the pendulum has somehow swung since april. not only towards summer and all the mellow, sleepy, relaxed fun it can bring, but internally too, towards an unclenching, a release, a lighter experience of my emotions and less fear in my heart. the death grip has released and i have somehow, unknowingly, returned to a softer place.
how it happened and why, who knows. just as many tiny decisions and moments can add up to a feeling that things are off, that things aren't right, so too can the reverse happen. suddenly there is integration again, and recognition of being in synch with your life. i couldn't force this to happen or wish myself happy. in fact, i didn't even know what was wrong or what to fix. so i chose simply instead to stop doing things that didn't feel right. to stop going against myself.
this does not mean i stopped doing things that are hard or things that are unpleasant. it means instead that if something made my internal compass cringe or i felt dread set in, i stopped or said no or revised the plan. little tiny adjustments that has me claiming my life back.
after saying yes for so long - yes to any job, any client, and work - i am saying yes to my whole life. this brings balance. i am no longer working at any price - which translates to ' at any expense.'
i've also been deeply affected by the realization i had in chicago two months ago that this is my life and i need to play by my rules. only when i honor my own unique, crazy, complex needs will i be living a life that makes me happy. trying to create a life i think i want and methodically attack it, is way too big of a task. it is much easier to choose in each moment. tiny choices i can do. and when i make these choices in line with my gut, with my 'belly mind,' things will work out a lot better than when i choose solely with my thinking, practical mind.
the question that kept haunting for many months now was - how did i get here? so far away from my authentic self? so far away from my joy? there was no way to put a finger on which tiny choice it was that brought me to the present. which door i opened or which door i closed that led to an avalanche of other decisions that landed me in the middle of my life. lost. uncertain. afraid. and sudennly unhappy in this life, that until now, had felt like a fairytale.
here i was making choices i thought were leading more deeply into joy until suddenly, i realized i had gotten off course. not unhappy on the surface or moping about - because people around will say i'm pretty joyful - but unhappy in the reflective moments when i asked myself honestly if i was being fulfilled by my life. was i living this life in a way that i'd be proud of when i one day sit on the porch and ponder the past?
the answer was: not really. in trying to do and have and be so much, i felt fractured instead of complete. splintered into too many pieces without a cohesive center. i was fragmented and stressed out, spending more time on things i didn't want than on things that were truly meaningful. dis-ease was taking over my daily experience of life as i lived on the surface barely skating by with way too much to do and not enough time to be. i missed my kids like crazy. i missed romance and dates and laughter with my husband. i missed fun.
so far all i've done to change this is:
1) choose with my gut. when i weigh two clients, i choose the one that makes me feel positive and excited. i say no to the one that puts my stomach in knots. i say no to the one that won't pay me enough to cover childcare so i can handle their account. i say no when being away from my family is a greater cost than the work will bring in.
2) not giving it away for free. i've grown my business long enough now, and shown my value, that i won't work for free or trade anymore just build my client list or gain experience. it was necessary for a time, but not anymore.
3) i've separated work from home. i still run my pr and writing business from home but luckily we were able to get office space in matt's real estate office for our vacation rental business. getting the most stressful of our few businesses out of the house has been a huge relief.
a friend of mine recently shared a 'game' that she and her husband use to check in with their marriage. they do this once or twice a year, usually on a road trip, and when she explained it to me, i had that flicker of recognition - oh, this would work for me! kicking the concept around, i realized that i could use it in many areas of my life so i've been playing with the idea and seeing what comes up.
their game goes something like this:
taking turns, rate the marriage on a 1-10 in various categories like compatability, romance, fun, sex, etc..(i can't remember them all but that isn't really the point - each couple and each person will surely have their own important categories :) the ground rules are that each person's number is THEIR number. there is no debate or arguing. the only 'back talking' is about solutions - what can we do to bring this number up?
matt and i have yet to play, but i've started the game by searching for the important categories in our marriage. i've also been using this rating system for myself. how do i rate myself in different areas and what could i do to get the numbers up where i need to?
one of my big ones is pleasure. is there enough pleasure in my life? am i making space for it? am i valuing it as an important part of life? am i sharing it with the people who matter most to me? all of it got me thinking. Big time.
so i've put more priority on pleasure. insisted on it at the expense of other, more practical things, and it feels really good. the funny thing is, by focusing on pleasure, i actually have a better attitude for work and for stress. i have more patience and i respond more calmly to all the little glitches in my life.
last friday i put a call out for friday cheer. one friends said yes, then two more, then a few more and before i knew it, i had an impromptu dinner party at my house to celebrate the first day of summer. folding cloth napkins, making a lime pomegranate & rose punch, simmering spices to make curry & dal, lighting incense, putting on a summer dress, welcoming guests in my home...it made me feel connected, alive, happy. every day can't be like this, but moments of every day can.
i am looking for happy moments in every day right now...the best kind of treasure hunt. this morning it was hot croissants with butter & jam, making a joke with matt about a stressful detail rather than getting hung up on it, snuggling with temple for 2 minutes before making her jump out of bed and hurry off to preschool, saying yes when she asked me to watch her do a trick when i dropped her off at preschool instead of saying sorry i don't have time, looking at satchel's lego catalog with him before he left for summer camp. by doing all of these little things, my cup is full.