Life is a Mess Sometimes, and that’s OK

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My daughter with her great-grandmother – one at the beginning of her journey, and one nearing the end.

This morning I was journaling about a period of frustration I was experiencing, and it turned into a letter to my posterity, that is now turning into a blog post:

Sometimes I worry about what my posterity will think of the brutal honesty in my journal, but journals are meant to capture real life as we live it. I’m doing them a favor by showing them that life is HARD and FRUSTRATING sometimes.

I want anyone who reads this to not feel like a failure if things aren’t perfect at home. Life is rarely perfect. Perfect moments come and go. They can’t be sustained forever because life is meant to challenge us. The last thing I want is for my life to look like an unattainable ideal because all I write about are the good things. Each of us go through the same things – relationship problems, financial problems, health problems, tragedy and it’s ok to be upset about it, but then you move forward as best you can.

I think of my grandparents who have wisdom coming out of their ears. It’s easy sometimes for me to look at their seemingly perfect lives and compare it to my own sorry attempts to follow in their footsteps, until I hear their stories and realize that they went through what I’m going through now. They certainly had their flaws, but the years have worn them smooth and they are far more perfect than I am because they know more about living than I do. I look at them and think “One day I will get there, but I don’t have to be there right this instant.”

Be kind to yourselves and others. We’re all on different points of the same journey.

Delight #3: My Relationship with the Divine

IMG_5730This is a lele, a type of Hawaiian altar. Offerings were (and still are) placed upon the platforms to honor Hawaiian deity.

I was raised to believe in God, that he is my Father, that He loves me and wants what will bring me the most growth and happiness. I realize the not everyone shares that belief, but I do think that everyone needs to connect with something greater than themselves.

To me, a connection with God means that I can be led in every action. It means my sense of self-worth can come from someone who knows my history, my shortcomings and mistakes and still loves me completely. It means that each moment, especially the seemingly mediocre ones can be filled with purpose as I give my life to my children – His children. It means that my thoughts and actions are what matter most. It means that worldly acquisions mean nothing and that acquiring them does not increase my value. It means I can lose everything and still be happy.

Do I always have this attitude? Sadly, no, but the more I connect with Him, the more these words are true for me in my life. So many of us turn to other things in search of value and worth, but we forget that we are inherently amazing – each a walking miracle with a unique contribution to give to this world. We have everything we need to live a purposeful life, and connecting with the divinity in and around us reminds us of the goodness we are all capable of.

Dispelling fear through Surrender

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Since I’m so recenly post-partum (6 weeks) I thought I’d take a post and talk about birth, because there’s a lot we (even men) can learn from the experience of giving birth. Turns out it’s a great way to understand fear.

I never really understood how paralyzing fear can be until I gave birth to my second daughter. I had had a successful natural birth with my first, and my plan was the same for my second. Much about both birth experiences were the same. The entire process from the onset of labor to delivery took almost exactly the same amount of time. The techniques I used to cope with the pain were the same (fyi, if you want labor to progress like LIGHTNING, take a warm shower and rock back and forth. It took me 45 minutes to be ready to push).

What I wasn’t anticipating was the intensity of the contractions at the end. They were right on top of each other. My body ploughed through labor on auto-pilot, a well-oiled, seasoned engine working swiftly and efficiently to get this baby out. The energy my body generated was beyond anything I had experienced, even with my first baby.

Unfortunately, my brain didn’t appreciate what my body was doing, and it got scared.

I started to panick and get frantic as the fear set in (for some reason it was perfectly rational for me to be afraid that I’d be stuck with a baby in my birth canal for the rest of my life.) I exclaimed over and over “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” I lost control of my breathing and started desperately sucking in air.

I pushed as hard as I could, desperate to get her out, but making very little progress. I now understood why it’s called “delivery.” It’s not the baby that’s being delivered. It’s the mother that is delivering herself from the intensity of labor. At this point I wanted someone else to finish it for me, but I knew I was the only one who could give birth to my baby, so it was up to me to walk that lonely road and see it through.

Keola (my husband) recognized how frantic I had become (I wasn’t like this with our first) and whispered to me to calm down and breathe. I realized that my words “I can’t do this,” were having a negative effect on the whole process. I also realized that I was working too hard on pushing, and I needed to relax.

I clamped my hands over my mouth to silence myself and released all the tension in my body.

And then a miracle happened. All the pain went away, and I felt my body pushing her out. It didn’t hurt. It felt like swallowing – how your esophogus moves food down to your stomach. The sensation is there, but there’s no pain. Leolani slipped out with absolutely no effort on my part.

I consider my natural birth story to be one of the good ones, but it easily could’ve gone another way if I didn’t give up control and surrender to the process.

In what ways do we let our fear dominate our decisions and feed our need for control?

Maybe we’re afraid that our children will embarass us so we dictate every moment of their lives.

Maybe we’re afraid of forgetting the past so we cling desperately to anything that will help us remember.

Maybe we’re afraid of rejection so we stay at home, alone with our pet goldfish as company.

Maybe we’re afraid of not being professional enough so we take on less work than we’re really capable of.

Maybe we’re afraid of sounding stupid and uneducated so we hold back our experiences and opinions.

Isn’t it funny that often times the thing we’re doing to avoid discomfort of experiencing our fear makes things worse?

Remember I was afraid of living with a baby in my birth canal for the rest of my life, so naturally, pushing really hard was my way of making sure that didn’t happen. Instead, it just made things harder.

Many of our fears are unfounded. Some sound downright ridiculous but because the fear is within us, it feels real. But I learned that silencing negativity, taking a few cleansing breaths, inviting calm and simply letting things play out will yield the best results. Maybe we’ll achieve success, or maybe we’ll realize that wasn’t so bad, or that even though things didn’t go my way, I didn’t die.

Either way, the experience is much less painful if we just let go and let things happen.

Can I let you in on a little secret? Besides not having a pet goldfish, all the fears listed above, are my own, and I don’t have these fears under control. In fact, by trying to control them, they are controlling me. But I’m working on giving up control. Always working.

I know we each have our own demons that we’d rather pretend don’t exist, but by acknowledging their existence we’re taking away a little bit of their power and opening up the possibility for change.

Have you ever found your way out of fear by surrendering control?

List-Free Living – Is it Possible?

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The other week I blogged about wanting to try a “no-list” approach to getting things done, and let me tell you, that was the PERFECT week to be list free. Both my girls caught colds and I spent countless hours trying to keep Leolani’s nose clear. Because Leo’s so young, I took her to the doctor who ordered blood drawn and x-rays and follow up appointments, all of which I wasn’t planning. I was so worn out from night after night of barely any sleep and shuttling back and forth to the doctor (I should’ve just camped there) that my list would’ve gone untouched if I had one.

After thinking about this for several days, I wondered why I didn’t need a list last week, and came to the conclusion that it was because I was so laser focused on what needed to be done at the moment, that a list became irrelevant. The things I needed to get done got done, and everything else didn’t matter. My priorities were my daughters’ well being and making sure the house was livable and that we were eating. That was it. I was also very aware of my limited energy so I couldn’t do everything. I had to pick and choose.

I suppose it’s relatively easy when you’re in survival mode to live list-free, but what about the rest of the time? Is it possible to be so clear about our priorities that we can instantly know what we must do in every moment of every day? If it is possible, it requires some SERIOUS editing. I think the way most of our lives are, we need lists to remember everything we’re juggling.

I still need lists, and will probably always need lists. They help me remember stuff – grocery lists, packing lists, lists on days I have a crazy amount of errands to run, wish lists, etc. But I want lists to enhance my life – to help me remember that video game my husband mentioned he wants for his birthday, or that we need balloons and candles for the birthday party, or to read that book my girlfriend told me about, not crack a whip over my head. I think that’s what we all want.

I for one will continue to use lists as a general guideline. Right now I have a working grocery list, a list of what needs to be done in my daughters’ room in order for it to be “complete,” lists of blog ideas, business plans, books to read, organizational projects and a wish list. I add to them whenever I feel the need, and visit these every week or so to either plan to take action or cross things off that have been sitting incomplete for too long. Things I plan to do soon get sent to “Today” so I’ll be more aware of it, but that doesn’t mean it needs to get done right away, just sooner than the things that aren’t in “Today.” Having these gentle reminders keeps me moving in the right direction but honors my need to be flexible for my kids. I think this is a good set up for now – subject to change.

What do you think? Is it possible to edit our lives so far down that we can throw our lists away? Or will you always keep a pad and paper (virtual or otherwise) nearby?

What Are You Willing to Walk Away From?

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I recently experienced what I think was the most horrifying minute of my life. Leolani’s been dealing with some mucous in her nose which I’ve been dutifully clearing out whenever it accumulates. The other night I decided to feed her a little bit before her clearing out her nose so she’d be more calm. Her breathing seemed good enough to eat, but I was wrong. A few minutes into her feed her nose clogged up completely. She then she started choking on her milk which happens often, but this time she had no clear air passageway, and I watched in horror as her little body struggled. I ran to Keola, told him she wasn’t breathing and he flew out of bed to her side. I unswaddled her, and focused on unplugging her nose with the bulb syringe and to our relief she quickly regained her breath.

In that minute I came face to face with the prospect of losing her, and I became frantic, desperate. In the minutes afterward I was clearly shaken.

This experience gave me some perpsective. There is NOTHING in this house, that if I lost would devastate me the way losing one of my family would. Maybe I’d be a little sad if I lost my computer, but I can always buy another one. My wedding ring has sentimental value, but it’s only a symbol of my commitment to my husband – it is NOT my marriage. Photos? A lot are stored in the cloud, but even if I didn’t have them in the cloud, photography is a recent invention and people got along without it just fine. A picture of someone you love can’t make up for a face to face relationship. Books, art, movies? They mean very little in the hierachy of things in my life.

I can walk away from every physical object in my life with hardly a backward glance, but my family is priceles and irreplaceable. I suspect the same is true for you if you think about it, yet how often do we walk away from them in favor of some other gadget in our home. Do we get angry with our kids for breaking or staining something because it cost money? Do we treat them as if that ____________ is more important? I know I do.

After everything calmed down I lay in bed and re-resolved to walk away now from the things that aren’t adding to my life, so I can be more fully present for the people in it, and to spend more time walking toward them, and caring for and about them more than the stuff I own. The thought of losing my family is too much to bear, yet I lose them a little in the moments I don’t choose them. Let us all make better choices.

Have you ever had an experience that brought immediate clarity as to what your priorities should be?

The Inspired Day

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A bad habit of mine is to play constantly with GTD (Get Things Done) apps, thinking that these will make me a more efficient person. I input all my todos, get them all organized, tagged, etc., and then when it comes to doing them, I just sit on my butt and ignore them, or I end up doing other equally productive things that weren’t in the plan for that day.

I’m therefore thinking of adopting more of a “go with the flow” approach to getting things done. I’m not talking about the usual household work. Things like laundry, dishes, sweeping, are “defaults” that are already incorporated into my day. I’m talking about other projects around the house that need to get done, but don’t have a deadline. Having virtually no schedule or deadlines, there’s no point to me feeling like I HAVE to do anything. These projects are things that I want to do because they will contribute to the overall peace, well-being and efficiency of the house.

Along with trying to have only those things in my house that are important to us as a family, I’m also trying to DO the things that are most important. Sometimes we don’t know what’s most important for us to be doing because we’re looking at our list rather than tuning in to how we’re feeling. Having a set list of todos stops us from sensing that maybe right now, there’s something more important that we should be focusing on. Outside of regular chores and habits, having nothing scheduled means I can be completely flexible and responsive to anything that happens in my day.

This week I’m going to try a more hands-off approach to getting things done by not deciding beforehand what I should do. I’ll still keep a list of things that I would like to get done, but I’ll only reference it as a reminder of different options that I have. Every day I’ll spend more time gauging my energy, noticing my children and how much they need me at any given moment, what their energy levels are, how they’re feeling, glance at my list, and simply do what speaks to me, trusting that the things that should be done, will be done, and ending each day with a feeling of accomplishment, even if the house is a mess, even if I didn’t check anything off my list because I trusted my gut and did what I was inspired to do. I’ll share my thoughts next week.

Have you ever taken a “no-plan” approach to your day? How did you like it? Did it work for you?