The past season has been full of incredible highs: A South African adventure, a peaceful seaside escape with my husband, new experiences for and with my daughter. And as I looked to the balance of the summer calendar, I was tempted to keep the momentum going. Why not take advantage of the lull of August to squeeze in one more trip? Why not sign the babe up for another class? Why not check one more bucket list box?
Instead - at the sage encouragement of my husband - we are committing to do little more than live our ordinary lives fully in these waning weeks of summer. To stay close to home. Spend time as a family. Connect with friends. To rest and recharge for the busy Fall and all the big changes it will bring. And I encourage you to do the same. Slow down and allow yourself to experience the joy in the ordinary moments that come your way.
Today is day four of recovery from my surgery. It was a planned procedure, and I chose this time of year intentionally. Summer in our nation's capital is H.O.T. And there is no better time than this stretch between late July and September to slow down...
The oppressive heat and humidity force residents and visitors alike to relax the pace at which they move. Breaks from school and a pause in the Congressional calendar align to enable families to flee the city for visits to relatives and vacations in more agreeable climates. Many of my clients have already left for various escapes, and our own family calendar is beautifully sparse in the weeks ahead.
While putting my feet up (literally) over the weekend I reveled in the rare luxury of sitting absolutely still. Rather than become frustrated by my lack of productivity, I allowed myself to breathe deeply and focus on healing. Each day I have felt my physical condition improve, and the pause has energized my mind and spirit. Inspired by this respite, I have decided to extend this break through the month of August.
Beginning August 1 the blog will go dark while I set aside time for a comprehensive reboot. In addition to personal reflection, I will devote time to evaluating this little venture to determine whether it still aligns with the original vision and meets the needs of its readers. On September 1 we will return with a new look and other changes necessary to keep our offerings authentic and fresh.
During this month, I encourage you - wherever you may be - to take a break. Sit still and listen to whether your body and spirit are asking for the chance to reflect, recharge, and reboot.
Tomorrow morning I report to George Washington University Hospital for surgery. My doctor assures me the matter is quite straightforward and soon I will be free from a pain in my foot that has troubled me for years. I have no fear of the actual procedure or subsequent discomfort. I am confident in my ability to bounce back quickly and particularly enthusiastic about being able to return to my teaching, toddler-chasing, and personal yoga practice pain-free!
But the timeline for recovery is not clear...and this uncertainty is testing my limits. Will I be able to teach within a matter of days or weeks? Can I return to running next week or next month? Everyone's threshold is different... my sage doctor advised.
The guidance to proceed with caution and listen to my body resonates with my inner yogini, but the rest of me wants a timeline. I want to know. Today. Exactly when I can resume each of the activities that provide structure to my life.
But such certainty isn't possible, and this inner struggle is a reminder of the futility of wishing for things to be other than they are. Life will unfold according to a plan much bigger and more beautiful than anything I could devise. My work is to stop clinging to the mirage of control and step out of the way.
I have encountered this lesson many times - as a mother, a teacher, a wife, a daughter, and a friend. But it is here again - and will continue to return - until I master it. What teachers are you encountering today? Can you listen and learn the lessons they bring?
Last week we packed up the babe and moved to a hotel for a few nights while contractors gave our home a face-lift. After nearly seven years, the paint in several rooms was showing its age, some light fixtures had become dated, and the woodwork was worn. To prepare, we emptied shelves, pushed furniture to the center of the rooms, and removed artwork from the walls. When we returned to our "new" space we were wary of damaging the freshly painted walls and opted to wait for the weekend to put things back in order.
During the few days the walls remained bare, I realized how accustomed I had become to the whereabouts of everything from clocks to mirrors to artwork. On more occasions than I can count, I found myself trying to check the time on a clock that wasn't in its place. More often than I care to admit, I reflexively glanced toward a mirror only to remember it wasn't there. The effect was somewhat disorienting, but also liberating. Not being able to see the clock while sitting at the dining room table enabled me to focus more on the meal and people with whom I was sharing it than whether we were staying on schedule. Sitting in different places throughout the house enabled me to see my surroundings from new angles and sparked creativity about other ways we might use our space.
We so often operate on autopilot as we move through our days. When we instead give ourselves permission to pause before we proceed, we make it possible to gain a fresh perspective on a familiar situation. Rather than continue to do and see things they way they have always been, can you stop and wait? What might you see differently?
This month our Trailblazers feature takes a different course. The lovely Sharlene Bagga-Taves, creator of Brookland Yoga, answers the questions readers are asking, but she also shares a brief essay about the daily lessons she is learning from her primary mindfulness teacher: her 20 month old son Shawn. Read on to hear what he is teaching her about joy and the power of love - and learn more about her New Beginning.
One of my favorite places to spend lazy summer mornings with my daughter is the National Zoo. It is small, friendly, and offers many shady spots to escape the sun on oppressively hot and humid days. Before leaving for a recent visit I asked her to tell me what animals and exhibits she was most excited to see. I listened carefully and immediately began plotting the most efficient route to check every box she mentioned. She, of course, had ideas of her own...
Upon arriving, she spied the carousel: Mama, let's ride the carousel! This was NOT on her list, and quite outside the path I had mentally mapped out. I suggested we keep moving and instead ride it on our way back down. But Mama - it's moving. Can we please ride it now?
Sighing inwardly, I agreed, and when we finished, I attempted to usher her on to the next thing on the agenda. En route, however, she spotted a bear statue. Mama, can I climb it? Again I tried to dissuade her. I explained that it didn't appear to have been designed with climbing in mind - it was slippery (not to mention dirty), and there were no visible foot or hand holds. But can I please try?
Sighing again - this time not completely inwardly - I assented, and she began giggling as she scrambled to the top.
When we FINALLY made it to the first designated destination, she watched the elephants for a bit, then began climbing a nearby fence. After indulging her for a few minutes, I asked whether she was ready to see some more animals. No Mama - I want to stay here and play all day!!
These exchanges repeated themselves for the balance of our visit. By the fourth statue, I found myself downright frustrated. Here we are at the zoo, full of LIVE animals and interesting things to see and experience and all she wants to do is climb fences and statues?!
And then, just as quickly, it occurred to me: why shouldn't she? These experiences are as unique for my urban babe as observing lions, tigers, and bears. It isn't often she can (safely) stroll along curbs, climb fences, and meander about the city streets. When else can she linger and explore without being encouraged to keep moving toward whatever (arbitrary) destination I have chosen for the day? What is to say her experience of the zoo needs to be what I think it should be?
Next time you want to share something special with someone in your life, can you simply point the way, step aside, and let them have their own experience? What might you be able to learn by seeing things through someone else's eyes?
I have always loved the idea of journaling. As a young girl, I would browse the bookstore for the most beautifully decorated blank book and choose the perfect pen to record my hopes, dreams, and observations. In later years, I graduated to the various shapes, sizes, and colors of the Moleskine collection. Despite my most ardent intentions, however, my journal keeping was never very consistent. I rarely found a routine that provided the necessary space to reflect, and I would inevitably grow bored with the banal act of listing the days events.
When my daughter was born, I was determined to capture as many memories as I could, and I faithfully noted the highlights of each day in a journal reserved for her. As time passed and our lives became more full, this daily discipline slipped, and I found myself reverting to a weekly laundry list report of our activities. Frustrated and wanting more, I was inspired to learn of one friend's approach to capturing his children's days: he has committed to writing one line each day for each of his children. It might be something as simple as an amusing phrase or anecdote. He may relay the report of a doctor during a routine check-up. He might share an observation about the world in which they are living. By keeping the entries simple and brief, he ensures he is consistent. As a result - several years into his children's lives - he has maintained the practice unfailingly.
The line a day approach can be useful not only for parents who want to keep a record about or for their children. Perhaps you are a busy executive who wants to capture the rare moments of ease and leisure that fuel you and remind yourself life is about more than work. Maybe you are increasingly aware of how quickly you are aging and simply want a way to slow down and appreciate time. Whatever your motivation, you can provide yourself a greater likelihood of success by starting small.
What project are you reluctant to start - or unable to finish - because it seems too laborious? Give yourself permission to take things one day - or one line - at a time, and see what happens...
To say I have a poor sense of direction is a significant understatement. I instinctively turn the wrong way when stepping off an elevator. I often find myself far from where I intended when running unfamiliar routes. My husband (though he is not alone in this) jokes - not inaccurately - that the easiest way to find a destination is to wait behind me at an intersection - then turn in the opposite direction.
This tendency can be inconvenient - to say the least - in the regular rhythms of work and life. As a result, I adhere to very specific routes when commuting around town to meet with clients, keep appointments, and shuttle the babe to her activities and classes. These familiar paths ensure timely arrivals, minimize anxiety, and allow me to focus on more important things.
When traveling, however, I like to get lost. Morning runs become an opportunity to explore new neighborhoods and scout out interesting sights to investigate later in the day. Lazy afternoon strolls lead to unexpected delights.
While in Portland over the holiday weekend, my husband and I reflected on the rarity of getting lost in the era of turn-by-turn, real-time navigation. As we talked about some of our earliest travels together, it became clear that a common element of our favorite memories was serendipity - unexpected treasures when and where we least expected them.
We decided to allow this trip to follow those meandering rhythms and set out each day with no agenda, map, or specific destination. As a result, we literally lost ourselves in the city - and it was wonderful. We stumbled upon a pristine hilltop vista with an unparalleled view of the bay, an charming off-the-beaten-path bookshop, and a perfect watering hole. It was a refreshing change of pace and a welcome disruption to our highly structured norm.
Carefully cultivated rhythms and routes can help life run smoothly, but we can all benefit from losing our way from time to time. Give it a try this summer. Whether you find yourself far from home or in your own city, get lost and discover something new...
Over the long holiday weekend my husband and I escaped to Portland Maine. After a few days of strolling the charming cobblestone streets and indulging in the city's innovative food scene, we ventured by ferry to a nearby island for a change of scenery. Almost immediately upon arriving, we noticed a small house advertised as the Umbrella Cover Museum. Intrigued and amused, we entered the small front room, where we were greeted by the enthusiastic proprietor. She explained how the museum had come to be and proudly referenced her Guinness World Record for the largest recognized collection of umbrella covers. As we circled the small, crowded room, she talked with great sincerity about the political significance of certain covers the the origins of others that had been sent by notable figures around the world. Throughout her explanation, I kept trying to catch my husband's eye to ask (silently, of course), "Is she serious?"
Before stepping away to let us continue to browse at our own pace, the proprietor drew our attention to her mission statement:
The Umbrella Cover Museum is dedicated to the appreciation of the mundane in everyday life. It is about finding wonder and beauty in the simplest of things, and about knowing that there is always a story behind the cover.
I was immediately heartened by the sentiment and impressed by the lengths to which she had gone to make this simple, but important point. We all move through seemingly unremarkable days surrounded by apparently mundane objects, but even something as ordinary as an umbrella cover can be a source of inspiration and joy. What can you celebrate today?
When my daughter was born I took scores of pictures. Daily. I wanted to capture every expression, every movement, and every new development. In those early weeks I spent entire mornings creating a "photo of the day" to share with friends and family. Like most infants, our girl slept much and moved little, which made it easy to document every tiny shift.
As she began to move more and sleep less, my hands and mind became busier, and I allowed the pendulum to swing high in the opposite direction. The babe entered the world of music classes, park outings, and play dates around the same time that I transitioned out of my former job and into a new venture that didn't require 24/7 email monitoring and response. Feeling doubly liberated, we often ventured out of the house leaving my phone - and by extension the camera - at home.
I was excited about experiencing life alongside her and adamant about not wasting important moments trapped behind the viewfinder. Increasingly aware of how quickly time was passing, I was eager to focus both hands and my full attention on our adventures.
But as time passed and our days became more full, they began to run together. I caught myself making mental notes of funny observations to share with family and friends - only to forget the details before the day was through.
I was trapped in the tension between two fears: the fear of missing out and the fear of forgetting. I struggled with whether I should pause to memorialize a memory or focus on being fully present in the moment. Should I stop to take a picture, or race her across the field? Should I record a video of her impromptu ukelele concert or grab a microphone and sing along? Meanwhile, I was losing precious moments to unnecessary internal arguments that were preventing me from being the mindful mama I want to be.
We all find ourselves caught between competing fears from time to time. Perhaps you debate whether to (re)join the dating scene, thereby risking heartbreak - or embrace single life and possibly end up without a life partner. Maybe you are torn between remaining in a job that is secure but uninspiring or accepting the uncertain financial future that accompanies pursuing a passion.
Whatever inner battles you may face, one thing is certain: getting caught up in anxiety about what you should do isn't helpful. Often what we need most is to pause and take a deep breath. Only then can we clearly assess our options and make a bold choice based on facts not fears.
Are you trapped between fears (real or imagined)? Try setting aside judgment about what you should do, tune in to your heart, and move forward with confidence.
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!