Want to Get Rich Quick?

I saw this little quip on a church reader board in Napa, California: Want to get rich quick? Count your blessings. We strive for more to ensure future survival, but in the process, we forget that in order to thrive, we must love our lives as they are. Now. Right Now.

I strapped a tired toddler to my back on a recent morning and I hiked up a storied San Francisco hill. This felt luxurious. The warm squirming child, the 70 degree sunny skies, the world-famous architecture, the views of the bay. I looked people in the eye when I passed them. Sometimes they pretended not to see me. I discovered new sets of stairs to climb. I looked with new eyes, and I saw new things. I walked without a destination, like I do when I'm a tourist. I love to travel my own city and explore it's many undiscovered pockets.

All of this felt so good that it was too good. Guilt arrived to drag me off my cloud, back to the cold hard ground. Who am I to love my life this much? Who am I to live in this beautiful city and have time to take a walk at 10 am on a Monday morning? Who am I to write a blog and expect people to come?

Why is it so hard for us to enjoy what we have?

I dreamt of the life I have now. I did not take shortcuts. I worked hard to get here.

So why do I waste time thinking I do not deserve it, or that I have far more to accomplish? Haven't I done enough for today? Won't the rest come in time?

Perhaps our nature has not caught up to modern life in which we have all our basic needs met. Perhaps we invent problems to solve. Or perhaps, humans have struggled with this brand of guilt and dissatisfaction for eons. This could be an inextricable part of being human--or not. I don't know. But I'm done with it.

People often speak of gratitude lists and counting blessings because we must be reminded, and often, to focus on the good. Because there is bad, too. Because the world contracts and expands according to our focus. Our thoughts, they matter. Our thoughts, they can make us poor, or they can make us rich.

This is day 19 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Intention Scripts Experience

"We script intention into our designs, and in turn, our intention scripts our subjective experience." - Jason Silva

I look around my home at what I've designed for my family and I see three children who enjoy one another. Who want for nothing. (Except for maybe a Baby Alive doll.) Who spent the morning at the community center and are sitting on the floor in the living room, playing pretend. Who will go to the library in the afternoon and to bed with nourished bodies and clean teeth. Children who travel and know their extended family and love to watch YouTube videos.

In a city with hair and nail salons on every block, in a culture where women generally wait much longer to have kids than I did, in a neighborhood where you don't see school-aged children at the playground (unless they are with a summer camp), I am the women with unshaved legs and a toddling baby and a boy who looks bigger than his 9 years and a girl in the middle. People love to ask me, "are they all yours?" A question I cannot answer gracefully without doubting myself.

I end up feeling self-conscious. Not because of the question nor the hair on my legs (which is less of a statement and more of a symptom of busy-ness), but because I see no others mothers trying to entertain three children with an 8 year age range. Who do I think I am? I am most certainly not good at this. I most certainly lose my composure on a near-daily basis.

So I return to my intention. My intention was to be their teacher this summer. To take them on adventures around this fair city. To build memories together. But there was a learning curve. It took time to get into the groove of leaving the house every chance we got. It took time to figure out the right activities and schedules and techniques for conflict resolution. It took time to figure out how much food I would need to carry with me at all times. It took time to realize what I am attempting with my daughters and my stepson--summer camp plus home school plus school break plus sibling bonding.

Upon articulating motivations, we can better understand the process and the outcomes. Rather unconsciously, I decided to let my bohemian hippie self run the show this summer, keeping my children out of conventional structured activities and close to my side. This was the experience we needed Now. Nothing happens on accident. Including the resulting isolation and unease that pushed me back into this online world, head first. Where I have no one to answer to but myself. Where I can speak to adults. Where I can do something beyond washing and feeding and disciplining.

I see positive changes in my children, too. I see them listening better. I see them excited to get out of the house. I see them exercising their imaginations. I see them reading books, enamored by the local library. I see them making things. I see them learning at the California Academy of Sciences and engaging with nature at the Botanical Gardens and building forts in the Presidio. I see them sticking up for one another.

We engineer our experiences. Next summer, I may release control of my older children. I may maintain smooth legs. I may paint my toes. I may do more work. I may be different. But now that I understand the intentions that shaped this time, my head has cleared. I understand how I got here. I understand why it is right and important and so, so good.

This is day 12 of 30 consecutive days of blogging. I’m glad you’re along for the ride. If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. If you have something to add, feel free to comment openly or anonymously.

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Take A Step; Learn A Word

"Each life is a language no one knows. With every heartbreak, discovery, and unexpected moment of joy, with every lift of music that touches us where we didn't think we could be touched, with every experience, another letter in our alphabet is decoded. Take a step; learn a word. Feel a feeling; decode a sign. Accept a truth; translate a piece of the mystery written in your heart. Before we live what's next, it always seems like there is some answer we need to arrive at. But daring to enter, we are humbled to discover, again and again, that the act of living itself unravels both the answer and the question. When we watch, we remain riddles to be solved. When we enter, we become songs to be sung.

When life feels far off, remember that a flute is just something hard with holes until it's played. So, too, the heart. As matches are just sticks until lit, as ice is not quenching until thawed, questions and problems remain obstacles until lived. In this way, the life of every soul waits like sheet music to be played. What good are we if never played?

Only when life moves through do holes become openings."

- Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Today marks my six month anniversary in San Francisco. So it was only fitting that I came across this gorgeous passage.

By taking a step out of my home state, I have decoded another letter in my alphabet. And with it, I've had my fiction published and discovered a platform for my poetry and found a growing artist community of moms.

As for my family--Giovanna has had the opportunity to attend preschool in the California forest, forging a unique spiritual relationship with nature that will stick with her forever. Emile has gotten to travel on an airplane by himself at frequent intervals, allowing him to show responsibility and practice precocious independence. James continues to move forward in his career as a professional creative. And Skyla, baby Skyla, she gets to soak up all this good sunshine and ocean air, the excitement of San Francisco as it comes through her mama and daddy and siblings and self.

By leaving Seattle, we have ripped holes in our lives. Never again will my children and I feel entirely at home, but we have something else. We have San Francisco--and when the storied winds of this city blow through our holes, I hear music.

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Public Transit Vs. Driving With Kids

I thought that maybe if I took the bus I could journal for a moment. But it was crowded and I had to stand with the baby on my back and when I did get a seat, the baby grew fussy. I could barely hang onto the lurching bus and my girls at once, much less open my purse. Skyla lost her patience around the same time we got to our stop, so naturally, I missed it.IMG_3551.JPGNo worries though, we walked through Chinatown for the first time and got caught in the rain before hopping on a bus back up the hill to the 22 foot gingerbread house at the Fairmont in San Francisco. I do love public transit that comes every 5-10 minutes.IMG_3569.JPGI experience something on the bus from time to time like when Skyla flirts with everyone she can catch with her eyes, smiling and babbling and a fat little hand on an elderly man's chest, or when Giovanna chooses to stand rather than sit with a smirk of pride. A swelling of my heart, simple but deep enjoyment of my children. It makes me sad for all of the hours I've spent in my car. Isolated, bored, lonely. Convenience and speed the tippy top priority. Time too finite to waste. Yet driving is another sort of waste... And a whole lot of freedom.IMG_3565.JPGOnce we have our basic needs met, what do we chase? A lot, but at the center of it all is freedom, I think. Freedom of expression via art. Freedom to explore via travel. Freedom to consume via money. Freedom to grow via information. (Enter the internet!)IMG_3577.JPGInterestingly, motherhood seems to impose the opposite of freedom. By it's very nature motherhood occupies our bodies and consumes our hearts, sometimes our thoughts. Whether we want to accept it or not, our children are like teeny tiny bosses. IMG_3595.JPGDriving can become its own sort of break as our children are temporarily encumbered by their carseats. Their only power in that position comes from the power they have over us. Both of my daughters have been known to wail in the car, and I have been known to pull over. I've grown more skilled at handling the cries with my second babe and I do wonder how this will affect her in the long run, praying it will be mostly good rather than mostly bad.IMG_3592.JPGDriving, when the children are quiet or sleeping, becomes its own meditation. It gives you choices. Taking the bus is a social and cultural experience. It allows you to look sideways in addition to forward.IMG_3612.JPGI'm grateful to live in a city where I can do both. And I encourage other people, not just mothers but especially mothers, to shake up their transportation routines. Bus instead of drive. Transit instead of taxi. Walk a different way. You might just get inspired by something new.

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Depleted & Alive, Uprooted & At Home

I knew that moving to another city and state would be a lot of work... But. This. This is intense. And long. It's been weeks of anticipating the change (packing, purging, house hunting, house showing, interstate commuting for James and solo parenting for me), weeks of change (signing a new lease, living out of boxes, living without any boxes, saying good bye and hello), and now weeks probably months of processing the change (unpacking, organizing, living around boxes, building a new infrastructure [think--school, gym, insurance, doctor, bank, car mechanic, internet, babysitter, ballet, gymnastics, library, friends ET CETERA]). Please, friends, do not take your infrastructure for granted. Creating a new one from scratch has given me so much appreciation for everything I left behind. It's like chipping away at a block of ice with a toothpick. Except I want it all to be done with as soon as possible, set up and settled in. (Just typing this makes me click over to research something or call someone...)

But it took years and many recommendations and serendipitous connections to build the old infrastructure in an area where I'd lived for pretty much my whole life. These things take time. Time and patience. And since patience is part of my struggle in this body in this life, I've become somewhat consumed by setting up my new life. Getting it over with and moving along.

Unfortunately, shortcuts aren't always better and "breaks" aren't always healthy. I still don't know if it's normal and acceptable to neglect parts of me when life overwhelms, or if it's a sign that my priorities are mixed up and turned around, that I'm lazy or undedicated or taking unimportant things too seriously at the expense of important things. Earlier this month I wrote a bucket list for savoring October. Now when I see it, especially #10, I scoff at my former self. It seems I do a lot of this on my blog. I write from my stream of consciousness, I publish, and then things change. But this outdated snapshot of my thoughts remains on the internet for anyone to see and know and judge. I avoid going through the archives, but when I do, I usually cringe with contempt for my former self. I am self-conscious and self-critical but somehow recognizing my flaws makes them easier to bear.

I've felt incredibly depleted by the past couple of weeks and by everything still undone. The boxes still in the hall, the pictures still in the boxes, the walls still unpainted, the dishes still in the sink, the laundry still in the basket. The classes I have yet to find, the doctor I have yet to meet, the strangers I have yet to befriend.

This afternoon marks the first time in weeks I've sat down at my computer to write, sitting with the discomfort of being unsettled rather than seeking to sweep it away. I stumbled through the preceding paragraphs, seeking to make sense of this current upheaval and the resulting breed of writer's block. There's just so much to do and not enough time to do it and two little girls who grow up a little more every time I turn around.

But I am also alive and enlivened and excited to start every day. I love exploring and getting to know San Francisco which I find warm and welcoming and winsome. I realize more and more that I am a true city girl. I feel at home in my new home, in my element amongst such activity and energy. Even without an established social network, I feel part of something. I am part of something simply by existing here. Perhaps the potential that I sense in San Francisco, the myriad of opportunities and experiences available, is the reason I am overly eager to get the logistics out of the way so I can focus on making friends and art and a life in the context of these sharp hills and valleys.

Onward.

Are you patient? Any tips on building a new infrastructure or recommendations specific to San Francisco? Tell me in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you!

To read more of my musings on motherhood, mindfulness and the creative life, please follow my blog or subscribe via feedburner.

IMG_2123.JPGmy new home