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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The difference between burnout and resistance

After yesterday's post about resistance, Wendy asked some questions that got me thinking:

Here's the question I've been struggling with though - how do you know the difference between burn out because you've been doing too much for too long and resistance? I think there is a difference, but I think the first can very easily turn into the second without you noticing as you begin to recover. How do you know when it's time to kick yourself in the can again?

Using this blog as an example, sometimes I neglect it because life gets in the way and generally I don't feel bad about this. This is not a for-profit blog. I need breaks. Breaks are human.

But I've seen it happen again and again, when I take a break I lose momentum. I turn inwards and I forget how to hit Publish.

If I'm writing in my journal instead, I tell myself it's all the same.

If I'm working on a novel, I tell myself my time is better spent.

If my kids are out of school, I tell myself I don't have time.

Time seems to be the #1 reason resistance has given me.

But time is a man-made construct, we can manipulate it however we want.

Maybe the trick is spending less much on each blog post. Blogging, for me, is less like a craft and more like a hobby, a ritual, even a memory bank. Spending too much time on pointless tweaks and self-sensoring leads to burnout and then resistance.

Still, I do think breaks are good and often very much needed. Like I said, when you pick up again you may be further along than where you left off.

Here's another example: I was working on a novel and I had 91k words when I stopped writing. This was months ago, January or February. I got stuck and then I had another baby. But then the other day, without warning, the ending came to me. I wasn't thinking about the story, I had no plans to continue it. I had all but scrapped those 91k words. Was it resistance that kept me from excavating this story, or was it burnout?

Maybe burnout lurks when we're spending too much time editing and not enough time creating. Maybe burnout arrives when we're forcing ourselves to finish something that's not working. Maybe burnout happens for a reason.

But there's no good reason behind resistance. There's nothing behind resistance but fear.

I knew I had to come back to blogging because I felt resistance towards it. Like I posted yesterday on Facebook, Steven Pressfield says in The War of Art: "Resistance is directly proportional to love. If you're feeling massive Resistance, the good news is, it means there's tremendous love there too." Blogging is fun for me. I'm a thinker and a writer and I enjoy thinking and writing and discoursing about personal growth and the human experience. I lead a rich life of motherhood and mindfulness and I feel compelled to revel in these experiences, and remember them and share them. Maybe by examining my own mind, body and spirit, I can inspire other people to do the same.

It's a blurry line between taking a break and succumbing to resistance, but in general, I think breaks are short and resistance is long. Breaks feel deserved. Like the couch after a long day or a protein shake after a tough work out. Resistance feels heavy. Like clutter or debt or a grudge. Burnout happens because we've been at it, resistance keeps us from going at it.

Resistance comes when I take "it"/life/myself too seriously. Expectations erase joy, and in turn, creativity.

Has your burnout become resistance? 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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Collecting Moments

Time stretches before me like a magic carpet willing to take me anywhere. I remember back when I thought I'd never grow up, when the end always felt so far. Four years of college passed. Four years of my daughter's life happened. Now the first four months of my second daughter's life are nearly over. She was just born and soon she'll be walking. Change happens without regard for the weary. 20140611-112841.jpg

How is it that I am both the oldest I've ever been and the youngest I will ever be? How is it that I have children and a husband and a home of my own and all these terrifying adult responsibilities? It happened slowly over time, moment by moment, and yet so much of those moments have disappeared. Important things happen but they fade until the memories bear no distinction from dreams and I must ask myself: did that really happen or did I dream it?

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Important things take place and I forget them completely as if they never happened at all. Either they fall into the vortex forever and I have no knowingness to miss them, or something reminds me. A picture, a person, an event. And though I may still not remember it for myself, I find comfort that I have a past. It's out there. I've been living. I've been breathing for 29 years. The atmosphere contains me and I contain the atmosphere. Time unravels as it winds around itself. Time cannot be conquered nor reigned in nor slowed. So how do we cope with it?

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Perhaps in another dimension we can manipulate time, but not here, not now.

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I cope by writing about it and taking pictures of it and trying not to dwell on it. Time cannot be reigned in, but my thoughts can. I try to be happy about time rather than nostalgic. I collect moments to remember.

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I spend a lot of time these days "wearing" Skyla. We both love it, the closeness and ease of nursing and napping and traveling this way. Occasionally she will be nursing in the pack and I will look down and see her staring at me. Or I will look down and see her smiling at me. And those eyes. And that smile. And that fuzzy little head. Joy pours out of me like smoke from a burning building.

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She opens to this plane of being. Unfurling, unfolding, uncurling like the spiral of hair on the crown of her head. She stretches her limbs longer today than yesterday, grabbing and kicking at an understanding of what it means to exist here and now.

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Giovanna is a force to be reckoned with, a spirited opinionated stubborn girl-child. She's not my baby as much as she is her own person with awareness, consciousness, and a memory of her own. She doesn't care much about following the rules at home. She draws on walls and sneaks downstairs when she's supposed to be sleeping. She thinks her brother is the coolest and her sister the cutest. She loves them something fierce. She finds everything I might ever try to hide from her because she's always looking, her brain is always turning. She reminds me every day to give her the gummy vitamins. She loves water balloons and dresses.

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Emile turned eight last week. He is the sweetest handful. He likes to talk back and he thinks he knows everything there is to know. He is very willing to read stories to GiGi and help herd her to bed, though he's not so keen on his own bedtime. He loves bugs, legos, playing with his little sister and holding his littlest sister. He loves babies. He is a bona fide boy with holes in his pants, dirt lodged beneath his fingernails, and a tendency to tackle. He calls me out when I let a swear world slips (he doesn't like it). He is quick to forgive. He's already up to my shoulders.

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They take so much out of me. They keep me awake, they demand my time, they suck me dry. Yet I am willing to give more, I am willing to give everything. These moments are everything.

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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.

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.

Unintentional Love Notes

It's all bittersweet. Time marches along and our babies get bigger and eventually they will leave us. Strangely enough, we want for them to leave us. We want them to be somewhat like us, adults with purpose and intent and independence.

Leo Babauta wrote a post on his lovely blog Zen Habits about the messes his (six) kids leave around the house and how he, as a neat freak, stays sane by viewing the legos on the floor and the cookie crumbs on the counter as unintentional love notes.

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Some love notes from my sweet GiGi.

I adopted this mentality for laundry a couple years ago and it has helped immensely. My little family makes a helluva lotta laundry. Giovanna changes (and dirties) her clothes multiple times per day. Skyla poops on her clothes multiple times per day. James washes his clothes after every use. Add Emile, as mothers of little boys everywhere know, produces the dirtiest, stinkiest laundry.

But when Emile isn't home, when he's at his other home, my laundry pile decreases. And believe it or not, this makes me nostalgic. When James is traveling as he often does, the pile is even smaller. And while I appreciate the reprieve, I'd take the laundry over the absence of laundry any day.

I don't like chores. I don't like cleaning. I don't like doing dishes. But I enjoy the end result. The clear surfaces, the sparkly counters, the zen vibrations from a clean home, the calm before the storm. A clean home tricks me into thinking I've got everything together in life, that I'm the kind of person who does her taxes early instead of late, who regularly edits her wardrobe instead of hanging onto clothes for sentimental reasons, and who never makes impulse purchases.

This is not me.

I'm working on letting go of these idealisms. These pictures in my head of the woman I want to be. Serene and polished. A woman who conquers life (and life's messes) and looks good while doing it. A woman who moves her body daily and showers daily and eats local. A woman who writes without succumbing to distractions or inhibitions. A woman who loves without fear.

Though I believe in the value of these aspirations, I do not believe that achieving this ideal picture is the purpose of life.

Picasso said: "The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away."

Alas, it must be more important that I sit down to do my work rather than clean my kitchen or put the toys away or wash my hair.

Maybe it's not important that I have everything together. Is that possible?

Maybe my drawers are disorganized and that's okay.

Maybe my eyebrows are overgrown but I'm still beautiful.

Maybe my bed is rarely made but I am not a slob.

Maybe my computer memory is stuffed to its limit but my own memory is not.

Maybe I haven't practiced yoga for a few days but my body is happy anyways.

Maybe I haven't lost all the baby weight but I am healthy anyways.

Maybe I wasted too much time on Instagram/Facebook this week but I made some meaningful connections.

Maybe Giovanna and Emile make messes everywhere all the time but they're actually leaving me unintentional love notes.

Someday those love notes will slow and stop and I will miss the messes. Like I said, it's all bittersweet, another all-encompassing paradoxical truth to embrace.

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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.