Mindfulness and Mothering

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This week was challenging as we continued to pack up our belongings in anticipation for the big move. The one thing I have learned through this is that it doesn’t matter how present I try to be or how uncluttered I attempt to keep my life, being both mindful and minimalist takes effort. In fact, I’m certain I’ve included items in these boxes I don’t really need or love – and I know I’ve been super stressed over living in a ‘mess’ for what seems now like weeks.

I’m sure once the habits are ingrained, it becomes simpler. But, as with any new endeavor, it takes time to break old habits and create new ones. Because I will no longer work from home in my new position, I’ve been ‘practicing’ going to bed earlier and getting up at 7 am. Soon, I’ll get up at 6:45, then 6:30 – until I’ve made it part of my life to rise at 6 am. This will give me ample time to have a morning quiet time with a cup of coffee, drive to the office and start work on time. I’m not really a morning person, but I am a “I like my quiet time” person, which is why I’m developing this new habit.

Another interesting thing that has become more apparent this week is the ability to be more present. As most of the distractions are packed away, our needs have been few and our wants almost non-existent, I find I’m listening more.

As an example: my son has recently developed this ‘noise’ he makes when he’s tired. I say he recently developed it. This (rather annoying) sound has most likely been his M.O. for some time now – although I must have been too busy to notice. If he doesn’t take an afternoon nap, by 6:30 pm he starts getting cranky and by 7 pm starts making this whiny “mmmmm”  sound. The first night I noticed it, I was irritated. What an annoying sound. “Stop making that noise, please.” I asked. When he didn’t, I threatened to make him a drink and put him to bed. He grabbed his lovey and motioned toward the microwave. (Yes, he still takes a nightly bottle. And yes, I microwave it. Don’t. Judge. Me.) True to my word, off to bed I ‘forced’ him to go….pleased that he fell asleep shortly thereafter.

The next night, I had a visitor. My son started in on that noise about 7:30 pm (I think he’s quit the ‘afternoon nap’ thing altogether). Again, I was annoyed by the sound (it truly is annoying. Trust me.) but I asked my friend to wait while I fixed him a bottle and put him to bed. Again, no arguments over bedtime, no jumping in the bed….just him and his lovey – sound asleep in about ten minutes.

Third night in a row. “MMMMM”. This time I breathed in and out. I looked at the clock. 6:45 pm. No nap and he had gotten up at 7:00 am. I said, “Are you sleepy, honey?” He grabbed his lovey and I began the ritual: bottle, book, bed. No annoyance. No keeping him up until his actual ‘bedtime’. Just an open heart, a clear mind, and an awareness of his needs.

I’ve been preoccupied; too busy for so many nights. People will often tell you what they want you to know, but most often not in words. Being present is hard – I get this. I’m sure it will take more practice. I’m sure I’ll miss the mark when I have a deadline at work or feel a bit stressed over other areas in my life. But I truly hope this lesson sticks because my son has been a lot more sweet and less cranky now that he realizes I’m starting to understand him. And I’ve had a bit more time to relax at night, too, since he’s been going to bed earlier.

What ways have you been practicing mindfulness lately? Have you missed something that someone you love is ‘telling you’ simply because you’ve been distracted?

Keeping Life Simple

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This weekend marks what I’ve come to call my time here in Missouri as “one of my last weekends to pack”. I started packing about a month ago when we first got a contract on the house. Some would consider that very organized and motivated, but I find the sooner I start packing, the more likely I am to pack items I really should discard. Now that I’m down to the wire, I’m being a bit more selective. I am half-tempted to go through my previously packed boxes just to see if I packed anything I really don’t need or something that truly doesn’t help me through the transition (more on this in a few….).

Keeping it simple, for me, in these last few weeks includes asking myself two questions as I pack:

  1. Does it spark joy? (If yes, I keep it. If no, I ask myself…)
  2. Can it easily be replaced later if missed? (If yes, I toss it into the Goodwill box. If no, I pack it. After all, Goodwill exists in my second-life.)

Now, some would argue that saying “No” to question #1 would immediately dictate a quick trip to the nearest non-profit thrift store, But, even after reading the great little book entitled “The LIfe-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, not all items (for me, at least) fall into the black/white Does-It-Spark-Joy? (Yes/no) arena. Some things –  like batteries, scissors, glue, a new pack of construction paper, etc – fall into the “Um-Not-Necessarily-Joy-But-I-Don’t-Want-To-Have-To-Replace-It-Right-Away” grey area. I do have my limits, though. It has to be something I use nearly every day (not some Paul Mitchell hair gel I bought a year ago and never used). Most of these items are used to entertain my son – so I guess, if narrowed down – yes, these items do spark joy.

So, back to that first point I promised to get to in paragraph one. Some items spark joy…but also represent old patterns or mindsets I need to release in order to transition easily into the future (To heal? *Shrug*. Some might say.) For example, I work for a non-profit and for nearly a year I’ve traveled all over the country to various offices in different states. In each location I often received a t-shirt as a parting gift. (Fifteen t-shirts in all. Hardly a minimalist wardrobe). While each of those shirts spark joy because I met some really incredible, hard-working folks…I need to part with those shirts in order to move on. I can’t be hanging out in a shirt that represents the past (at times, an irritating and hurtful past.)

Additionally, I have a beautiful set of white dishware that I really like. These dishes are functional, practical, and I absolutely value them. But, I also bought them during a tremulous period in my life: I had separated from my first husband and needed dishes in my new apartment. I wanted out of the ‘different dishware for every holiday’ lifestyle. But now, I look at them sometimes and actually think “I bought those when my (first) marriage failed.” Instead of representing a time of independence and personal growth, I easily revert back to the feeling of failure. Time for those dishes, and their failure-ridden energy, to find a new home. Which means the opportunity to find new dishes that mesh with my new lifestyle is presented! I really like THESE except I don’t need or want 12 of them.  Match those plates with these bowls and I believe I’ve married fashion and function splendidly without straying off course.

The hardest items to donate, sell, or toss are the items I’ve purchased for my son. I did finally reconcile getting rid of his steel, red Radio Flyer Dual Deck tricycle, rationalizing in my mind that 1) he doesn’t seem to like it so, apparently, it doesn’t bring him joy and 2) by the time summer rolls around again, he’ll be too big for it. I, however, will not part with his steel red Radio Flyer wagon, which he received as a gift on his first birthday from a neighbor. I can’t think about parting with it without tearing up. Besides, I load it up and take it (and my son) to the farmer’s market. It serves double duty…and, sniff sniff…some would say it brings both of us joy. So, we’ll keep it, thank you very much.

The bottom line is that if this stuff I’m packing doesn’t fit in a 5 X 12 trailer hitched to a Saturn Vue filled to the brim, then it most likely can’t make the trip unless I want to pay out the wah-zoo for more moving space from U-Haul (which I do not).

If you have any tips for moving out of state, I’m up for any ideas. I consider myself a master at parting ways with things that have lost their spark, but to be frank, I’m a bit overwhelmed at the moment. New job, new home, new state, new driver’s license. It’s all a bit much for me.

So, what say you? Anyone? Anyone?

Facing Mindfulness Head On

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I’ve been a bit vague in some posts recently but honestly, I’ve mostly just been quite absent. I admit it, I know I’ve been distant – in person and in the blog-o-sphere. Maybe I’ve been so distant you’ve forgotten about me altogether. Maybe you thought I have quit the blogging business. Maybe you just didn’t care at all 🙂

To be completely transparent – I gotta tell ya, dear readers, that when life gets overwhelming for me, I may seem to face it all (on the surface) the best way I can, but internally, I retreat. I mean, I seriously R E T R E A T. So much so that if I could have swung it financially, I probably would have just put on my pajamas and stayed in bed for the last few months. However, I gotta make a living and the kid has to eat. So, I’ve been facing every day head on knowing that I could at least appear resilient on the surface. Fake it ’til you make it, I say.

Sometimes (and I really do believe this!!!) you have to face the fire in order to come out stronger. That’s biblical, at best (Isaiah 48:10 for those of you checking my math), and simply common sense, at worst.

So here I am. Stronger? Not so sure. Better? Absolutely.

Better in that I’ve made some decisions to make some radical changes.

I’m changing jobs. I’m changing homes. I’m changing the actual physical state (as in United States) in which I live. I’m changing the actual mental and emotional state in which I live (as in “proactive” versus “reactive”). And…I’m changing how I handle this creepy online diary in the future.

The first change is the name of this blog and what its future objectives are going to look like for you. “Show Me Simplicity” worked when I began blogging for two reasons: I reside in Missouri (the Sho-Me State!) and I was hoping to find simplicity by looking to others for guidance; hoping they would show me the way. (Thank you, Josh, Adam, Crank Tank Studios,  Gretchen, and many, many others.)

But, at the end of the month I will no longer live in Missouri. And, well, through my journey others have certainly shown me the way to rational minimalism…but I’ve learned the decision to live a simplified life, for me, is an every day, conscious decision. In other words, simplicity and minimalism don’t come naturally to me. In fact, it takes mindfulness and determination every moment of every day to not keep something that no longer brings me joy or to buy something just to make myself feel better. The minute I go on auto-pilot is the very minute I veer off-course.

And so…new job, new home, new state of residence…new name: Mindfully Minimalist. I look forward to sharing the next phase of my life with you and others.