Ramadan by Negotiated Agreement

My fast is closed but my heart is open.

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Today marks the end of my fasting for Ramadan. My final Iftar took place in a pub at BWI before I got on a plane for a family vacation.  I broke this fast in the daylight with a beer and a bacon burger. So…not strictly speaking a traditional Ramadan success story.

ram-burger

I have written previously about my distrust of perfection further affirmed by my favorite sage, Sister Anne Patrick, who often said “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” I can acknowledge this is one of those truths I cling to, in part, because it’s convenient.

Sidenote: always distrust sage advice that is too easy for you to follow…not because it isn’t true for others, but perhaps not quite so true for you.

Here are all the ways my Ramadan fast was less than perfect:

I did not always wake by 5:30 to eat my breakfast before sunrise. Sometimes I did. Other days early morning runs, or yoga, or other forms of rationalization had me eating my breakfast in the guilty gleam of the morning sun’s rays.

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I found myself eating a lot of dessert for breakfast. Cue cannoli. 

Also,

I almost never waited to break my fast at Sundown. Instead I would break my fast in the evening (ahem) or late afternoon when I sat down to dinner (ahem) or stoop sitting with my family (ahem) or close neighborhood drinking moms.

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Pilgrimage to St. Casimir’s street fair with the neighborhood crew.

This brings me to,

I often broke my fast with an adult beverage (drunken Monk style). My kidneys, turns out, did not appreciate this.

Ram-cocktail
Wine smoothie.

Which is why,

I drank water during fasting hours. It comes as a surprise to most non-Muslims that the Ramadan fast means you do not eat OR drink during the day. Not so, in Christian fasting. Thirst rather than hunger in my experience is by far the more difficult craving to stave off. Last Ramadan I was only able to pull it off a couple of days.

Date with date
“You got a date with a date!”

Speaking of which,

I may have taken a few days “off” from Ramadan. Sundays, for example are NOT counted in the 40 days of Lent. SOOOOO….I reasoned for this to be an ecumenical blending of traditions, maybe I just ate one less meal than usual that day. Who says brunch can’t be transcendent?

 

One might ask with all this “Ramadan by negotiated agreement” why do it at all? More importantly, might not all this compromise be viewed a disrespectful to all those devout Muslims around the world who adhere to these directives fervently? Perhaps. Though that is not their intent

This is my sincere confession. Forgive me.

Ramadan, I have learned, is not just about what you (try to) subtract. It’s about what you add.  Muslims read the entire Koran during the month, they do works of charity, they make amends to people they have wronged.

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Food drive at Brooklyn Park Elementary.

 

One of the most beautiful reflections about the multiplicity of meanings that emerge out of this Holy month come from “Ramadan Revealed” with American Muslims around the country, recorded by “On Being.” I listened to it last year and this year while I ran along the Baltimore Harbor in the early morning light. Please make the time for these beautiful stories. They are full of humor, generosity…and MacDonald’s French Fries.

Many of these American Muslims tell stories about how challenging it is to keep the fast in America…hemmed in by 24 hour neon signs for french-fries and doughnuts. One confesses, when she fasts in America she feels like the only person in the world not eating. Not drinking.

MeanBox
Haram in a box.

 

I can’t say I strictly identify. I can say I do feel different even when I do Ramadan imperfectly. I feel more patient. More loving. More grateful. More mindful.

 

Even when I do less, I feel more.

Maybe it’s because all that blood is rushing to my brain and not my digestive tract. Maybe because so much of consumption isn’t nourishing. Maybe because I have used the discomfort of hunger as an excuse to be grumpy or impatient.

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Acro-Kip.

Maybe for some other mystical reason.

My hope is that one day I will do more and be more because of it. One day I will work up my spiritual stamina to 30 days of true pre-dawn profundity, alcoholic temperance, and sundown first sips.

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Me: Ivy what are you doing? – Ivy: Meditating. – Me: Who taught you to do that? – Ivy: Ninja Turtles

Until then, my fast from food is closed. (I’m on vacation and one of my former students told me you’re not supposed to fast when you’re traveling, so, another convenient truth for me to adhere to).

But my heart is more open.

 

Thank you Ramadan. I’ll open my fast with you again next year.

What Nourish Meant

When humans eat alone, we are often left hungry.

“It’s been nice not eating with you, Barb.”

This was the sardonic line delivered by one of my colleagues yesterday. As the school year wraps up, there have been A LOT of end-of-year dinners, luncheons, and (not so) happy hours for me to attend…just in time for Ramadan.

To my right is a pita platter. To my left, pasta primavera.  I am hemmed in by temptation on all sides with only my haram iced tea to comfort me. (Yes, know it all. I realize I’m not supposed to be drinking during Ramadan. Mind yo’ bidness and tune in next blog for “Rama-my-way.” And ignore the mint in the background.)

tea

Situations such as these elicit a lot of apologies, as people bite into their bacon turkey clubs.

It is an interesting quirk of my spiritual impulses, that while I rarely seem to mind being the center of attention, say, on spirit day when I’m prancing around in a purple tutu, when it comes to matters of faith…I’m more comfortable with spiritual subtlety.

tutu you

I never wore a gold cross around my neck, never flew in an airplane with a Bible on my lap hoping for a conversion conversation, never wore a shirt that said “WWJD”, never bought an fish for the back of my car.

And now that my spirituality has become a syncretic mystical mix, I may write reflectively in a public blogging space or answer any direct questions, I’m not knocking door to door to hand out certainty in pamphlet form.

This is all to say, collective meals during sun-up make me feel awkward. I almost skipped this one.

But then…

Something funny happened (as it often does) when we lean into rather than away from spaces and situations that discomfort us.

Because I didn’t have to pay attention to food, I could pay attention to people.

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During Ramadan, you begin to realize just how much of your day is focused on your belly. What goes into it, how it’s feeling, what it’s saying, how big it’s getting, and on, and on, and on. Even at this meal I would have devoted time to choosing my food, eating my food, comparing my food to those around me, trading my food for theirs.

I’ve always found it fascinating that we humans the world over have taken this…well, kind of gross thing we must do to survive (aka: crushing up living things in our mouth into a moist paste) and created so many rituals, recipes, and reality shows around this most basic of acts. Trees have a much more elegant method of survival. Sun from the top. Water from the bottom. Imagine everything they can get done because they don’t have to shop at Harris Teeter for the 42 line recipe from Cook’s Illustrated!

What’s more, we know that particularly in our country, this act that is simply supposed to nourish us has made us sick. We have made our taste buds, not our tummies, the gatekeeper of what enters our bodies. All kinds of food like substances that don’t end up nourishing us at all. Instead they give us heart disease and colon cancer.

Last Ramadan I realized that my WORST eating habits happened in isolation. I was most likely to eat a bag of leftover Halloween candy unobserved in my cinder-block office, or a block of Manchego cheese before my kids got home from school, or a Chic-fil-a sandwich and peppermint milkshake in my car and quickly get rid of the evidence (in my progressive shame), or a carton of Cherry Garcia after my husband went to bed the night before Ramadan.

For me, peer pressure has never made me bad. It’s helped me be good. This is true of my eating and my being.

In contrast, During Ramadan, both eating and NOT eating becomes a communal rather than individual act. Iftar is the meal that breaks the fast. At sundown you wait for the call to prayer, as the last rays descend below the horizon you eat your date and guzzle your water, migrate in to pray, and then migrate out to stuff your face with platters of house prepared delights. If you celebrate at the mosque you will do this under a great white tent with all your fellow parishoners (mosque-ishoners?), or alternately you will do this at home amidst the tangle of your family. Like 40 days of Thanksgiving at dusk.

Date with date
“You got a date with a date!”

Consequently, Ramadan can be a very isolating experience for solitary Muslims. Men working abroad away from their families. College students without an MSA. Anyone who has unwillingly spent a holiday estranged from their people will be able to sympathize.

Just in the few days I have been fasting, I feel the hunger most acutely in isolation…and somehow not at all when I’m laughing on the stoop with my neighbors, chasing my kids down on their bikes, sweating through yoga next to strangers, telling and hearing ghost stories while I sip my iced tea next to a sardonic pita pounding colleague.

 

The hunger abates.

I feel satiated.

stoop break

I wonder if what we mistake for hunger pangs may be a society starving for deep human connection.

 

When humans eat alone, we are often left hungry.

For what?

Each other, I think.

Now that’s a craving I’m happy to cave into.

Odd friends of Ramadan

Transformed by curious couplings during #Christians4Ramadan

Tonight, on Ramadan Eve, I finished two books, both of which were given to me. One by my daughter. One by a first year teacher.

A month ago, my daughter came home from Pre-K4 with I am Malala in her Ninja Turtle backpack.

Holding it up to me in two hands, like a stone tablet.  She said earnestly, (Ivy says most things earnestly) “Mommy I want to read this!”

She’d found it in the fourth grade classroom and I can only assume connected immediately with the tranquil gaze of Malala on the front cover.

“Umm…I want to read that too, five year old,” I said bemused. “Guess this is our first mother daughter book club.” We let Kip join too because…top bunk privilege. At bedtime, for the last month, we have been reading about Malala, Pakistan, Swat Valley, the rise of the Taliban, her Father’s activism, her own fight for human and children’s rights…and her love for Ugly Betty. Kip and Ivy have both been surprisingly riveted, only occasionally petitioning for a respite with Star Wars Rebels or Rosie Revere. After they become drowsy to the wisdom of Malala, I choose my late night profundity from a different direction.

Early in the school year, my colleague Andy (who had actually been a student at the school where I began teaching) asked me “Do you identify strongly with Leslie Knope?”

I gasped and grabbed his arm…

“Do YOU identify me with Leslie Knope?” I asked with rhetorical Leslie Knope-like eagerness.

“Umm…well that all depends…I guess some might see her as a little naïve.”

If by naïve you mean hopefully exuberant as she fearlessly charges into the world with blinders on to the peril towards herself or others but equipped with a bastion of binders to protect her…I guess I can see that.

I should mention here that my spirit animal is Leslie Knope riding a unicorn.

Andy took it all in stride and very thoughtfully presented me with Amy Poehler’s memoir, Yes Please, as a Christmas gift…which I finally finished today. I wish this pace could be explained by 1,500 pages, small print and no pictures…but the book is only 329 pages long and is laced with Polaroids, hand scribbled notes from 8 year old Amy, and large margins with riotous side-notes from  friends and colleagues. I have added to these with annotations of my own (should you wish to borrow my copy).

As I drink wine and write this, these two books sit next to me, the authors both gazing at me with challenge and expectation. I don’t think I seek out these kinds of peculiar pairings to be deliberately provocative. I’m just a reluctant sorter. They would seem an odd couple to anyone else…but to those who know me, this will likely not come as too astounding. The spiritual humanitarian alongside the hilarious hedonist. Sounds about right.

Ram-odd-an

I will write more specifics about my strange affinity for these powerful women and the lessons they have taught me in the days to come, but for tonight, I accept their odd juxtaposition in my life and their company into Ramadan just as I hope you will accept the oddity of an educational mystic once again inspired and cleansed by her pilgrimage through this holy month.

I don’t have a logical or convenient filing system for the world or the people in it. I don’t reject these curious couplings when they happen. When my daughter hands me book, I accept. When the first year teacher hands me a book, I accept. When a kid asks me to sponsor the Muslim Student Association…I accept. And then I also accept the possibility that, perhaps, we were supposed to co-exist all along. Become friends. Transform each other. Make the other giggle.

I think Malala and Amy might do some giggling together. I think I might join them. And you? You’re invited, too.

Giggle.

Accept.

Thin and Now – A Study in Liminal Space

In between is a space unto itself.

Sitting in a dead car on a country road in Colorado, I don’t know if I shiver from the cold or some deeper sense of awareness. I am not alone in the car. I sit with the only self-proclaimed neo-pagan I’ve ever met. This is the first moment I encounter the notion of “Liminal Space.”

As she describes the Celtic and Pagan traditions, she speaks of the sanctity of spaces between. Cliffs as meeting spaces between earth, water, and sky. Pregnancy as the time when a woman is no longer a child but not yet a mother.  Dawn and Twilight. Solstice and equinox. These moments perch at the precipice before we leave behind what was and step into what will be next.

Life at the threshold.

Yesterday I spent one of my spring break days on a pilgrimage with my dear friend Cara. An Episcopal priest on Capitol Hill, we first met at bible study in college. She knew early on that her’s would be the life of a religious. She continues to anchor me in the faith of my roots…even as I am tempted by Pagan fruit.

 

On yesterday’s journey she led me down into the metro and up again to the Renwick Gallery. This diminutive museum tucked away from the rest of the National Mall was a small marvel. Their installation right now one of Wonder. Quite literally. Each room has been transformed into a transcendent space. The effect is visual, but also behavioral.

We tilt our heads, puzzled.

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We crouch down.

Liminal3

 

We get closer.

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Reach out.

Liminal 1

We step back.

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We prostrate ourselves, gaze and giggle.

Liminal13

 

String becomes light.

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Wings become wallpaper.

liminal4

Cards become pillars of salt.

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Afterwards, on our long walk home, back the way we came, I am once again thinking about Space. How we shape it. How it shapes us. How often neglected this essential idea has become in a modern world where architecture is so often utterly utilitarian.

I ask Cara her thoughts on liminal space.

“Thin Space,” she calls it. I seize on this term.

Yes.

Thin.

As a priest, she is invited into these sanctified spaces, lives in them. Creates and consecrates them.

But in her experience, passing through liminal space is as likely to be distressing as enlightening for those who experience it. After all, she says, the most common time she has experienced this “thinness” is just before or just after death.

Looking back at my own timeline, I note a deep change that transpired in me and plot its beginnings in the birth of my children and the death of my dearest friend’s husband. This overlay of living and dying created new heights and depths I have yet to fully explore, but I nevertheless feel the shift in my landscape.

Liminal space might be literal places we can plot on a map. Retreat to or create. They might be occurrences we can plot on a timeline and revisit annually in traditions and memorials. Or, they may be states of being we can generate in ourselves and, perhaps, share with others.

In between is a space unto itself.

 

I’ll cut you with my Unicorn…

How to change workplace culture with your therapy unicorn.

Workplace meetings are not renowned for their magic or mythical creatures.

Two months ago I sat in a bi-monthly meeting with my colleagues. This is one of those long standing scheduled meetings that has unfortunately developed an atmosphere of smothering cynicism.  I’m one of the newest and youngest members to this team. On this particular day, there was a problem on the table. How do we get business partners, administrators, counselors, and students to buy into a new online platform where they can register to host or have an internship? I suggested brining all the stakeholders together at each school so they could learn and get excited about the platform in proximity to each other.

One of my colleagues responded to this idea with…

“Really, Barbara? And then will there be unicorns?”

Oh.

No.

She.

Didn’t.

Yep. She did. In front of all my peers she called me a unicorn lover.

unicorn8

This day will live in infamy for TWO reasons.

  1. Because I’ve told this story indignantly countless times and I’m now blogging about it.
  2. Because I never realized before this moment that I was out of touch with my inner unicorn love.

My rage and disbelief makes the memory of my rejoinder a LITTLE fuzzy, but I believe I said something along the lines of:

“Yes. I will be riding my rainbow haired unicorn, and you best get out of its way!”

Implied in her critique, of course, are other labels and accusations. A dreamer. A naïve optimist out of touch with the pragmatic constraints of the world. Here was a person who, for whatever reason, wanted to quickly dismiss and shut-down a possible solution.  Many of you reading this will undoubtedly be able to share similar encounters with colleagues or cultures characterized by “can’t”. But in her defense…a confession.

I am a person who moves through life with a lot of…exuberance. (For a more detailed account, consider reading “Turn Down For What?”) I’m kind of like a puppy. I might jump and lick your face when I first see you, but I swear, I calm down after like a minute. And it’s all totally genuine. I really do think you’re just that great! I really do think there are a ton of solutions to intractable problems! I really do believe that if you build the right relationships you can harness the power of the people around you and innovate your way out of or into almost anything!

Are you exhausted by my exclamation points yet?

unicorn4
Crazy-eyed unicorn lady.

This can be a lot for the people around me to handle. Particularly if we’ve only just met. Folks are like, “She can’t possibly maintain this outlook or energy over time.”

Oh. But I can.

Before this moment, though, I didn’t even really LIKE unicorns.

Well…not in my adult life. I DID in fact grow up with “My Little Ponies” because my dad wouldn’t let me have Barbie’s because he didn’t want me to have a bad self-image. (And, yes I still have the pink castle. Yes you can come over and play with it.)

Being an ADULT PROFESSIONAL, though, who STILL likes unicorns, seems a little…infantile. But the more I told this story about a colleague threatened by my enthusiasm for creative solutions (which, by the way, I did in fact follow through on and all the stakeholders were TOTALLY excited in proximity to each other, thank you very much) the less it became about her, and the more it became about defending my right to carry my therapy unicorn anywhere I damn please.

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That’s about the time I grudgingly began to wonder if unicorns might in fact be my spirit animal. I was not initially thrilled about this prospect.

I get it. Not everyone’s a unicorn person. They shed their rainbow hair everywhere and some people are allergic to glitter. If you need the effusive affection and affirmation of your place in the universe, don’t get a unicorn. They’re very independent, particular, and can be moody.

What’s more, there are indeed BAD unicorn owners out there. They’re all “believe in my unicorn” but they won’t let you ride it, pet it, or share joint custody. There are the unicorn lovers, too, that don’t pick up after their pet. They promise big things with their inspirational demos, but they don’t stay around long enough to follow through on the practicalities. Their unicorn is knocking shit over because they didn’t take it to obedience school or think about all the responsibilities that accompany unicorn ownership.

But if I’m going to own my unicorn, I’m going to feed, groom and board it, too. Its mane will be braided, its coat will be shiny, and we’re going to win some dressage blue ribbons together. So, don’t confuse my optimism with naïveté. If I tell you I’m planning a trip over the rainbow, you best believe I’ve booked the tickets, found a cloud to sleep on via “airbnb”, and filled up my tank on lucky-fucking-charms.

unicorn5

I am a pragmatic optimist. I see opportunities everywhere not because I’m making them up but because I’m looking for them AND because I’m already a regular member of a Unicorn playgroup with like-minded unicorn owners who believe in magic and will show up when I call. I have a smattering of “little orphan Annie” and “Pollyanna” in me. I will sneak out my upstairs window to go to the carnival.  I will rescue strays and hide them under piles of laundry. I will decorate the ailing curmudgeon’s room in prisms. I will persuade Daddy Warbucks to adopt the world.  I may be whimsical, but I’m also scrappy, self-aware, and “charmingly subversive.” Just. Like. My. Pet. Unicorn.

Once I crossed that rainbow, stopped talking bad about my colleague and unicorn hater behind her back, something (dare I say it) magical happened. People started saving a seat at gatherings for me to bring my unicorn.

It started small. At a meeting in a school library a “Book of Fantastical Creatures” appeared on my table. This same meeting my boss brought glitter and covered my work space with it. People started texting me pictures of t-shirts at Target, sardonic Memes, and screen shots of unicorn slippers.

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And then, the penultimate miracle moment. The colleague who had started it all…who had made manifest my mythical affinities. What did she bring to the notorious bi-monthly meeting of doom?

A Solar. Powered. Unicorn.

For me.

Unicorn1

It bobbed gently in front of me throughout the day. Reminded me that even cynics can soften. Emboldened me when our Assistant Superintendent joined us to raise my hand and say…

“I want to know if something is possible.”

Instead of groans from my colleagues? Laughter. “Here come the unicorns!” These comments were no longer accusatory or dismissive. They were intrigued and bemused.

I can live with that.

This conversion from unicorn doubter to believer will forever serve as a testimonial that if we believe in unicorns…they suddenly appear. If we believe in unicorns, others do too. And they start to make room for them. They start to book meetings in proximity to verdant meadows where there is room for unicorns to frolic and room for humans to twirl. Evolve. Learn to fly. Breathe Fire.

Because…who DOESN’T want to believe in the possibility of unicorns?

So, Yes. My name is Barbara (not Annie or Pollyanna), and I believe in unicorns.

Climb on, or get out of our way.

Just another Mean Girl Monday

Oh, Regina.

Since I’ve established a certain level of comfort with making broad-sweeping generalizations about days of the week, today was EITHER:

  1. Mean-Girl-Monday or,
  2. “Mind yo’ business” Monday.

Either way, the day ended with the purchase of a box of wine.

MeanBox
Box-o-Whine

Let’s play 10 truths and a lie, shall we? Which of these is NOT true. Yep. Only one is not true.

I yelled (like screaming yelled) at my children in the car.

I told my children my boss yells at me when they make me late. This is blatantly false.

I took their toys and made them cry.

I took my husband’s toys and made him cry.

I bad mouthed a guidance counselor.

I passive aggressively BCCed a librarian.

I put in an email “I am…frustrated.” When what I MEANT was, “I am…muttering obscenities under my breath and have torn up your memo into tiny little pieces because we’re too underfunded for me to have a shredder.”

I said, “It doesn’t matter if they’re mad if they do what we want.”

I mimed stabbing myself in the eye with a dry-erase marker.

A student said (while I was miming stabbing myself in the eye with a dry erase marker) “I think she’s going psycho.”

You think, kid?

And if you’re WONDERING whether that became a F@#!ing “teachable moment” where I discussed with the class why it’s a bad idea to alienate an angry authority figure (particularly one who is trying to HELP them and who is at least self aware enough to have WARNED them beforehand)…then yes. We had a little teachable “Mind-yo-business” moment.

And all of that happened before noon. Except for the thing about Zach’s toys…but only because his toys are stupid and I don’t want to play with them anyway.

MeanHardHattedWoman
Hard-hatted-Woman

I have written previously about my “inner mean girl.” My friend Matt told me recently that my inner mean girl is not always so “inner.” And Matt’s a lawyer. Probably makes people cry daily, so…burn.

My MOM put it more simply. “You’re scary when you’re angry.”

Mom!! I KNOW THIS!!! (And why would you SAY that to someone who is scary when they’re angry?! Have you no sense of self-preservation?)

I wish I was only a mean girl on Mondays. But I am very aware of my capacity to make others suffer when I’m grumpy, tired, disappointed, overwhelmed, stressed, hungry, etc. Insert negative emoji face here ______ .

In my defense (because you know I got’em, Mr. Fancy prosecuting attorney) I’m way better than I used to be. I remember pulling out a full-on crying fest because my boyfriend forgot to get eggs for the home-made vanilla icecream we were going to make. This is not what we call a critical issue. I very truly no longer resort to emotional extortion as a matter of course.

And even though I was grouchy, there were definitely moments when I was able to get myself together and:

  1. Have a productive meeting with my principal about a mentorship program.
  2. Encourage a student NOT to fight another student in the office.
  3. Hug Kip and Ivy and say “I love you even when I’m mad.”
MeanMother
Darth Mother

The truth is, though…I’m not willing to give her up. Regina. I…kinda like her.

This is not a Lenten apology.

I need my inner mean girl. The world can be MEAN and it’s most often mean to folks that can’t fight back.

Come to think of it…I feel some more justification coming on. Today, much of my anger stemmed from someone trying to either take advantage of or not fulfill their obligations to another human being. And yep, that makes me MAD and it’s not going to STOP making me mad and just because I’m a woman and an enlightened human being who wants to become the best version of herself EVENTUALLY, that DOESN’T MEAN I HAVE TO DO IT RIGHT THIS SECOND, THIS LENT, OR THIS MONDAY.

(Breathe, Regina, Breathe.)

If you’re still there and you made it past the CAPS LOCK YELLING…I know I need my anger. My mean-ness even. I plan to lead a life where I’m plunging into spaces where people are swinging, hoarding, or just plain looking the other way from folks who are struggling. I don’t think anger and “mean-ness” is always the answer to get people to pay attention…but it’s not NEVER the answer.

MeanMommies
Leana started it…

I’m not claiming that’s what happened every moment today. Today I was mad at a box of wine because it was too big to fit in my refrigerator. Ain’t no moral justification for that.

So maybe…alternating Monday themes.

Today? “Mean girl Monday.”

Next week? Making amends Monday.

Let’s try to make THAT happen Gretchen. #Fetch #SayCrackAgain

No need to remind me which day we’re on, though. It’ll just piss me off.

 

Be still, my monkey…

My son moves at a pace faster than the speed of sound. That is the ONLY explanation for why he only hears me the third time I say something.

 

Kip.

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Kip!

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KIP!!

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(sigh)

Kip happens.

My son moves at a pace faster than the speed of sound. That is the ONLY explanation for why he only hears me the third time I say something.

Zippy Kippy.

Skippy Kippy.

Kip-to-my-lou.

Oh, my darlin’.

It is hard to be angry with such an exuberant, gregarious, hilarious primate. Somehow we still manage it.

Just.

Be.

Still!

Stillness is not easy for the five year old.

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Stillness is not easy for his mother, either. Neither in body nor in mind.

Last Lent, I wrote about my monkey mind

It jumps from one idea to the next. Knocks things over. This is true if I’m reading. Writing. Teaching. Walking. Eating… You get the picture…the fragmented, sparkly, frenetic picture.

Yoga, I wrote, was one of the only things that could calm my rushing psyche. The faster the flow of my body, the slower my mind becomes. When I began my practice, I gravitated to the hardest teachers. Barely keeping pace with my breath, dripping in sweat, my feet squeaking and slipping, this was the soggy path to my Zen moments. I would catch glimpses of silence and stillness in my mind before they slipped away around a corner of my frontal cortex.

Lately, though, I find I don’t have to chase down stillness. It has begun to come to me.

This week my friend Libbie invited me down to Annapolis to meet and practice with her favorite Yoga instructor. Tina.

Her class was without heat. Without sweat. Without mirrors. Without haste.

We began with seated meditation. We ended with seated meditation.

There was movement between, but all I remember, all I craved was the stillness.

Afterwards, I sat with her for a moment and marveled aloud how much I had reveled in the methodic, meditative slowness of the class. How did this happen? When did I change? How did I slip into someone at ease with silence and stillness?

“You’ve trained your mind,” she said.

When did that happen?!

 

Be still my heart.

Be still and know.

Peace. Be still.

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In stillness we hear.

In stillness we’re here.

Sleep tight, little monkey.