Tag Archives: relationships

How To Be a Better, Smarter, more Balanced You

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2016 is looming: it’s an olympic year, a national election year, and a leap year. because everyone else out there is telling you how to be a stronger, fitter, faster, taller and more beautiful you, i’ve decided to focus our work on the inside.

these tips won’t make you slimmer, but they will help you unload crap that isn’t yours in the first place and then maybe you can start to see your real value and you’ll feel lighter on your feet and in your heart.

let shit go: will what’s bugging you matter in 6 minutes, 6 hours, 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years. as a bazillion philosophers have stated, often what’s bugging us is not the situation but our attachment to the situation: expectations, narratives, and old stories which shape our appreciation of the situation. once you can name the hook, you’re released, it’s crazy awesome. apparently socrates said, “the secret to change is not to focus on fighting the old, but on building the new.” try it.

can’t let shit go? try EFT tapping: http://www.emofree.com/eft-tutorial/tapping-basics/how-to-do-eft.html — i recently had a situation that really bugged me, someone called me negative and it hurt a lot because i’ve worked very hard to overcome lots of that. thanks to the resulting introspection (always seek a silver lining) i relearned: 1) that what i was called was a projection of the person who said it; 2) that courting bad feelings is as powerful as a drug*; 3) that running a moral inventory of the good i have done and the people who admire me is the best proof there is of my value in the world; and 4) we are all a little messed up. “those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.”

*Despite their differences, pride, shame, and guilt all activate similar neural circuits, including the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, amygdala, insula, and the nucleus accumbens. Interestingly, pride is the most powerful of these emotions at triggering activity in these regions — except in the nucleus accumbens, where guilt and shame win out. This explains why it can be so appealing to heap guilt and shame on ourselves — they’re activating the brain’s reward center. source http://time.com/4042834/neuroscience-happy-rituals/

stay off social media if it makes you feel like crap. the actual, rainy, sunny, snowy, arid, warm, cool, hilly, flat, leafy, barren world is always more beautiful than the screen version. getting out is good for your heart (physical and metaphorical). bring garden gloves and an empty trash bag on your next walk, and clean up as you go along. you’d be surprised how much trash is out there. (as for that last sentence, the same can be said of social media.)

you can’t please everyone, so don’t try. work on you and your life will unfold before you.

practice gratitude: it’s everywhere. it’s proven. taking stock of and being grateful for all that has happened in your life will help you see how far you’ve come. and believe me: you’ve come far.

don’t do for others the things they can (and need to learn) do for themselves: sure, i’m better at it, i’m faster and i’ve got more experience, so yes, i can drive my 17-yo son everywhere, but if i do that, he doesn’t learn to drive, does he? and then i get stuck taking him everywhere.  you’ll see this theme repeat itself elsewhere through this post. the best teacher is encouraging and allowing others do their own thing — remember toddlers: ain’t nobody gonna help them with their pants until they ask for help.

organic interaction / engagement: if all of a sudden you find yourself hot under the collar about something someone else told you about, chances are you weren’t supposed to know about it in the first place. TEST: if you have to be told something to get wrapped around the axle about, consider this: you’re hearing about it from someone else’s perspective and it’s quite likely you’re not getting all the facts, nor the other sides of the story. and trust me: there are ALWAYS other sides to a story. especially stories which don’t concern you. one word: YIKES. if you like that drama, you’ve got other problems. (i speak with experience, see immediately below.)

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fight your own battles: filters filters filters. man, if i had $100 for every stupid thing i got involved in which had nothing to do with me, i’d have about $12,000 and I’d be writing this on a beach somewhere. but the fact is that i’m on my couch at home and my getting involved in dynamics that had nothing to do with me did me absolutely NO favors whatsoever. it stretched my ego, it inflated a false sense i had of myself, and it set off recurrent shoulder pain.

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check the mirror: when you point at someone else you have three fingers pointing back at yourself (try it, i’ll wait). you can’t accuse someone of something you aren’t already experienced with already. in other words: you can’t project what you do not have. you think someone is stubborn? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. think someone else is negative? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. accusing someone of talking about you behind your back? don’t look now, but you just won a hypocrisy sundae. think someone else is mean? you are too, otherwise you’d just let it go. that said, it’s ok — we all do it. learn to be cool with that discerning side of yourself, the one you would rather not talk about at cocktail parties. why? because it has helped you avoid potentially irksome experiences, but never go on someone else’s opinion of anything. i’d never have eaten a Reuben if i went on my friend’s advice.

altruism gives to the giver too: everyone has a talent. serve others only for the sake of serving them and seek nothing in return. volunteer once a month for at least four hours somewhere, but ONLY in a place where you can do your highest good. are you skilled at accounting? see if there’s a shelter that could use your help. do you like public relations? find an organization struggling with outreach. are you an amateur carpenter? check out a local church. they are always building amazing things for other people. i can bake, but i prefer to write. so i volunteer to help others to love writing, i’d rather do that than make lasagnes for people. (even though my lasagnes are awesome.) i love to give the gift of yoga too.

no pedestals: don’t put people on pedestals. here’s why: 1) you’re equal to them in many ways or else you wouldn’t idolize them, so own it; 2) they will screw up and disappoint you and when that happens they will need a soft place to fall, so be that for them; and 3) it’s really unfair to them and you’re just hiding in their shadow.

consider the source: are you hearing things third-hand and getting all hot and bothered about it? are you being insulted? is someone saying something in a back-handed way to you? “consider the source,” is what my mother used to say to me.  again: “those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.”

speak authentically with others: let it all hang out. everyone pees and poops; everyone has fears (trust me). if you can’t be who you are, and if you have guards up to protect yourself, your relationship will be set upon those parameters: mistrust. own your weaknesses and your strengths and be cool with it or else it all just end up in your face. it happens. that said, know when to flush the toilet and move on. if people can’t handle your sincerity, it’s them.

keep an open mind: nothing inspires growth more than being confronted by and working with an uncomfortable truth, for truth is the greatest teacher. it’s the hanging on to old beliefs and inflexibilities which causes the most trouble. if you like to blame other people for all your problems, guess what? the problems will still happen because you’re giving the other people who cause all your problems all the power. grab the keys and unlock the doors.

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end the victimhood, it’s just really sad: do you want pity or support? ian mckewn, author of Atonement once said that he dislikes speaking about his older books when promoting a current one. his answer was brilliant: he’s moved on and doing so makes him “an employee” of his former self. that struck me. when we keep telling our old narratives: traffic at the airport, a horrible boss, a tough childhood, or a traumatic experience without noting the blessings we’ve been given to live days without those experiences, we are totally missing the point. i’ve done all of that and i wish i hadn’t (see, i’m doing it now).

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get to the essence of what’s really the point: you’re not mad at what you’re mad at. i’ve written about this a lot. short and sweet: if you’re bothered by something or someone else, it’s likely NOT the other person / event, but a deep feeling inside you triggered by the situation (going back to that socrates quote). for example: if you’re cut off in traffic, it’s not the cutting off, but the possibility that you feel invisible and diminished. (that’s deep. so work with it…) this stuff is insidious, so it’s important for you to address these things because they will be triggers for subconscious and really random behaviors.

don’t enlist others to fight on your behalf: while at times it does “take a village,” don’t set your own hut on fire to get people to help you put out the fire. another aspect of this is economical: no one else can make the points you need to make, nor can anyone else stick to the points you need to make. only you know your story. strength in numbers, sure, but let people have their own perspectives, even if they don’t align with yours.

ok, but what if you’re a rescuer?: if you do get involved, chances are you might agree with the person you’re defending, but stick to what makes the most sense for you. also, beware of people who like to stir up stuff just to be the hero who shows up in the nick of time to fix it? do you know someone like that…?

sprinkle all experiences with a sense of kindness and optimism: no one likes the DMV, or Verizon customer service, but it’s a part of modern life. if you’re at the DMV, maybe remember the truth that your being there keeps someone employed and that person’s employment is bringing home money for a family.

time is a human construct: everything unfolds and happens as it should. consider this: the sun doesn’t rise and set, it’s the earth which turns away. the people you meet, the situations you encounter, they were all meant to be so you can step onto your true path… humans are the only species who’ve wrapped their arms around space and time. do you see dogs wearing watches? only that rabbit in Alice in Wonderland wore a watch and we all know what happened then… everything else acts on a boundless continuum. stop wondering if things are flowing: they are. trust it. it might not be sunshine and roses, but everything we experience: “good” or “bad” (also human constructs) present an opportunity for growth. those who exist in the past and make decisions based on judgement and comparing, they are the ones who are stuck in a rut. they are the ones who can’t move on. the universe flows without them…   Thomas Merton wrote, “You need not know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need, is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment and to embrace them with courage, faith, and hope.”

the lessons will continue until you master them. while the road to hell is paved with good intentions, do you wonder why the same things keep happening to you? do you keep having the same arguments? do you still befriend chaos? are you throwing glass on your path? do you get in arguments which aren’t yours? do you step into situations, thinking you’re advocating when in reality you’re holding back the real people who desperately need to step into their own power? how much of that “helping” is your ego? and then you wonder why it all feels so yucky and familiar? this is the Universe telling you to MYOB. leave it to the professionals. remember what happened to Dorothy in Wizard of Oz? she spoke up for everyone but herself and she got zip out of that black bag AND she was deserted. Just. Like. That. talk about road to hell. don’t be Dorothy: know what is yours and what’s not. Dorothy got swept up because of her own resistance to be accountable for her actions and boundaries: she wouldn’t curb Toto (don’t get me started on terriers)… then she got all upset and ran away. pick your own battles and you will indeed find there’s no place like home.

people do all sorts of things for all sorts of reasons. who knows why you did what you did, who knows why percival did what percival did. you have to take care of yourself. it’s that air mask on the plane analogy we know is true yet we might consider passé. the more you concentrate on percival, the less you’re taking care of yourself. you can’t save percival, change percival or persuade percival. this is well-documented: 95% of all our behaviors are subconscious based on experiences we were exposed to during our first five years of life. until we realize that, and until we understand that we’re already preprogrammed / conditioned to behave a certain way, there will never be change.

letting go is the same as letting in: clenched fists can’t make way or hold onto changes which are definitely coming our way. do you want to keep your fists and fight off the changes or do you want your hands ready to grasp the opportunities which have been trying to come your way…? if you’re slipping off a mountain shear, having your hands ready to take hold of a new anchor is the only thing which can save you.

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live. –Marcus Aurelius

Happy New Year! It’s happening!

Thank you.

When Mom’s the Child

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I’m feeling a little blue at the moment; my youngest and I had a skirmish. He is newly 12. He’s in sixth grade. He runs late every morning… no matter how early I wake him, he never gets downstairs until 8 and then he drags around and we have not been at school on time in weeks.

Today, I packed his lunch bag in his backpack. It was 8:25. We had a chance… we could’ve been out of the house by 8:30. But I discovered he’d pulled it out of that space and was trying to jam it into another compartment.

It wasn’t fitting, and he was snarfing and huffing to get it in. He was also completely bitter that I’d put it in a place where it just went “phoomp” into place. (But we all know he wasn’t mad at me, he was frustrated at his conundrum.)

SOMEHOW WE LOST FIVE MINUTES IN THIS SPACE.

I was putting on my coat and looping my scarf. The clock beamed 8:30. I stepped over to undo his efforts and redo mine: putting the lunch bag back where I had it. He’s snarfing and snarling.

As we were walking down the steps out front, he was still bitching about it. About how it was fitting just fine when he was putting it in. About how the delay was my fault because I put his lunch in “the wrong place.”

But where I put it wasn’t the wrong place. Where he was trying to jam it was the wrong place. The zipper simply wouldn’t zip around it; it wasn’t going to fit in the backpack. Plus the lunch bag was not going to stay in the backpack all day. The moment kids get to school they take it out… I disagreed with his protests.

Step step step.

Huff. Grumble. Step.

Dragon’s breath plumed from our faces in the cold frosty air. Mittened hands flopped and flapped, gesticulating and emphasizing our perspectives. Muffled voices pointedly pressing through the scarves.

We shared twenty more steps in relative embattlement.

So we were about 1/2 way down our pipestem and he was still grumbling about it. “I’m going to be late because of YOU…”

That was it. I was done. I turned to him and said, “Ok. you’re entirely wrong about this. You were late to begin with; this is a daily thing with you. No matter when I wake you, you don’t seem to appear before 8 am. With your shoes missing most of the time. The lunch bag simply wasn’t fitting. It fit the way I put it and where it is now. It might not be where YOU want it, but it works. It’s 8:33, the late bell is in seven minutes. You MIGHT make it if we dash. ”

Then he starts to tell me how wrong I am. He’s 12. I’m 48.

I get it.

I’m arguing with someone one-fourth my age. So what do I do? The mature thing:

“I’m out. Goodbye. Go on.”

He swiftly looked at me with huge eyes: half scared, half stunned. Then a mental shift and a set of his jaw: he got a cocky look on his face and kept going.

I then turned around to go home. I decided right then and there, after nearly 13 years of consistently walking at least one of my children to school every day, to pack it up. We were having a moment. We each needed to be alone.

I let him walk himself to school, hoping he would use the crossing guard. His little body, behooded and scarved kept going.

He didn’t look back.

I didn’t say anything else.

No “I love you.” Or “I love you.” Or even “I love you.”

Now I’m sitting by the phone hopeful it won’t ring with an absentee notice from the school. I’m hopeful he didn’t run into assholic Scary Cretin on the path with his giant shit-dropping dogs.

I’m sure he’s fine and he arrived without a scratch; he’s in 6th grade and younger kids with far sterner parents walk all by themselves from as far as a mile.

But I’ve never done that: I’ve never sent him out on his own because I was fed up. We have had far worse irreconcilable differences and walked all the way to school, usually cuddling halfway there.

So now it’s gnawing at me, because of my filter, from when I was a kid. On days when we were too late waking up and we couldn’t get rides with our neighbors, my mother made us walk to school, probably about a mile and a half away. A brother and me, alone all the time in all sorts of weather through Buffalo’s tougher city streets, crossing big-time, city-express, 4-way traffic intersections where metro buses and 18-wheelers traveled and pounded. I’m sure she drove us a handful of times, but she didn’t get her license until she was in her 40s and her unpredictable sobriety created a challenge for us to get there safely if she was a driver. So I have this huge rut of guilt and shame of making him walk on his own.

He used the crossing guard. I’m sure of it. It’s a vow he’s made. We might be angry at each othe, but he’s not crazy stupid. The rest is all path amongst the trees.

I fought the urge to run after him. I was like a magnet fighting off its polarity, forcing myself to stay in the house and not chase him down like Scarlett running after Rhett.

He’s fine. Right?

Am I?

Thank you.

Soccer Mom — red card…

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I am not sure how to start this. I debated whether titling this post “one for the eulogy” or “red card.” I dabbled over the former, not because I’m macabre and depressing, but because I’m quite aware of the fact that we all die one day.

Yesterday started out gloriously. I was sitting in the sun, awaiting one of my sons’ games. They lost soundly, it was a 5-0 defeat.  At halftime, my son was crushed and was asking for advice. I had none other than to say that when he’s off the field, watch the other team’s players and see what they do and then try to do it too.

This particular son is more of a hair-twirler and bouncy runner. He’s young, emotionally, still soft, without that “killer” instinct for the sport, but he LOVES being part of a team and putting on a uniform, cleats and shin guards, arriving on time and doing his best. When he’s focused, he’s a good little defender. My shouts from the sidelines to remind him to “win it, Thing 3! DEEEEEFENNNNNSSSE!” seem to perk him up. I don’t do it very often, so I think that’s why it tends to win out over his dedicated coach’s tips and directions which start to sound like a droning after a while. He woke up in the second half, being more of a gnat to the other team’s approach for our goal, thwarting a couple advances and that made him feel better. As we walked to the car, he said, “Did you see when I stopped that big kid from his drive? I was afraid, because he is huge, but I kicked the ball off track to one of our guys…” and he did. He cleared it a good 20 or 30 feet, with some help from the patch grass bumps in the field, from the goal.

My other son’s game was happening at the same time. I could not attend that one, for obvious reasons, but they lost as well, 8-2. I learned from my husband that our Thing 2 (who is now 14) played quite well and he made a gorgeous penalty kick which he fired with such ferocity that the goalie simply couldn’t stop it. Despite the loss, my son was proud that he had played his best. That’s all we can ask for, isn’t it? That they feel proud of their efforts that they did their best.

Several hours, a spin on the ergometer, a meditation session and 40 minutes in our hot tub later, was the first game of our oldest son’s team. These guys are what’s called “U19” and they comprise all ages from 16-19 in a defined window of available athletes who didn’t make or can’t afford the high school teams and are possibly attending college locally but don’t play on those teams either. These guys are competitive, aggressive and some of them are wildly talented and a pure pleasure to watch. You can see how they’ve acquired thunderous legs and powerful chests, fearlessly advancing the field with a passion you read about. They are not nincompoops. They know the sport, they try to get away with a little here and there, but by and large, these athletes have been playing since they could walk. I imagine some of them slept with a soccer ball as they were children, or young men. It’s as though the ball is an appendage of their form. They are thugs who play like gentlemen… (read on.)

My oldest used to be awkward, afraid, timid. He’s got a coach now who reminds me of the sheriff in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn this coach intentionally plays up his image a little, creating a pastiche of the character for the amusement of the spectators and the team.)

credit: the owners of this image, a massive movie studio owned by a global conglomerate somewhere on our planet.

credit: the owners of this image, a massive movie studio owned by a global conglomerate somewhere on our planet.

He has those sunglasses. He wears a sport jacket to games after 6:00pm. Last season when “we” went to all-region, he wore a dark fedora and a long black wool coat to the games. He’s pretty quiet on the sidelines. He’s intense and he saves his commentary for when the players come off the field or for half-time pep talks. I recall him quoting a German philosopher or naval officer at the end of one of their early games last season in which they were simply outplayed in every possibly fashion and lost by a score of 11-2 or something. He started to play my son less and less as the season went on.

We don’t engage, as parents. My husband and I have a tacit understanding that interceding on our children’s behalf for their supposed betterment or advancement says more about us and simply hinders any growth in our kids. If it’s the kids’ coach, teacher, friend, parent of friend, mentor, counselor … we just don’t really get involved. They have to learn to navigate these waters. (I’m not saying it’s EASY… sometimes I have to literally bite my tongue, step away and close my eyes… read on…) So my son was understandably frustrated by the continual lessening of his play time. We encouraged him to talk to the coach. To be upfront, sincere, mature and above all diplomatic about his plight. He was and the response he got back was some of the best advice — the same thing his father and I have whispered to one another in the stands — he could have received, but he ASKED to hear it: “You’ve got to be fearless. Get physical. Play some rugby in the off season. Don’t take anyone out, but really, get in there. I’ve said many times, ‘It’s a gentlemen’s game played by thugs.’ Be a thug, but play like a gentleman.”

So Thing 1 came away grateful, a little intimidated, but very clear about what the coach wanted. You can count on Thing 1 for that: he will absolutely follow direction, and he’s a reliable self-starter, but this U19 team was all new to him, he’d never played against and alongside MEN. I knew this coach was going to help turn my son into a man. He’s tough though… and regardless of our scrap-up yesterday (read on…), I still respect the hell out of him.

So this third game was at scheduled for 6pm on a turf field at a park. The center ref is an old man. He reminded me of the “old timer” in the Brady Bunch’s Jesse James episode:

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credit: the Brady Bunch. I shit you not – they are twins. All that’s missing is the black ref’s cap.

I’m not an ageist. I saw this ref and I thought, They might be really lucky, they’ve got a guy who really knows his game.

No. (read on.)

This ref wanted to start the game early, shorten the halves to 40 minutes each and gave up without any pressure his utter lack of knowledge of the rules. He’s usually a linesman, my husband tells me.

My husband, who is a very patient man (you really don’t know how patient he is…) sighed when our coach shared this information. Apparently we agreed to start five minutes early at 5:55 but keep the halves at 45 minutes (which is the COACH’s discretion).

My son’s team was playing beautifully. They were winning, elegantly. My son scored a nice shot, his first of the season, in the first game, in the first half. He was really proud of himself. I was excited for him. The other team was good, but they seem disorganized and loose. They were out-skilled, but not by much. Due to the low number of available teams in the area, I’m certain we will play them again later on and it will be good to see how they’ve improved. At the half it was 2-1, we were in the lead.

But it was the ref. His calls were inconsistent and beginning to favor the other team, blindly. Clearly legal plays, a slide tackle where the ball was touched first (something I recently understood as the linchpin for that maneuver) was ruled “dangerous” and one of our guys got a yellow card. Even the opposing coach was beginning to be surprised by his team’s inexplicable good fortune.

In the midst, my son’s team managed to get a nice shot in, making it 3-1. My son’s team has increased its chatter on the field and it’s paying off. The other team seemed again to be a little demoralized by “our” fluidity.

Nonetheless, everyone trudges on. Keep playing keep playing keep playing. The un-choreographed dance of 20 or so young athletes was hard for me to keep track of. Plus it was cold, about 55˚ now and the sun was going down. I began to feel sorry for the ref. The spectator heckling was apparent. He likely couldn’t hear it. A couple times, he got hit by the ball with such intensity many of us in the stands were impressed he was still standing. I think those hits started to do something to his brain… he made calls from one end of the field about actions happening 40 yards away. His line refs were exasperated by the randomness of it all. Our team made another shot on their goal, 4-1, which everyone agreed was legal, but from the other end of the field, this ref must’ve used his bionic vision and Big Blue processing chips to recall the goal.

No matter, we were still ahead. Back to 3-1. Then somehow the whistle. No one understood. The other team made a successful penalty kick on our goal, 3-2. We were still ahead though, so … you know, just keep on…

Then the other team made a gorgeous goal during the second half, tying the game. It was hard to ignore the majesty in the drive which began all the way at the opposite end of the field. The ball was passed without much interruption from one player to another in an advance to the goal and then one player just went for it. Without hesitation, and he nailed it. It was a pleasure to witness even though it was now 3-3.

Somewhere in the next few moments, we made an answering goal, 4-3. We were all running out of time, it was close to 7:25. The game, by all rights, due to the -5 minute start time should have been over. Competitive players that they are, our team started to hog the ball, take its time retrieving it, kick it off the field. That got a corner kick which was unsuccessful.

It was 7:27 now… you know, the time in the universe when all in-progress U19 soccer games are supposed to go pear-shaped and the refs are programmed to go batshit crazy. People are starting to question how much time.

All along the course of the game, this ref never explained his calls. He never answered requests for the charges. I know there’s something in the US Constitution about the absolute requirement by an arresting officer to name the charge against a suspect… Doesn’t that commute to FIFA or US Soccer or whatever the governing body is of this sport? My husband says, “Sort of. The ref is supposed to explain each charge, especially if questioned…”

Well apparently we were now playing “kick the ball, run around, and blow the whistle just because” not soccer. This ref allowed player subs at all the wrong times, disallowing subs when they were legal… it was crazy. When you have a six-year-old player still in his uniform from another game putting his head in his hands and running his fingers through his dried, sweaty hair because the calls don’t make any sense, you’re witnessing a travesty of justice.

He gave the other team two inexplicable successive penalty kicks. This one was a free kick. He mumbled something to our players and they lined up, placing their hands in front of the family jewels and waiting for the shot, which went over everyone’s heads and was denied. Still 4-3.

The next penalty, which even I questioned (and that means a lot because I don’t understand this game at all, so I keep my trap shut) because the whistle was blown during a throw-in from the sidelines (on a ball my son had let go…) deep into our territory. While the ball was still airborne, heading toward the goal. Nothing had happened … the ball hadn’t even made contact on the ground. I thought, Did one of the feet come up during the throw? Was it the wrong KIND of throw, not evenly over the head? Was it slung from the hips? But I knew enough, after 11 years, that a bad throw necessitates a re-THROW. And that was not happening. This was a line up for a penalty kick — no interference from other players, just the kicker and the goalie. I questioned the validity by thrice shouting, CLEARLY, from the stands because he’s ancient, it’s windy and cold and the game should’ve been over by then anyway, “WHAT? IS? THE? CALL?” (which our own coach didn’t even demand the answer).

The ref heard me. He looked up at me and waved me off. I’m sure it was the old “he threw the ball too hard” call we hear so little about. Turns out when the throw-in was made, one of the other team’s taller players leaped up to head the ball (legal) but our player who was shorter, yet quite powerful, but right beneath / behind him (on the other player’s descent), crossed his arms upon his chest like a pharaoh in his sarcophagus and that was considered pushing when the other player inevitably, because gravity always wins, landed on him.

The other team’s coach was astonished. His own player ran up to him and said, “you know that’s not a penalty, right?” and the coach nodded and said, “Yeah! …”

Nonetheless, the whistle and ignorant, half-present octogenarians reign.

It was 7:33 now. Eight minutes PLUS the end of the game’s official time. The player placed the ball and took the shot. In the corner. Done. 4-4.

IMMEDIATELY UPON THAT BALL’S SLING INTO THE NET, HE BLEW. THE. WHISTLE.

Not ten seconds later, not another play later, not even when the ball was … stopped from the thrust.

That’s when I lost my mind. I’m not proud of this. I am embarrassed and I immediately sent an apology to our coach when I got home. (read on…).

I stepped down from my seat in the stands and shouted, with my hands cupping either side of my mouth, directly aimed at the ref clearly, emphatically, passionately and intentionally:

YOU SUCK!

.pause. is he looking at me? no.

YOU SUCK!

.pause. has he followed the voice? can he see me? no.

YOU SUCK!

.pause. can he find me yet? no.

YOU SUCK!

.pause. is he looking at me? yes. one more for clarity…

YOU SUCK!

I waited each time I said it, a nanosecond to some, but a lifetime to me, to see if he had made the connection. That he had disgusted a yoga teacher who usually just sits in the stands and cheers everyone — no matter how humiliating the loss — if I see a great play, I’m gonna clap.

My son’s coach, the Sheriff, whipped around like the snake in “Beetlejuice”:

credit Beetlejuice and a big fancy movie studio.

credit Beetlejuice and a big fancy movie studio.

He tried to shut me down. “THAT’S ENOUGH!” — to me, I was just getting started.

Woe, the little man who tries to shut me down.

“NO IT’S NOT!” I growled back. “THIS IS BULLSHIT. HE DIDN’T EXPLAIN EITHER OF THOSE CALLS….” and I hadn’t said, “The game was eight minutes over time! That call was for spite. He’s teaching these kids that rules, decorum and tradition don’t matter and personal pettiness does. AND YOU DIDN’T QUESTION ANY OF IT!”

“YES IT IS. DO YOU WANT ME TO GET A RED CARD FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON???”

>oh. time to stop.<

“NO! I DON’T! BUT THIS IS CRAZY, FUCKED UP…” and I grabbed my bag, told my other son who was ashen and enraged (NO ONE YELLS AT MY MOM LIKE THAT!) that I was leaving and he needed to ride home with his dad, and I stomped away. I’m sure I left a haze of brown smoke behind me.

I didn’t look back. I’m sure all the grandparents were just … “Well, I never” -ing, patting off their sweat with their doilies and reaching for their smelling salts.

I was still seeing red. I put even more of an ugly face on my face intentionally. The face that said, “If you think you’re going to make an impact on me, if you think you’re going to change my attitude, think twice because while I’m unhinged and disgusted, I’m about to get into an SUV and I need to calm my shit down and I don’t need a lecture from you… ” because the shame was starting to sink in. The embarrassment… and oh… the gut-churning shame.

A proud woman in a crimson WISCONSIN hoodie looked at me. She stood up in the space between her open driver’s door of her blue Prius as I was advancing toward my gas guzzling Earth destroyer.

“I agree with you,” she said.

I cooled to a simmer.

“Thanks.” I said and started to continue my retreat.

I stopped and turned back. She was almost in her car. I was defeated and exasperated and so ashamed.

“I’m just so sad.” I said. “That ref didn’t know what he was doing. He started the game early. He wanted to shorten the halves. He knew he was ignorant of the rules, he told both the coaches. He ruined a really good experience and he showed everyone, not just the spectators, but the players and the other refs, that bad calls and not adhering to the rules is just fine and that playing hard and honestly doesn’t count…”

She nodded as she said “He tore apart the integrity of the game right there…”

I thanked her for her kindness. I apologized for my rant. She said, “Nope. You were right. You just said what a lot of us are afraid to say…”

I rage for the many, I thought to myself, sighing and walking to my car, feeling the benefits of my earlier meditation, hot tub soak, writing, and grueling 6k workout on our rowing machine sift through my consciousness. I had negated all that good.

I got home. Didn’t kill anyone on the road, I checked the front of my car later to make sure.

My oldest son called me from his father’s car. I answered. I wanted to hide.

“Hey honey…” I said, faking cheerfulness.

“You ok? I am calling to check on you. I know that took a lot out of you,” he said.

“I’m as good as can be expected. This isn’t your job to fix me, hon…” I said. “I’m so sorry… It’s not at all like me…”

“I’m not trying to fix you, Mom. I apologized to everyone for you. They told me not to bother. They think you rock, Mom. They said they were amazed by you. You said everything they couldn’t say. That our coaches couldn’t say. You let it all rip. No one thinks you suck, Mom.”

My heart softened, toward myself, a little. I brightened. My ego stepped in… “They did? What did they say?” I cringed.

“Just that. That you were the voice for us all.”

I shared with him my points of my argument; that my rage was not personal, and that I was afraid of my rapture. But I also maintained that my reaction is about the principle and the integrity of the game and that no matter HOW HARD ONE WORKS TO TOE THE LINE, there’s always gonna be some asshole who thinks it should be the other way around. I told him that the blowing of the whistle, eight minutes over, as the ball slammed into the net, before it even hit the tensile apex of the net, smacked to me of self-righteousness. That he got to have the last word.

Well, I wasn’t about to let that happen. When it comes to kids, we need to be on our best, most sterling behavior. That includes the ref. I blew it. I sank to his level of stupidity.

I am not a horrible person. I am not a mean-spirited person. But I am a passionate person. I sent an apology immediately to the coaches when I got home:

Coaches Sheriff and Deputy,

I want to express my sincere apology for my outburst on the referee at the end of today’s game versus Saturn. It was a pleasure to see everyone play so well.

I am a passionate person, yes, but one not normally driven to such excess. I exhibited poor behavior and I regret that. I was not a good role model for spectatorship. Next time I’ll spare everyone the drama, leave the game in disbelief, and offer up a silent prayer for my own tolerance.

Please know that the last thing I would want to do is injure the team by causing your absence on the sidelines. The boys are lucky to have you.

Sincerely,

Molly

PS — you’d never know from today that I’m a yoga teacher…

My husband said it was the perfect apology. I owned my side and I didn’t blame it on anyone else. My son told me his friends on Twitter said I was awesome. (I still don’t know how to feel about that…)

Later that night, after I started to calm down, I turned on my Kindle and started reading Steven Pressfield again. He wrote about “our last days” or the attitude changes which occur (for good or for bad) in patients diagnosed with terminal illness. He said many of them shed the trivialities, and turn toward their passions, fearlessly. They discern, within minutes of the pronouncement of their illness, what matters most and they act upon it. Some people do crazy stuff, others do good.

Earlier in the day, I had picked up random pieces of an episode of The Simpsons my son was watching. It was the one when Homer was told he had 22 hours to live; it would have been 24, but the having to sit in the waiting room took up two hours… Homer did lots of things to make amends for his behavior to his kids, father and others in his life.

Earlier this week, I had read Oliver Sacks’ powerful op-ed in the NY Times disclosing his final days of his life due to terminal brain cancer. He wrote that he was going to stop watching and reading the news; that he was not going to worry about the Middle East as much as he had (he clarified that he was going still care, but that worry served him no purpose) and a change a few other things in his life to bring more meaning to it. The comments on that pre-obit were extraordinary. Treat yourself to them and read them. Not coincidentally, I’ve begun listening to his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat while I “row” on our ergometer. It’s a great book. Sacks has a way of deeply humanizing the misfortunes of his patients and reminding us that our right hemisphere, the one so often discounted by Freud et al., is really the one which gives our lives meaning; the one which matters most.

I reflected on all that data I’d consumed — those pieces of reminders that our days are limited here. I reflected on lots of things, and I determined last night, before I ended my day, that I was not going to feel ashamed for my outburst: I had apologized to the coaches, to my sons, and to the brave and compassionate woman who spoke with me and I asked for forgiveness from God. My shame was pointless, what good did it serve me to hang on to it?

If it were my last day on this earth, and I did know it, I wouldn’t have done anything less. I would have gone to his game, I would have been as passionate about the travesties and I would have had no regrets. I may have been shot out of a canon last night, but I cried out most of all for the all kids. To me, their coach had let too much slide.

Carl Jung writes famously something along the lines of what irritates us about others gives us a better understanding of ourselves. I used to take this to mean that what irks us about Bipsy means we suck too. Well, that can be the case, but I’ve decided to really lean into the words, “a better understanding” — it doesn’t mean we suck; it’s an insight into ourselves. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it shows us what matters to us … sometimes it shows us we need to change, or that we have a set of principles about things that we weren’t quite sure were really there, and that thanks to the engagement of another person or series of events with other people, we come to see what matters to us. Kids matter to me. Ethics matter to me. If that game were played by adults, I really wouldn’t have freaked out. I might’ve been incredulous, it would’ve ended there. But it was about kids. 

So I say this to you, if you’re still here… Live passionately and fully, and own it when you screw up because we all make mistakes. It’s ok.

Thank you.

Unexpected Grace: When a Dream Shifts Everything

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This morning, I awoke from a dream that left me utterly jammed in the head with its images, and the profound energy (you’re going to hear a lot of that word, “energy,” in this post) and vibration that I was to record it, write it all down and learn from it.

I also have a friend, who’s a loyal reader and who has taken the time to get to know me and share with me her own wisdom. We all have our stories, and yet we can share them to help others heal. She shares her knowledge about messages we carry inside ourselves, and the wisdom we are supposed to gain from them, when we learn to step out of our own way.

This friend, T, said something a few times in our recent correspondence, and she has been patient with me, and I am so grateful, to let it sink in as I know it requires slow, gentle rainfalls to soak into a parched earth. Downpours simply run off and cause chaos and floods. When it soaks in, we loosen up and learn who we are.

She said to me, in an exchange in which I was fixated on my childhood and the familiar feelings of helplessness. I wanted to blame my mother for things I missed out on (even though I absolutely have a sense of knowing that everything happens for a reason, sometimes it’s hard to let go of that because it’s easier to blame someone else for our situation). She wrote back “At 47, this is not about your mother. If there’s one thing I can tell you, this has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with you.”

“Screw you” I wanted to say to her. But I didn’t. “You don’t know my pain,” I wanted to add on. But I didn’t. While I knew in my head that she was right, I didn’t necessarily agree in my heart.

They take some time to soak in, these messages, and the people who are in our lives who are blunt enough to stand there and hold up a mirror to us deserve some major love. Their shoulders are burning from lactic acid build-up, their forearms are tired, it’s cold out there holding up that mirror. They can’t see your expressions because the mirror is blocking it and they also can’t see anything else around them because they have to hold that heavy beveled mirror stable, in its massive gilded frame in the light of day, in the cold, in the heat, in the windy eerie dark… they wait there, holding up that mirror, saying those few little words, “Not at 47 is this about your mother…”

And your gut churns and your throat thickens and your jaw sets; you gulp. Your brows furrow and your eyes shift left and right, but your head won’t turn because that mirror won’t escape you. It follows your face until Truth sinks in. Until you see you, staring back at you, reminding you that at whatever stage you’re fighting in your life, when your long-lost mother (who was essentially lost to you long before she died), that your life is about you; it always has been about you; it was never about her, or your dad, or your siblings, or your best friend, or your cousins, or the dog.

It’s about you and the fact that you have created the life you live today with your thoughts, fears, intentions, biases, dreams, lies, and hopes… All the things in it: from the obvious, such as your hairstyle, your car, the box of tea you bought for company when you over-performed, the books in your house, the computer at your desk, the can of expired soup in your cupboard, the cat on your couch … that ALL of it, is the stuff of your mind and your intentions. The more subtle stuff, the stuff we want to blame on our history, or boss, or enemies or our environment, things like addiction, neuroses, obsessions and fears: that’s all you too. With Just A Thought, conscious or otherwise, you brought it in because what we think about most becomes our reality. So if you think about fear: your world will be fearful. If you think about peace, you will see with peaceful intention.

For good or for bad, in the warm sun and the eerie dark: all of it, your state of relationships; all the friends and enemies in your life; all your easy slopes and stumbling blocks; all your confusion and your state of function, are all yours. They start with you and then end with you.

This is hard. This is hugely humbling as well as terrifyingly egoic.

The flow of my dream was totally random, as dreams can be. The point is, I woke convinced that it was about my mother. However, that’s bullshit. She was me, but I was me and the other people too… It’s how this stuff goes. It’s always about the dreamer. This is what I’m starting to understand, that what T said to me is starting to integrate into my consciousness, because rather than having it wait three weeks before I “got” it, I arrived at the realization an hour after waking; after thinking about it, making my coffee, taking my son to school. I got it.

The scene is that I was amongst a mob of people (all me), like we were in a train station or leaving a concert — lots of people, streams of them, absent any panic or doom. We were just people on a crowded space heading in our various directions — much like how life actually is. I looked to my left, and I saw an older woman, with chin-length silver hair, much like Mom’s, and she turned her face to me. She had age spots where Mom did, but her face was not Mom’s; it was more rounded, like Betty White’s and then it sort of morphed into my mother, but not until I asked, “Mom? Is that you?” — all in real-time, knowing in my dream that she had died. The woman’s face brightened, morphing in and out between my mother and another elderly woman, perhaps all the women I knew as a child.

This woman sort of nodded, and gently smiled, not in a “you’re nuts” way, but in a kind, nervous way — the energy was that she knew I was seeking something… so she was going to stand by until I found it. My energy shifted as well, I sensed this wasn’t a match, but it was more of a surrogate, and the clothes that this woman was wearing was a full indicator of that: she was wearing pastels, and an eyelet blouse with a rounded collar and a pink cashmere scarf and an off-white soft cardigan, wearing a string of pearls like Mom’s — these colors lit up her face in a super-healthy way, rosy cheeks and bright eyes. The clothes accented her sylvan hair in a way completely opposite than my mother’s complexion would ever allow.

I turned back to my right side and discovered some friends from my yoga retreat. I felt uncomfortable with this older woman in the pastels. My yoga retreat roommate was there, energetically supporting me and pushing me to continue this “experience” with this mother / not-mother woman. I started to sob in the dream, nodding reluctantly to my roommate, whom I know loves me very much, to return to the woman. I had a strong sense that this interaction, this “moment” was not going to last long, nor would it return any time soon. The Moment was “Now” as they say.

I turned back toward the Mom energy being, and this time she was in a car, but it was British, because there was no steering wheel, but she was on the left side of the car. In fact, in my notes, I say this version of my mother is like an “English” version of herself. I said “Mom … I love you. I always did. And I’m so sorry I was unkind to you in our relationship; especially as we both aged. I was so hurt and you were so patient with me even though I never lightened up, that I was constantly on vigil for you and unyielding. I do love you. I did love you… But this was our path…”

I reached in to touch her face, which was still energetically my mother, but physically not at all her, and when I pulled out my hand, it was filled with water. I turned back toward my yoga retreat friends and one of them was now drastically weakened, lying on the floor, and she needed the water, so I gave it to her to sip. I had enough water for all my retreat friends, who were now all present, guiding me forward. The energy of the crowd was shifting, it felt more dire.

I turned back to that mother energy and all the colors were gone. Everything now was black and white, and gray tones. The folds in her sweater were now like stripes and she appeared to be weakening, aging right before my eyes; her smile straightened a little. Her eyes and cheekbones started to fall, hollow. Her  chin became sharper and I began to realize she was dying right in front of me — all of it: from her vibrant, rosy cheeks to her aging to her wasting to her last breaths … in one dream, in one experience (which of course is true: this life is one continuous, connected experience isn’t it?).

She was fading away before my eyes. She became soft and nodded slowly and kindly and patiently to me. Silent, saying not a peep, not even “Piffle” (which was one of my favoritest things Mom said). The sense that this was a surrogate being was so strong at this point, that while my mother’s energy visited my psyche, that her energetic visage in complete attendance to my experience, was unavailable. And of course it left me wanting more of her. But the message was strong to me: that I was meant to have this realization that just as my mind was confused about who she was in the dream, such was it in life in our relationship: I have always felt confused, spongy, mostly antagonistic, distrustful, and ultimately misaligned with her, that our conversations were more parallel than intersecting; and even then, even though they were parallel, they were ideologically disparate.

I went to bed last night thinking in a high level (for me anyhow) way about her, that I need to really stop trying to figure her out; and I’ve become good about that: I’ve stopped trying to figure her out. Even if she was a puzzle wrapped in an enigma inside a riddle, that’s all I need to know. Anything else is a distraction from the life I have created and the life which is slipping through my own fingers. So having this dream, now in retrospect, was extremely healing.

I wrote this morning after returning from dropping my son at school, “I am now feeling authentically and not rationalizing that the tone of neutrality and statements of fact in my “apology” to the mother energy in my dream is (finally) just that: neutral: no sense of ownership for me or for her or a “role” that I had to play. The simple reality is that I am regretful that things weren’t better, more stable, sincere, softer, authentic and real between us — BUT THEY WERE! THEY WERE AS REAL AS THEY WERE GOING TO GET BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED!

The thing is, if Mom were still here today, and if I’d had the presence to say anything like that (which I know I have) the relationship wouldn’t change, because it didn’t before.

That same sense of confusion I felt in my dream regarding my mother’s “identity” (which I finally just stop insisting that it “check in” and decide to BE something) was/is so closely aligned with my ever-constant state of trying to “figure out” who she was (“was she in there?”) ALL MY LIFE. She was who she was. Why couldn’t I see this until now? Because I wanted to blame her for everything. ‘Not at 47…’

The point to all of this is the co-creation: this life IS what it is. We can think we see something else, we can try to twist it, chew it, shape it, rationalize it, describe it, experience it, let it torque and turn us. We can lie to ourselves and say it’s something else; we can enable it and abuse it, but the point is: it’s all futile to do much other than just Be with it (this is so deep even I’m getting lost now).

Typical of me: I take something that is so incredibly simple and complicate the piss out of it. I think that’s the point though isn’t it? To see things properly, to break all the shards away after we’ve twisted and smashed up the glass trying to see things the way we THINK we’re supposed to.

Trying to see life with our -isms and our people with their -isms with filtered lenses is an exhausting waste of energy and time. I interpret my fixation with “Mom’s” visage in the dream as a trap now: something to trip me up, like a technicality in a football game, because what she looked like –in this dream state– didn’t matter, the energy aligned with her and so that “familiarity” was with Mom. So as we are in real carbon-based life not in a dream: we are the energies rather than the forms… it’s the energy we respond do, never the form — think about it: you don’t respond to a person’s form, you respond to their subtle intention, the expression they make, the snicker or the smile… not the “body” or the face. The face and the body are identifiers, they are not the energy / essence of the person…

So that mirror I wrote about earlier? It’s to remind you of your intention and your energy. That phrase of Carl Jung’s could never be truer, something along the lines of what we find to be irritating or considerable in other people says more about ourselves. If you think someone is smug, it’s because you are too. If you think someone is wonderful, it’s because you are too. “When you point at someone else, three fingers are pointing back at you…” all that shit. It’s time to get real.

So I thought about my friend T and I realized again after realizing the above, that this dream, and all my life that my mother’s “energy” was who she was. I wasn’t put here to crack her “code” or fight for justice or shame or out her and her issues. That was all a ruse, a distraction, construct of ego, to keep me (and anyone else in that schema) from attending to me and performing to my highest potential (even though if you ask me, I have performed pretty freakin’ spectacularly), and it’s been a rut in a greater part of my adult life. One I am quite ready to break out of.

And what of that apology or statement of regret? I’m very close to seeing it as a release: that in forgiving her for her path in life, and realizing that I’m here to be me, that I can forgive me for being so “hard” (just being me) on her for so many years. Which is really, what I want more than anything: to forgive myself for being such a bull dog. I can’t necessarily blame it on the circumstance of my very young years: I eventually “grew up.” That’s what T means: it’s about me, not Mom. I can choose to be softer, more patient with Mom me now (and it’s so much easier…)

My mother and I were given to each other for teaching and learning. Just as you have been given your people and circumstances to teach and learn. These are the pockets of Grace; they are everywhere waiting for us to pick them, when we learn to let go of our shame and unfold into ourSelves.

Thank you.