Monday, May 24, 2010

Wise Words

My eight year old friend, McLaren Jansen, comes up with the most insightful and endearing comments on a regular basis.  Not long ago, his mother (and my friend), told me a about one of their "Taylor" exchanges.  We are in and out of their house a good bit.  McLaren and his little sister each have their own interaction and relationship with my about-to-be 26 year old man child son.  Just awarded "Most Compassionate" for his 2nd grade class,  McLaren accepts Taylor lovingly---if not with a bit of "I'm not quite sure about this guy, but I'm going to damn well love him."  It's really touching.  McLaren reaches out to Taylor--at a restaurant, in the pool, while riding in the car---and Taylor is often silent.  Still McLaren presses on--with questions, with chatter, trying to involve Taylor like he would a regular 'ole 2nd grade buddy.  Last week McLaren, in seeing a photo of Taylor on his mother's computer, commented, "I love Taylor.  Everybody should love Taylor.  Taylor does no harm."  Breathe that in.  He does no harm.  Although that sounds at first hearing so benign, those words have grown on me and have forged a certain sort of comfort around them. McLaren "gets" the essence of Taylor.  He does no harm.  He has no agenda or judgements. Taylor sees us just as we are---fat legs, bad hair, grumpy moods, wrinkled shirts and all.  No harm done.  No harm felt.
     Last night McLaren taught me another lesson---another gem.  In relating something to his mother McLaren remarked, "You can't be mad at me for talking so much, mama.  My talking is a compliment from God."  A compliment from God.  A part of our personality that may tend to chaff others---a compliment from God.  Breathe into that concept too.  I mean, who has ever thought of a "bad" trait like that as a gift---from God? (Did anybody else gets Cs in citizenship for talking too much??)  My head was sent to swirling in thinking about how all parts of ourselves are compliments from God.  Even the traits that get us into trouble or the parts that we have hated ourselves for having.   I mean, how long have you tried to get rid of something in yourself? Can't you just hear your mother or sister or friend accusing you of, "You are so bossy or sarcastic or insecure or nosey or rude or arrogant or aloof......." And then we beat ourselves up because we're not perfect and we have all of these "bad" parts that we should get rid of . 
Well, listen to McLaren (and other great teachers.)  All parts of ourselves are compliments from God.  We need each trait and harder than that....we need to love each trait----yep---even our jealousy and anger and discontent.  Even those traits we try to bury and deny.  Those hard ones---the ones we hide.  You know what I'm talking about, don't you? 
     McLaren and Taylor are on the same page in so many ways.  Taylor has been complimented by God with so many qualities.  He just lives them out without arguing or trying to fix them.  The rest of a whole lot of time trying to fix stuff in ourselves that is not even broken. 
We are not flawed.
We are whole, complex, beings.
And God has complimented each of us in so many unique ways.
Believe McLaren.  You and I ---all of us....each of us....has been complimented by God.
I love that. 
Now I'm going to try to live that.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Building Muscle

“Motivation is what gets you started.
Habit is what keeps you going.” ~ Jim Rohn

I find myself being irritated lately.  I am straying from my center and paying more attention to outside noise.  Even though I know better, I am taking my cues from "external" things.  This will get you (me) into trouble every time.  Have you ever noticed that?  I swear I did not mean to launch into this, but I am going to take this little detour for one second and talk about looking inward and---looking outside of ourselves.  I know so many things in my head, but absorbing them into my cell membranes and making them part of my cell memory (love that concept) are two different things.   Ooops. That was a bumpy sentence.  Here it is in plain English:  When we look for answers, solutions, comfort, approval, gratification, acceptance --"out there"--in external things (people, places, things) then we will forever and ever go without---and just keep on looking frantically to fill up that unnamed emptiness we feel.  News flash---and one I wish my parents had taught me from birth:  It's never out there that we long for. It's an inside job---so to speak.
It's so alluring to believe that what we need is outside of ourselves.   That's probably why we all keep doing that dog-gone, relentless tap dance trying to get recognition, approval. love, acknowledgement from a degree, a job, a spouse, or a smaller size pair of pants.  But, it's a a phantom route---and we all fall for in and day out. 'Cause very simply put:  If we don't go within.......we go without.   (Say that to yourself 100 times and see if it makes sense by supper time.)
   Ok, back to the bad mood/irritability.  Taylor has been perserverating a whole bunch lately.  That means he says the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again until I want to scream.  His perseverating  is in direct correlation to  how much pain he is in.  And, because we can't seem to find out what is causing him pain, his broken record words just keep repeating and repeating.  (Please cut and paste that 200 times so I won't have to write it out.) Here's the thing.  When I'm with Taylor by myself, I get into his rhythm and work around it.  I go into my own head, settle into my center, and just let him do his thing.  But, when we're out in public or out to dinner, I can see how it irritates the living daylights out of everybody-----and then I feel responsible---and helpless and like a bad mother.  Irrational but true.
I can see people just shrug and wonder how I do this---maybe why I do this..  "This" meaning have patience again and again for doing what I do during my day.  Here's the deal.  I guess dealing with Taylor day in and day out is a lot like doing crunches or practicing  Hanon scales or flossing your teeth.  There are just some things in life that may not be gobs of fun, but to make our lives function---and better, we have to develop habits that just kick in without our even thinking about them.  "It's just what I do."  I know you have stuff like that in your own life.  Some of you walk every single day no matter what.  Some of you  meditate, or do yoga, or create a habit of writing, praying, vocalizing or applying your Oil of Olay religiously---every night, no matter what. 
We all have our own particular motivators.  Our values, beliefs and even our fear of failure often motivates us.  But it's our ability and willingness to honor our habits that give us grit.  Feel the fear (irritation, fatigue. pissed-offness)---and Do it Anyway!  Putting this into writing allows me to get a clearer idea of  why I have been so irritable.  I have looked outside of myself---fallen for some illusions that are probably not true---and have fought with the loving muscle that I must have to be Taylor's mama. 
I can see some of you so clearly right now in my mind's eye.  I am imagining what habits  that you have been forced to hone and perfect in your own lives---whether you have wanted to or not.  You have had to reach deep---inside of yourself---to do those emotional crunches so that you---and someone you love stays alive or gets fed/bathed. or has an outing or gets to work or stays sober or sees you as a beacon of light.
I am motivated to be a good mother to Taylor.  I know this is a life-long contract---for better or worse as it were.  But motivation with  the practiced  habit of living this life with grace, humor, and yes, "101, 102, 103....however many times it takes..."   is the joyful journey I have been called to make.
I want to walk this path with heart.  It's easier that way.
Now, if I could just find some motivation for doing those sit ups.
The sit-up habit falls into warrior category-------Please, God, don't send me down that path too.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Jumping to Conclusions

You know, since I have assigned myself the role of being  God's wife, that means I tend to believe I know what everybody's thinking and feeling.  Yeah, just putting it right out there, I guess you could say that I jump to conclusions about other people--and then act on them (the conclusions.)  Psychology 101 might teach us to call this  "projecting." We project onto other people beliefs we actually hold about ourselves.  Good grief.  Can't I just write about something simple and "fluffy" for once?  Are you asking yourself that or I am projecting?  Here I go again jumping to conclusions about what I think you are thinking.  I am so often wrong, but let me tell you that I will go down fighting.  Is that a "right fighter"-----somebody who would rather be right than happy?  Oh, I don't like to think of myself like that.  Do you?  Fess up.
   What has made me laugh this week is thinking back to a time when a group of people jumped to conclusions about Taylor.  It was pretty funny actually.  Three summers ago we spent a couple of weeks up in Iowa University Hospital while Taylor had his second C-1 and C-2 vertebrae fused. (Big stuff that operation.)  For the 16 months prior to that surgery, Taylor had completely shut down --stopped talking, walking, hands curled up--pain galore.   Just an awful awful time in our lives.  But here we were in this excellent hospital.  I had not been in a setting that was so homogeneous in years. Having always taught in public schools in Georgia, my rainbow world pretty much turned all white.  It was different for me---and yes, I'd probably jump to the conclusion that they were more conservative than I. Which leads me right on in to the funny part. 
   After Taylor's miraculous surgery, he began talking again.   Delighted, jubilant, full of thanksgiving, I danced my way up to this funky little store in Iowa City.  I couldn't believe it when I found the exact right button to put on his hospital gown.  The button read:  Silent No More!!  I ceremoniously pinned it front and center on Taylor's gown---and then stood back and marveled at how he began to talk (Talk in Taylor language...but talk none-the-less.)  Oh, I was such a proud mama!  Ok, and was about four days into this "homecoming" of sorts that one of the nurses, while taking Taylor's vital signs spoke so compassionately and honestly with me. "I did not know that Taylor was a homosexual.  It is wonderful how you embrace that in him along with everything else."
"WHAT??????????"  Where on earth had she gotten that?  (Not that it's a bad thing; it just did not fit Taylor.  Actually, I have never known a gay Down Syndrome person.  Anybody????)
This precious nurse, in seeing us proudly display the "Silent No More" button, had jumped to the conclusion that we were "outing" Taylor at Iowa University Hospital.   My whole body did a double take.  I felt like I had been  psychologically body-slammed---in a good way--well, at least in a funny way.  And then I thought about how the nurses must have been talking about Taylor in the nurse's station trying to piece it all together so that he made sense to them.  We all got a good laugh out of this---and were jolted into remembering some valuable lessons along the way.
    I jump to conclusions often.  Unfortunately, I often fill in the blank that is left empty with a thought that I have done something wrong or messed up somehow.   That is really self-defeating, not necessary and is right up there with self-sabatoge.  I am working really hard on not believing everything I think--about myself---about you.
When we are not invited,  not emailed, not noticed, go unrecognized,  are not admired,  do not get hired,, when love is not returned or we are not called back----don't we so often jump to conclusions about the other person and what they're thinking, doing, believing?  And then we make up something about what it means about us--about who we are and what we are worth. 
This is a slippery slope----making assumptions and inserting our own junk on top of everybody else's.
Here's what I know (and am building muscle around): To be whole and healthy and happy,  it is critical to rethink what we tell ourselves about others and especially what we convince our very own selves---about ourselves.  Save the best .....and lose the rest.
We all need a delete button and then an "Empty Trash" button for so much of what we think.
Taylor is silent no more.  That's pretty much what it means.
What have you concluded just today about yourself....about a friend?
Rethink it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wake Up Calls

I love being in DENIAL (Don't Even Notice  I Am Lying).)  Well, I say I love it but that's not  really what I mean.  I just know that that we never do anything unless there is some sort of payoff for us.  I must get something from being is denial.  I guess that's not really the same thing as loving being in denial.  (Have I been gone too long and lost my ability to write a clear sentence?)  But, my denials have been making a lot of noise lately.  Something is trying to wake me up. Wake up calls are like having cold water thrown in our faces. Maybe sort of like that.  When my pajama bottoms get too tight, that's a big wake up call.  Pajama bottoms are supposed to be loose and baggy----ooops.  Was I really gaining weight? Denial.  I refuse to count how many pairs of shoes I actually own  or I find myself watching too much junk tv. I can lather myself up in denial pretty well and talk myself into just about anything.  Do you do that?  Justify just about anything that soothes you in the moment?  "But I didn't spend too  much or eat too much or say too much.....blahblahblah." Denial.
   For the past few weeks, I have been having a tug-of-war with reality and my longing to stay hidden and "safe."  Safe from tension---away from the complexities and requirements that being in the world thrusts us in.  I can sort of even see why people become stay-at-home-aholics.  What if something comes up I can't handle?  What if I meet a person who needs too much from me?  What if there is just too much commotion out there?  What if I won't know the answers? Part of me thinks I am just getting old.  The other part of me knows that fear is my good friend and constant companion.  I give anxiety  lots of power and a big place in my life.  Dammit.  By the same token, I try to pretend like I don't---Denial again.  I heard this really interesting man on  one of my funky "serious transformations" podcasts say something like  this, "One reason why we absolutely refuse to be truly  happy is because we know that so many  qualities in  ourselves would immediately become unemployed."   It got me to thinking (now there's a sentence for you!)...what if I "fired" the parts of me that keep me in denial---and you know....stepped  into the sunshine and bright lights in my world?  Throw my fear to wind--or better yet, embrace it.  (Yes, I go to many retreats where I practice embracing my shadow.)  Still it's hard.  You might be sitting at your computer desk reading this thinking that I am off the deep end again.  I know I'm not alone on this denial train.  I swear it's a "train" (if you will) that keeps us small because we listen to that voice that says, "You can't" or "You shouldn't" or "Who do you think you are??".   Aren't those just trip-us-up-words that turn us into scaredy cats---and into not being risk-takers?
  I watch Taylor not being  afraid in this life.  On the other hand, I am a worry wart; I tend to buy trouble.  Last week I obsessed over the fact  Taylor still cannot count to ten without leaving out a few numbers. How much he couldn't do gripped me at times---so I went  into denial mode to avoid feeling the pain.   (See how this works?)  I have a secret fear that I will not be enough---do enough, know enough, give enough, provide enough for my son.  I just don't feel like I'm very good at this job.  How in the heck do you raise a handicapped son anyway?  Where does this road lead?  What's ahead?  Will I be able to handle it all? 
Readers and friends, I know that you have some of those exact same questions.  You have those questions about whatever it is that life has put in front of you.  It's not just me.  Insert your own situation with your  particular issues into the blank. We've all got them. Right?  Are you with me?   Gandhi reminded us that we each one needs to be the change we want to see in this world. But how can we be that incredible change if we don't live full out?  And yet, I know I cling like crazy to things not changing.  I admit that I sometimes wait for that other shoe to fall.  (Look at me being all brave here and sharing all of this. Will you share back with me? )
I hear some wake up calls nudging me in my life.
"Get up,  Wake up.  Be aware."
That's what I'm hearing.
My pajama bottoms don't fit right. 
Time for changes.  I am going to furlough--un-employ Denial.
And, I'm going to go count how many shoes I have. 
I'm sure I have enough---more than enough.
Reality check.  Wake up. Maybe I don't need to know all of the answers.