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.

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

IMG_1507.JPG

IMG_2308.JPG

IMG_8561.JPG

Tell me what life is about

Lately she's been saying things like, tell me what life is about. Her voice dreamy and her eyes wistful. She wants to know. She senses that oceans and galaxies lie beyond her grasp. After all, her world only recently turned itself upside down when we moved from our hometown of Seattle. She seems to recognize that life is fragile, that small moments can change everything, that big feelings are fleeting, that nothing lasts forever, and ultimately we will all die. Her daddy & I try to answer her questions.

I said, love. Life is about loving other people.

He said, but people forget a lot. They think it's about themselves.

She said, I think it's about peace. And harmony.

There have been other questions, too.

I told her that I'm not really sure what happens when we die. That nobody really knows. That it's the greatest mystery of life. Death.

She worries about us dying, about her grandparents dying.

I told her that we will never be separated because we live in one another, we are one another. We are not the same, but we are also not completely separate. We are oneness, embodied.

When I see her smile, I smile.

When I see her hurt, I hurt.

When I see her learn, I learn.

I told her, I think life is about doing what you love. Someday soon, I'll teach her what it means when something moves you. I want her to recognize what moves her, so she can know her purpose. I want her to know that the universe will guide her by speaking to her heart.

She knows how to ask. My next job is to teach her how to listen.

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

IMG_5626.JPG

Sisters: 5 years and (nearly) 1 year

They make my life brighter and deeper. Something bottomless lives inside of them. I see it in their eyes. When they feel joy, it soaks through to me, and for a brief moment, chaos becomes peace. I sense the precision in a leaf's fall to the ground. I see the inherent beauty of flaws, the growth brought by discomfort, the pain that forces us to expand our notion of happiness and lack thereof. When I drop off Giovanna at preschool, I like to loiter a bit. I put Skyla down and I let her interact and inevitably someone says, "what a smiley baby." Regardless of how loudly she screamed in the carseat just a moment earlier, or how soundly she slept until I gently lifted the carseat out of its base in the vain hopes that she might stay sleeping (she never does), she still finds it in her to smile at people when they smile at her.

During these drop-offs, Giovanna loves to swoop in and pull Skyla onto her lap and assert her ownership. She kisses her baby sister and coos at her and tries to walk her around by standing behind her and holding her by the hands and encouraging her to take steps.

Lately Skyla has taken to rewarding her big sister with a giant open-mouth on her face. In the mornings when GiGi comes in to snuggle, in the evenings when the day accumulates with rambunctious delirium, in the in between moments, between giggles and head wiggles and tickles. Skyla goes in for the kiss by grabbing a fistful of GiGi's bobbing curls and pulling herself towards her big sister. Then we all squeal and coo and I get that good full feeling of being whole rather than broken, complete rather than fragmented.

Back to the head wiggles. Skyla has a way of wiggling her head back and forth that is less like a nod or shake and more a dance move or a bobble-head impression. Sometimes she does it when she is so super excited about something that she can't believe her good fortune. It's like the "thank you" before she picks up the new toy or the blessing before she eats something delicious. She wiggles her head to the beat of a good song. She wiggles her head when we prompt her by wiggling our own heads. And she wiggles her head for no discernible reason but the simple joy of existing.

We're not sure where she picked up the head wiggle, it could be an innate gesture, though we do suspect GiGi, whose curls are often bouncing, had something to do with it. They've begun to play together, or at least side by side. Snatching dolls and building block towers and knocking them down. Mostly, though, their play includes hugging and holding and kissing. Two little animals showing their love the best way they know how.

This is only the beginning for these two. God willing, they have a lifetime to learn from and delight in one another. Meanwhile, I'll be in the background, facilitating their childhoods with a gentle hand and soft voice (one can hope), and writing my way through the bittersweet thick of it.

IMG_5141.JPG

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

Finding Equinimity as Parents

A tough thing about this gig is the polarity of moods. From great to terrible and back again. I can hardly keep up. Yesterday I had a major mommy win in which I fulfilled my vision of coaxing both little girls to sleep in their carseats so I could watch the ocean crash against the shore.

While they slept I indulged in my guiltiest pleasure (Instagram). And I started listening to a new audio book: "Yes, Please" by Amy Poehler. Before I could get too settled in the baby woke up and then the big one woke up and the peace quickly morphed into loud tears.

The rest of the day followed suit. Skyla cried the whole way home. Messes ensued, forming faster than I could fix. The baby is becoming a munchkin. She rarely stops moving and she can climb onto our bed by herself. She has teeth and a mischievous giggle.

My children, they lasso my heart with ribbons of sweet baby's breath, and they squeeze out of me all the energy and patience and resources I have to give. They are relentless demanding little bosses and they kick my ass on a regular basis.

The joy and the misery are two sides of the same coin. I can't have a front without a back, an up without a down.

Buddhism teaches about equanimity: seeing good and bad as essentially the same. Not letting yourself be pulled too low or high. Practicing nonattachment. When I start feeling strong negative emotions (and when I remember) I pray for equanimity. Not indifference but evenness. So that my heart stops beating to the rhythm of anger. So that I don't slip and say something I regret. So that I can give my little loves a decent example to follow.

It's hard. A continuous practice. But when I write about it, it becomes that much easier.

By default we take our troubles with the utmost seriousness even when we know they will dissolve should we allow them.

Ultimately, we have control over very little, but we do have control over our moods.

IMG_3805.JPG

IMG_3800.JPG

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

Little Animals

This weekend James looked at me over the top of 3 little heads and said, "this is like living in a zoo. These kids are little animals." And it is and they are. IMG_2599.JPG

Dirt on the carpet. Handprints on the windows. Crumbs on the couch. Candy wrappers in the bed. Halloween is my favorite holiday and a huge deal here in San Francisco. But the day after is a parenting nightmare. On Saturday we gathered our grown-up treats (coffee and fancy french pastries) and retreated to the playground where the little animals could run and climb and jump it off. The rubber ground was teeming with them, these fun crazy tiny people fueled by (sugar and) a zest for life that we tend to lose somewhere along the way.

IMG_2578.JPG

IMG_2584.JPG

On Sunday we ventured to the edge of the west coast, the ocean pulling us in with her cavernous well of magnetism, intoxicating the children with negative ions and subtly salted air. Their smiles swelled with joy. The joy radiated from them, leaving a trail like cookie crumbs or pixie dust.

IMG_2632.JPG

They communed with the sand---crawling across it and burrowing under it and face planting into it. Now there's sand in my car and my shower and my laundry machine. Parenting guarantees a dizzying assortment of messes. And though the infinite work exhausts me, it also fills me up. Because all that laundry means we played today and all those dishes mean we ate and drank well today. We roasted in the sun and tasted the earth and dipped our toes into her generous bounty.

IMG_2661.JPG

IMG_2648.JPGIMG_2662.JPG

Everything revolves around our kids these days. Parents are notorious for making extreme sacrifices, our lives no longer belonging to us alone. The needs of our children become the tippy top of our priorities at the expense of our other relationships and passions and commitments. The little animals need us to survive after all, but we need them for something, too. They remind us why we are here. To feel joy when we manage to find it.

IMG_2638.JPG

Where do you find joy? Was the day after Halloween as bad for you as it was for me? 

IMG_2671.JPG

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

A beautiful mess

Sometimes lately I feel scattered, unfocused, spread thin. Life spilling over and making my edges more noticeable as they crumble, bits and pieces of me falling away. My house.

My community.

My business.

My belongings.

Everything seems a mess, my hair consigned to the bedhead style. I need a haircut but I thought I just cut it. I have hardly looked in the mirror for a week. I keep forgetting deodorant. I haven't done any formal exercise for most of the month. I haven't been cooking much either. My 4 year-old wants to eat only bread. Our car broke down then got broken into. We're moving and we don't know when.

I am in the process of changing and simplifying. But I have to dig out of the rubble before I can take a deep breath. It's like everything has to get a little bit worse before it can get a whole lot better.

And so, after a weekend of madly cleaning my house for a showing, and then sorting through the piles of stuff I'd thrown into the garage to get it OUT of the house, I am here. Thinking about the messes I've cleared away, the messes still waiting for the magic wand. My "trash" that will hopefully become someone else's treasure. Wondering why my desk drawers and kitchen counters aren't always this empty because it feels so good. Why do we love stuff so much and why do we want it all around us? For a distraction or a band-aid or a disguise or a preservative?

This purging of stuff has brought me a buzz. Strangely enough, it's not so different a buzz from finding the thing I really wanted. The materialistic circle of life.

In clearing away the detritus--not just papers and clothing and toys but other things I won't get into now--I feel like I'm seeing myself anew, yet again. Though I may (occasionally) look put together, I am (often) a mess. When we married my husband wrote in his vows that I was "a beautiful mess" on the morning before the evening we fell in love. But I was a mess that day because I'd been riding my bicycle in the rain on city streets.

So maybe, if the messy part comes from adventure and risk and fun, maybe it's okay. Maybe I can learn to love my messes simply because I had the privilege to make them.

Is there something about yourself that you're learning to love rather than shame? 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.

IMG_0353.JPG

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.

IMG_0933.JPG