Walking through infertility is bleak. You question why you are unable to attain a desire that seems so simple and ubiquitous. You ask what is wrong with you. You wonder why you are being "punished." Many spend hundreds of hours in doctors appointments - others research alternative therapies - still others invest tens of thousands of dollars in pursuit of this elusive dream. And they all wait - hoping desperately for an outcome they can't control.
If you had told me in the midst of my struggles to "cheer up" or "find the silver lining," I would have assumed you had no idea what you were talking about. And I don't expect anyone who is currently facing this struggle to embrace this encouragement wholeheartedly, but I offer it nonetheless.
In retrospect, I can see that the painful wait and the heartbreak and disappointments along the way were invaluable to my journey to motherhood. The lessons I learned gave me a far greater appreciation for the privilege of parenting and a greater compassion for those who struggle. It opened my eyes to the many unconventional ways families can be created. And it provided a platform for some of the strongest friendships I have ever experienced.
Whether you suffer from infertility or are facing an entirely different storm, I encourage you to dig deep and look into the rain. I pray you will find your rainbow.
Last week I celebrated another trip around the sun. After consecutive weeks of illness and other interruptions to our family's routine, I was ready for a celebration and a fresh start to the year. While my husband was traveling on the date in question, my mother made a special trip to D.C. for the occasion, and I was determined to make the most of her visit. My daughter had the day off school, and I envisioned a leisurely day with my two favorite girls - taking in a new art exhibit and perhaps a park visit - followed by an elegant evening out on the town. But that isn't quite what happened...
Despite her reputation (and reality) as one who NEVER gets sick, my mother awoke that morning more than a little under the weather. She spent much of the day resting in hopes of a quick recovery, but to no avail. Feeling terrible for her (and a bit sorry for myself), I began mapping out an alternative plan. Instead of sharing a fine dining experience, I would treat myself to a rare evening yoga class and a quiet solo dinner at one of my favorite neighborhood spots. And as I did so, I quickly shifted my focus to plans for the following day. When my husband returned to town, we would enjoy a night out on the town. But that isn't quite what happened...
His flight arrived right on schedule, and I began previewing the online menu in anticipation of the meal we would enjoy. As evening approached, I retreated to my room to dress for dinner, but no sooner had I donned my little black dress than I received a call from our sitter. Her daughter was sick, and she wouldn't be able to come. Feeling bad for her and her sweet girl (and more than a little sorry for myself) I immediately shifted back into planning mode - scanning the calendar for a future day to celebrate. But as I considered the options, it occurred to me: maybe this is exactly how it was supposed to happen...
Viewed through a different lens, a great yoga class, good food and drink in a comfortable setting, and an opportunity to enjoy an evening all to myself was a rare treat! And a quiet evening at home with my family after a busy stretch of travel and other commitments was a refreshing end to the week. More importantly, I completed another memorable year and have the opportunity to continue the journey.
Sometimes life unfolds just as we hoped, but when it doesn't, we have an opportunity to take a closer look and see things differently. Next time you find yourself facing the unexpected, can you change your perspective? What might you see?
I love a good challenge. Give me a puzzle that can't be solved - a task that seems prohibitively daunting. Show me a reason why something can't be done. Then stand back and watch. I am neither superhuman nor exceedingly talented, I simply derive great satisfaction from getting things done.
Hard work and I - we go way back. I grew up in the "pull yourself up from the bootstraps" Midwest, where I was taught there are few things that can't be solved by digging in and working hard. Over the years, that philosophy has spilled over into many areas of my life. When marathon training plans suggested our longest run should be 20 miles, I convinced my training partners we would feel better about our readiness if we completed 26. In college I couldn't imagine why I shouldn't take the maximum number of credit hours each semester - why spend four years waiting for what's next when you can do it in three? And why waste that extra year traveling across Europe when you can get a job?
So when our family fell sick over the weekend, it didn't occur to me to take a break. While I did reschedule my clients to ensure they didn't walk away with a virus in addition to their post-yoga glow, I kept the rest of life's trains running on track. Appointments were kept, errands were run, the babe was shuttled to and from every activity, and the house was in order. I was able to bail out friends who found themselves stranded without childcare and coordinate the delivery of a meal to a new mama in our church.
But if I'm being honest, this flurry of activity would not have made my Midwestern family proud. Because they also taught me to be kind - and that value was in short supply. Every one of my interactions in recent days has been transactional at best. At worst, I was downright crabby - and the burden fell, as it most often does, on those nearest and dearest to me...
We all have a great deal to do. We have full plates and full calendars. We have responsibilities at work and at home. But our loved ones, our communities, and our nation need our kindness far more than our hard work - perhaps more than ever..
As you go about your day, can you look up from your efforts and really see the people for whom you claim to be doing all these things? Can you focus less on the work and more on the kindness? Let's give it a try...
You can tell a great deal about a person (and yourself) by how they react to falling out of a balance pose. I have seen clients grow focused and fierce as they struggle to maintain their footing. I have witnessed students simply stop, give up, and stand waiting for the next instruction. I have watched others become angry, brows furrowed at the grave injustice leveled upon them by me and/or their uncooperative bodies. And in my own practice I have experienced all these reactions - as well as number of combinations and variations thereof.
Perhaps the most beautiful part of yoga to me are these little glimpses we receive into our patterns of behavior. Because chances are the way you respond to "failure" on the mat is very similar to the way you deal with setbacks and shortcomings in the rest of your daily life.
We all fall down. Every day. In ways both big and small. We make a mistake during a major presentation. We drop the kids off at school on a chilly day and realize hours later their gloves are still in the backseat. We forget a loved one's birthday. We hurt our spouse's feelings.
We all make mistakes - but they needn't define us. We may not be immediately able to regain the trust of our colleagues or take back harsh words, but these failures present an opportunity for us to learn, grow, and try again.
Instead of staying down next time you fall, can you stand back up? Can you turn a failure into a growth opportunity?
The following quote arrived in my inbox on January 1, and I knew immediately I needed to share it with you. As I sat down to do so, I realized it needs no further explanation - no "real life" example, no anecdotal support. So I offer it here unvarnished for you to read, ponder, and embrace. I hope it resonates for you as it does for me:
I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.
So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.
- Neil Gaiman
Here we are, yet again, at the end of another calendar year. We have celebrated with family and friends, paused to reflect on the past 363 days, and begun to look ahead to the year to come.
The blank slate of a new year always fills me with excitement and curiosity. What new adventures will be in store? What new discoveries lie ahead? What will I learn about the world around me?
This year, I am also filled with hope. Over the past year, I have met incredible people doing amazing things. Individuals who are investing their time, energy, and resources to improve their communities. Organizations rising up to address significant challenges. Families reaching out to bless neighbors in need.
And beyond those I have met are countless others who are inspired - and inspiring others - to realize dreams and make a difference in the world around them.
As we enter the new year, I encourage you to do so filled with hope, imagination, and courage. Dream big dreams - and make them a reality.
Winter has officially begun. And right on cue, the weather across much of the country shifted. Significant snowfall blanketed Chicago and parts of the Midwest last week, closing schools and businesses and causing travel chaos. Another storm system is thought to be headed across the nation in the coming days just in time for the holidays...
Even if you are not presently under a weather watch, you are undoubtedly familiar with the pattern. We anticipate and prepare for the arrival of a storm, but when it reaches us, we find ourselves frantic. We had "one more" thing to do. We meant to pick up "one more" item from the grocery store. We wanted to finish "one more" project at the office. But we didn't.
And I want you to let that be okay.
The sounds of snow are instructive. It falls softly, and when we emerge from our homes to explore, we hear the soft crunch of our feet as we step, the laughter of children making snow angels, a respite from the all-too-familiar jarring noise of traffic and the hustle of passersby. Snow introduces an element of calm and quiet into our busy lives.
Whether or not you are currently surrounded by snow, embrace its message. Let go of whatever last-minute preparations you think you need to do in these final days of the year and instead use the opportunity to connect with those around you. Make a big pot of tea, put marshmallows in your hot chocolate. Take a nap.
Embrace a moment of silence. Be still.
For as long as I can remember, my mother has been in near-constant motion. As a child, we rarely left the house for an intended destination without making multiple "quick" stops to cross something off the list before we arrived. She was (and remains) a prolific multi-tasker - accomplishing twice as many things that seem possible in less than half the time.
But when she is with my daughter, her full throttle, fast-paced operating speed comes to a screeching halt. Time seems to stop. She listens intently to each of the babe's elaborate stories and every silly song without interruption. Instead of rushing from one activity to the next, they are content spending hours at home playing make-believe, fashioning magic wands from wooden sticks and putting various friends of the imaginary and stuffed varieties to bed.
On a recent visit, I was struck by the disparity between the pace of their shared world and my own day-to-day rhythms. I found myself wistful for that sweet, gentle expanse. Because while I do spend a great deal of time playing with my daughter, our regular schedule of activities keeps us moving at a brisk clip most of the time.
As the year winds to a close, I am increasingly aware of how quickly time is passing, and how short a window remains to sing silly songs, animate bears and dolls, and transform household goods into imaginary worlds. In the year ahead, I am aiming to live a life characterized by less rushing and more living.
Can you stop rushing through your days? How much "more" life might you discover?
This time of year many of us find ourselves wishing things were different than they are. We reflect on the past year and realize we fell short on many (or all) of our resolutions. We didn't receive the promotion we anticipated. We weren't accepted into the graduate program we so desperately wanted to attend. We haven't made as much (or any) progress on that project we were determined to finish.
Or we shift our focus forward - anticipating what lies ahead, furiously planning and preparing and doing everything in our power to ensure a better outcome in the new year.
There is nothing wrong with reflecting on where we have been. There is nothing wrong with planning for the future. But if we don't stop to acknowledge the present, we miss an important opportunity.
Our present station in life reflects the choices we have made - and failed to make, but it is also function of factors beyond our control. No amount of wishing, hoping, or praying can change this moment. But we do have the power to decide whether to continue to flutter anxiously between the past and the future or make peace with the present.
Only when we allow ourselves to be fully grounded in wherever we are can we reconcile what has passed and move forward with clarity. And that is my encouragement for you today.
Today you are where you are. Can you pause and embrace it? Can you make peace with the present?
Each year at the Thanksgiving table, we take turns sharing what we are most grateful for. Some are obvious and grand: the birth of a healthy baby or a new job. Some are more nuanced: a struggle that taught us an important lesson - a blessing in disguise. Children's responses often bring a smile - whether giving thanks for the simple joys of chocolate or a beloved grandparent.
As I was reflecting on the past year and thinking about what I wanted to share, it occurred to me: Why do we reserve this tradition for the Thanksgiving table? I start most mornings with a personal gratitude practice - thanking God for the big and little joys in my life - and it helps me put into perspective the highs and lows I encounter throughout the day. Until this week, I had never thought to incorporate this practice into family meals throughout the year.
Special traditions are part of what lend warmth to our holiday celebrations, but some of the practices can - and perhaps should - be extended into our everyday life. As you go through your celebrations in the coming weeks, take stock of your favorite elements. Are there activities or practices you can incorporate into your regular rhythms? How can you extend this season of gratitude throughout the year?
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!