Life Lessons

Every day is an opportunity to make a new happy ending.” – unknown

The other evening on a clear night my kids and I were out riding bikes. As I pumped up a hill, my two-year-old son sitting on the back on my bike noticed the moon bright in the sky. He softly said, “I want to hold the moon.”

It’s a good thing parents and lovers aren’t omnipotent. I assume it would result in the moon being pulled out of the sky on a regular basis.

A few days later my 6-year-old daughter was excitedly awaiting a new clock to arrive from Amazon. She was so excited to have the very first clock that she picked out herself and could set the alarms on. I question why she’d want to start with alarms so early in life but keeping my opinion to myself, helped her track the package. On the day it was supposed to arrive, the status went from “out for delivery” to “undeliverable” right before bedtime.

My daughter was so disappointed. Rightly so and exacerbated by being tired. In that moment, I would have driven the Amazon truck myself to make sure there wasn’t a tired six-year-old lamenting about unpredictability.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m teaching my kids. Fortunately life partners with me so that I have plenty of opportunities to talk about what we dream about. I get to review what we can and cannot control. And I can demonstrate how we can to flex our muscles of patience and perspective when things don’t work the way we want.

Gratefully, I have the chance to assure my kids that we might not always get what we want but we always get what we need. And remind myself of the same along the way.

(featured photo from JOOINN)

Happily Ever As-Is

How simple it is to see that we can only be happy now, and there will never be a time when it is not now.” – Gerald Jampolsky

This week with the COVID quarantine and life interruptions that come with it – I’ve decided that happier ever after doesn’t exist. I blame the optimist in me that snow-balled me so I didn’t realize this until age 52. The optimist is always sure that the minute, day and week are going to go as planned and the grass is going to be greener after every milestone.

To be clear, I love my life now as a mom of 2 young kids. It’s delightful – they are bright, shining examples of love, light and inspiration.

And yet… I’m also always waiting for them to change. As an example, my two-year-old son likes the home-field advantage when he poops. He’s worked out how to be at daycare all day long without a dirty diaper and not poop until he gets home. Lucky me.

And my 6-year-old daughter frequently loses it when introduced to a situation where she has to play with kids in an unstructured environment. The two years of pandemic have meant she’s missed out on a lot of practice of that negotiation of rules and expectations that come when kids are playing and no adult is leading the way.

I know that both of those things will change sooner or later. I will potty train my son and work with my daughter on role playing and she will eventually get some more practice and mature.

This leaves me in great tension. How do I love my life as it is now and also long for things to change? It’s a paradox of life. It’s also why I’ve come to believe that happily ever after doesn’t exist. Because there will always be something that isn’t ideal and I’m waiting to change. Or something that I love that will also change. Or a disruption, hurry or maybe even… a pandemic that adds extra curve balls.

The funny thing is that I’ve gotten pretty good at appreciating the surprises that come with life. I’ve come to trust the Divine hand that holds mine and reveals in change and disruption what I need to learn. It’s just taken me until now to realize that there will never be a time that doesn’t come with unexpected twists. So I’m leaning into practicing “happily ever as-is.” It has a lot fewer expectations and even more delight.

(featured photo from Pexels)

Expectations

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.” – Mark Twain

On Friday, I was so excited to spend a morning with my toddler whose preschool was closed for a teacher in-service day. His sister had her last day of school before the holiday break so it would just be the two of us. I expected that he would soak up all the individual attention and enjoy all the fun we could cook up. I expected it would be a lot like spending time with my daughter when she was two-years-old and it was just the two of us.

What actually happened is that he spent the whole morning missing his sister and coming up with ideas like biking. I was happy to oblige only to find out the only route that he wanted to go was the one to his sister’s school so we could go get her. He wouldn’t listen to reason that it was too early to pick her up (after all, he is two-years-old) and my patience was frayed by not only his disappointment but also my own.

You know what they say – expectations are a bitch.

So I opened Dr. Brené Brown’s recently published book Atlas of the Heart to the section entitled “Places We Go When Things Don’t Go as Planned”

She does a beautiful job of defining disappointment – “Disappointment is unmet expectations. The most significant the expectation, the more significant the disappointment.”

And then she delves into expectations. The whole section is so illuminating but here is the part that caught my eye:

“When we develop expectations, we paint a picture in our head of how things are going to be and how they’re going to look. Sometimes we go so far as to imagine how they’re going to feel, taste and smell. That picture we paint in our minds holds great value for us. We set expectations based not only on how we fit in that picture, but also on what those around us are doing in that picture. This means that our expectations are often set on outcomes totally beyond our control, like what other people think, what they feel or how they’re going to react. The movie in our mind is wonderful, but no one else knows their parts, their lines, or what it means to us.”

Dr. Brené Brown – Atlas of the Heart

And the antidote to this disappointment? “Communicating our expectations is brave and vulnerable. And it builds meaningful connection and often leads to having a partner or friend who we can reality-check with.”

Reading over this, I thought of all the expectations that come with holidays – like that someone else will love the gift you got them or that loved ones will be able to perfectly see what you most desire and give that to you as a gift.  With little ones, I expect that they will treasure the gifts I spent time and money to get them – and not just the box that it came in!

While I couldn’t reality check my expectations about our morning together with my two-year-old, thinking through this process has helped me immensely to uncover my own hidden expectations. And then to recognize in turn how they lead to disappointment. It also made me see that my expectations that he will ever have moments of acting like a first child are completely silly. This helps me relax into the beautiful relationship that we do have so I can enjoy the time we have together for what it is, not what I imagine it should be.

Checking for Help

If you were waiting for a sign, this is it.” – unknown

Last week I was stressed because my biggest client was 35 days late in paying their invoice for July. I’ve been self-employed for 20 years so it’s not the first time I’ve had a situation like this. I’ve learned on my side, I need to make sure it isn’t an indication of a problem with my relationship with the client and work. If everything is okay and it’s just a payment issue on their side, I’m pretty good at weathering the storm and not worrying about it too much.

So I was fine for the first 2 weeks the payment was late.

But by the 3rd week it was late, I’d started to check the mailbox a few times a day and when on one of those days, an envelope came from my health insurance provider, I ignored it and set it unopened on my desk.

When the 4th week started, I was spending a lot of meditation time both trying to acknowledge and dissipate the stress and praying to the Universe to end the wait.

By the 5th week, I was in a low-grade panic – I’d managed to pay all my commitments but I was down to $14 in my checking account.

Finally the payment came. It was only AFTER it came that I opened the envelope from the health insurance company and found that they’d sent me an unexpected rebate. I’d had a check sitting on my desk for TWO weeks while I sweated out the payment from my client.

It reminds me of the story about a man who gets caught in a flood and is stuck inside his house. He prays for God to save him and while he’s praying, the phone rings. It’s the fire department asking if he needs to be rescued. He answers, “No, I’m sure God is coming to save me.” A little while later after the flood waters have risen even more so he’s hanging out his 2nd story window, some neighbors come by in a boat and ask if he needs help. He replies, “No, I’m sure God is coming to save me.” Finally the flood water is so high that he’s up on his roof and a helicopter comes by and offers to evacuate him. He yells, “No, I’m sure God is coming to save me.”

After he drowns and goes to Heaven, he asks God, “Why didn’t you save me?” And God replies, “I called you, I sent a boat for you and flew in a helicopter to get you but you wouldn’t come.”

The whole experience makes me wonder if life is simply a process of removing our self-imposed blinders. Note to self: when asking for help, be open to any package it might come in, not just the one I expect.

(Photo from Pexels)