fear of the unknown

I admire the determination of kids. It is incredibly remarkable. Without it, there would be no major childhood milestones.

No steely focus to create a reliable method of transport to get to what is over “there” when you are over “here”.

No umpteen falls to the floor only to get back up again and again until legs are standing strong.

No herky jerky mismatched movements that eventually synchronize into pumping in the swing.

It is an evolutionary marvel. Truly.

This insatiable need to grow and do more is barely kept in check with fear. The awareness of danger is there but the idea that failure is akin to stopping is not.

I am a fearful over achiever. Too much of what I do or don’t do is driven by fear. Part of this is rooted in setting the bar high. Way up high.

NOT where beginners start.

My squirrelly logic is a weakness of mine. Because if you can’t reach the bar and have never taken the steps to get there, it is an unknown. Minute or massive is not the driving force. It’s the unknown. The step from solid ground to shifting instability. The change from expectation to anticipation.

Four weeks ago I signed up for a beginners yoga workshop. A month long course, twice a week. New to me studio. New to me teacher. New. New. New. Every.single.thing was new except my old yoga mat. It was gut twisting terrifying.

I wasn’t worried something bad was going to happen. I wasn’t worried that teacher would be dreadful. I wasn’t worried I would be the worst one there. And, after the first class I was assured that I was indeed not the worst one there.

I was anxious about all the new. What parking would look like at that time of night. How I’d navigate the studio space and find my room. Where I would set up in the room. How my clothes would shift on my body. All of it racing and spinning in my mind.

But the need to stretch and pull these knots loose was greater than my fear. It was a moment of clarity that happened when I was presented with the opportunity. A reflection of “what’s the worst that can happen?”

Because I need it more – the time, the space, the energy, the skills, the release – than what fear will ever give me. Ever.

And, I can’t find that place and get that time unless I go into the unknown. The new.

So, here I am at 37 learning to walk again. With focus on what is over there. What I want with every bit of my being. Grounding, healing, strength, passion, settling and abundant growth.

And I have a willingness to get back up again. And again.

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anger

Anger is an emotion I rarely express.

It isn’t something I grew up around and when I did hear it, it scared me. As a child, a stern voice or furrowed brow was more than sufficient to express discontent with what I had done. Little was needed to remedy my behavior beyond the vague notion that my discretion had been noted.

I was a sensitive kid who would have wilted like a quickly dried out flower if I had been faced with volatile anger or loud voices.

And, I’m still a sensitive adult. An empath. Only recently am I starting to own this. To see the role this has played in my life, my parenting, my loving, my friendships, my partnerships and my health.

Anger is the outward expression of an intense feeling. It’s bold and it’s pointed. An arrow that screams as it is released. Explodes on it’s target. Intentional or not. It is wholly masculine and it’s energy heated.

I live in the feminine. Fully. It’s where I’m most comfortable and secure. The embrace, the circle that pulls inward and the nurturing.

The left that holds the bowl in deep embrace while the right lunges forward in masculine drive.

I pull it in. Always. I take the energy, the weight, the frustration, the anger and bring it in tight. I hold it in my center and let it spread and settle. It becomes my burden, fully and completely. It is controlled. It is unreleased and sheltered from view.

And, it’s incredibly heavy.

A weight deeper than the deepest ocean’s water.

And, the lid is precariously set on top.

I take the anger, the emotional vomit that is unhinged and wild and pull in sadness and disappointment and wrap and stir it with reflection, caring and overthinking.

When Pepper was born, she creatively threatened my long held patterns. She unceremoniously and deliberately poked and prodded the carefully placed lid.

I was anxious each morning as I anticipated what the day would hold.

I was flummoxed that she wouldn’t do what she was asked without umpteen reminders and at least one argument.

I was frustrated at her outbursts and seemingly endless tantrums.

I was fearful of the uncontrolled maelstrom that was physical and manic and terrifyingly big.

And, all this had the potential to become anger. In the scheme of things, the spectrum of reactivity, my reactions were relatively tame. Pretty uneventful. But, incredibly scary to me. A feeling I’d never had. A primal urge to scream and thrash and wail. Sounds all too familiar to my emotionally unregulated Pepper. A place, a state I never wanted to be in. So it would come out like the boiling pot’s lid pop of unexpected puff of steam. Then an inevitable settling atop a rumbling, rolling heated mess.

I lived that way of emotional control, an inward pull to keep it in and make it all mine for almost 37 years. I lived that way of parenting for a long time. Eight and half years.

The methods are no longer a facade that appears to be serving me. They’re suffocating me.

And only with diligent self care and a growing awareness for the process that’s gotten me here can I begin to release. I will always be me; the incredibly sensitive empath who takes on the weight of others. Who overthinks the minutiae of life. Who cares fully and deeply.

But, I am learning the benefits of outward expression and timed release. And, tears. So many cathartic crying sobs that shake my body loose and rattle the burden. And, breath. My need to keep inhaling and exhaling. Awareness of my tendency to hold it in and a conscious regulator to break that cycle. And, yoga. A series of stretching that bring all this together and uncoil the tightness and taut strings.

And, anger.

An emotion that isn’t to be feared or released with pointed destruction aimed at those around me. But, a primal release that sends it out. The big, the scary, the all consuming. And, gives its energy to something other than me.

montessori love

Seven years ago we decided on a Montessori preschool for Pepper. It was sort of a happenstance situation. My belly was full of V and my impending maternity leave was inevitably going to become permanent. This luxury made it possible to choose an option for Pepper that was not required. No longer daycare to cover my work hours. No more childcare that asked my child to mold to the structure instead of adapting and flexing with her needs.

Pepper had just been expelled from daycare and my pregnancy hormones were in full unpredictable swing. My step-mom had been a longtime elementary Montessori teacher but I was, embarrassingly, unfamiliar with the doctrine. I knew that her classroom did not look the ones I had been in as a child. What little I did know made it seem like Montessori might be a good fit for P and one visit to our now beloved Children’s House only magnified these feelings.

One week after V was been born and Pepper was still brand new at her school, we got the dreaded phone call. The one that would inevitably lead to another expulsion. She was in a rage. A full on fit with no end in sight. I was a post-partum, nursing, hormonal mess and the thought of reverting back to where we had been weeks earlier was overwhelming.

Thor swooped in, as requested by the teachers, and brought P home. And, then conferenced that afternoon about what our future was.

Not only was P not expelled, she was welcomed back. The conference had been about how they could help her the next time. What tools would work to diffuse a situation like that again. How they could meet her needs where she was at.

My heart swelled, fueled by unregulated post-partum emotions, and I knew that we had likely found our home. A solid, grounded place for Pepper to thrive and grow.

Fast forward three more years and the finish line of P’s Children’s House schooling. It was time to decide what our next steps would be. The good-bye to our little school, a second home, was only a partial end as we left with Pepper in June and returned with V in September.

Private school had never ever been a consideration for us. We were a single income family living with a 20 mile one way commute to our nearest Montessori elementary school. We were beginning to understand Pepper’s needs better and were fully engrossed in beefing up our skills, her tools and working through the kinks. We were committed to the sweet public school down the street, but after one meeting with the administration the inflexibility of what they were capable of accommodating and embracing was scary. My fears grew and two weeks before school started, Thor and I had a long, hard discussion about we needed to do for our child.

The serendipitous nature of an opening coming available at a local Montessori elementary and the budget shifts we were able to make made it possible. It was incredibly settling.

Within our definition of “settled”.

The road was not without bumps or bruises. There were calls home and conferences. And, adjusted schedules to accommodate Pepper’s needs.

We entered another three year cycle of Montessori and were embraced by a sweet community and fabulous set of teachers. One of the greatest benefits of Montessori education is the consistency and growth that comes from a three year cycle with the same teacher(s) for a child. The soil is tended and fertilized with this relationship and the child can grow and blossom to their full potential.

But, with this closeness and special connection comes an alternatively painful good-bye. A transition from one to another.

All of this is not just a change for the child but one for the parents and family and beyond. We are all an integral part of Pepper’s school and the relationships that are grown.

This fall, as she moves from the Lower Elementary into the Upper Elementary, we say good-bye to the teachers we have loved and adored. And, who have given this gift back to Pepper and our family ten-fold. A gift without bounds.

And, in year seven, I have become one of Montessori’s greatest fans and loudest cheerleaders. I am grateful for Pepper’s needs and the places we have landed because of them. And, the people who have embraced us.

My heart aches as I look into the Lower Elementary classroom and miss my brown haired beauty’s profile in the circle of kids. I miss the close connection. But, with only a few steps, I can peek into the other classroom and see how well she fits. How seamless she looks amongst her peers. The potential for another deep relationship and connection between her teachers. How right this all feels.

I am filled with abundant gratefulness for Montessori and the gifts it has given. And, continues to give.

such a good boy

Two years ago we said goodbye to the best dog we could imagine ever having. T lived a full 15-1/2 years. So long for a big boy of 85-pounds.

He was our first kid.

Our first combined love.

And, our first companion through life’s largest milestones. Condensed into one lifetime.

Our first home – a sweet, incredibly tiny rental in the darling craftsman filled neighborhood of the Lettered Streets.

Our wedding day in the darkness and peace of full winter in February.

Our first home, to the tune of a mortgage payment three times our rent. The one that was “perfect” because it was fully fenced and already broken in by the previous owners’ pups.

The birth of Pepper. His constant impatience with her consistent reappearance every time we returned home offset by the constant droppings of food bits and overturned dishes from the highchair.

The birth of V. His appreciation for her awareness of his personal boundaries. Her quiet nature to be close by sharing toy after toy and placing them gently on his bed near his head.

The growing of kids with personalities deeply grooved since before birth.

His death was beautiful. It was as perfect as loss can be and just the way it should be. Pain free. A clear and very deep reluctance to just go and be done living. A choice to stop getting up and a companion’s mutual understanding of the time that it was. The grief was incredibly deep and raw. It is still there and moving forward. With time, the muck is less sloggy and gripping.

With T’s memory, we put him up higher on the pedestal he already lived on.

He was my best boy.

His life was a string of perfect memories from a perfect dog.

One year later, we made the decision to love again. It was both rash and over analyzed. We were constantly nagged with pleas from Pepper and V. It was not just a foolish childhood desire, it was a deep need to have one of their own. A dog who loved them as much, if not more, than me and Thor. A dog who was part of our family of four and did not view the kids as an awkward tangent from the young pairing.

G was just that pup. A humane society litter born to a mom rescued from a kill-shelter in California. He was the shepherd mix we wanted. Our serendipitous meeting with the 5-week old fluffball took our hearts and sealed the inevitable deal. Summer ended with full on puppyhood and all of us engrossed in this new adventure.

We were ready. Fully and completely. Prepared and set. All the logistics were organized and handled.

G was everything we wanted and simultaneously, not at all what we expected. We were aware of the 180-degree shift we were doing from an aging senior to an immeasurably energetic pup. We were not prepared for the effect of our pedestal. The goal that a slighted memory made impossible.

G barked all the time. T never did.

G was overly excitable and a manic greeter of other dogs. T had the wise demeanor of a Buddhist monk and was content to just “be”.

G jumped with exuberance on all visitors. T laid on his bed and waved hello with a calm tail wag and raised eyebrow.

G chased and lunged at any and all small creature that crossed his field of vision. T coexisted with chickens and loped along with the wandering herd of neighborhood cats.

As time stretches, I wonder how accurate these memories are. How ill-defined the pedestal is as a piece of reality.

With all of this “different”, the image was the “same”. Eerily similar.

T was adopted at 5 months old. He was long and lean with scrawny legs and flippy flop ears that were undecided about whether to stand up or splay sideways. He was a gawky puppy moving into teenagerhood. His humane society advertisement was “shepherd/collie mix”

G was a round ball, a dark face dotted with lively eyes, and a fitting nickname of “big chunk”. His shelter provided DNA profile was overwhelmingly german shepherd with the catchall “mixed breed”.

At a year old, G is nearly identical to T. The only disparities being erect ears and a darker muzzle in G. Weight, body coloring, coat shaping and feel. All the same.

In every look, I see only G. But, in the shadows and the shift from the corner of my eye there is a ghostly recognition. It is not creepy or strange. It is oddly comforting. And, also a constant reminder of how different the contents of the package are from the wrapping.

Death has a way of glossing over the imperfections of life. Post mortem offers a glimpse of perfectionism. The memorial services rarely touch on the absent father’s years of missed activities and family functions. Or the grandma’s fastidious organization that could bubble into angry outbursts. To remember the dead in anything but positive light would be tantamount to social suicide.

Over the last few months, I have fallen hard and fast as a victim to this mindset. The pedestal we had placed T on has not given any space for uniqueness of G.

There has been no grace for him.

And, consequently a self inflicted judgment on my own vulnerability in raising a less than perfect dog.

It is through purposeful actions that I am changing this injustice. An injustice for both T and G. And me.

I am pulling from the memories and talking about the imperfections of T. To remember his apathy for children is not a slight on his overall fabulousness. And, markedly, it leaves room to highlight and fully embrace the adoration and patience G has with our children. They are his people. Walks may be a struggle in this moment with G, but they were not without discord for T either. The walk in the park is a figment of my mind’s tricks. A very cushy and soft outline of the truth.

I was blessed with a once in a lifetime dog with T for 15 years of life. My girls are blessed with their once in a lifetime dog with G.

And, he is my good boy.

Such a good boy.

lack of love

Self love is a nagging buzz word/phrase right now. It is what acai berries were a few years ago to the good eating industry. My writing is evidence of its prominence with a post just a year ago focusing on the same eight letters. It reminds me of an affirmation that bears repeating until its message is ingrained in the psyche.

But, I wonder what is truly means for me as an individual. And, perhaps to the larger audience, too.

Is the word love the best choice or a pressure laden script that forces an unnatural mindset?

Can there be authentic self love without love in its all encompassing entirety?

Is another adjective better suited to fill this place and give grace as a place holder?

Swirling thoughts that float and drift with no definitive answers.

Love for me is unconditional.

It is the truest of full acceptance with no doubts belied by judgment. It is the reason for deep embrace when words are lost. It is the ability to pull the physical outburst and emotional maelstrom of a tantruming child in to a safe harbor.

It is the tears, the joy, the laughter, the pain.

It is everything. A non-descript melting pot capable of holding it all.

With this definition in mind, these characteristics paramount to love – can you love your self with loving your whole self?

The baggy skin that hangs below my belly button with a distorted cesarean line cutting across is not loved. It is accepted. It is tolerated. It is held and embraced. But it is not loved.

This imperfect bisection and squishy pooch are loved by husband. Fully. In all the ways that I define love. Does that not exemplify love? When we find ourselves most unlovable and least worthy, the true ones rise up and give love. During the fits, there is the embrace. In the fog of the storm, the unwavering lighthouse.

Can I stand tall, shoulders back – a full physical embrace of myself as a whole while still saying the words “I don’t like this. Or this.”

Because I don’t. Can there be love without like? A non-mutually exclusive one without the other.

Is the desire to change something and its appearance mean that love is absent? Does this desire for different, by definition, mean that it is powered by dissatisfaction and self doubt?

I am working through these questions and trying to narrow them into more answers.

I am trying to see myself for who I am – right now, in this moment, a culmination of all that came before. I am trying to give grace to all those imperfections and dimples. And, acceptance for what is here.

I don’t feel like love, in all its truest glory, is possible for me right now. Life is a whole lot of gray. There is not “love” or “no love”. Or love or hate. The spectrum is wide and varied and doppled with personal definitions.

Right now I am accepting.

I am honoring.

I am giving grace.

I am bringing awareness to spaces, places and parts that were too long ignored.

I am looking at myself as a whole being, body and spirit and saying “I am”.

And, I am working to sluff off the guilt and pressure to love fully with the authenticity that I cannot embrace.

And, perhaps as a side goal coin a phrase that does not have the love in self love.

all of me

There is part of my body that does not exist. I do not touch it. I do not feel it. It is not a room in my sacred temple. A black hole of non-existence.

Like most things that do exist, but remain ignored, it is not a quiet place that has backed away from view. It is loud. In your face. Demanding of love, attention and energy. It is there. Always. In my mind, my view, my thoughts. Screaming “I am here”. And, yelling it loud. It will tantrum. It will rattle the cages. I will make itself known and in bold, embarrassing ways.

My belly.

This sacred core. This energetic life force. A womb of desire and divinity.

It has never felt like mine or been a part of me.

Until now.

This center is where health blossoms and grows. Where flora multiply and create webs reaching far into the body. Where nourishment sits and processes. It is the deep grounding that is solid.

In this place lies my fears. My sadness. Aches. Pains. Histories. Memories. Anxieties. Worries. A mixing bowl of muckiness behind a great wall of cement. Block upon block with a mortar I have mixed and molded. There is great strength in this wall. A fortified fortress.

But behind it there are rages. The deepening realization that its greatest enemy is from within not beyond.

So, the wall is working its way down.

It is being breathed into and filled to capacity with air and imagination. It is being given the freedom to express itself and the open arms to accept what it shares.

It is being given touch and caress. It is being treated with honor through my fingertips and loved with a new light.

It is being given creativity. Memorialized with artwork through touch. A promise of acceptance and love sealed and tattooed on its surface.

All the work I have been doing will continue, but it is now being fueled by love. There will still be kombucha and probiotics. Healthy food and abundant water.

The love is tender and new right now. An innocent interest in what is there. What has always been there.

A determination to be whole. In physical appearance and in my mind. In my body and my spirit.

In me. All of me.

protecting me

Empathy is a huge part of who I am. It’s always been my go-to reflex and it seems that becoming a mother only magnified its intensity. A part of me was now growing beyond my bosom. As the years go by, the distance grows with their independence. Out of my arms reach.

Everything I am. All my memories, my histories, my wounds, my joys are part of my parenting. I am fully invested and present with all of me coming to the table for mothering.

Caring. Giving. Nurturing. It is all my default.

The depths of this and how far I could fall to my own detriment were something I was oblivious to. There was a moment. A critical turning point. A parenting guffaw and awakening that brought awareness from the outside.

I was called on the carpet and told to shut my gates. Start reigning in instead of constantly spewing energy from my core. I was depleting myself. Slowly carving a shell that was self made.

It was bold and big and morphed into a growing lesson on boundaries. Creating fences. Malleable and shifting based on the need, but firm in their creation and self awareness.

These boundaries and my growing ability to set them saved me. It pulled that essence of me in tighter and closer. In my bosom. At my heart. It gave me the capacity to give with readiness and choice and preservation.

My self awareness is a skill that is continually honed and refined. Made clearer with time. Cobwebs that are cleaned but remnants that linger because they are part of the structure that is me. The blocks that are created to build the house and all its stories that I have become.

My empathy can be a vacuum. Sucking the energy. Pulling from the darkness and crevices. Grabbing hidden bits. All within me. It has the capacity to flow with well intentioned abandon. But the effectiveness is greatest when it is guided and secure.

The bullet point of my lesson is this. I can be all that I am, give all that goodness I want to give and still be wholly me. Full of energy with a keen mindfulness for self preservation.

The situations where it has been hardest to maintain this stamina is with my own children. I give. Day in and day out. I am their rock and tender of their nest. Their safety. But, they are on their path. A walk uniquely their own. I am raising independent people who will hopefully bring goodness and kindness to this world.

But, creating my own space and my own place for my thoughts, time and energy is a critical need of mine. It is what makes it possible to give. Fully and without grudge or dissatisfaction. Making the boundary that having “mine and only mine” is okay. That does not negate the other. The giving. The sharing. The constant presence.

That is my thesis.

To be able to say YES and GIVE, I in turn must be able to say NO. My heart will not shrink or shrivel. My gifts will be no less valuable or important. They are mine to give with my whole heart.