Stepping out of the Want Pit

While waiting for her pancake lunch today, my two year old daughter sung an impatient song while pounding a rhythm on the table: “I want, I want!”

Having had one of those mornings, her words snatched at me like a parent trying to pull their child back from traffic.  “I WANT” reverberated in my head.

I’ve been looking so hard lately for some inner peace.  There are things I want to change about myself as a person, a parent, a wife, a daughter, a friend, a writer, a professional and when those things all come to the surface of my consciousness at once, sometimes I feel like I am drowning in an ocean of my own making.  I forget to put my feet down, put my head up above the surface to just breathe, and just tread water for a bit until I can see what I need to do to move forward.

My daughter’s words caught my attention today because part of what I’ve been immersed in lately is want.  Wanting something different than who I am, wanting to be beyond a period of change, wanting more security, more adventure, more success, more confidence, more bravery, more love.  When you mire yourself in want, what initially looked like a fordable waterway becomes a mud pit of being stuck.

It’s ok to dream or have visions and hopes for your life but when you attach yourself to a particular outcome or try to overly control the path, when dreams and hopes turn into yearning or dissatisfaction, everything comes up wanting.  As we can’t guarantee that we have more than a moment to move towards fulfilling that want, focusing on it to the exclusion of the peace we can find by being present in the moment seems like a foolish, masochistic choice.

Lately, I’ve been trying to focus on being in the moment with all of that moment’s imperfections and just letting it be.  When I come up against resistance within myself in the attempt, I’m trying to accept that as well, and let it pass.  Instead of reaching and grasping and coming up empty; you can put your arms around yourself and have something to really hold onto.  Stepping out of that mud pit of want may be the first steps towards a journey of inner freedom.


A Rainbow and A Promise

I’ve been promising my blog friend, Christine, from Quasi Agitato, the story of my engagement to my husband M, and since this Saturday is our 11th anniversary, I thought I’d make good on that promise!

M and I met in college.  We could have met when we were quite young, as his father used to bring him into my father’s hardware store in the days where I played My Little Ponies with my sister on the store shelves.  We could have met during our freshman year when we lived a floor apart on one of the largest campuses in the world, with friends on each other’s floors.  We could have met through a mutual friend.

But we didn’t.  We met one auspicious day when I, a newly hired Resident Assistant, got lost in the labyrinth of my new residence hall, trying to find the office of our Hall Director to turn in my acceptance paperwork for the following school year.  He was the handsome, mannerly, Honors floor RA, who walked with me to my destination.  I went back to my hall that night and told my long time best friend, S that I would be working with “a hot guy next year.”

Still, I was seriously dating another Very Nice Boy at the time and so M and I remained respectful coworkers until, two relationships later, we started hanging out to share notes over the demise of our most recent relationships.  That sharing quickly blossomed into a friendship.  That friendship turned into two college kids drafting lists about what they wanted in a partner.  We shared the lists.  Turned out we had some overlap.  And we had chemistry.

He left sweet notes on our staff message board, including quotes and lines of poetry.  Then there was the dried rose in my mailbox, the greeting cards slipped under my door.  I had never been courted with such romantic gestures before.  We were an item; then we doubted. We were together; then we were uncertain.  Whatever issues we had; we couldn’t keep away from each other.  We chose each other over and over again.

A year and a half later, M and I graduated college.  We worked for a summer in temporary positions and then, since our liberal arts degrees hadn’t netted us any fab job offers yet, we decided to travel for three weeks to Europe.  I’ve heard it said that you don’t truly know someone until you travel with them.  In our case, I had a suspicion that this trip might be a proving ground for the future of our relationship.  During our travels, we certainly encountered all manner of situations that might have revealed serious faults in our partnership.

Indeed, we stayed in some truly crazy places; places only youth or eccentricity finds tolerable.  Our first night in London, we arrived with lost baggage (including our travel guides and directions to our youth hostel) and shared one single bunk mattress with a threadbare pillow held together with dirt that we tossed to the ground.  Another night, having traveled to watch a friend’s music performance for his Master’s degree, we slept on a single pillow, lying on the concrete floor of a dorm room. It was an experience.  He developed an upper respiratory infection; then I got it while traveling in Stratford-upon-Avon.  I slept with my head on a table in Warwick Castle, while he prowled the grounds.  Two aging English ladies wondered aloud whether I was ok, but I was too ill to raise my head and reassure them.

Finally, we arrived in France, to a hotel we deemed “Tres Nasty” where I had to prop the shower/sink room door shut with a suitcase to prevent myself from having an asthma attack, where I brushed my teeth with bottled water, spitting off the balcony onto the streets below with an expletive escaping my mouth along with the toothpaste, and where we were fairly certain French prostitutes were entertaining their johns in the next room.  The toilet on one floor had a light.  The other floor had toilet paper.  I made M go with me for protection.  Our sheets had a burn hole on them and we used our travel sheets to protect ourselves from potential bedbugs, leaving them behind when we left. We still paid our bill but happily, we changed hostels the next day.

It rained every day in Paris, but we still loved the city.  We toured the Louvre and museums together; we ate fattening pastries and walked through beautiful streets and gardens.  We narrowly missed getting hit by a bus in front of the Place Des Invalides; the woman behind us was struck. That was a horrifying experience.

The Parisians were kind to our faces; perhaps they appreciated my hideous attempts to use my high school French or maybe they just secretly mocked me in words beyond my level of comprehension.  We tried not to be those Americans in Paris though we did make an exception to see the Eiffel Tower.

One evening, we thought to have dinner in the restaurant above the Eiffel Tower, Le Jules Verne. I wondered if this was the moment I was waiting for…the romantic proposal in Paris.  I figured if M was going to propose, he would do so either that night or in my ancestral homeland of Wales, a subsequent travel stop.  Ignorant as we were, we soon discovered that we would have needed to make reservations, months if not a year in advance to get into Le Jules Verne.  While that evening was spectacularly beautiful; it was not to be THE night.

M and I continued our journey through Ireland doing the usual tourist things.  He made me hand sanitize my mouth after I dangled backward over a treacherous gaping hole to kiss the Blarney stone.  We took in the breathtaking beauty of the Ring of Kerry on a bus tour.  We got stranded on the Cliffs of Moher without a way back to our hostel, and subsequently walked several glorious miles over the gorgeous Irish countryside. We drank a pint of Guinness together.

And then we went to St. David’s, Wales, a place of spiritual pilgrimage and home to some of the most beautiful cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

We wandered over the cliffs one day, picnicking on cheese, bread, and the most awful wine I’ve ever tasted.  Caught too far away to reach shelter during an approaching rainstorm, we huddled under one umbrella, bracing ourselves against the torrent that pelted us from a sideways direction.  When the rain finally stopped, we rose to see a beautiful rainbow over the ocean.  We walked past a pasture filled with horses to a rocky edged part of the cliff. There M bent down to tie shoelaces that had been coming untied all week.  I reached down to help him up, not thinking anything of it, only to have him remain, one knee on the ground, asking me to spend the rest of my life with him.*

Even when you know a proposal is coming, if your partner is really good, they can still surprise you.  Though a proposal in Paris would have been traditionally romantic; next to the genuine perfection of the moment in Wales, it would have seemed crass and clichéd.  There, in the country where my great-grandparents once lived, we agreed to grow our family by joining our lives together.  It was almost like the rainbow was made to order.  It was an idyllic proposal and of course, I said “YES!”

Venturing down to St. David’s Cathedral after our walk, we found a copy of “The Art of Marriage” in the gift shop that my Aunt later read at our wedding.  In the passage, it talks about how “A good marriage must be created” and about how “A good marriage means being the right partner.”  Eleven years in, I’m thankful I reached out my hand when he tied his shoe and that we made a promise under a rainbow to be the right partner for each other, choosing to continue creating our story every day, holding together through life’s rainstorms and the beauty that always follows if you wait for it.

*Incidentally, later that same year, Ben Stiller tried to propose to Teri Polo in Meet the Parents using a similar shoe tying move.  He wasn’t as successful…but as her character in the movie was named Pam, it made M and I smile.

Also, if you liked this post, be sure to check out Ten Love Lessons Over Ten Years of Marriage.

Quick Break

Hello friends; 

Just a quick note to explain my absence on here for a bit.  I’m enjoying the last few weeks of summer with my family and am “doing” and “being” rather than writing for the moment.  I’ll be back to writing by the end of August/early Fall  but for now taking a little downtime for crafts, walks, games, movies, outside play and thinking!  I hope you enjoy the next few weeks; keep breathing and loving!

The Day I Set Myself on Fire and Other Kitchen Fire Stories

The cutie pie that prompted the flour mess which kept me cleaning in the kitchen and not in another room while our stove fire started! Thank goodness for messes!

You know how they say things come in threes?  Well, this week I finally added a third kitchen fire to my list of accomplishments.

Yes, you heard me right.  I’ve started three kitchen fires in my “quasi” adult life.  And I’m not a professional cook.

I know that fire is a serious thing.  I was a Girl Scout and often assigned the job of “woodie” as a camper.  (Stop snickering, you dirty minded readers.  A woodie is someone who gathers fire wood, starts the fires, maintains the fire-water bucket complete with stick so small critters can escape, and most importantly, cleans the latrines…)

I also know that there are many people who have been victims of fires in their life and who have had their person or property damaged by fire.  My heart goes out to those folks, and I would never treat those types of situations lightly.  But humor in life helps assuage tragedy and so I share my own rather ridiculous fire related stories with thankfulness as a way to laugh at my perpetual mishaps.

The first fire-related incident took place over Thanksgiving many years ago.  I was about 16 or 17 at the time and was helping my mother set the table for dinner.  Reaching over a candle, with what I thought was enough clearance, I set an item down for the place setting, then wondered aloud, “What is that smell?  Is something (meaning food) burning?”

The response my parents gave me was not what I expected.  Out of what seemed like nowhere, they threw me on the ground and started beating at me.  Apparently, I was on fire.  Smelling the singed ends of my hair afterwards, I realized that the sleeves of my 80’s style polyester sweater had just grazed the candle, allowing flame to travel up my arm to the tips of my hair.  Remarkably, aside from my hair and my pride, there was no damage.  The sweater had some crazy chemical layer that had burned off; not a mark remained.  My family loves to recall this event, dredging it up when I set the table near an open flame or reminiscing fondly over turkey about the time I caught myself on fire.

It was probably about 12 years later, in a townhouse apartment that I shared with my husband, that I started my next kitchen fire.  Absentmindedly preparing a BLT dinner, I had wandered into our dining/living area when I heard a loud bang in the kitchen and ran in to see open flames on the stove.  I had set a dinner plate on a hot burner and it had heated and shattered, setting the bacon greased towel and bacon pieces that it contained aflame. I seem to remember my husband dealing with this particular incident as I reacted hysterically.  Amazingly, once I catch things afire in the kitchen, I mentally block the aftermath.

Not quite 5 years later, (though I am averaging one fire per decade of my life so far) this week, I completed the cursed trio of kitchen fires.  Having a productive morning of baking three batches of zucchini bread with my daughter, making homemade smoothies and lemonade, cutting up the week’s fruit produce for easy eating, doing multiple loads of dishes, and cleaning up my daughter V’s flour sensory play, I popped some boxed mac & cheese on the stovetop for lunch.

While the water boiled, I busily vacuumed the flour mess off of my daughter’s booster seat and argued with her over the use of the vacuum only to have my senses send me a warning message as I said “What’s that smell?”  I turned around to find the cardboard mac & cheese box tipped into the gas flame burner and burning at an alarmingly quick rate.  I gasped, grabbed the box, threw it in the sink to douse with water, then opened all the windows and turned on fans to dissipate the smoke.

V was all in a dither.  “What’s the problem Mommy!”  “What’s on fire?”  “Come here Mommy, I show you where the fire lives.”  (Note to self:  fire belongs in the fireplace.  Even a two year old knows that…stupid, STUPID Mommy!)  Apparently, “you light a fire, you have a little picnic, then you blow it all out.”  That’s what you are SUPPOSED to do with fire.

Lesson learned, V.

Evidently, I have a problem in the kitchen.  Or I am cursed.  Hopefully, with the culmination of my third fire experience, I’ll be a little more aware and a little less distracted in the kitchen.  But with each mishap, I have to admit the dreamy, crazy multitasking aspects of my nature haven’t much changed.  Perhaps my husband should kick me out of the kitchen as a potential hazard to people and property.  Here’s hoping.

I hope you enjoyed a laugh with me today, but seriously, if you don’t have a kitchen fire extinguisher on hand, and you plan to invite me over…you are taking your chances.  Get a fire extinguisher, check the batteries and operation of your smoke detectors, and stay alert while cooking.  I’ve learned these lessons firsthand and thankfully, I’m here to share them with you today!

Labor Pains and Stretchmarks

It helps to have support!

I’ve been thinking this week how internal growth and expecting a child share some similarities…

It is hard work and uncomfortable.

Facing things we want to change in our lives is a difficult process.  It requires endurance, stamina, sometimes intense discomfort, and often a whole lot of aching.

It causes some sleepless nights.

Sometimes you just have to get up, pop on a movie or immerse yourself in a book and give yourself a break from the process, so you can rest through the sleepless times.

We aren’t always sure what to expect.

Changing yourself can affect your relationships and impact your subsequent life choices.  Once you commit to the change, it is hard to predict what will happen, but chances are, it will be worth it!

It can be simultaneously anxiety provoking and exciting!

Internal growth can be freeing, can open our hearts and minds and bring greater joy and authenticity to our lives.  But it isn’t a painless process.  It is one that can create some anxiety, uncertainty, and confusion.  At the same time, feeling yourself move past some difficult stages, toward the future, can create a sense of empowerment and hopefulness. Allowing all those feelings to coexist during the process helps us move through those moments where we may want to turn back or stuff something down again.

You can have a new life.

We all have the power to make changes inside ourselves.  It isn’t always pretty and can be as scary as facing down childbirth, but in the end, it can be extremely rewarding.

I’m doing some intensive internal work right now and having been through this process of self-analysis, discovery, weeding, stretching, learning, and growing before, I know I won’t regret the effort.  Though each labor is different, and we can’t predict the outcome of stretching ourselves, growth is empowering and life giving.  It is what keeps us from stagnating inside and allows us to move past the internal barriers that seek to limit who we are.

So I’m going to face down my comfort zone, knowing that I’m in for some pain along the way.  Because even if the experience isn’t perfect, I know what I really would regret is shutting down inside.  I would regret missing out on the person I am meant to become.  Instead, I know I’m going to wear those stretchmarks with pride on the flip side.

Linking up with Shell’s

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