I started to see this image of my life, a tiny snapshot that was so clearly focused. It showed me, "This is who you are supposed to be. This is what your life is supposed to be." I was outside in my backyard gardening, growing. There was bounty. I could see a window into my home. On the other side of that window was a writer's desk, and it was clear that the work on the desk was my writing in progress. I gardened. I wrote. I grew a family and a craft. And when I looked at myself inside of that snapshot, I was content, happy. It was as if the sun shone within me. I was full of warmth. It was a rather simple image, but so vivid and crisp, and yet nothing I had ever consciously intended for myself. Literally, one day in the midst of grieving, the image showed itself to me, and I wanted nothing more than to quit my job, write, and teach myself to garden. I forced myself to wait out the urge, to move past the immediacy of my grief, and to reevaluate later. After six months, the image and the knowing within had not subsided. 

I had the fortitude to recognize my truest ambitions and to guide myself in the direction toward those ambitions. At thirty-three, I shifted gears and walked away from a secure job and income. At thirty-four, I entered into an MFA program that I completed at thirty-seven. That was an honest and brave shift to have made.

But in 2012, eight months out of graduate school and newly a parent, I could not decipher how to continue to guide myself to the image. The path no longer revealed itself to me so easily. Instead of making a clearing for myself, which would be hard work, I wallowed in the ramble of weeds and allowed the image to become blurry.

Four: Write down three lessons you learned from what DID NOT work.
Be willing to take risks.
Do not lose sight of the larger purpose of those risks.
Living my most authentic life not up to chance; it is up to me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Out of Muddy Waters

Last year I decided to practice gratitude at every turn, high or low. And I did. Every few nights I paused to remind myself of what I was grateful for -- small acts of kindness, ordinary pleasures, supportive people, miracles, my son, my husband. In low points, this intentional gratitude lifted me. I did not pray to have anything. I prayed prayers of gratitude for what I actually possessed. As months progressed, I began to grasp, deeply, how very blessed I am. And blessings seemed to multiply.

Now it is 2013. I have just turned thirty-eight (38!?). I realized recently that I have a hard time believing success and prosperity are a real possibility in my life. I am, like some small, shy child standing painfully stiff and big-eyed in a corner watching all of the other fresh-faced, happy children play, afraid to believe that these are possible. Success and prosperity are what other people experience and what I admire from afar. Who planted this nonsense belief inside of me? Who watered this stubborn weed?

It's time for this thirty-eight year old woman, who has much to be grateful for, to believe that success and prosperity are states she is capable of nourishing, achieving, and maintaining.

Gratitude. Growth. Prosperity. These words return to me lately in the brief moments when my mind is still. Some kind of linguistic roadmap, a mantra. The fact that I have so much to be grateful for is its own success, its own prosperity; I know this much.

The rest is muddy. That is to say, I'm dwelling in muddy water, but my intention is to bring my head above, open my eyes to clean, dry air, and to see soaring trees rooted in fertile earth, above them all, the clearest sky.

I reminded myself today that out of muddy waters grow prehistoric cypress trees and trillions of graceful irises.