12-Year-Old Girls and the Counterintuitive Nature of True Wisdom

Our relationship with our children is utterly unique and utterly exasperating. While I feel a love-without-conditions for my kids, there are chapters in our lives together in which that love is challenging to practice.

My daughters are 12 and 14 today, and I can say with total certainty that I am certainly baffled by 12-year-old girls. 2 years ago, my older daughter bewildered me with her sudden hatred of the very sight of me. Everything I said or did was mortifying, and there was no way we were going to make eye contact or touch. Hugs, forget it. I recall coming into her bedroom with laundry and saying something to her, and she looked up with clear repulsion and said, “You can go now.”

Wow. I was incredibly hurt. I couldn’t figure out what on earth had made me an object of intense dislike so quickly. I tried over and over to engage her. Needless to say, those efforts were a waste of energy and a disappointment.

I talked to a friend of mine whose daughter was older; she offered some wonderful insight:

  1. It’s not about you; don’t personalize your daughter’s behavior or words.
  2. Your daughter doesn’t know what she’s doing or why.
  3. Give her plenty of space.
  4. She’ll get through it.

I did commit to giving her more silence and more space, which of course was the opposite of my instinct–talk at her and move closer to her.

My friend was right on; the more I responded with quiet, the softer my daughter became. The more space I gave her, the closer she came. This process took months and all the patience I could muster. I made a conscious decision to call her “honey” and “sweetheart” as often as I could, with a loving, calm tone of voice. Now that she is 14, there aren’t many moments of conflict between us. I miss her when she’s gone and enjoy her company.

Now my baby is 12, and this transition is potentially more hurtful than the previous one. My youngest has always been extremely affectionate, chatty, and exceedingly loving to me in particular. In truth, it stings like crazy to feel her rejection, as natural and necessary as it is. I’m writing this list of “Things to Remember” not only to keep myself on course with her, but also because we all have people in our lives we love who, at times, behave in a way that is quite unlovable.

  1. The behavior doesn’t reflect the essence of the person you love. You don’t need to understand the behavior–or talk her out of it, either!
  2. The behavior is not a reflection of whether or not that person loves you. Believe the love is there even if you can’t see it.
  3. Pay close attention to your impulses. Chances are, when you feel like talking, you ought to be quiet. When you feel like getting closer, you might be better off stepping back. And sometimes, the opposites are true.
  4. Use terms of endearment. Those terms soften the hearts of the speaker and the one spoken to.
  5. Remember everything always changes. This isn’t a forever thing.

12-year-old girls offer an opportunity to truly experience the counterintuitive nature of true wisdom. Last night, I said goodnight to my baby girl, who was looking not at me, but straight ahead, as if willing me to evaporate. I leaned in and kissed her cheek, and said, “I love you, sweet girl.”

 

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I’m an F’ing Superhero

C’mon, you’ve even entertained the idea as an adult: If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I eavesdropped as my children, when they were younger, discussed their superpower desires with friends; usually, the answers were “flying,” “reading people’s minds” (ugh! can you imagine!), or “running super fast.” Maybe adult answers might be “making insane amounts of money without even trying”, “eating whatever I want without ever getting fat,” or “never getting tired.”

Give me a cape embroidered with a “C”, somebody; I finally got my superpower.

I was a highly anxious child, depressed teenager, and anxious young adult. I experienced debilitating panic attacks in college. Anxiety felt like a mouse eating the insulation of my mind.

My method for dealing as a younger person was journaling and running. Most certainly those activities took the edge off the sharp blade of panic. I felt a sense of control, like I was stepping on the neck of my enemy.

One of the reasons I was devastated by my running injuries in 2009 was that I no longer could have the upper hand in the battle, or at least that it how it felt. Who would I be if I couldn’t keep that shit contained?

I never would have sought out yoga if not for injury.

I approached yoga like running, looking for a way to kick my own ass and work up a sweat. I was certainly surprised by the difficulty, as I wrongfully assumed the strength I developed in running would make yoga easy.

Those of you who have cultivated a yoga practice know how it goes. Step on the mat for one reason or another, and sooner or later, something big starts happening. I remember points along the way when I felt layers of protection around my heart peeling back, revealing what needed to be felt and dealt with. There is no hiding in yoga.

I thank my teacher Marietta for introducing me to how badass yoga can be and loving me–and so many others–in the middle of our struggles.

I thank my teacher Dean for teaching me about sthira and sukha and whetting my appetite for more understanding. He gave me a breath-centered practice that delivered to me the truth that I had to seek my liberation and leave my marriage. Dean, you were the right teacher for the right time, and I am thankful for the space you provided for me.

I thank my teacher Jason for teaching me how to teach; his accessibility, humor, and clarity helped me help others.

I thank my current teachers, PJ and Larissa, for their unwavering integrity and commitment to our beautiful practice, for helping me learn to trust them and myself, for ushering me into a space way beyond what I could have imagined for myself.

I can’t mark the moment when I stepped off the battlefield with anxiety. It fell away, bit by bit, piece by piece, over the last year. It’s not that I don’t have days of worry or moments or panic; I do. But the stronghold anxiety had on me, that’s over.

This is a superpower, this calm. I “used” running to push anxiety down, and it bubbled up again. Yoga asked me to step right into it and breathe it through.

You can’t beg for this, borrow it, or steal it.

This calm was earned. This calm is maintained. This calm makes me a f’ing superhero.

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My One Year Anniversary with Ashtanga

On January 27, 2016, I finally got my ass into a Mysore-style class with a real authorized Ashtanga yoga teacher. I knew right then and there that something way different was at work, although I couldn’t have explained it at the time.

The first month I went to class 4 days a week. I couldn’t sleep at night. My body, although profoundly tired, was lit up in an extraordinary way. I felt a vibration, an energy, that wouldn’t turn off when I climbed in bed. It drove me crazy. Pulsations of life.

As I learned to relax more, not so overwhelmed with the new practice, as I paid more attention to my breath, the current settled down, and I could sleep again.  Then I was sleeping better than ever. I added another day, five days a week. About 8 months in, 6 days a week.

A year of committed practice is no small thing. A year ago, I was ready to give myself over to the right thing, if only I could find it. I was at the tail-end of a dating relationship with a very sweet but addicted man; that relationship compelled me to be even more committed to health and sanity.  I came home from my first Ashtanga class and broke up with him immediately.

Over the past year, I feel things in my life coming into alignment.

Certain things dropped away naturally, almost without effort, and some things fell/are falling away as a result of firm decisions. I stopped eating meat. I stood up to my ex-husband. I eventually stopped dating (not forever, just long enough). I stopped buying shit I didn’t need (this will be a work-in-progress forever). I stopped working at an unfulfilling job. I dumped a couple of job plans that I invented out of sheer practicality.

I added other things. I started buying healthier food (my kids ask, “Where’s the good food??” and I say, “You mean, where’s the junk food? It’s not here!”). I started reading again, a lot. I started listening to podcasts that inspired me. I started writing again. I started initiating conversation with people I was interested in knowing better at the shala. I started working for a friend.

The last couple of months have been marked with a new calm. And I just know the calm isn’t a permanent condition. I earn that shit. Every day I take my whole self to the mat, do what I know, with the best breath I can manage. And I come out settled. Until the next day.

Every day we collect dust and debris. The spirit starts to rust the moment it’s been shined up. Every day I go back to the practice to blow off the dust and debris and knock off the rust.

Ashtanga most certainly has been the “right” thing for me. And the one right thing lead to other right things. On this one year anniversary, I am profoundly grateful to this beautiful practice, the other students who have encouraged me in so many ways, and my teachers, who walk their talk.

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One of My Heroes is 14. And 1/2.

And she’s my kid.

One of the phenomenal things about being a parent is meeting and living with people who are of you but not you. My older daughter, who is the middle child, was very sweet baby, her round face and bald head and bright blue eyes reminiscent of the Gerber baby. Now, at 14.5, she is bigger than me in every way. She moves with authority and self-possession. She’ll admit I have more (barely more) muscle definition in my arms, but we both know she could take me in a heartbeat out of sheer ferocity.

My son and I looked through her elementary school yearbooks one day. He paused over her 2nd grade photo and said, “Look. There it is in her eyes. It started then.” And it’s true. Her pale, round face, darling bob with bow, her pretty dolly mouth, and eyes glinting with the hinting of fire.

At 5, she loved horses. She took weekly lessons until she was 10. The trainer said, “She’s a natural. She could really go somewhere with this.”

At 10, she earned her first degree black belt in Taekwondo. The instructors said, “She’s a natural. She could really go somewhere with this.”

At 10, she started playing soccer, on a boys’ team. Coaches of other teams would say, “We’d love to have her play on our team.”

By 13, she’d devoted herself to basketball, and in her 8th grade year, she played on 3 basketball teams because coaches said, “We’d love to have her play on our team.”

By 14, she made high school Varsity basketball.

Her AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) basketball coach met with us last weekend to help her build potential plans for earning a college scholarship. He’s a tough man and a demanding coach, and she loved and appreciated his “Give me more” style. We sat at Panera, and the coach sent through his well-planned outline, pausing to tap her open notebook from time to time, saying, “Write this down.”

She is all ears. Her noise, her bravado, her willfulness, her fire: all subdued in the moments of coaching.

It’s easy to be impressed with her athletic ability. But you know what, go to any tournament, watch any game. Some kid out on any court has noticeable ability. What’s most admirable to me about my daughter is not her ability but her coachability. She listens and responds. She doesn’t ignore or forget. This beautiful response to feedback and correction (which, I should add, doesn’t translate at home!) springs not only from a desire to please the coach, but also from her infinite driving fire to be better.

As the AAU coach listed off things she can do to improve her game (which included everything from documenting training to conditioning DVDs to summer camps to being careful about choices in friends and postings on social media accounts), he said something that resonated deeply with me: Training has to be uncomfortable.

And why practice in a way that is, on many days, wildly uncomfortable? Coach put it this way for my daughter: “Training has to be uncomfortable or it doesn’t prepare you for the realities of the game.”

She’s accepted this. She’s willing to get knocked around in practice so she can stand her ground when it counts.

 

 

 

 

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Relationship < Adventure

Source: Episode 4 | Zimzum with Kristen Bell

I don’t think it’s enough to know what I don’t want in a relationship. I think I need a stronger idea of what do I want. The problem for me is that I don’t see a whole lot of relationships around me that model what I’d want. I catch myself in observation of others thinking, “Nah. That’s not it,” or, “God, no, not that.” Or the worst: “I’d rather be single my entire life than be a part of a relationship like that.”

So I’d like to move beyond being critical (or admittedly sometimes even downright jaded) about relationships between men and women and begin developing a positive, expanded, evolved vision. It’s gonna have to be a big vision. And it’s gonna have to be a radical vision.

I’ve enjoyed Rob Bell’s books and podcast because his ideas and beliefs about God and relationships resonate with me the way nothing else has (he says, “I talk to my atheist friends about the God they don’t believe in. I don’t believe in that God, either”). He’s written a book with his wife, Kristen, called The Zimzum of Love, and their discussions on his podcast (see link above) have given me the ability to begin to see in my heart and mind what the relationship I’d like to be a part of will be like.

Here’s what I understand about the basic concepts:

  1. When 2 people come together in relationship, a shared, energetic space exists between them.
  2. The space between them is always changing, a dynamic reality, rather than a static one.
  3. The space between the 2 is a generative space–whatever gets put in, grows. Kindness. Patience. Understanding. Unkindness. Resentment. Judgment. Whatever goes in, multiplies. Even little things. A kind word. A rolling of the eyes.
  4. The space between 2 needs honesty (and presumably, fidelity!) as the foundation. There’s no hiding anything.
  5. The 2 bring all that they are into the space–the script they were given as children, all they know about themselves, all they don’t know about themselves. And in my case, the divorce baggage.
  6. The best thing a person can ever do, the thing that makes a relationship as great as possible, is a commitment from each to be as healthy as he/she can be.

I love this stuff because it blows up all the babyish and romantic bullshit we’ve bought into. Instead of looking for a merely a lover or a partner, I’m looking for a co-creator of a dynamic space and a life of adventure.

Since this list is what attracts me, it’s no wonder online dating doesn’t work for me. I don’t want to play the game and write a profile that attracts lots of men. I guarantee I’d get ZERO interest if I wrote the following:

I don’t want to follow a script. I don’t want to do what anyone else is doing. What I want is to enter into a “sacred” space with you–all of myself, every bit of my past, present and future, every bit of my body, mind, and soul. I’ll keep myself healthy and happy. It won’t be your job. I won’t lie or deceive you. It’s not in me. I’ll be mindful of what I put in the space that we share. I’ll aim to keep putting in the best I have at any given moment. If you can do the same, in your own way, we’ll be on an adventure, not “in a relationship.”

 

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Senioritis and Other Awful Temporary Afflictions

Urban Dictionary, the place in which I’d happily get lost for hours, defines senioritis as:
noun. A crippling disease that strikes high school seniors. Symptoms include laziness, an over-excessive wearing of track pants, old athletic shirts, sweatpants, athletic shorts, and sweatshirts. Also features a lack of studying, repeated absences, and a generally dismissive attitude. The only known cure is a phenomenon known as Graduation.

I’m not enjoying watching my kid afflicted by this overwhelmingly common phenomenon (though he doesn’t miss school nor wear only sweatshirts). High school has been one long trip in a country he neither understands nor appreciates (I soooooo remember this feeling). From day 1, he’s wondered why the Almighty would subject him to this and just how much longer til this trip is over.

I’d say his attitude seems more one of disillusionment than dismissal. He’s just done. The problem is, of course, that he’s not done.

I’d love to tell him if he just sucks it up and plows through, this will be over and a vague memory in no time. But that’s kind of a lie, isn’t it? We may finish high school, but there’s always more chapters in life that we’d love to skim through or skip altogether and get on to the next thing. I have a friend who knows she needs to leave her current job but has no other prospects yet. I broke up with my last boyfriend exactly a year ago and have no prospects yet. I know a couple who know exactly where they’d like to move but have no prospects to buy their current home yet. You feel me?

A fancy term to describe this is liminal space.  It’s the in-between, the “I’m so done with A but don’t quite have B yet.” Whatever “B” might be.

It’s really easy to despise the liminal space. It can literally hurt to have outgrown a situation and not be allowed to get right into a more desirable situation. I suspect, though, that liminal space is way more important than point A or point B.

I’d guess none of us are good at waiting, especially now, when Amazon can deliver shit as soon as you think of it. It’s too bad technology has taken us to a place in which we literally lose our minds when we can’t have something yesterday.

I told my kid that this time in his life might be excruciating, but it’s not punishment. Liminal spaces have lessons to teach us if we give up the focus on the future that doesn’t yet exist. I’ve found this past year, which has been an in-between space in numerous ways, has taught me more than the 4 years prior.

Please don’t try and fast-forward through any chapters. It doesn’t work, first of all. And second, you’d be missing all the preparation you need to get to point B.

***Note: I wrote this yesterday morning and couldn’t sleep last night. I couldn’t stop thinking about when I’m going to get to point B. Dammit. How much longer??

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January: Possibly the Best Month Ever

For those keeping track, I quit my teaching job last month and had no idea what to do next. I have to say that I enjoyed the students A LOT (college freshmen) but not the job. I found myself just wanting to dump the syllabus and sit and shoot the shit with them, talk ideas. I realized that someone is paying for tuition, and certain services ought to be provided. It just couldn’t/wouldn’t/ and absolutely shouldn’t be me anymore.

I went to the Resume Writer/ Career Coach man. He spiffed up my resume for a chunk of change. And I secretly hope I’ll never have to use it–or his interviewing prep lessons.

In my discussions with Resume Writer Man, he asked what my ideal job would be. I was honest. I’d like to be a freelance writer and travel (that’s how I feel today anyway). He asked if I blogged, so I started. I had no idea that starting to write again would be so invigorating. Between both writing and practicing Ashtanga yoga every day, I feel like a new person. This is possibly the happiest I’ve ever been.

There have been moments of great joy in the past for sure, but those moments were about things happening to me, not in me (getting married, birthing children, etc.). This is very different.

Before my resume was even complete, my best friend, who is a therapist in private practice, called me and asked to hire me. She said she had made a “To Do” list for her business in 2017 and realized she had the same list last year. As she read her list, I recognized there was plenty on the list that I didn’t know how to do. So I said yes.

Would I hire me to do these things? AHHH, no. But when I told her I didn’t want to make mistakes, she said, I trust you.

I’ve been rewriting her form letters and revamping her website. I figured out how to transfer her domain from one host to another, and I chose the new template and images and wrote all the content. Granted, I’m not exactly efficient yet, but I know her and understand what she is trying to do. And it feels great. It’s fun. Maybe you could do better (I bet you could), but I am learning a ton and am satisfied with the results–as is she.

When this project is done, maybe I’ll have to get serious about scrolling through job postings again. And that’s fine.

My WORST dating experience ever brought me the office in which I work. He (the man who delivered the worst dating experience ever) asked me why I wasn’t writing, why I had spent decades away from something I used to do daily as a young person. He told me I needed a space of my own to work and be creative in (the fact that he was bossy, and extraordinarily condescending, were the least of my issues with him). And you know what, he was right. After our unpleasant goodbye, I kept staring into the large sunroom and envisioning my space. Eventually, I bit the bullet and bought the stuff. I’m a minimalist at heart and don’t exactly have a ton of cash for home remodeling, so it felt like a Big Deal.

It is a Big Deal, this month, this office, this list of things I didn’t know how to do. And this is a bigger deal, this voice in my head saying, I trust you.

 

 

 

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