The Right Thing To Do

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” – Joseph Campbell

After I dropped my daughter and her friend at school yesterday, I kept driving towards my toddler’s daycare while an inner debate raged over whether I should take him to school. He had a cough that he’s 85% recovered from and never had a fever. I tested him and it wasn’t Covid. He was mostly fine but cranky enough that he’d likely not have an easy day. I could drop him off and still be within the guidelines of the school.

But I kept hearing my dad in my head saying, “If it’s the right thing to do, often it’s the hard thing to do.”

Not taking my son to daycare would definitely be the hard thing to do. It was a Monday morning and I had a day packed with work and things to get done. After spending a weekend primarily focused on my children, I was more than ready to switch gears to productivity.

Pondering why the right thing to do is often the hard thing to do, I think it’s because it requires a sacrifice. We give up our plans in order to help someone else. We give up our pride in order to say we are sorry. Or we are giving up the expected path in order to find a deeper answer.

But on the other hand, we gain a freedom of spaciousness within ourselves. It’s a little like telling the truth all the time and then you don’t have to remember all the lies you told. It’s also like forgiveness – where you free up that energy that you no longer have to hang on to. It’s got a payoff in inner unity and less worry.

When I turned the car for home instead of his daycare, I felt the reward immediately because I was listening to my inner voice. In this case it was the voice of my dad but it was also the voice of the wisdom within.

Listening to that voice is never easy because it always makes me wonder if I’m crazy to give up my plans to follow it. But I’ve found when I do, it always puts me into the Heart of life where I can be surprised by the joy. In this case, the joy of an uncomplicated day with my son.

What about you – is the right thing to do is often the hard thing to do?

(featured photo from Pexels)

Embracing the Obstacle

The strength of a tree lies in its ability to bend.” – Zen Proverb

The other day my two-year-old found a Q-tip and he picked it up and started to swab the inside of his nostril. I know that kids frequently put things up their noses. After all, I wrote about the funny time my daughter put popcorn up her nose and I had to lay her on the floor, plug her other nostril and blow into her mouth. And then my toddler thought it looked like so much fun, he lined up next to her for his turn. 😊

But back to the nose swab, I’m sure it isn’t just a kid putting things up his nose – it’s all about COVID. As I was telling him not to do that, it reminded me of all that is driving me crazy. And also of the wisdom of embracing the obstacles in front our of ourselves that are our teachers.

I think the last two weeks might have been the most uncomfortable weeks of this pandemic for me. With the surging numbers that are off the charts, the constancy of COVID on the news, and with everything open so we are trying to live more or less as if its business as usual, it has brought so many decisions to my door. Trying to make friends with my experience, I am attempting to lean in to listen to all the things my discomfort is teaching me.

Uncertainty. Right now, when I am incredibly uncertain if I can schedule meetings and work because school or daycare could be cancelled, I accept that certainty has always been a mirage.  Uncertainty makes me feel disoriented but I’m coming to realize that the cure is not grabbing for more certainty but instead bending my knees as if I’m learning to surf.

Responsibility. My awareness of my responsibility to fellow humans has never been so heightened. In this era of contagion, it’s so obvious that we can spread love and light as well as disease. Smiling, laughing and joy are so infectious, especially when we are in the throes of a major surge. And learning the integrity of keeping my kids home from school, testing them, cancelling things myself when needed has been a huge takeaway for me.

Flexibility. This coming weekend we had two big things planned – a kids birthday party and a sleepover at Nana. Both had to be changed because of COVID and then all the other plans we had for the holiday weekend rearranged around them.  And it worked because everyone else is flexible too. I’m learning to accept that if they have to shift again, that too will also be fine.

 I look at what I’ve written and it’s a lot of “trying” and “accepting” and “learning.” It’s all so uncomfortable – kinda like putting a swab up your nose. Which, unlike my toddler and regardless of this attempt to embrace the obstacle, I will never do for fun!

Being vs. Doing

I am too alone in the world and not alone enough to make every moment holy.” – Rainier Maria Rilke

Willie Nelson and his son Lukas Nelson were talking about the power of manifesting life on a podcast with Brené Brown that I recently listened to. They suggested that the secret is in dreaming what you want in your life and then letting it go for God to make possible. This secret speaks to the line between being and doing that always confounds me.

When I first wanted to have a baby at age 45, I talked with the general practitioner that I was seeing at the time. She told me to eat organic. I was pretty sure that I needed to do a little more than that to have kids – either that or the organic food industry has a whole other marketing niche they aren’t plugging. 😊 So I went to talk with a fertility specialist next who had some very concrete steps for me to do.

On the other hand, I’ve always joked I’ll get married again when a man falls out of the sky and lands on my head. So far just putting that one out there and letting it manifest hasn’t created any results but I’m not all compelled to take more action in this moment.

I suspect the line between being, just putting it out there and letting it happen in God’s flow, and doing, taking very specific action to make things happen, is so difficult because no one can pass on that wisdom for anyone else’s life. It’s just between us and God. And it’s further complicated, at least for me, because I very much believe that I’m responsible for my own happiness so I don’t leave much for God to do.

Listening to that podcast inspired me to wonder about this balance all over again. The Nelson’s with their deep faith also talked about working hard to practice, embodying the same push and pull of being vs. doing. It illuminated part of my struggle and the beginnings of a solution – I suspect that I’ll never have a line that I can chart with any mathematical precision. Instead I was directed back to my daily practice of listening to the Divine about what I need to do that day, doing my best at that and leaving the rest to God.

(featured image from Pexels)

Spilled Milk

Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful.” – Joshua J. Marine

Can we talk about spilled milk? I completely believe, “No crying over spilled milk.” When my kids spill milk – no problem. But when I spill milk, I have a much harder time finding graciousness. The other morning I spilled a glass that I had just filled before I could get a top on it. I found myself reviewing my rhythm of the morning trying to find what I hadn’t done well enough so that I was in such a hurry and spilled the milk.

Years ago when I read the famed psychiatrist Dr. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled for the first time, I was captivated by his explanation of the continuum between neurosis and character disorder. If you are neurotic, you tend to take too much responsibility for the events of your life and if you are character disordered, you tend to take too little. The beautiful takeaway quote from that section is, “…the problem of distinguishing what we are and what we are not responsible for in this life is one of the greatest problems of human existence.

There is no doubt that I exist on the neurotic side of the continuum and having kids has made it more pronounced.

My tendency to take personal (over)responsibility for one has evolved into personal responsibility for three people. If my kids doddle on the way to bed and I don’t manage to get them to bed on time, I believe it’s my fault that they’ll have a poorer shot to have a good day the next day because they aren’t well-rested. There is a whole post I need to write (and read) on shifting that responsibility from me to them as they age.

But it has created a lot of great ground for meditation. Because as I create space to observe my own ego, I have a much better chance of observing when I overreach the boundaries of my responsibility. Sometimes, the milk just spills.

This brings back a poignant conversation I had with my ex-husband about the concept of neurotic vs. character disordered right around the time we were finalizing our divorce. As I explained what Dr. Peck’s long experience and training in psychiatry revealed, he proclaimed himself the only person that is right in the middle with no tendency one way or the other. It seemed his self-awareness could stretch just enough to know that he was not neurotic but couldn’t quite expand far enough to own that he tends to take too little responsibility. It was such a deeply ironic moment — and one that I remember just quietly witnessing because it explained so much.

There is a delightful space that I find now and again where I can just admit, “I spilled the milk” and laugh about it. When I do, I know I’ve found some balance and the milk is just there to help remind me.

(photo from Pexels)