The Art of Filtering

"Always needing to stay immediate by removing what is no longer real is the working inner definition of sacrifice--giving up with reverence and compassion what no longer works in order to stay close to what is sacred."- Mark Nepo "The Book of Awakening"

I am continually humbled by this life I have chosen as a mother, wife and writer. The beauty lies in the nuances and they are so easily missed. The distractions are plentiful. I want to get back to the basics.

The blank page.

Thoughts and words, no matter their speed.

Books I look forward to opening.

Entire days with no purpose but to love and be loved by my family.

We are constantly bombarded with information and opportunities and even images. First world problems, I know, trivial but real. A favorite distraction of mine (Instagram) utilizes "filters" to communicate via images and text. Interestingly, it seems filtering is exactly what we need to do in every moment; to preserve what is real, we cannot let everything through. We must be mindful of the snarks and cynics, the media including social media, the books and websites that don't resonate, the habits that do not serve.

We must protect ourselves. No one can filter the noise for us. Not an app nor a partner nor a boss nor a parent nor a friend nor a child. No one can make our mistakes for us, and likewise, no one can know the depth of our potential but us. We are at the mercy of ourselves. Our thoughts, our words, our deeds. Our inaction and our action.

So much of my twenties I spent shaving away the layers that had calcified over my true self. Motivations, ambitions, careers, hobbies, lifestyles, beliefs. I made strides in casting away the debris and carving "me" out of the mess, and though I know this could be a lifelong practice of collecting and experimenting and releasing--I hold the hope that my thirties will offer more stability, more rootedness in the identities that cannot be peeled away. No one said it better than my sister: "I spent much of my twenties searching for myself, but in my thirties I am enjoying the person I found."

If we can be raw, if we can put our barest selves out there, if can we accept our callings and our quirks without reservation and negotiation, I think anything is possible.

What are you filtering? I'll go first. (See comments.)

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30 Intentions For My 30s

For my 30th birthday blog post, I started a few different lists, including 30 lessons I've learned, and 30 reasons I'm glad to be 30. But I realized I don't want to look back on what I've learned and how I've changed, I want to look forward. I want to ask, what else is possible?

I feel as if I have been waiting my whole life to enter this decade. I have idealized my thirties as a time when I will know I have arrived in adulthood. Of course now that I'm here, I realize I've been in "it" for years.

This decade of my life in this body is unwritten. My hope is that these intentions serve as the architecture for what is to come:

1. I go to bed at a decent hour.

2. I share my thoughts in personal and public ways.

3. I write and read everyday.

4. I make new friends and keep the old.

5. I practice patience and equinimity.

6. I see more of the world.

7. I submit and publish my stories, essays and poetry.

8. I enjoy the life I have built and the person I discovered in me in my twenties.

9. I speak nicely to my husband and children.

10. I choose love.

11. I moderate my internet and social media usage.

12. I move my body daily and I eat organic, whole, tasty foods.

13. I balance consumption with creation.

14. I feel my feelings without trying to numb them.

15. I am confident in my talents and abilities.

16. I value my worth.

17. I give freely and I receive freely.

18. I believe in the beauty of my dreams.

19. I do not worry what others think of me or say about me.

20. I stay true to myself and my values.

21. I measure time in inspiration rather than productivity.

22. I believe in miracles.

23. I notice synchronicities, and I let them guide me.

24. I listen to my intuition and I follow my heart.

25. I read to my children.

26. I date my husband.

27. I stay connected with my loved ones.

28. I practice non-attachment.

29. I relax into the present moment.

30. I allow the universe to show up for me in exciting ways.

Writing this list felt good. A wave of well-being moves through my heart each time I read it.

Thank you for being here, and please feel free to add your own intention for the next decade of your life in the comments below.

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

Trapped

Sometimes I feel trapped. In my body, my mind, my house, my life, none of the above, all of the above. I am neither depressed nor ill and I know I'm not the first happy person to wrestle with a dull claustrophobic ache now and again.

Maybe it's because children/job/school/life/whatever demands so much out of us. We live in a culture of do-more-be-more-have-more. Which can be fun and rewarding. And draining and overwhelming. We become trapped by our to-do list. We become trapped by our fears. Worst of all, trapped by what (we think) we want whether it's a social life or a career or money or children or a partner or something I cannot even imagine.

For some reason the things we want the most can also take the most out of us.

But we can never be trapped for we do not exist in a bubble, we are all-encompassing. We are waves in an ocean, the fingers of the same hand. Ego fools us into thinking we are separate or superior or inferior. Ego with its expectations and ideals and lies. The voice of knowledge, the snake in the garden. Highly conditioned, deeply programmed habits of thought about worth and meaning and value.

Who am I and why am I alive and what should I be doing that I am not doing? Why is there so much to do all the time and why can't I keep up?

Moving a family to another city and state has proven itself a beast. A beast worth taming. An exciting chase. An adventure that has barely begun. When I feel scared or displaced I realize something: this means I am growing. If it feels uncomfortable, it's probably good for me. Maybe I can learn to lean towards that kind of discomfort rather than away from it.

When I feel as if I should be doing something else or something more, it's impossible to be present in this precious moment. We are busy creatures. We say yes. We make promises to ourselves and others. We join groups. We start projects. We take on as much as possible because we think we need to master something. Our careers, our homes, our inner demons.

Perhaps you, like me, are stumbling along, wishing to be better than you are. I recently joined an active parenting forum in San Francisco where mothers go for advice and support (among other things). Mothers post about depression, anxiety, stress. Too-small homes, too-small families, floundering relationships. The struggle is real. Unassailable. Often the first step in overcoming these troubles is airing them. Letting them be seen. Letting your self be seen.

Like the author Gretchen Rubin who studies and chases and writes about happiness because she wants to be happier, I believe in my ability to change. I am made of life and life adapts. That's what life does because life longs to live. Plants have been known to start trapping and digesting flies for nutrients when the soil becomes depleted. Absolutely anything is possible.

Our struggles are like guideposts. They show us what we need to change.

I need to stay mindful about getting stuck in the drudgery of routine and caring for myself and several other people and do things that inspire me on a daily basis. When I feed my soul with inspiration, my mind is less likely to wander to what I need to "do" (and there will always be more to do), I am more present and able to see the sweetness and beauty of the moment. I set this intention one morning and just a few hours later I discovered a place called Inspiration Point. For the past couple of weeks I've unknowingly driven within 300 feet of it many times. Inspiration Point is a lookout with a smorgasbord of sights--ocean and island and tall trees and even a bit of city. A stone's throw from my regular path. All I had to do was go a little further, venture off of my beaten path. It made me think that if I make my world a bit wider, I won't feel quite so small.

How are you struggling and what do you think the struggle is trying to change in/about you? Please tell me about it in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I love hearing from you!

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

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The Bright Side

Sometimes I have the distinct sense that the universe is looking out for me. As if my life is a partnership between me and the ether. And like any relationship based on love, whether it is between lovers or friends or family, the universe has the power to hurt me, and it will hurt me. But it also has my back. I didn't get the first home I applied for in San Francisco, but I did land in the best place for my family.

I had some negative experiences as a working woman (from 12 hour days and 45 mile commutes to a good solid Ponzi scheme), but those experiences made me that much more inclined to travel, explore, excavate my dreams, and do what I actually love.

I was never skilled at the dating game, but I ended up marrying the perfect man for me.

I feel deeply called to be a writer which is not necessarily an easy career to break into, but I was born with the persistent gene so at least I know I will never give up.

I was also born with the indecisive gene, but I've recently discovered that I am never indecisive about the things that truly matter. So when I catch myself in a vacillating state, I can flip the proverbial coin and/or go with my first instinct and know that I made the "right" decision. (Or know that maybe there is no "wrong" decision.)

I've struggled to balance my life and also build my business, but because of my openness about this struggle, I may have found some business partners who are strong in the exact ways I am weak.

I get the worst kind of hangovers, my body cannot handle more than a bit of alcohol, but because of this I stopped binge drinking.

I had unhealthy eating habits and a negative body image from a young age. In my attempts to lose weight I discovered a passion for health and wellness. Now I am (generally) mindful of the foods I eat and the example I'm setting for my daughters. I've also learned to celebrate my love of food rather than try to fight it.

I have mild scoliosis and a high risk of osteoporosis, giving me extra motivation to make physical fitness (and good posture!) a priority.

The list goes on. Call it a silver lining or the bright side. Call it providence or fate. Call it God or the universe or the ten thousand things. Just call it something. The struggle is real. "Good" and "bad" are in knots so that we cannot have one without the other.

Can you think of something painful that changed you for the better? Do you believe that the universe has your back? Tell me about it in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail [dot] com. I'd love to hear about it. 

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

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Are you doing what you love today?

Have you found something that makes you so clearly happy that you wonder how you ever survived without it? Things like family, sports, creative outlets, maybe your home or community or even a great job.

But then life gets in the way and you stop running or painting or staying ahead at work or paying much attention to your spouse or kids. Something of this variety happens to all of us now and then because we are human. A distracted breed. We are interesting and beautiful because of our mutability.

It's not our fault. We have so much to experience. Too much. So many ends to tie up. Too many. (At least it often feels this way!) Billions of unique balls of human energy are firing through the atmosphere at every given moment, getting tangled in one another, inspiring and maddening and exciting and teaching one another.

Every time I drive on the highway these days, I'm struck by my fellow humans, all of us in our respective cars, these hunks of mineral protecting us from one another so that we can fulfill our individualized agendas. Perhaps our life purposes. We have places to go. Down highways and across skies and up mountains. We are smart. We lead complex lives, rich and sumptuous with love for one another and for life itself.

This is all good and well. Until we start dropping ends because we've picked up too many. And we feel like we're in a horror movie because our heads are spinning. We can see in every direction, all of the possible paths. Some call them parallel universes. And because there are many different directions to take, we get confused. We say yes when we mean no. We say no when we mean yes.

It's easy to lose the way. The way is completely subjective, after all. What you love will be different than what your mother or father or brother or sister or partner or best friend or enemy loves.

In this day and age, distractions are as abundant as opportunities. We have to stay mindful of our daily activities. Are we staying true to our heart's desire?

I'm interested in this idea of focus. Focusing on what you love most and not letting superfluous distractions steal too much of your most finite resource. Time.

Why is it that we often have to force ourselves to do things that we love such as exercising, writing, even socializing? My cousin loves salsa dancing as much as anyone can love salsa dancing. But as a mother of two battling Lyme Disease and chronic pain, she rarely gets the opportunity to go out and dance. She's been out of the salsa scene for so long that she's hardly looking forward to attending the annual conference in San Francisco next month. This was something she used to anticipate for months prior and savor for months afterwards. And I'm sure that once she gets to that conference and onto the dance floor, she will enter the flow, that state of being from which artistic expression arises.

It's about momentum. When we get into the habit of doing what we love every day or every other day or every week, that's when we know I could never survive without this. So why do we try?

Are you doing what you love today?

Please tell me what it is YOU love in the comments or send me an email lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com. I love hearing from you! 

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

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Savoring October (10 ways)

I woke up yesterday morning and I felt cold. I missed the space heaters that I already purged because I thought we'd be gone before the drafts in this big old house began to crawl under the covers.

But it's October now and they've arrived, making me even more reluctant to emerge from my bed, which I didn't think possible.

October usually makes me giddy, but this year I'm in a funk about fall. The great purge showed me that we have a million costumes and dress-up clothes and I have no business taking my kids (or myself--let's be honest) shopping for Halloween costumes. Not even at the Goodwill.

This year I miss the summer. I miss the tilt of the earth towards the sun, bringing my patch of ground that much closer to the light. I miss eating dinner outside and sunbathing at the lake with my best friend and our babies. I miss chilled cans of Sofia Coppolla sparkling wine. I miss sweet berries from the farmer's market. I miss long days and Bicycle Sundays and bare feet in cool grass. I miss ice cream because sadly ice cream doesn't taste (nearly) as good to me in the colder months. (Unless it's atop a slice of warm crumble.)

Maybe it's not the summer that I miss but my entire life as it was this past summer and will never be again. Of course everything's always changing but sometimes, sometimes it's slow and easy to ignore, and sometimes it's so quick I can hardly keep up.

But I do. I always do. Life goes on.

Yesterday, October began. The first day of a new month holds great symbolic meaning for me. A lot can happen in a month, a lot of pleasure and happiness and change and unhappiness.

So I felt compelled to slow down and make one of my favorite months count, starting with a list. Here's a 10 point bucket list to get me (and maybe you) into the spirit of October:

1. Go to the farmer's market and see what's still growing in the Pacific Northwest. (CHECK!)

2. Spend a sunny afternoon in the Washington Arboretum. Take pictures with the Japanese maple.

3. Fry some famous Washington apples in coconut oil and cinnamon. (CHECK!)

4. Consume as much butternut squash as possible, preferably in the form of a creamy soup.

5. Go on a pumpkin-themed Trader Joe's shopping spree.

6. Mull some wine. (A first for me.)

7. Visit a nearby pumpkin patch.

8. Paint and/or glitter some pumpkins.

9. Use my slow cooker.

10. Write every damn day. (Because I will be moving this month & will have so many reasons not too. But life is too short to put off doing what we love, even for one day.)

Is it obvious enough already that I really really really love food and pumpkins?

How will you savor October? 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_1593.JPG picnicking at the Columbia City farmer's market yesterday evening

The secret to patience (lessons from my children)

I was on the airplane last week with my daughters, and without my husband. It was a short flight from San Francisco to Seattle which felt easy after our recent journey across the country to Atlanta. When we stood to deplane, the mom sitting behind me expressed disbelief that I could travel without having any help (maybe she didn't see my glass of wine). Then she commented that I was very patient. I laughed but I accepted the compliment and knew it was one I will not soon forget because it means I must be growing.

I am not terribly patient by nature. I like speed. I like productivity.

My children slow me down. The truth is that they've slowed down everything from my career to my savings account. Everything except time.

They consume time like they consume me. Not just days, but years. My twenties are nearly gone and I'm positive my thirties will pass even quicker. Skyla was born yesterday yet she's nearly 7 months old. I could handle 6 months, but 7 months? She's trying to crawl. She gets in position but she's unsteady. She can only go backwards, but she can also turn 360 degrees. So really, she can get anywhere she wants.

Giovanna is four and a half and a little lady. She has purses filled with money, a sense of adventure, and a very precise sense of style. I can't remember the last time she actually wore the outfit I picked out for her. She goes to bed without fussing and she usually sleeps through the night. She's growing up a little more each day, understanding the world in new ways, possessing knowledge that blows me away. Yesterday she talked her auntie into feeding her junk food at the fair by explaining, "if you don't, my blood sugar will crash and my mama will be upset." (Actually it's Gigi who would be upset since she tends to have fits if she goes too long without eating.) She's a sponge; absorbing, processing, internalizing.

Humans are pristine when we arrive. Since we are soft, the world makes its impressions on us easily. As we grow older, we harden like clay. These impressions become us. I try not to dwell on the mistakes I've made, but I'm also not kidding myself. I have a limited time to set a good example for my children. Every moment counts.

These babies of mine will only be little for so long. Although this mommy stuff tests every limit I didn't know I had, it won't be this way for long. The impermanence of my children as children helps me to savor their present states, adorable and frustrating and sweet and demanding.

By staying mindful of time and knowing time always passes and change always comes, I find it easier to practice patience.

How do you stay patient? Tell me about it in the comments or email me lucymiller7 [at] gmail.com.

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

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Nothing Lasts Forever

I turn 29 tomorrow. My golden year is nearly over. Though it terrifies me to think of myself as 30 years-old in one year, in some ways I feel older than 30. As if I've been 30 for years. Which somehow makes sense considering that I also feel like I am my 13 year-old self at times.

Birthdays often bring introspection and this one is no different.

Right now I am sipping my espresso and milk, nibbling on ultra dark chocolate, nursing my baby and typing with one hand… Now she's in the swing next to me, asleep. I can see mountains and tree tops and water from up here on my perch. Though I have many things I still want to accomplish, many moments to look forward to, I am perfectly content where I am right now.

Things continues to change rapidly. Time never stops nor slows. Everyone is getting older. People come and go. Nothing lasts forever--a truth that troubles me deeply because I am happy now. I am aware that I have it good. I love being a mother to small children and though it is exhausting it is delightful and precious and wonderful. When James is at home we exchange glances a hundred times a day, smiling over the unbearable cuteness, grimacing over the tears, laughing over the funny; we are partners on this glorious adventure. We are in it and we love it and we love each other.

But nothing lasts forever. Our children are only getting older. So are we.

I might be especially preoccupied with time right now because it gallops along at an unfair pace when you have a baby. Just the other day Skyla was a skinny-legged newborn who slept all day and now she has rolls beneath her chin and she is attempting communication. She has beautiful brown inquisitive eyes and a generous smile. The rest of us won't stop gushing about her. That's four people head over heels in love with one tiny person. She handles our affection with grace. She soaks it up and makes it her own and beams it back at us.

The thing about having children is the love they bring into a home. Every challenge in parenting is punctuated with love. You've got to work for the love I suppose, but oh sweet universe, the rewards outlive the work.

It's like anyone's life's work, really. You don't need to have kids to experience this kind of infinite love. You need only to give your best away, offer it up to the greatest good. Your best efforts, your best creations. It's the only way to live properly: find what you can (and love to) do to add value whether it's by raising a person or founding a movement or taking care of people.

We have to do it now. Today. There's no time to waste. We must run with ideas, listen for callings, ask God and other people for help.

We're only getting older and nothing lasts forever.

Yet there's an undeniable beauty to growing older because youth is replaced with wisdom. Each day is a new experience and each experience lends itself to our understanding of why the hell we're alive and what we're supposed to do while we're here to make the most of our brief forays on this four-dimensional plane. So that we may not only leave the earth better than we came upon it, but we may in the process delight in the taste of water and chocolate, the sensation of sunshine and wind, the swell of love and connection.

Since I enjoy quotes and learning and wisdom, I will celebrate my birthday tomorrow by sharing 29 of my favorite quotes and pearls of wisdom--lessons and philosophies that have enriched my 29 years of life, whether or not I have mastered or even understood their meaning.

Until tomorrow.

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

Lessons from My Children: Be Giddy

These are Lessons from My Children, a new series on the blog. Everything we experience is temporary. Feelings are fleeting and newborns learn how to sit up. Sadness ebbs and flows. Happiness is a choice, a way. Like beauty, success exists in the eye of the beholder.

Children beg us for attention and this confuses us because we think our attention is nothing too special, nothing worth working hard or crying over. We don't always know what our children know. We tend to forget we're all babies, innocent to the mystery of existence. I'm not sure who has more to learn from the other--children or adults?

We call children innocent because they know so little of the world we've spent decades seeking to understand. Including their own cuteness, their own perfection. (Does anybody?) Skyla, now 12 weeks young, bobs around in our arms, her piercing black eyes looking at everything and nothing, taking it all in, this wild world of ours.

But I'm starting to think she knows things I don't. About God and angels and the intricacies of the human face. Things I'm too busy to notice.

Giovanna spotted a butterfly on the other side of the car window and she squealed like she'd seen a miracle.

And she did, didn't she? The caterpillar, who went to sleep and awoke with wings, thinks so.

She dragged me into the front yard because "something happened." Her face looked the way we think kids should look on Christmas morning. But she didn't need a truckload of presents.

I peered between the newly opened petals and what I saw turned my skin to gooseflesh. I felt like I'd become privy to a secret, a certain intimacy with nature. In blooming, the poppy showed us what she was made of. Not just pistil and stigma, but pattern and individuality, every flower exhibiting different interpretations of the same genes.

Not unlike people. Whether you like it or not, your DNA is 99.9% the same as your neighbor, your enemy and your best friend. In that 0.01%, our opinions reside like stubborn rocks and our passions begin and bloom and wilt and die.

There is no one who experiences pleasure as you do. There was no other baby who cried just like you and there will never be another adult who can offer the world what you have.

It doesn't matter what excites you, what makes you giddy, it only matters that you let yourself be giddy over the things that bring you happiness in the eternally fleeting moment, whether it's a flower or an ice cream cone or an unexpected smile. Let yourself memorize faces and stare at patterns until they become something else entirely. Look up. Follow the gaze of children. Just by noticing their enthusiasm I find my heart growing and my mind wandering into uncharted territories where words flow like waterfalls and beauty appears everywhere, as prolific as flowers in the month of May.

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Creatures of Passion

I sit down at this computer day after day because I'm searching for something. The internet is my portal and my nemesis. I used to write poetry on a regular basis. Sometimes I'd post it on my short fiction and poetry blog sometimes I wouldn't. I would write to get the words flowing and hopefully create something beautiful to read.

If I were alive before blogs and internet and instant gratification, I wonder who I would be. Would I write poems just for my family and my self like my great-grandmother? Would my children later bind my poems together into a book? Or would I put down my pen in favor of the washing and the cooking and the children? Would I write more because I felt no pressure, or would I write less because I had no one to share it with?

Does the internet paralyze or liberate? I daresay both. It depends on how we use it or let it use us.

When I started writing poetry back in the third grade it was for the love of it because everything we do as children is for the love of it. Back when we were creatures of pure passion. Now we have bills to pay and ourselves to impress. Distractions that shadow our passions. We stop creating just for creation's sake. We're too busy.

I think the people who really have got it going on, the people who inspire and move and make change with their life's work are the people who never lose that part of themselves: that creature of pure passion. They let their creature loose everyday whether they're solving problems in corporate america or pounding the pavement in a pair of running shoes or raising children or designing websites or churning out content or making dinner or teaching yoga or...

Creatures of pure passion feel indifferent towards accolades and money and fame. They want only to kiss the earth and leave an imprint of love. The more we allow space for the creature to play, the less frightened we will become by her creations, and the more freely we can create in all our favorite ways.

When I stopped writing poetry I shut down one of my creatures. Now I'm inviting her back by sitting down with my pen and letting her be free, unconcerned by the scrutiny of the internet or the passage of time.

She loves tall trees and dandelion wishes and she's not afraid of sharing.

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Are you searching for your creatures?

Are you letting them out to play?

What do your creatures love?

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