Home and Family, My Awakening

“You’re Good.”

Self awareness and growth are two aspects of life that I value very much. But, they are not always easy and often come with some discomfort. The last couple weeks have been full of personal epiphanies and a fair amount of tears.

When I realized that I’m a Perfectionist, or an Enneagram Type 1, it helped clarify a lot of aspects of how I process thoughts and feelings. I definitely related to the desire to control and the harsh inner critic that is constantly telling me what I should do or what could be done better. I related less intensely to the passion of this type which is resentment or repressed anger. Also, I didn’t focus on the desire to “be good” and take responsibility for everything.

Through a recent situation at work, I recognized that I’d spun quite a story in order to preserve my belief that I was good and right. As I unpacked what happened and how I’d responded, it was very apparent that being “good” was the motivation behind my behavior. I’ve also come to see how often I take responsibility for the outcome of situations that are really not under my control. This isn’t the best quality as a manager, since one of my primary jobs is to hold others accountable for their work performance!

As I’ve been processes these experiences, I’ve spent a lot of time praying. I’ve been feeling unsettled and realized that I’ve strayed from many of my mindfulness practices that help me stay in the moment. Instead, I’ve been fused with my thoughts, aka “stuck in my head”. This is the pattern of my life. Surrendering and letting go usually takes a few days of prayer, defusing my thoughts, and accepting my feelings.

This morning, bright and early, I sat outside and read the Bible and a few pages of Thomas Merton’s No Man Is An Island. Merton describes “pure intention” as the desire for God’s will and “impure intention” as the desire for your own will. This passage struck me powerfully:

Only a pure intention can be clear-sighed and prudent. The man of impure intention is hesitant and blind. Since he is always caught between two conflicting wills, he cannot make simple and clear-cut decisions. He has twice as much to think about as the man who seeks only the will of God, since he has to worry about his own will and God’s will at the same time. He cannot be really happy, because happiness is impossible without interior freedom, and we do not have interior freedom to do what we please without anxiety, unless we take pleasure in nothing but the will of God.

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Wow. When Dennis and the kids came out to the backyard a few minutes later, I read them this passage and asked Dennis, “Can you read me this every morning?” He replied, “Let’s post it up all over the house!” He knows me well.

Sienna asked me what that passage meant. As I described it, I explained, “Sometimes I really like to feel in control, but it pits my will against God’s, which causes me a lot of unnecessary frustration and anxiety.” She looked at me with her big brown eyes (I swear that child looks straight into my soul) and simply said, “You’re good.” Those words touched something inside me as I’d recently come to know how deeply I desire to be good. Tears sprang to my eyes as I gave her a hug.

These tender moments of connection truly give life meaning. These are the moments that I miss when I’m “in my head” being all efficient and under control. While a desire to “be good” is a helpful trait, it can quickly become all consuming. Always being good is impossible and leads me away from dependence on Christ’s righteousness and grace. God is good and His will is perfect.

All my seeking and striving finally rest when I rest in God.

Home and Family, My Awakening

Intention WITH Action.

While on a prayerful run Saturday morning, I let my thoughts ebb and flow. I’d returned from a three-night work trip where I had several epiphanies about my identity as a leader and how I choose to spend my time. Suddenly, a phrase popped into my head: “Intention without action.” Hmm, interesting. For the past couple years, I’d been thinking about living intentionally. Just that week, I’d heard myself tell my Team that I had intended to do something that I’d neglected to do. A lot of good intentions do! In order to be a strong manager and leader, I need to take action. Intentions are very similar to plans, they are a good starting point, but meaningless if not put into action.

Years ago, I had a similar realization that life happens in the here-and-now. Instead of getting all caught up in my thoughts, plans (and intentions!), the fullness of life occurs when I focus my attention and awareness on doing something, or taking action. This is especially true when it comes to building relationships. All the good thoughts within my mind about a person or how our relationship could improve never make an impact on the other person! They only know my heart by the things I do.

After my run, Sienna and I had a mother/daughter date, starting at the hairdresser. As we were getting ready to leave and outlining out day, she said, “And then, we can come home and rearrange the pictures on my walls, right?” I agreed we would. After a fun and full day, I’d started to settle into an evening of reading outside when Sienna reminded me about her bedroom project. So, I mustered up the energy to put my book down and go into her room. As she started to explain her vision, I could feel a little resentment simmering inside. I wanted to read and retreat into my own little world.

Thankfully, a small little voice (the Holy Spirit most likely!) suddenly reminded me of my morning lesson: What you really want is to spend time with Sienna. That intention doesn’t build a relationship, these actions do. Be here now. We proceeded to spend over an hour rearranging the art on her walls and matting several of her drawings onto card stock so they’d look more uniform and artistic as a group. She was delighted and the finished room is beautiful!

Just as we were finishing up in Sienna’s room, Mateo burst into tears. That morning he and Dennis had seen The Art of Racing in the Rain and several of the images were “scary” to him. It’s a really emotional film and he was having a hard time processing all the real life drama. I sat with Teo for quite awhile, just letting him cry and reminding him to breathe! Sienna started trying to cheer him up. We moved outside to the fire pit, where Sienna retold him stories from the Ramona Quimby books. Teo started giggling through his tears. Then they got blankets out and read together. I hated to have to break-up this sweet, bonding moment when it was way past their (already late!) summer bedtime.

“That was nice of Sienna to cheer you up,” I said to Teo as he was getting into bed.

“Yeah, it really helped,” he’d simply replied with the sweetest smile.

The next morning at church, I whispered into Sienna’s ear: “You were such a kind big sister to Teo last night.” She smiled.

Witnessing this interaction, I was reminded again that relationships are built on action. If Sienna had just intended to be a loving sister or thought loving words about her brother while he was sad, it would not have much impact on Mateo or his perception of their relationship. Instead, by putting her love into action through storytelling and reading for him, she conveyed love and care much more than words or intentions ever could.

Over the past six years, mantras have been very helpful for me as I practice letting go of control and being present. “Intention without action” didn’t have quite the right ring to it. As I prayed about this simple phrase, it transformed into an affirmative statement: “Intention WITH action”. Much better! I’m going to post this reminder in various spots so I’ll remember to put my intentions into action by doing the things that will build relationships, both at home and at work.

Happy Monday everyone! May today be full of meaningful actions for you.

My Awakening, Running

Mindful Practices that Enhance My Morning Run

There’s truly nothing like running to work on my mindfulness practices! (By the way, I have definitely written about this topic previously… ) This morning I was able to get in a lot of exercise while spending time with God in prayer and letting my feelings ebb and flow without trying to control them. Over the last several years of running, I have accumulated tips and techniques to maintain presence so that I enjoy the act of running, not just the feeling of having accomplished a run.

Sometimes, not always, I’ll choose to leave my running watch at home. That’s what I decided today. I was headed to Miramar Lake, which is a 5 mile loop, so I can basically track my distance without the watch. Having my mile times staring me in the face often causes me to pick up the pace. It also has the effect of measuring my activity in a way that can detract from the prayerful, meditative atmosphere I so enjoy.

Along the same lines, I didn’t set out to accomplish a certain number of miles. Time and again I have gotten a particular mile goal in mind, only to become frustrated and disappointed when my body, the elements, my blood sugar, or some other factor caused me to cut the run short. Much better to start running with the mindset that I’ll run as much as I feel like running, that day.

I love how running long distances mirrors the ebb and flow of life. There will be several moments in any given run when I’d rather be doing anything else! Little aches, feeling sluggish, and obsessing about how much father I still have to go are just a few of the things that can get me down. However, there are also many moments where I feel elated, energized, happy, and free. In those moments I feel like I could run forever! The trick is, you have to push through the moments of struggle and pain in order to experiences the running highs. Just like in life. Rarely do we succeed or accomplish anything difficult without some challenging moments when we have to dig down and give more effort. Another aspect of changing feelings is the realization that whatever I’m currently experiencing is temporary. I may ache and feel like quitting right now, but give it another mile or so, and that feeling likely will have changed. This too have implications for life, in that we shouldn’t make major life altering decisions based on potentially fleeting emotional states.

Listening to music provides the background to my thoughts and feelings throughout a long run. I love setting the shuffle feature to my running playlist that includes a little bit of Justin Timberlake and Green Day plus a lot of MercyMe and Micah Tyler songs. The mix keeps it interesting and the Christian music helps maintain a prayerful heart. It’s fun experience that little moment of anticipation between songs when you wonder “Which song will play next?” Also, I love letting my pace and energy level change to match the tempo of each given song. Often a couple fact paced songs will be followed by a slower tempo that naturally provides a recovery period before I pick up the pace again.

While running, my thoughts come and go so easily. One minute I’ll be thinking about work situations, another I will remember something we need to do for the kids. Certain songs will make me reflective about my relationships. Others will touch my heart and help me surrender more deeply to God’s plan for my life. The ability to let my thoughts flow from one topic to another without getting “hooked” into rumination has been a huge part of my growth. Running is such a great activity for practicing this mindfulness technique. When I start fixating on the pain or frustration of running, I can simply change the focus of my attention to the world around me. I’ll notice the beautiful lake water, the sound of birds chirping, smile at other runners or walkers as we pass by, or simply focus on my breathing or running stride for several steps.

Today’s run was a really good one! The weather was wonderfully overcast and even a little chilly for summer in San Diego – great running conditions! I thoroughly enjoyed running, praying, and my meditative mindset this morning. Since I didn’t go too fast on the first lap, I was up for running another full lap around the lake for a total of 10 miles. Not too bad for a Wednesday morning!

Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

Tender Moments Abound

Yesterday evening, Dennis, Teo and I did a boxing workout in our very hot garage.  The guys had been talking about getting a heavy bag for months and then they went on sale at the local sporting goods store. So, they got their wish and a 100 pound heavy bag now dominates our garage.  When the kids were up in Humboldt earlier this summer, I did my first workout with Dennis and really enjoyed it!

With the Rocky soundtrack in the background, we rotated rounds on the bag and I got such a kick out of watching Mateo punch!  He is pretty coordinated and loves all kinds of physical activity.  It’s really cool to watch the dynamic when Dennis is teaching Teo how to do something or encouraging his efforts. Teo really likes to do what’s expected and do it well.  When I’m teaching him something, I can feel our inner perfectionists colliding and it doesn’t bring out the best in either of us.  Whereas, Dennis is just matter-of-fact and unemotional as he coaches and teaches. I feel such peace when they’re interacting, like I can just step back and rest.

Taking in the moment, I couldn’t help but lament at how big Mateo looks now – especially while wailing away on a 100 pound heavy bag!  At one point Dennis and I locked eyes after he’d just reminded Teo to “Keep your wrist straight!” and we both smiled.  There’s truly nothing like the bond of two parents sharing love and devotion for this particular child.  I quipped, “These are the days of our lives” and Dennis solemnly nodded.  This is our shorthand for reminding ourselves that we’re going to look back on these days with longing when the kids grow up and leave our nest.

Later in the evening, I sat in the reading chair in our bedroom while Sienna was in the shower.  Suddenly, through the noise of falling water, I noticed she was singing “True Colors”.  Oh how I love her sweet singing voice!  I put my book down and just listened, knowing I was fortunate to hear this private moment.  My mom is a singer and she has encouraged Sienna to sing, praising her beautiful voice.  I’ve also encouraged her, but she’s reluctant to perform in front of people.  I reflected on her nervousness about performing as I listened to her sing:

I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that’s why I love you
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful 

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This morning, Sienna has to get up early for math tutoring so I went into her room to wake her up.  As I gently stroked her face, she smiled and asked me to stay a minute.  I cuddled up next to her and kept running my hand over her forehead.  The lyrics to “True Colors” were still running through my head, so I softly sang the chorus to her.

“I sure loved hearing you sing last night,” I told her.

“I love you too, Mommy” she replied.

There are so many sweet, sacred moments of connection available to us each day.  I can often get caught up in the routines of work, household chores, exercise, preparing meals, reading, and all the rest.  When I slow down and pay full attention to the present, to my family and the life unfolding around me, tender moments abound.

Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

A More Meaningful Morning…

I have a little buddy with me at the office today.  Sienna came along to work for the morning!  It’s time sheet day, so a chunk of my morning was spent reviewing time sheets and getting them submitted to payroll, so it seemed like a good morning for a visit.  She brought along her math book and a couple books to read.  We also recently discovered a math flashcard app, so she’s been practicing her multiplication facts on the phone.

It’s fun having her here!  It makes my regular routine of making coffee, reading my daily devotion, reviewing emails, and moderating the morning call with my Team all take on new meaning.  She asked about the time sheets, so I described what I was reviewing and what it all meant.  When I applied my electronic signature to the document, Sienna exclaimed “Wow, you’re good at that!”.  Oh, the innocence and enthusiasm of youth!

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Sometimes I look at life from my kids’ perspective and it gives the moment an entirely new meaning.  This is just another Monday in the office for me, made more fun and engaging by my daughter’s presence.  When Sienna looks back on her childhood, she’ll have fond memories of being in her mom’s office.  She had pieces of candy as part of her breakfast and made a cup of hot chocolate along with my coffee at the Keurig machine.  She’s now drawing a picture of our house and family on my whiteboard so I can look at it fondly when I’m at the office.

These sweet little moments are the good stuff.  I love being present and mindful enough to truly notice them.

Books Worth Reading, Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

Each of us is unfinished.

When Dennis and I got married, we were already nostalgic about the life that lay ahead of us.  One of our wedding songs was “Remember When” by Alan Jackson.  It’s such a sweet song about a couple looking back on the milestones of their life together, from a vantage point of their senior years.  One line says, “Remember when thirty seemed so old…” which was funny to me, being that I was just shy of 25 years old when we got married!

I’ve often been told that I’m an “old soul” and I relate to that idea.  The feeling of looking back over my life nostalgically feeds something deep within me.  I just finished reading a book that brought all this up: A Year By the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman by Joan Anderson.  It’s a memoir of Joan’s year of separation from her husband as she hunkered down in their Cape Cod cottage to rediscover herself after a lifetime of taking care of her kids, husband, house, etc.

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Many of the lessons Joan learns during her year by the sea felt so familiar as they echoed my own awakening.  She has a perfectionist streak that she had to release and spent a lot of time “in her head” and disconnected from her body and feelings.  A mantra that I repeat to myself often is “why don’t I wait and see…?” This is a reminder that I don’t know how I will feel later or how a situation will unfold, and I don’t have to try to control it either.  Joan says: “In the words of Picasso, ‘I find, I do not seek.’ No longer desperate to know every outcome, these days I tend to wait and see, a far more satisfying way of being that lacks specificity and instead favors experience over analysis.”  Oh, so good!

In another passage, Joan is reflecting upon her relationship with her adult sons and their wives.  She describes the challenge of knowing where she fits in their lives as her role transitions from guide to supporter.  Joan shares that her sons seem reluctant to share their struggles or failures with their parents: “It occurs to me that I will continue to know my children less if they think I want them to be more.  Seeking perfection is a terrible thing when it robs you of truth.” Although Sienna and Mateo are still many years from leaving the nest, this reminder felt so poignant.  They both want to please Dennis and me very much.  As the years unfold, I hope to communicate openness and acceptance to them, along with encouraging their striving for excellence.

For many years, my striving for control could also be described as trying to “figure everything out”.  I’d often get this unsettled, seeking feeling that I finally recognized was that desire to figure something out.  Now, I realize that no one ever has it all figured out.  Life is constantly changing.  We are constantly growing and embracing the next phase of life.  There are certainly aspects to each of us that are unchanging and constant, but life serves up plenty of new experiences, circumstances, and lessons to learn.

Joan refers to this idea as being unfinished.  I love that word!  It denotes the opposite of being “all figured out” or complete.  As she and her husband reconcile, Joan concludes her year by the sea with this line: “Like me, he is on a new path.  I can only sit by and honor what is unfinished in him – in all of us.”  This line touched my heart, as Dennis and me are embarking on a new chapter of our life together.

At the end of June, Dennis “retired” from the law firm he worked at for almost 30 years!  He’s now going to be a “stay-at-home Dad” to our children.  The timing is great as my job now involves a fair amount of travel throughout Southern California. The past few weeks we’ve spent a lot of time sharing our hopes and dreams for the future and discussing the practicalities of this change in our routine.  The feelings of partnership and commitment have overflowed.

The other night, we were watching Frozen with the kids and I cuddled in next to Dennis on the couch.  Sienna looked at us and said, “You two are so cute!”  For some reason, this little exchange was so fulfilling.  As much as we focus on our children, they will eventually grow up and start their own lives.  When they do, Dennis and me need to have a strong relationship that will help us transition into the “empty nest” stage of life.

Maybe this is the benefit of looking at your life from the “old soul” perspective of experience?  This current stage of life, as wonderful and all-consuming as it is, will eventually pass and we’ll be looking back on it nostalgically.  The relationships we’re building now will, (God willing!) be the foundations of our lives then.  All the little seeds we sow, from daily connection with our spouse, to the acceptance we show our children, we will eventually reap later in life.  Each of us is unfinished.  How exciting to watch it all unfold!

My Awakening, Uncategorized

What Feels Like Living

When I went through my “awakening” nearly six years ago and realized that I’d been “in my head” and fused with my thoughts for quite sometime, I sort of believed everyone struggled with this issue, (is it just me or do most people assume other people are like them??)  But, as my personal growth and exploration have continued, I’ve discovered many aspects to my personality that help explain why I’m more prone to being “stuck in my head” than others.

The Enneagram has shed the most light on my personality.  I’m undoubtedly a Type 1: The Perfectionist.  As an aside, I get a kick out of the fact that I’m a Type 1 with Type 1 Diabetes. 🙂  Perfectionists have a deep desire to be “good” and avoid making mistakes. We have a very persistent critical inner voice (Sienna helped me name my Nutzo Butzo) that judges everything we do against the standard of perfection.  Yes, it can be exhausting.

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The thing is, we also evaluate all of our emotions as either good or bad.  Therefore, when emotions such as anger, sadness, or anxiety arise, we tend to consider them unacceptable and therefore repress them.  Turns out that my personality type is great at repressing emotions or using what’s technically called “reaction formation” to flip our emotions to something more acceptable, such as happiness, cheerfulness, etc.  I think this explains why I thought I was “happy all the time” before anxiety took hold in mid-2013.  In my mind, with my thoughts controlled, I kinda was.

All of the Enneagram resources explain that Perfectionists (Type 1) need to embrace acceptance in order to grow and shake themselves out of their personality patterns.  I got such a kick out of that, since it’s the major lesson I stumbled upon in my awakening.  I’ve also discovered, over and over again, how true it is for me.  In order to let go of my thoughts and be present, I have to accept my thoughts, and most importantly, my feelings for what they are, without trying to change or control them.

Actively trying to “feel my feelings” is something I remind myself to do frequently.  It’s like there’s this dichotomy – in any given moment I can either be aware of my thoughts or my feelings, but rarely both.  The best way for me to get in touch with my true emotions is to defuse from my thoughts and judgments (let them come and go).  When I don’t need to control my feelings by “flipping” them to a more acceptable/positive emotion, I am able to be fully present.

When I am present to my feelings, I get chocked up and teary on a daily basis.  When I really take in a moment, looking at my child’s face or a sunset, listening to birds chirp or clouds slowly pass through the sky, there’s a deep peace and connectedness that feels like living.

I don’t want to analyze and evaluate my way through life.  I don’t want to assess and judge all day long, every day.  I want to directly experience my life and be fully awake for each moment.  I want to feel things deeply and I want to connect with my loved ones.

Another way this mind/heart dichotomy plays out for me is in writing.  I admire writers who write from the heart and share their deeply felt emotions.  But, I struggle to do that kind of writing consistently because my default setting is to think about experiences rather than feel them.  When I sit down to write a blog post, it’s like I’m looking for a thesis statement or central argument to share rather than getting in touch with my feelings and writing from that space.  I imagine writing a blog post each morning that’s just a flow of all my thoughts and feelings in that particular moment.  But, it’s been the fear of it not turning out just right that keeps me from doing it.  Not this time.

For the next week, I’m going to write here each morning.  It won’t be well thought out ahead of time.  I’ll be getting back to the original concept of a blog – an online diary.  Thank you for being here. 🙂

Home and Family, My Awakening, Uncategorized

It’s all worth it.

I had the wonderful opportunity to receive training this week in Chicago, along with some of the ladies on my Team.  The training was awesome and I loved getting the chance to spend time with Corinna, Brandi and Rachel as we all work to grow our management skills.  Actually, it’s misleading to say we were in Chicago!  Our flights landed at O’Hare but then we went straight to a southern suburb for the two days of training.  It rained most of our visit, thus we didn’t venture out to the city.  I never even saw the Chicago skyline!

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Getting home on Thursday night late, I didn’t get much sleep before having to be at work Friday morning.  Most of the day involved a long meeting with folks from corporate and our local office to discuss a process that’s transitioning from my plate, now that I’ve taken on managing the entire Admin Team.  It was draining for me – emotionally and mentally.  By the grace of God, I was able to stay present and engage appropriately.  It was hard because earlier in the week, I had to be assertive to get upper management to understand that this role HAD to be reassigned to someone else.  I’d been trying to get this message across for months, but clearly compromised too much and therefore they continued to expect me to fulfill the role!  So, in this half-day meeting I had to navigate the dance between being helpful in the transition while stepping back from taking on too much responsibility.

Then, all these meetings and discussions went long and I didn’t make it to Teo’s class party to help out. Fortunately the Room Mom and I chatted the week before.  When I told her I’d just be getting back from Chicago on Thursday night, she said she wouldn’t count on me to help with the party, if I could just bring her the veggies and treats before I left.  Good thinking, Room Mom!

Friday afternoon we needed to run an errand before Sienna and I went to a slumber party.  I was looking forward to helping for the evening and spending time with friends, but I was tired.  Also, the errand was making us late for the party, which made me uncomfortable and frustrated.  The kids and Dennis could see that I was flustered as we rushed through Target and I had several moments of prayer and defusion to keep myself from losing it.  “Kelsey, it’s fine.  You’re going to be late but Kristi will understand.  You do not want to take your frustration out on your family,” I told myself.

Finally, Sienna and I were driving to the party.  She’s big enough to sit in the front seat now!  I was still working to get out of my head, with all the thoughts of the workday swirling around my mind.  Suddenly, Sienna touched my arm gently and said, “Thank you.”

“Thank you for what, Lovie?” I asked.

“For everything.  For the Cambridge School. For everything,” she replied as I looked into her big brown eyes.

“Oh, you’re so welcome,” I said as tears started to flow beneath my sunglasses.

I took a very deep breath and exhaled, thanking God for this loving and wise little daughter who so often reminds me of what’s important in life.  Her simple words of gratitude made me feel seen and appreciated.  These days of busyness with work, school, and family life are all for a reason.  It’s okay for me to be tired and not have it all together, all the time.  What fuels my efforts is love for my sweet children and loving husband.  It’s all worth it.

My Awakening, The Happiness Trap

Going in the Opposite Direction…

Whoa, it’s been two months since I posted!  Every time I return after a blogging hiatus, I say something like… “life has been full and busy lately,” which is once again true this time!  Between the kids adjusting to the academic rigors of The Cambridge School, regular busy season busyness at my office, plus the addition of regular travel for my new role at work, we’ve had a very full winter and early spring.

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Yesterday I took my second (and probably last!) train trip up to our Oxnard office.  This long day starts with catching the train from Solana Beach at 6:33 a.m., so I have to leave my house before 6:00 a.m. to get there.  If all goes well, I’d get back to my car in Solana Beach by 10:30 p.m.  The trip is about 4 hours up and 4 1/2 hours back.  Unfortunately, I got on the wrong train in Oxnard for the trip home!  The train came through the station right at 5:40 p.m., so I didn’t even question it.  Also, there’s only one track you can board in Oxnard, plus I find it very disorienting to figure out if the train is headed north or south!  These Amtrak trains travel in both directions without a clear “front”.  It’s very confusing!   It wasn’t until we were in Ventura and the conductor said, “Be sure you’re on the right train, we are headed northbound to San Luis Obispo” that I realized my error.

By the time I gathered my things, we were moving again.  So, I found the conductor and explained the situation.  He told me to get off in Santa Barbara and catch the 7:00 p.m. train south to San Diego.  He wrote me a little note to give the conductor of that train. I felt like a kid getting a note from a parent!  Poor little lost traveler.  Fortunately, it was nearing sunset and we were traveling along the coast.  The beauty of the view helped soften the blow that I’d added over 2 hours to my already long day of train travel.  Sigh.

When situations like this occur, I’m so grateful for the mindfulness practices and work I’ve done to accept the present moment and let go of my illusion of control.  This was an annoying mistake, but all-in-all, I was fine.  I had some extra time to talk to my boss, talk to my mom, read, and listen to the audio book of Pride and Prejudice.   I’m fortunate to have the option to work from home in my pajamas today, after getting about 5 hours of sleep last night.

The book I was wrapping up on the train is actually a psychology “primer” for therapists, written by Russ Harris, the author of The Happiness Trap.  It’s an introduction to using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (“ACT”) with patients.  Obviously, I’m not going to be treating folks formally with ACT, but I figured what better way to learn something than to “teach” it?  Even if just academically.  It has deepened my understanding and appreciation of this amazing technique of mindfulness, acceptance and valued-focused living.

I’ve been thinking lately about how much our pain in struggle in life is caused by the gap between what we think life ought to be like and our current reality.  We’re so often angry, frustrated, sad or disappointed when our expectations aren’t met or the current moment isn’t aligning with our hopes and desires.

The fundamental, essential, most important lesson I’ve learned over the past several years has been acceptance.  Accepting my thoughts and feelings, but also the situations and circumstances of life, my own mistakes and failings and the frustration of other people’s behavior!  Not having to control my inner world has lead to not having to control the world around me.  It’s a tremendously freeing place to be.  My “struggle switch” still gets activated now and then, but I’m able to accept my thoughts and feelings much more easily these days.  Which is extremely helpful when you’re trapped on a train taking you the opposite direction that you want to be going!

My Awakening

… but not yet.

When I started this blog several years ago, I called it Be Still and Know because of lessons I had recently started to learn. Stillness had not been a part of my life for many years. Presence was absent. I’d been missing the joy and peace of living in the moment as my thoughts absorbed all my attention. Over the past five years, I’ve learned many things that have enriched the initial awakening that started the summer of 2013. Learning mindfulness techniques and acceptance was just the beginning. Recognizing that I’d long lived with a fixed mindset was very important and impactful! Recently studying the Enneagram and realizing my perfectionist (Type 1) tendency has opened new avenues for exploration and growth.

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A couple years back, ideas for a book started percolating in my heart and mind. Particularly while out on runs, I’d come up with great ideas. Alas, it wasn’t convenient to jot them down while miles from home with nothing to write on! Life kept getting in the way of writing. I prayed for God to help guide my efforts.

Then, this year of change occurred. The kids switched schools. We remodeled our home and did major construction on the backyard. We traveled and I got promoted which involved a lot of transition at work. In short, life happened. Writing a book fell really far down the priority list. But, writing this today I don’t feel discouraged from my dream. Instead I hear a clear message from God: You’re not ready to write your book… yet.

Last week I had breakfast with the Head of School and Director of Advancement (and church family friend) at The Cambridge School. We had a delightful meal as we discussed classical Christian education and how our family has transitioned to the new school. I shared with them my struggle to embrace a growth mindset and release a fixed mindset. It’s very humbling to admit that I needed to start down this path of growth myself before I could nurture my children through their education. The Head of School wisely shared that, in teaching with a growth mindset, one of the main words they use is “yet”. As in, “you haven’t learned how to solve complex fractions, yet.” Or “you haven’t developed a strong organizational system, yet.” This simple word helps encourage students to keep working to learn and grow.

A consistent pattern in my life has been this persistent feeling that I need to have everything figured out. It’s a remnant of the fixed mindset and I’d venture to guess something that many Enneagram Type 1 personalities struggle with! It’s the antithesis of growth and acceptance. When life gets really full and busy (like it’s been the past 6-8 weeks!), this sense that I need to figure out everything that’s going to happen intensifies. In these moments, acceptance of my feelings and my limitations is key. When I finally slow down, let go of my persistent (and often unhelpful) thoughts, and remember that I am (and always will be!) growing then I can surrender to God’s will and be present in the moment.

This pattern will likely continue throughout my life because I’m human and sinful. Through God’s grace, I’m growing through each season of life. One day, there may be wisdom that I can share in book form. I would love to write something that’s helpful for others on this journey of life. But, that time is not here… yet.