Patience does not come naturally to me - and I imagine many of you can say the same. Even if you are the rare breed who has learned to sit still despite the chaos and distraction of the modern age, your mind is likely always moving. When we are not busy looking forward and trying to prepare for what is next, we more than likely are preoccupied with what happened 10 minutes - or 10 years - ago. Convincing our bodies and minds to pause right where they are is a monumental challenge, but it is one I am embracing this week.
Next weekend we will leave DC for an extended visit highlighted by quality time with family, celebrating my daughter's birthday, and breaking from the demands of day-to-day life. While there is certainly much to anticipate, between now and then there are also a week's worth of moments to enjoy and savor right here: a birthday of my own to celebrate, dinner with friends, students to teach, a life to live.
Patience is more than the burden of tolerating something unpleasant. It is greater than the ability to persevere through undesirable circumstances. In its fullest expression, patience is embracing whatever beauty or lesson can be found in the present moment. And that is my aim in the week to come. Will you join me?
Having grown up in the Midwest, I can't help but experience a small thrill of anticipation when forecasters begin to talk about the arrival of snow. I instantly recall fond memories of childhood snowstorms: No school! Sledding! Hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows! Over the years, as my tolerance for cold eventually waned, new joys took the place of spending time in the white stuff: No work! Movie marathons! Curling up on the couch with a good book! So as the snow began to fall and the wind began to blow last week, I tucked into bed, eager to awaken to the sight of a white, winter scene and all its accompanying delights.
As expected, the notice of cancellations on the morning radio was extensive: schools, local government, and the federal government all waved their white flags. But just as my enthusiasm about a snow day peaked, I snapped back to the reality of an active (almost) two year old calling from her crib, "Mama uppa!"
Gone were any hopes of movies and novels. And in the new reality, a snow day means none of our usual excursion destinations are available: no soccer class, no playgroup, no museums, no libraries. Just us. In our cozy (read: small) home. ALL day. So much for the leisurely snow days of years past...
Faced with no other choice, I swooped up the babe and started moving. I pulled out the construction paper, crayons, and a brand new page of stickers I had been saving for just such an occasion. We sang every song and did every toddler yoga pose I could think of - and when we reached the end of our repertoire, we created new ones! We ventured outside so she could put her hands in a snowdrift. And we spent plenty of time curled up on a couch - reading book after book after book from her shelf. Before I realized it, the day was gone, and we had created a new set of snow day delights to anticipate.
What new traditions can you create this season?
One common thread ties together the men and women we have profiled in our Trailblazers interviews over the past year: a peace in their hearts and minds that ultimately overwhelmed anxiety about what may (or may not) come. For many who are considering major life changes, the pros and cons list tilts heavily against any move away from the current course, but sometimes you need to listen to a voice that is louder than logic if you are to step into your destiny.
As our church continued exploring the fruits of the spirit last week, our pastor spoke on the topic of peace. He recounted the story of Jesus calming a storm on the sea, and observed, "Sometimes it takes a storm to get us where we need to go."
His remark resonated with my own life experience. It is in times of great uncertainty that I have experienced peace most profoundly: moving from a familiar and fun city to a place in which I knew no one and nothing; the long-awaited birth of my daughter that threw me into the mysterious (and terrifying) world of motherhood; stepping away from the security and safety of a job I enjoyed toward a new venture with no promise of success. It is as if the human condition requires us to be stretched beyond our imagination before we can let go of our need for control and embrace peace with what is and what is to come.
Rarely is peace ever as prominent - or welcome - as it is in the midst of turmoil. Is there a change - big or small - you want to make but are anxious? Is there a grand adventure you want to undertake but feel unsure? Stretch yourself. Take the leap. And find the peace that waits just outside your reach.
Anyone who knows me well can tell you I am not a big fan of the telephone. Perhaps it has something to do with years of answering the calls of angry constituents in a Congressional office. Maybe it comes from a seemingly endless supply of comically bad "customer service" experiences. Whatever the origin of my aversion, the idea of picking up a phone to do almost anything generally produces angst.
However, as it happens, one of my dearest friends left DC last year for the other side of the world. As I go through the course of my days, I quite often find myself wishing I could share an observation or a meal with her. And while email and social media are perfectly respectable mediums for keeping abreast of the latest happenings in her life, they lack a certain depth of connection. There is so much about a conversation that goes beyond the words exchanged - the increase in pitch and volume that comes with legitimate excitement or the flat tone of an overwhelmed, overworked soul at the end of a long week - elements that true friends need, and want, to share.
So I picked up the phone this weekend, and I am so glad I did. We chatted about her travels, my daughter's latest antics, and changes in the neighborhood we formerly shared. While nothing about our discussion was particularly intimate, the exchange produced the desired effect of reestablishing a connection I treasure. Every time I am able to have one of these conversations, I am reminded of the need to more often find space in my life for the people who enrich my soul.
Is there someone whose voice you need to hear this week - or someone who needs to hear yours? Can you take action to connect in a meaningful way?
Have you ever met someone who exudes joy? You know the person - no matter how stressful her job or life - no matter the personal tragedy she is facing - no matter the misfortune that appears at her door, she simply moves forward through life with eyes open to whatever small wonders may lay along her path. And in doing so, she brightens the day for others along the way.
As our church continues to explore the fruits of the spirit, we turned our focus this week to joy. In his sermon on Sunday, our pastor referenced the story of Martin Pistorius, a man who was trapped in his body, paralyzed but aware, for more than 12 years. If you aren't familiar with the account, I highly recommend listening, but suffice it to say that in the end, he was able to break free and communicate, and he has subsequently gone on to live a full and fulfilling life. What caught my attention more than the miracle of his recovery was his ability to transcend the trauma he endured and embrace joy.
This phenomenon is not uncommon among individuals who have overcome tragic loss, debilitating illness, or devastating injury. It is as though such experiences force one to reset their focus. Fortunately, suffering isn't a precondition for a refreshed mindset. We all have the capacity to choose to see things differently.
I am privileged to have the opportunity to see the world anew every day through the eyes of a curious (almost) two year old. This winter's snowfall - rather than an inconvenience and travel hazard - was something to be touched and watched and marveled at. A large cardboard shipping box - rather than something to be broken down and carried to the recycling room - became a room itself, perfect for tea parties, games of hide-and-go-seek, and the cat.
As we move through life at ever-increasing speeds, it can be easy to overlook the magic of the simple joys that surround us. Today, as you go about your ordinary routine, can you keep your eyes open for the possibility of joy? Can you become - even for a day - the person who brightens the day for others?
I am a firm believe that things happen for a reason rather than by chance. Late last year, I was contacted by a friend who knew of a neighborhood playgroup seeking a yoga teacher. While I have loved introducing my daughter to yoga and enjoy leading a monthly Tots & Tykes offering at Tranquil Space, working with little ones was not something I saw as central to my teaching path.
Nevertheless, I followed through on the connection, and after one trial class, I was hooked. The enthusiasm of these little ones as they experience even the most basic movement rivals that of a seasoned yogi mastering an exceedingly complex arm balance. The kiddos throw themselves into each song and game without a trace of self-consciousness and exude sheer joy as they explore and experiment. I found myself grinning from ear to ear during - and after - the class, and accepted the mission. Shortly thereafter I had so quickly gained a deep affection for the children, teachers, and caregivers involved that I signed my own daughter up for the playgroup.
Recently, one of the teachers shared she is creating a group to help new mamas connect with one another and gain a better understanding of what lies ahead. As I have mentioned before, community is critical - whether navigating the challenges of infertility or preparing for the roller coaster of parenthood. And for those who choose the parenting path, when the baby arrives, the need for support has only begun.
That is why I am thrilled to help her spread the word about this program. Certified postnatal doula Whitney Marsh is bringing together experts from a variety of fields to offer guidance on the seemingly overwhelming topic of caring for a newborn, and the equally important - but often overlooked - matter of caring for oneself. In this eight week series, Whitney will cover subjects ranging from nursing to maternal nutrition and fitness to finding the unique mama/work/life balance that is right for each person.
If you - or someone you know - is a new parent, I highly recommend reaching out to Whitney for more details. You might be surprised by where the connection leads you...
On Sunday our church began a series exploring the fruits of the spirit. We started with love, which seems appropriate for the first week of February. Love is talked about often - whether in books, movies, television, the church, or casual conversation. I entered the sermon quite certain I knew the territory well: As a wife of more than 10 years; mother for almost 2 (!) years; and a daughter/granddaughter/friend/niece/etc. for more than 35 years, I have some direct experience with love. As a student of Greek, I can explain the differences between agape, eros, and philia. As a child of the Church, I can recite 1 Corinthians 13: Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud... That pretty much covers it, right?
Wrong. The definition shared by our pastor stopped me cold. Seen through this prism, love isn't about your relationship to others. It has nothing to do with your knowledge of language or even scripture. It is not about you at all. Rather, love asks for a focus so intense that the needs of another become clear, and a selflessness that enables you to supply them. It asks you to go beyond your own agenda and comfort in service to the one(s) you cherish most.
I am eager to explore this perspective on love in February and beyond. Won't you join me? Can you allow your love to be bigger than you?
When was the last time you were bored? Not scanning your phone while waiting for a bus bored, not staring at the television while you heat up dinner bored, but honest to goodness, un-distractedly bored? If you are like most of the constantly connected world around you, the very concept may seem completely outdated - even indulgent. After all, in our busy-all-the-time world who has time to be bored!?
Last week, completely by accident, I rediscovered boredom. I had made dinner plans with a friend whose arrival time was uncertain because of an evening meeting. I prepared accordingly, filling my purse with a collection of tools to ensure I could make the most of any down time. While I waited, I filled out a few thank you cards...then reviewed my daybook, assessing what tasks needed to be complete before the week's end and identifying windows to finish them...then flipped ahead to consider upcoming projects and set benchmarks for progress...
Having reached the end of my designated to-dos, I reached for my phone to check for news of her arrival, only to realize I. DIDN'T. HAVE. MY. PHONE. My mind immediately started racing: where did I leave it? What time is it? My friend can't get in touch with me if she needs to cancel. How long should I wait? And what am I supposed to do until then?
And just as quickly, it occurred to me: I could just sit. And wait. And be delightfully, luxuriously bored. I found myself listening passively to the conversations on either side of me, imagining how I would respond if I were part of the discussion. I recalled a favorite childhood game: choosing a stranger at random and creating a narrative about where they came from and where they are headed. As my stream-of-consciousness journey continued, I mentally toured the globe seeking destinations for an as-yet unplanned yoga retreat. When my companion arrived, I was almost startled to be brought back to reality and realized how much I had enjoyed the mini-escape.
As it turns out, my experience is not unique. A team of psychologists from the University of Central Lancashire in the U.K. recently published the results of a study concluding that boredom makes us more creative and explores how daydreaming bridges the gap from one to the other. Their findings suggest we devise our most original ideas when we choose inactivity over constant stimulation.
Next time you find yourself waiting: for the train, for a meeting to start, for a friend or colleague to arrive, can you resist the urge to be productive and instead allow yourself to be bored? What untapped creativity might be just a daydream away?
Human beings were created to live in community. Even the most introverted among us find ourselves reaching out at different points in our life. When facing a great challenge, there is comfort in knowing someone is walking alongside you. When exhilarated by success, we may look to others to share our joy. When entering unfamiliar territory, we might seek the reassurance of companionship.
Developing authentic community takes time and intention, and that is what I am hoping to provide with a new workshop series I am launching tonight at Tranquil Space for women who are sharing the exciting, but sometimes scary, journey toward motherhood. Created in response to women who have become pregnant after participating in recent Yoga and Fertility workshops I have offered, the Yoga for Pregnancy workshop will follow a similar format combining discussion, movement, and time for reflection. This four week series is limited to 10 participants to create a safe space in which they feel comfortable sharing openly, but participants may drop in for one or more sessions without committing to a multi-part series.
If you or someone you know is pregnant, please consider joining us Tuesdays this month at 6:45pm. I look forward to connecting!
Thank you for visiting the Starting Over blog. Stop by anytime for a dose of inspiration, tools to help you achieve your goals, and a community of fellow travelers. I hope to see you often!