Making Good Choices

Creative people are curious, flexible, persistent, and independent with a tremendous spirit of adventure and a love of play.” – Henri Matisse

Yesterday we were driving to Parkour camp when Miss O said, “I really like Coach Kurt because he’s always teaching us about making good choices. Which is important in Parkour.” Then after a short pause she added, “I think it might be really important in life.”

Parkour derives its name from the French phrase meaning obstacle course. A year into the pandemic, I think I would have signed Miss O up for any in-person class that gave her an outlet to use all the extra energy building up from having to do online Kindergarten but I was fortunate enough to make the good choice of Parkour.

Watching the kids learn Parkour, it appears that they are just running, vaulting, climbing, and dodging. But what Coach Kurt as the founder of his Parkour training company and his other coaches seem to be emphasizing is that we have choices in how we navigate an environment. Social emotional learning shows up in most curricula for kids these days but as I digested Miss O’s statement, it struck me just how much she was learning… from play.

Thinking about this sent me to my copy of Gifts of Imperfection by author and researcher Brené Brown. She cites the work of psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown about the benefits of play as derived from his research and work in the fields of biology, neurology and psychology. “Brown explains that play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation.”

More than that, Brené Brown’s entire book is on the choices we make in life and how cultivating the right things can help us to live more whole-heartedly, as she terms it. “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness.” It is all about making the right choices in life, to build on Miss O’s statement. Here are the ten guideposts that Brené offers:

Guidepost #1: Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think

Guidepost #2: Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism

Guidepost #3: Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

Guidepost #4: Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark

Guidepost #5: Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty

Guidepost #6: Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison

Guidepost #7: Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth

Guidepost #8: Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

Guidepost #9: Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and ‘Supposed To’

Guidepost #10: Cultivating Laughter, Song and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and ‘Always in Control’

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

(Anyone interested in these guideposts might want to take the assessment that Brené Brown offers for free on her website.)

Thinking about how we are always making choices on how to navigate this obstacle course of life, I think Miss O summed it up that it’s important to make good ones. Or at least the choices that are meaningful to us. So when I saw Coach Kurt at Parkour camp yesterday, I made the choice to pause and tell him what my daughter had learned from this company and curriculum he so thoughtfully has put together. With glittering eyes he thumped his hand to his heart a couple of times and then said, “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

(featured photo from Pexels)

Big, Scary Dreams

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

I got this fortune cookie “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough” when I was waiting on the results of my first ultrasound for my 2nd child. Since I’d undertaken the whole parenting endeavor intentionally as a single person, I could definitely attest that I was scared.

I carried in my purse all through that pregnancy and now it’s taped to my cupboard. I know that I’m not the only parent to wonder now that I have kids, do I still have the right to dreams that scare me?

The Measure of My Love

“A heart that loves is always young.” – Greek Proverb

Last Monday my five-year-old daughter handed me a dollar bill, a nickel and a dime and told me she was giving it to me because that’s how much she loves me. I was completely unprepared with a response other than “thank you” and “wow, that’s so kind!” Not to suggest that a response other than “thank you” in that moment was appropriate but it did make me think of telling her that my love doesn’t cost anything and that she should save her money.

At the time, she had $20 so it was about 5% of her liquid assets. Since I was going down that rabbit hole, I wondered if I give her 5% of my liquid assets. (What liquid assets? I don’t have any because I have children!) Isn’t it interesting how tempting it is to quantify? And once quantifying, the next question becomes “Do I have enough love?” When it comes to both love and money when asked any question with the word “enough” in it, the only thing my mind does is look for what it lacks.

When I check in with my heart though, it feels full. And I know because at the end of the day when both of the kids are in bed and I’m turning out the lights for the night, I have this feeling that my whole heart is in this house. And also in this year of having to operate in a pod, it has given me so much appreciation for the family and friends who are such a regular part of my life. And for the ones I haven’t gotten to see, I have gained the perspective of distance to cherish them and our shared history better.

So as my head is doing weights and measures, my heart is busy feeling the tender moments, like the one where my daughter is finding a way to express her love. How often do I let my head tell me what it thinks it knows without checking in with the key part that actually does know?

Once I work my way back to my heart, I find the quality of my life. And that is a feeling of wholeness and wealth which feels like the Truth of where I am and want to operate from. Which is good, because shortly after my daughter gave me $1.15 to show how much she loved me, my mom came over and my daughter gave her a dollar bill and two quarters to show her how much she loves her. 😊

The Conditions of Creativity

“Fill the paper with the breathings of your heart.” – William Wordsworth

The other night we had some friends over. In the raucous atmosphere of an audience after so many months without one, my kids were showing off. My toddler was falling off a bouncy horse over and over and when I went to video him on the fifth time through, I asked, “Did you do that on purpose?” and he turned to me and winked.

It has taken me five days to write about that one funny and wondrous moment of connection with a not-yet verbal human. For me, I need to write in the morning, when I am still fresh from sleep. I can’t write when taking care of my kids, I can’t write in the middle of the day when I’m in work mode, I can’t write at the end of the day when I’m completely worn out. I once heard an interview with the author Ursula Le Guin and she said something about writing whenever she could. Except when her kids were young because she said, “of course you can’t write when your kids are young.” My reaction at the time was, “Why not?”

But now I’m starting to understand three things about being in the thick of life. First, that the moments that I see into the depths of life are precious. Just because we love them doesn’t mean our loved ones can’t muddy our waters. Second, that I can’t be a participant and an observer at the same time. Like the danger of being behind a camera on vacation, seeing everything through a viewfinder with one eye closed instead of seeing the full experience, I can’t digest the meaning of whatever is happening at the moment without creating a barrier to whole-hearted participation. I have to process it later. And third, that the conditions of creativity must be right to write. Even though my kids are so much of the inspiration of living without reservation, the attention they require engages my head in a way that blocks the quiet presence of the heart behind my words.

So I’ve waited until I was clear before writing this to you. That I can do so feels like a miracle, having a free moment, finding some words and depth about how they come, and even to have a medium that allows me to connect with others. It feels a lot like that wink from my son, a small sign that we might truly be communicating. Hopefully the sacred flow of creativity stays open long enough for me to ring true for you.