Please Hold On To Me: A Memoir (post 9)

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I drive toward the neighborhood gate passing the frozen pond and ghostly trees that line the road leading to and from the place I call home. I pull over near the “mansion with the lion statues” as my kids call the house by the bus stop and wait for my middle school girl to climb in.

She gets off the bus with a smile. This year has brought me to my knees, and from this perspective, just the sight of my girls often overwhelms me. The love that wells inside me feels like it might just melt me to a puddle of holy water made of tears. It’s hard to keep any emotion inside, especially love. “Hello, Honey Bunny! How was your day, Ellie?

“It was fine. Can I sit in the front seat?” She assumes so and heaves her backpack with every book and notebook from every class on the floor, climbs into the front seat. I haven’t let her sit in the front except within the neighborhood, afraid of getting in an accident and she is only recently tall enough—mostly the former. Their requests wear me down faster than they used to. The unfortunate part is they are aware of this new power they have.

“Of course, we need to run to Target before we pick up Abbie and Lexie.” We drive out the gate and down the hill past the new hospital before stopping at the roundabout. Even though there’s a car ahead of me I see an opening and assume that person does too.

“What are we having for dinner tonight?” Ellie asks. I look over at my daughter who is next to me instead of looking in the mirror to see her in the backseat. I let my foot off the brake and start to pull out… My head slams the headrest, my foot already on the break, and then I hear what my spinning brain can’t comprehend. Like the delay of thunder after the lightning, I hear the CRUNCH! Ellie screams. I snap back together, turn off the car, and fly out of my seat into the road where there’s a short woman with angry eyes and flailing arms ready to fight me. It smells like burning oil and cars are lining up behind us.

“Are you kidding! What were you thinking?” She continues shouting at me but all I can see is the damage to my new car. The front end is bashed in and there is tan fluid pouring out all over the pavement, steam. I look back at her and instinctively touch her arm.

“It was an accident. This is a brand new car. Do you think I wanted to wreck my brand new car?” I say in a softer than normal voice still touching her arm. “I’m so sorry. This has been a very bad day. I just got served divorce papers. I’m a little disoriented.” She looks startled by my response and stops making noise. We both look toward her bumper. It might have been bent in, but clearly, I took the brunt of the impact. I get back into my car to get the insurance information and a piece of paper and pen.

“Are you okay, Ellie?” She nods. “Everything is okay. No one is hurt. We are okay.” I rub her leg and give her a hug. Ellie’s skin is a shade paler than a few minutes ago, maybe ghost pale. Her blood has been redirected to her heart and muscles, ready to run, but she sits and waits. One more hit is registered in my poor child’s nervous system log. My daughter who is wired like me when it comes to handling stress is too full. With every event, her true self gets shoved further and further to the bottom of a dry canyon. I can count at least ten stressful events, good and not so good, in the past couple years, not to mention the all out trauma of losing her dad as she knew him to be, her family. Every stressful situation becomes overwhelming and gets stuffed down to deep places out of my reach. Her cup is already spilling over and letting go is as hard for her as it is for me now and certainly when I was a kid. Drip…Drip…Drip. It’s an inverse relationship: the more change, stress, and emotional trauma, the less curiosity, openness, and joy. Children need to “grow where they are planted,” says my therapist. When there’s too much change and stress children can’t grow like they’re supposed to grow—from the inside. A stable life gives a child the time and space to change from within, to do what they innately know how to do—become. This requires both sides of the brain to be integrated like fishtail braids.

Traumatic events, like divorce, and the cascade of stress that follows for everyone, causes kids to become unbalanced in more ways than one, but especially inside their growing brains where one hundred billion neurons are busy connecting based on life experiences. The growth of the right side of the brain, in charge of emotions, creativity, sensuality, movement, imagination, sensations, color, peacefulness stagnates under traumatic experiences, chronic emotional and physical stress. However, school provides ample fertilizer for the left side of the brain where language, reading, math, music, strategy, analytics, drive, goals, logic, and organization play central roles. If the right and left sides can’t wire together during adolescence, traumatic memories get stuck in the body and not connected to a narrative about their life; over time an unbalanced brain can achieve whatever it desires in the outside world, but long-term health is affected, our ability to have healthy relationships is affected because learning to love and be loved cannot be studied in books or taught at school and that is the secret to life. There is nothing more important for my child to learn than to love another and to know what it feels like, on the inside, to be loved. If your emotions are locked down in the deepest caverns of self, life will have far more challenges within your body, mind, and spirit than a child growing into an adult who experiences safe, stable, loving relationships from the very beginning.

Depending on the depth, length, and age of the trauma, a cascade of emotional and physical health problems in adulthood can result and it’s very difficult to reverse, as I know. Researchers have found strong correlations with trauma and toxic stress during childhood and health consequences later in life such as depression, unexplained anxiety, suicide, addictions to food, alcohol, drugs, work; and then there are things like cancer, cardiovascular, liver, and auto-immune diseases, chronic migraines, unexplained illnesses and on and on. You will also be more likely to experience post-traumatic stress as an adult while others traverse the same treacherous waters but are able to let go much easier. It’s called The Adverse Childhood Experiences study or ACEs. Sixty-four percent, two-thirds, of Americans have at least one adverse childhood experience. I have six out of ten. I know the long term effects of toxic stress in childhood all too well even though nothing catastrophic happened—just chronic, unpredictable everyday traumas throughout my childhood and adolescence, stemming from my parents getting a divorce in the 1970s. I am the Forest Gump of adverse childhood experiences; every year was a box of chocolates, I never knew what I was going to get. And now, life has been an earthquake in my small family’s life for too long already. And this is happening at the very worst time for my oldest daughter.

A letter to my dad…

 

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

There are so many things you did that made you a great dad; here are some of them…

You were the one who said these kids are mine. When divorce had just begun to define a generation, when dads weren’t yet recognized as important as moms, you signed up to raise a one and four year old, something less than 1 percent could claim.

Giving Jeff and I an extended family to define who we were – we were a Bushaw. From spending time in Nana and Papa’s pool to Christmas at Aunt Debbie’s and birthdays, family weddings and every holiday in between, we went when maybe you would have preferred to be on your own sometimes. It made all the difference.

Camping with the Bushaws in Eastern Washington, Fawn Lake and the ocean. And sometimes getting to bring a friend along.

Helping me with my homework, especially geometry because you really are brilliant at math.

Playing in the snow and the go-kart were magical. You built a ramp, made sleds at work, and stayed out for hours having what seemed to us, as much fun as we were having. We had Kirby (as in Kirby the love bug), the go-cart you made and painted white with the number 1 in the circle. We were the envy of the neighborhood.

We always had a swing set and toys to play outside – and then making us go outside. We had bikes to ride with the neighbors, pumped up tires and a playing card clothes pinned to the spokes to sound like a motorcycle. Super cool.

We always had a home we were proud of, that was clean and organized with a nice yard, which gave us the consistency we needed. We could set our clocks by you, leaving at 7:30 am and returning at 4:30 pm – every single day. Grocery shopping on Sundays with dinners and lunches planned for the week and always a plan for a dinner, something I have a hard time with, including vegetables.

Watching Little House on the Prairie together showed us it’s okay to cry when you witness the circumstances of others.

Our family trip to Disneyland in the truck and camper, stopping along the way at KOA campgrounds, was magical. I remember swimming until my fingers were so waterlogged I wondered if they’d ever return to normal.

At Christmas you would get us everything on our lists – of course equaled out in number and cost – along with going out to get the tree and decorating together. We would peruse the Sears catalog writing down the item and dog-earing the pages. Never mind, we never saw these things before – we absolutely needed them now. You got them.

You never once disparaged our mom, even though there wasn’t any information out that said this was bad for the kids. Somehow you just knew this and kept your opinions to yourself.

Trick-or-treating on Halloween was super fun after getting our costumes put together with a pillowcase for the most candy and face paint, sometimes from ash in the fireplace. We got to keep and eat our candy, although I remember not eating much of it – probably due to the fact that I could if I wanted to.

You made me know for sure there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do with some hard work and determination.

You kissed us goodnight, every night. You made sure we brushed our teeth and had clean clothes to wear to school – folded and put away in the dresser. You were mom and dad.

Whenever you wanted a treat at the store, you always made sure that we got one too. Cadbury chocolate bars and Pepsi were your favorites, at least for awhile.

We went with you to your work on some Saturdays and got to work the machines to make some creation of our choice.

We went everywhere with you, fighting over who got to ride shotgun. Instead of seatbelts, your arm was there for safety purposes. I loved showing up with my dad. I remember my friends saying how good looking they thought you were – and you were.

Going out to dinner with you to Godfather’s Pizza, Skippers, McDonald’s or Taco Time. I remember forgetting my new purse with makeup in it and you taking me back to find it. I don’t know if it was this time or another (I forgot it often at the beginning) but it was gone at one point and off we went to the store to replace the necessary items.

You had strict rules and those rules became my inner compass on right and wrong even when I experimented with unmentionables. I may have changed some of them that didn’t work for me along the way but they held me to a path based on the values of being a good, kind and generous person.

You dropped me off and picked me up for whatever was happening including soccer and basketball, cheerleading, going to a friend’s house, the Seatac Mall, or a dance. Maybe it was your copper colored Ford pickup, the little yellow work truck or your tee top, silver Trans am, you showed up and I could count on that.

You stuck up for me in spite of the fact it may have cost you your marriage given the decade’s lack of understanding on how children fare in blended family situations. It wasn’t the Brady Bunch, that’s for sure!

When things got tough and you didn’t want to show favoritism, you snuck me $20 bills to pay for things I might need. The favoritism helped me know I had you on my side.

We went to drive-in and theater movies, monster truck shows, fishing on opening day, and sporting events along with countless family get-togethers.

You tried everyday to do the best you could. Over the years it gets harder to keep striving for the ideal when the trauma of everyday life gets in the way. We had some everyday trauma, the three of us, but we came out okay.

You did good. xxoo

Positive to Positively Authentic

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As Americans we say things like, Be positive, Don’t complain, Pull yourself up from your bootstraps, Move on, Don’t let it bother you, Don’t worry, be happy, Count your blessings, not your problems; all of these, full of wisdom and the path to a happy life. At times in my life, I have been the poster child for “Everything is AWESOME!” I read Stephen Covey, Og Mandino, and Dale Carnegie, and listened to Zig Ziglar tapes (yes, I said tapes.) I was in sales and marketing, which put me squarely in the Positive Psychology camp or suffer by comparison. After all, You are what you think. With a smile, twinkly eye contact and a genuine interest in other people, a person could be very successful. Follow the 10 Easy Steps to a Happy Life; I’m sure I read it and wired it directly into my DNA.

This was in my early twenties and in my late twenties I realized, “Wait a minute, some things in life are just not okay, not happy and certainly not good.” Being positive all the time and denying reality started to seem a little foolish and might get a person taken for a ride. Cynicism seeped in. It’s so easy because there are many smart people who will jump on that wagon in a snap. It’s one of those deals where if everyone is cynical together,we feel pretty smart, in a class all our own (some would call this the Ego Mind.) “We see the REAL deal and no one is fooling us.” During this time I had a boss who was still in the Positive Stage and, wow, she was so annoying. She was repeating the earlier messages on a daily basis like I had never heard them before. Ugh!

At some point I moved on from the cheery-boss and just stopped caring. Positive. Negative. Whatever. I just let my thoughts roll. They generally liked to roll down hill. This is about the time Corporate America was revealing itself as a tad empty and also after September 11, 2001. Life needed to change and it certainly did with a move from New York back to Washington, no corporate job and a new (colicky) baby. Catapulted into suburbia, in a neighborhood of moms with babies in every home, life rocked into an easy balance between the good and, let’s just say, not so good. Moms bonded on the ‘challenges’ of said babies, but relished all the goodness these little people brought into our lives; no positive-negative decisions necessary.

Now in my forties with children/preteens, I have come full circle. I found that no one really cares if you are positive or negative, although people generally do not want to be around complainers. If you are one of those people, you may find yourself complaining to your dog or maybe on Facebook – and surely there will be those who sympathize for awhile, but gradually we learn people Like you better when you have something of value to say. Cynicism is everywhere. Cynicism is easy. Cynicism is worthless. What I have found is I am far happier when I dig in to find the beautiful, the kindness, the lessons and the love in life’s situations. Sometimes it’s really easy. I lived in the Rocky Mountains for a year where I hiked, skate skied, downhill skied, touched the river daily and was surrounded by people who did the same. Negativity? None whatsoever. It was easy to be grateful for literally everything in my life.

Then life took a hairpin turn catapulting me into the abyss. Suddenly finding the positive was no longer easy and the ugly followed me around like a Northwest cloud in November. Now what? I do know You are what you think, but this seemed insurmountable, like climbing Mt. Everest in a wind storm. Pretending Everything is AWESOME! was just plain ridiculous, yet I still have the DNA wiring that says to Look for the good, Pull myself up by my bootstraps, Move on, Forgive and forget is the only way to happiness, yada, yada, yada.

However, when faced with the absolute choice, balancing these two opposite views on life is the only answer and I call this Positive Authenticity; accepting and speaking your whole reality with deep recognition of our infinite blessings.

Positive Authenticity is understanding we all have both light and shadows within us. The balance of allowing others to know our challenges, humility, cracks in the armor, as well as communicating our resilience, courage, wisdom, and love of life. Mostly, it’s about knowing for sure we all have everything we need, we are whole and good and unique and the same. We are human.

 

Life at the Speed of Life

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This week I had two of my three girls home for Spring Break. Since they were tiny, we have always traveled to Sun Valley, Idaho to catch the end of ski season and the beginnings of spring in the Rocky Mountains. However, this year is the first year our family of five is a family of four and we are all feeling less like butterflies and more like a caterpillars ensconced in chrysalis. Staying home was a chance to do life at the speed of life.

My younger girls are what I call Pioneer Girls (my preteen is a pioneer-girl-in-training, I call her my book girl) because they like to get their hands dirty and would prefer anything that has to do with real life than the entertainment most kids would go for. We had a ball sewing blankets and pillows, baking, gardening, cleaning our house, bike rides to the park, play dates with friends, and a few movies thrown in for extra snuggling on the couch after sleeping in and hanging out in our PJs for at least half the day. It was balm to my soul. It was life at the speed of life for all of us.

This year has been one of the most difficult (okay, actually the MOST difficult) years of my life, but at the same time has been the most peaceful, filled with extraordinary ordinary moments that have changed my perspective on life forever. Instead of breakneck speed of shuttling three kids to, well, everywhere, traveling and keeping everyone in a family of five happy (not easy when one was hell bent on being unhappy), our lives have now become grounded in our tranquil home with candles, flowers, flute music, healing crystals and art, lots of art. Sometimes the activity schedule gets disregarded, school breaks are spent at home and our lives are now filled with color, kindness and love.

The vibration of life has changed dramatically. I am noticing all that is quiet and lovely. When you slow life down to quiet, your inner self can come out of your head and you notice all the people who are doing the same ordinary, beautiful things you are: taking their kids to school, going to work, the grocery store, walking their dog, planting flowers, reading the newspaper, helping their parents or grandparents, nursing a hurt knee or teaching a child how to ride a bike or fix a flat tire. You revel in small conversations with the woman at the check out counter or the veterinarian or the man helping you at Home Depot. Kind people living life at the speed of life, who go home to their families, make dinner, go through the mail, let down their shields in the only real place that any of us can; at home, our sanctuary.

We Belong Wherever We Are

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You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you. ~Frederick Buechner

My family has lived in Small Town, Idaho for one year. How do I summarize the experiences of each of us as a collective? It is impossible, even as just one part of the whole. What did I learn? What am I taking with me? What added to my spirit moving forward?

I belong. I understand this simple fact with a depth I hadn’t known before living at the base of the Rockies for one year with my husband and three girls. Like the branch of a Willow tree I have been bent in ways that cannot be straightened. I have been stretched, molded and shaped this year by the place, the seasons, the people who have come upon my path and most of all, by the four spirits who have been chosen to walk with me.  My family.

For several years, Bob and I contemplated moving to Sun Valley. I resisted because it scared me. I grew up in the vast strip-malled suburbs of an airport pass-through town and found the anonymity comforting. I could come and go without anyone noticing. I could spend days without anyone knowing where I was or even wondering for that matter. I could get in my car and drive to the water, mountains or to Seattle on a whim. What would I do in a small town where there is one road in and out, the same people at the grocery store, school, church and post office? Would they like me? What if they didn’t? That was the fear – what if the people that I saw everyday didn’t like me. What if I didn’t fit in? What if I didn’t belong?

It is hard to say what erased that fear once I put my feet in the Big Wood River, but it never materialized. Gone. I took one step at a time up the vast trails surrounding the Valley in nature, in beauty, in acceptance. The grasses, wildflowers and Aspens didn’t care how long I have lived here or whether or not I was staying. They whispered, Welcome.

As summer transformed into fall and then winter, my girls started school one mile from our house. Happy, curious children smiled and asked, “Do you want to play?” The teachers asked, “Can you help?” We became part of a wonderful church community. We asked, “How can we serve?” This is a ski town so naturally there are a lot of people that like the outdoors and having fun while they’re at it. I joined two women’s ski groups where I found many lovely ladies who asked, “Do you want to hike…ski…bike?”  Wow. All that is needed is to show up. Show up with an open heart, an open mind and a sense of adventure. You can choose to join the collective energy or not. I chose to belong.

Although we committed to one year, tough decisions needed to be made. In my youth the choices were 1) the hard road but opportunity for big pay off; or 2) the easy path with the promise of the status quo. Of course, I always chose the hard road or the hard road was chosen for me, not sure which one. It is in my DNA, the pioneer spirit. I think I have finally grown up because the answer did not speak to me. Both options are good but the criteria for choosing did not line up. After a childhood of not belonging—perception is everything—I finally felt connected to this Earth, to humanity here in Sun Valley, Idaho. This connectedness did not have anything to do with friends, acquaintances or groups that accepted me, but instead a deep understanding that I am a part of the collective consciousness. I am a part of my family and they are a part of me. We are connected like Aspen Groves growing along the rivers and streams that stem from the tops of mountains and the rain clouds overhead.

The call to return to our roots is stronger than I thought possible. We need to return to where we were planted among our parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and ancestors. The mountains, the Aspens whispered to me this year. The strength and fortitude of nature showed me my purpose. I have been realigned to the sun and upon leaving will never be the same. Never again will I wish or search to belong. I have learned that I can just show up with an open heart and an open mind. God will do the rest. He told me on the hiking trails in the summer time and while soaring up the ski lift in the winter. Welcome.

Letting Go of My ‘Before Children’ Life

I leaned hard into my career at one time. I loved working as a marketing director close enough to NYC to enjoy the skyline. I got so angry when a coworker (male) would tell me that I wouldn’t want to come back to work when my child was born. Determined to prove that I was not the ‘typical’ woman in the workforce, I doubled my efforts. My daughter was born, we moved back to the Northwest and my beloved suits got relegated to the top bar in my closet. I am reposting this Blog now that I have read Lean In and getting ready to go back to school for a PhD. in Clinical Psychology. The grit that I once had and needed to survive in the business world has been replaced by self compassion, intuition and the love I feel for my family, for my three daughters. Maybe I will Lean Into my career in psychology once my girls are on their way. For now I am learning to lean into my own voice of understanding what will work for me. I say this because of my personal journey in this world and know that all women forge their own. Love that!

Love is all we need...

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I had about 50 suits hanging in my closet for TEN years.

They were beautiful, they were (mostly) a size 4, there were skirt suits, dress suits, pant suits and even fancy dresses that I wore to big parties in NYC. I loved how I felt when I wore them. I can still feel the ‘flow’ of being at just that place where there is enough adrenaline to work at your peak but also enough calm to be comfortable in those high-heeled shoes. I loved who I was when I wore them. I remember buying each of them and I remember being in them when speaking to large groups of business people. I LOVED my suits.

I had just finished three years of graduate school while working sixty hours a week and was preparing to receive my MBA when my husband and I were going to have a baby. I…

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Letting Go of My ‘Before Children’ Life

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I had about 50 suits hanging in my closet for TEN years.

They were beautiful, they were (mostly) a size 4, there were skirt suits, dress suits, pant suits and even fancy dresses that I wore to big parties in NYC. I loved how I felt when I wore them. I can still feel the ‘flow’ of being at just that place where there is enough adrenaline to work at your peak but also enough calm to be comfortable in those high-heeled shoes. I loved who I was when I wore them. I remember buying each of them and I remember being in them when speaking to large groups of business people. I LOVED my suits.

I had just finished three years of graduate school while working sixty hours a week and was preparing to receive my MBA when my husband and I were going to have a baby. I had visions of having our beautiful child, spending 3-4 months at home and then returning to my career just as I had planned since I was thirteen. I would get up in the morning, dress for work just as Mary Poppins would glide in and provide my baby everything they would need and then some. My husband and I would come home from work and we would sit down for a family dinner lovingly prepared by Ms. Poppins… We would stroll around town on the weekends stopping in to get a NY bagel and a Starbucks. Ahhh life was going to be AMAZING.

Then Ground Hog Day began. My daughter cried for a year. We moved back to Washington State into Suburbia. My husband was traveling at least 60 percent of the time. Mary Poppins was nowhere to be found and my job was back in New Jersey. My suits would have to wait for a year or two. That will be okay. I was sure that I would be back in them in no time. We won’t speak of them being a size 4.

Two more children and suddenly eight years has gone by. My beloved suits and high-heels are covered in dust – actually I think it transitioned to dirt by this point. I resolved to send them to a charity for professional women and so I gathered half of them and put them in another closet for removal when I got all the information together. Two more years go by. Now it has been ten years. My rational brain is looking at the size 4. My rational brain understands that I will not be going back to work in the same capacity as I did before. My rational brain understands that these suits aren’t even close to current style. My rational brain reminds me that the hundreds of dollars that I spent on them is way past sunk cost. Why was it so hard to give them away?

Then I received an email about a women’s charity that would be collecting women’s professional clothing in my home town. I gathered every bit of resolve to finally remove my old life so that I could make room for the new. I loaded my suburban to the top and started driving downtown. My stomach seized and by the time I got there (15 min) I didn’t know if I would be able to get out of the car. I went into the store that was collecting the clothing and the woman gave me a rack to hang my clothes. I stumbled in and out of the store and literally filled the rack with all my beautiful clothes. My professional life before children. Afterwards I went back to the woman to get my receipt but she had me sit for a minute while she attended to another customer. I thought I was going to lose consciousness. I started to sweat and became clammy. I needed to just hold it together to leave the store before ‘something’ happened. By the time I left the store I thought I might need my husband to come and get me. After sitting for a few minutes, I was able to drive home. I walked in the door and went directly upstairs to lie down. Fifteen minutes later I was absolutely fine.

Letting go of my before-child life was really, really hard. So hard I believe that I felt that loss physically. I did it though and there was no going back. That day I tried to remember all the clothes that I had just donated and if I really wanted them back. I didn’t. I haven’t missed them at all. I love my new life. I love being a mom. I love the opportunity I have to figure out what I really want to do when I grown up.

Ahhh. Letting go is so liberating in so many ways.

Life on the Edge of the Curve

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My husband says that I am “an all-in or all-out” kind of person. I haven’t always known where to put this information as I ‘see’ gray, I’m not just a black and white type of person. There is always another way to look at things and I feel that I have the ability to understand both sides most of the time. However, as I was thinking about this while exercising this morning, you can be an all-in or all-out kind of person AND see gray in the world. It is more about balance and how you achieve balance in your life. Yes, balance. I have read many a book that have discussed it’s importance, offered ways to find it, gave examples of others who were off balance and after following three easy steps, they found it.

Somehow the illusive three easy steps were never enough for me. No, I must start on one side of the curve until it is fully explored in it’s extreme until I figure out that this will just not work for me. After said exploration, I sprint to the other side of the extreme only to find that this extreme doesn’t work either. Only THEN can I find the balanced perspective that I had sought all along.

I am turning forty-three in a few days which is always a good time to reflect on where I am and where I am going. Over the past twenty years I have lived and embodied two extremes: career driven, take no prisoners, keep going at all cost versus mother, wife, a little granola and all are welcome. I went to the University of Washington as the first person in my family to go to college. I graduated in 1992 which was a year when the newspapers warned that college students wouldn’t be finding jobs. I was on a mission to get a job and start my career in the business world and that I did. I worked for a large computer firm right out of college and then switched to the pharmaceutical industry where I was in sales, sales training and marketing. I moved to New Jersey and worked ten miles from Manhattan. While working 60 hours a week, I went to graduate school at night to earn an MBA, got married, traveled for work and pleasure, went to grand events in Manhattan and did not stop even as pregnancy had me sick (really sick, sick) and oh so tired. M-U-S-T  K-E-E-P  G-O-I-N-G. Where I was going, I have no idea. I was on the extreme side of that bell-shaped curve. Balance? Nope.

Over the next ten years I fully explored the other side of life on the edge: motherhood. After experiencing the effects of living in the Northeast after 9/11 my husband and I started getting Montana Living Magazine. It was time to head back to the Northwest and move along that path called life. My husband was able to get a transfer back to Seattle six weeks after Daughter #1 arrived. Suddenly, I am in suburbia central, my best friend (husband) was traveling all the time, no job, no school, no friends, and caring for my screaming baby who did not sleep. WOW! Talk about wanting to get back to the other side. I may have been numb but at least I was dressed up, solving problems and had a sense of accomplishment. I did interview with a few companies but I couldn’t get my heart into it. I started to read brain development and parenting books and suddenly I could not do it and luckily we had set our life up so that I didn’t have to go back to work since my husband was traveling so much. The all-in and all-out thinking was front and center. I knew nothing about raising a child or about being a mom. I didn’t have a mom and the various step-mothers I had did not do anything to help my confidence. I had no gage for how to balance my career and being a mother. I was so afraid that I might mess this up that all I could do was hold my oh-so-colicky baby and love her. I held tight to the edge I was on and fully embraced that time to learn about myself, my girls, our family’s health, psychology and most of all, what my life passion might be.

Over the course of that ten years we had two more beautiful girls and I jumped fully into the soccer/dance mom life – it took about three years to stop fretting that I would never get a job again and to trust that it would all work out. It has all worked out as now I can rest. I have explored a life in the corporate world, dressed in suits and meeting with the movers and shakers. And I have explored the stay-at-home mom side of life without showers, screaming babies, mind-numbing repetition, big hugs, snuggles and more love than I ever imagined.

In the next decade I am free to explore the middle, to be balanced. Maybe now I don’t have to be all-in or all-out, I can just BE.

Have you lived on the edge of that bell-shaped curve? How do you achieve balance? Is it possible to live in the middle?

I am grateful to receive a SMILE

I recently had a conversation with a friend about Givers and Receivers. Of course my friend and I were both Givers. The alternative seems so selfish. This concept has perplexed me because we need both in life don’t we, as who would Givers give if there weren’t any Receivers receiving? Yet we do not want to think of ourselves being a Receiver, of being selfish.

Actually, I believe we all have the potential to be Givers and Receivers and it is a continuum that should have fluidity to go back and forth. Another bell-shaped curve. The happiest among us are able to freely move within the bell-shaped curve to Give and Receive and to reside in a neutral position on a daily basis. However, we are not a world or even a country full of shiny, happy people are we? In fact, there are many that really are just Givers or just Receivers and they usually attract each other.

I am learning to reside in the middle, at neutral and not to be only a Giver attracting only Receivers. Once again we learn how to Give, Receive or reside in the middle by our families of origin, by our parents. Our attachment patterns when we were younger provide a framework for us to connect with others. When we become aware of our own patterns, we can be more fluid in how we reach out or accept others who might be reaching out to us. We can feel comfortable that by residing in neutral position we can still connect with others in a more flexible way.

My family and I just moved to a very small town in the mountains of Idaho. In the past I would have been very motivated to connect with others by being extra friendly and outgoing even though my core personality is more on the introverted side. I now understand this knee-jerk reaction that I have and am free to choose how I will connect and with whom to connect. Being friendly is still very important to me as I have figured out that with a smile and a hello to a passerby I am BOTH giving and receiving. I am in neutral and within the bell-shaped curve. But I can choose to be friendly to strangers AND choose to connect with those that are important to me – like my family. These two concepts are separate. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. It is healthier to reside in the gray area.

I went trail running yesterday and about six women in their mid-forties came racing down the mountain on bikes. As each one went by me they had big smiles and said “Hello”. Wow. It felt so good to be the receiver of friendliness. I, of course, smiled and said, “Hello,” back. Later I passed another woman mountain biking where I was the one who smiled and waved. She didn’t smile or say hello. I smiled again.