What to Do with the in-between season

As I write this, it is the first day of Spring.

From the white board in front of our makeshift homeschool classroom, I can erase the word “Winter” from the combination “Winter/Spring”. We live in a form of winter/spring for a handful of months in the Central Valley. The weather warms, but might still freeze. The temperatures reach up near 70, inching bit by bit, because a cold spell and a day of rain makes us all remark how like winter it is in March.

Purple iris

Other states sit covered in snow, waiting for the flowers to poke through the icy layers, signaling the end of a long winter will not be too far off.

Californians start their seedlings, but plant them also, seeing the first fruits in their open fields. Farmers carry in boxes of citrus, as sweet as candy, while we smell the sweetly scented air filled with almond blossoms and pollen.

Landscape with cut flower garden and seedlings

It is winter/spring here in California when the mud puddles merge together with puddles from misdirected sprinklers, their timers signaled too soon in preparation for dryer spells. Children shed their winter clothes for lighter garments, only to shiver once the sun goes down because the mornings are below 50, the coldest temperature we generally see.

It is winter/spring as our loved ones receive the vaccine alongside the safety, hope and peace it brings to know they can gather again with loved ones will still following CDC guidance; as some of our youth return to schools and sports and order special masks and bell covers to play their preferred instrument with the victorious spirit of a high schooler who has faced something no generation before ever faced.

It is winter/spring as liturgically-focused Christian religions move through the Lenten season, with just a shot time remaining before Easter, the highest of holy days, the more triumphant, grandest, important celebration to the heart of Christian belief. To enter the church that Sunday, the church they could not enter one liturgical year ago, when doors were closed and services live-streamed and Easter egg hunts canceled.

It is winter/spring as we gather with others in small numbers or shop for plastic eggs at Target while still wearing masks, keeping our distance and trying not to make physical contact with someone we do not know, when once a handshake might have been the best approach.

It is winter/spring as my daughter bends the top line of the growth chart, yet never sleeps. As my son outgrows another size of clothes, but has surgery next month. As my oldest learns Latin but will go into 6th grade, signaling to me the beginning of the end of her children and her emergence in a new phase of life, one I have never experienced before as a mother.

The weeds grow with the new flowers. The dahlias emerge even where the cats scratched. The rain waters the fields even as it inspires the weeds to give it one last go before the vegetable garden is planted.

Detail of cut flower garden with white garden bench

All of our lives we live in this winter/spring, with the bare ground filled to the brim with seeds and life waiting for just the right amount of daylight, warmth and water to break forth. In this season all the potential is there. We have only to wait a little longer, tend the ground a little more gently, and continue to feed the heart and soul of the project with the very best we have, the practice of virtues, including kindness, understanding and justice determined by reason and not emotion.

Understand and embrace the duality in which we must live, the tension to which we must adjust. Even as today is the first day of spring, a chill is in the air. Nothing ever fully ends or disappears, and the beauty that lies in wait for us lies within this tension.

Discover it. Embrace it. See what is has for you today.

Pink and purple early spring bouquet

Choose Festivity

The Covid-shutdown shuffled around our income. In the transition, we find my husband now working most holiday mornings. It was not a change I would have lobbied for.

You see, I am an extrovert, and as an extrovert, I crave conversation, discussion, a rational witness to the work I am undergoing, a companion on the journey. When I am excited, I am elated. Along with being an extrovert, I have a choleric temperament, meaning, in familiar words, I am dramatic. When disappointment comes, I am crestfallen.

We have our traditions for Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day. Shoot, even Saturdays in winter now have traditions attached to them. Each tradition accentuates the rhythm in the lives of my children, giving them something to look forward to and a memory to hold onto.

“Remember how daddy always built a fire on cold Saturday mornings?”

“Remember how we always watched Miracle on 34th Street on Thanksgiving?”

I want to make sure they have plenty of “remember when’s.”

Things are fun. They are festive.

What happens to the extrovert whose festival day now includes a morning of normalcy, not festivity, when the husband is at work and the wife is home with the children who have not yet learned to gratify the needs of the extrovert, being themselves so demanding?

Choose festivity.

A spirit of festivity is a choice.

It does not require perfection.

It does not require a crowd.

The festival exists whether or not we participate in it. Why not choose to participate?

We can choose to allow each day to be just one more day, another day of diapers, dishwashing, laundry folding, earning the bread, taking out the garbage. Or we can access an internal locus of control, believing in our efficacy in a situation, and choose to make this day something special, something that aligns with what it actually is.

So stop working, start celebrating.

Even if my husband is gone for a few hours, bringing home the bacon, I need to stop cleaning and start being.

Rather than taking advantage of the extra time, as if the festival had not started yet, I need to access the traditions and do them in a new way, reapplying the trial and error that cemented them as our traditions and find a new and adjusted routine.

We should plan ahead to free up the busiest hands on that day. It is not festive if the mother is slugging away at the dishes while everyone else relaxes.

Limit television and screen time, stay off social media. In fact, eliminate any technology that is not communal – so if you like a Wii game – do it as a group with spectators (not everyone has to play but be present), if you watch TV, do it as a group, the exception the rule being the posting of a few Instagram pictures because those communal pajamas look sharp.

When the heads of the house choose to be festive, the rest will fall under the spell.

Our kids usually need a pep talk the day before to remind them not to lose it in the afternoon when their excitement has exhausted them. Knowing I will not be able to fully unleash the power of my extroversion until later in the morning, I probably need a pep talk too.

Take photos in the morning when the kids (and everyone) is more excited.

Clean the day before, or let it go entirely. Festivity is not about perfection.

Drinking might feel like keeping spirits bright, but if you get so sloppy that you can’t dance at the end of the night.

2020 is a drag.

Choose festivity.

What Feels More Real?

Now that that’s over

The election is finally nearing an end (as of this writing) and I can hear the celebrations and sighs of relief on one side and the cries of injustice, stolen elections, fear and trembling for the future on the other. I could write that same sentence had it gone the other way.

The reality is a lot of people staked much in this election. I used to feel that way about politics until I was old enough to pay attention. There was the governor and then there was a president about whom I regarded the future in dread. The term passed. The world survived. The country survived. The state survived.

Whether your savior or your mortal enemy became president, this too shall pass.

I guess that is the good thing about the four-year term limit.

I do not have the emotional resources to wring my hands about this election, the week-long during or after. It is in Washington D.C. And I am here, on our little corner of rural America.

Will we be affected by the politics and baby-is bickering taking place on this hill? Yes. Is there anything I can do about it?

What do I have control over?

I can do my civic duty, vote, follow casually what’s happening, but know that ultimately, I will likely live and die without being majorly affected by what is happening over there. What matters here is the actual happening here and around me, the noise in my garage by children who made a playroom with my stored-for-winter outdoor furniture, the field mouse that ran out from under a pile of plants I gathered up while putting my garden to sleep for our short winter, the cat that went missing, the sounds of coyotes around the chicken coop, seeing my name in print in a weekly newspaper, and nursing my infant to sleep.

This is within my control and if I allow myself the time to focus on it, it is actually quite good, moves fast, and is a lot more pleasant than thinking about a bunch of politicians who have forgotten their mothers’ lessons on how to compromise.

This life around us, the things we can see, hear, touch, and smell are the things that should matter most to us, the things that give us the greatest elation, the deepest dread, the biggest relief, the things on which our lives are really staked.

Today is the first day for a new medication.

Tonight is an outdoor gathering for a friend’s birthday.

Tomorrow we finalize plans for the outdoor market we plan to host on December 5.

Thanksgiving is coming. Christmas is coming.

There are traditions to be lived.

Memories to be made.

And in the midst of that, in my home at least, there are a lot of little people whose reality is shaped by the environment we give them, whose perception of that reality is affected by the way we preset it, whose response is guided by how they see us respond to the current events that affect us.

I want to give them the best. I want them to know a world that is secure in the things that matter, where things change but only big things require tears and only unjust things require anger. I want them to know they are loved; that unconditional love is possible to give and to receive; that we can all rise above the temptation to be petty, to gloat, to be envious of what others have; and that even in a world where no matter who you are, there is something in the news and social media to be angry about; that we all can slow down, refocus, be grateful for the life in which we live, and make a difference, right here and now.

Now, for the perspective

I want these lessons and events to be more real, deeper and closer to my heart than what happens over there. What happens over there matters. But what happens here matters more.

Photo by Leo Rivas on Unsplash
Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Lessons from Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Day

There is something about raising children that broadens and sharpens my focus on celebration and tradition. It may be their exuberance. It may be their curiosity. Whatever it is, I can safely say my understanding and appreciation of Thanksgiving has grown.

For most of my life, I carried with me the shards of a public school educational approach to Thanksgiving. In grade school, there were Pilgrims and Indians and the feast they shared following a rough year. College squashed any reverence for the ideas associated with those pilgrims. But as my children have moved through the early elementary school grades, to explain the meaning of the day  I have both learned more about the story and why it really is a history worth celebrating.

I observe on Google Calendar “Native American Heritage Day” on the day following Thanksgiving. Last year, I believe the day following Thanksgiving was marked by Google as “Black Friday.” Times change. With November standing as Native American Heritage Month, it is a valuable time to consider what we really know about that Thanksgiving feast, three hundred and ninety-nine years ago.

Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

The Story of Thanksgiving

The pilgrims were religious refugees and adventurers, seeking a new life where they could practice their faith apart from government intervention or restriction. The journey was perilous. I learned this from “This Is America Charlie Brown” an excellent educational resource. It is amazing to learn what they suffered, even from so simple a telling, and how all the children survived, even as many adults died before building and living in a new American settlement.

It was through the intervention of Squanto, who spoke English, that the pilgrims were able to successfully grow the crops whose yield would warrant the celebration of that first Thanksgiving. Cordial relations for one generation made it possible.

Those relationships deteriorated, but a generation is not a significant length of time. Relationships are made first between individuals. That they were not maintained does not deny the goodness of the original relationship between these parties. That a child grows up and divorces does not negate the good of the seemingly happy marriage in which that child was raised.

Beyond Charlie Brown, at home we read about Squanto. We read books about the pilgrims. We read books about the Mayflower. We discuss parts of the world that right now experience religious persecution.

I created coloring pages to illustrate these points: the story of Thanksgiving, the tradition of eating and pardoning Turkey, the Jewish roots of a festival to give thanks.

Photo by Cayla1 on Unsplash

What difference does it make now?

By these practices, history becomes more than just a vague memory of puffy figurines for the 1980s dining table. We connect to our heritage. We connect to the heritages that heritage draws from to begin with. More than sentiment, we can learn something from this holiday that we need very badly today.

  • Help one another.
  • Reach out to those in need, even when they are very different, even if you might have a good reason to hold no trust based on previous encounters with others like them.
  • Know that sharing a meal is a human tradition, going beyond Hallmark and Betty Crocker and mass-market commercialism. There is a reason we break bead together.
  • Some hard things are worth the effort to do them. There was something worth fighting for, and not with violence, not with complaining, but by finding a way to make it possible.

The pilgrims traveled with hope. Others traveled with greed. Others traveled intent in acquiring whatever they could, whatever the cost. But this group, this set of real people who actually lived, were in need, strangers helped them, and they survived.

We need this example and these lessons. Even the imperfect are capable of virtue. Even the imperfect can be set before us as examples of a life well-lived.

So whether you are following Public Health orders to the letter of the law, whether your Thanksgiving meal will be take-out through the Hughson Community Thanksgiving Dinner, or whether you are going all out with a traditional menu at home, let it be deep and broad in its meaning, and let it take these lessons to heart.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

One Weird Thing about Suffering

There are things we will miss

One day I will miss the shoes on the floor, the tiny pair, a miniature version of his father’s shoes. There are piles of clothes around the house as I attempt the annual sorting of four outgrown children’s clothes, discerning what to donate, what to save, and what to quickly pass on to the next child.

One day we will miss this. The baby pulls herself to her feet and takes the first sideway steps. The almost-five year old reads his numbers, letters and colors. He reads a book, having memorized the words, thrilled that he knows exactly what I am pointing to, though he cannot actually read at all.

The eldest learns to wash her face with a bar of Dove soap because I want to save her from the expensive indulgences I have become accustomed to at the Macy’s Clinique counter. We tease the first-born son about an arranged marriage.

One day we will miss this.

Photo by Dick Saunders on Unsplash

I sat up with a baby from two to four last night. In the afternoon, as I grew just sleepy enough to fall asleep, while the two youngest napped, I heard a cry from across the house. I had to get up again.

But when we read a picture book together, the rest melts away. When we watch a Youtube video of a song titled “Christopher Columbo” from a Bing Crosby black-and-white flick, the rest fades away. When we gather around the table and hear what mispronunciations the eldest has to share from her science textbook and we catch the verbal errors of all those around the table, we laugh and forget the chores of today.

How many secret moments have the shutdown offered us that we otherwise might have missed? My focus turned inward as my husband sought to maximize the work he could to at home, having been told to work from home. So we cope, we watch movies, and we find new ways to laugh, not in an extraordinary way, but in a way that magnifies the actual life we are living, the life we are meant to find.

That is the key to suffering.

It is not about the hardness of suffering, but the way suffering strips away all the unnecessities, as this crisis did both by the illness itself and the results of the shutdown. It stripped away all the superfluous brass and buckles and brought back sensible dresses with loose waste lines. We were no longer performing, showing off for the public. We were living.

The shoes were left on the floor, neatly arranged, left and right. I hear him and his dad laugh to jazz Christmas music by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy. The other children help clean the home while I rest, the end of the day wearing on my reserves.

This is the invitation.

We will miss this when it’s gone. Because suffering, in editing, actually brings into full color the best of things. I saw the streets of San Francisco on walks while my son lay lethargic in the hospital bed. I saw the sweet pea shoots as my daughter lay in the cemetery. I saw the promise of a growing education while our financial future lay uncertain. But bigger than all that, I saw my family.

There is no end to opportunity once the superfluous is wiped away. Will we see it or will we fight against the grain, the deprivation of whatever we are missing, or the hardship it presents? The adventure is only in the thing we embrace. The adventure is only in the life well-lived.

Previously published in the weekly column, “Here’s to the Good Life!” in the Hughson Chronicle & Denair Dispatch.

Get Real

When I was young

I grew up in that age of development when the internet began to spread its web around the wide world. In 6th grade, I spent hours online at my aunt’s house reading poetry from the earliest forms of blogs. In 7th grade, I entered chatrooms. In 8th grade, we had the internet in our domain, our home. It was not until after college that I entered the social media age, sold on the idea that Facebook would help me to stay connected with classmates students living in the state where I no longer resided.

As a stay-at-home-mother, I joined the many women who learned from each other, stayed connected and sane during the wee hours of baby soothing and cuddling with other mothers, feeling a sense of community where our in-person community was lacking.

Living our virtual life

Years passed. Now, for my age group and younger, it feels like everything is online. I, and the mothers like me, began to learn on our own that, ultimately, social media is unsatisfying. It cannot stand in for real relationships or real community support. We mothers began to look elsewhere.

If any were under the impression six months ago that virtual connection held that promise, I suspect that now, so many months later, the illusion is breaking up.

A Zoom date does not hold the same quality as an in-person day, virtual is not the same as real. We are flesh and blood and unless we can interact in the flesh, a part of us is not engaged. The connection is less than it could be. Like letter writing and telephone calls, something is missing, only it was harder to realize it in this medium.

This discovery makes for hard decisions as we continue to live this modern pandemic, socially distant lifestyle. How will we cope?

Seeing one’s friends is not nearly as superficial as it was made to sound in March. Community matters. Connection matters. What we do in-person matters.

In our communities, there have always been certain traditions. In Hughson, there are many. Most of them were postponed or canceled in the face of the then-unknown risks of Coronavirus. Over summer people began to find their way. As fall began, I observed discussions relating that some questioned what they were willing to sacrifice and what they were will to not.

“Is Halloween canceled this year?”

Canceled. A term now used as slang to mean “no longer allowed, no longer in vogue, verboten, out of commission, no longer something we will endure.”

Events can be canceled. People and traditions cannot.

In this time of continuing uncertainty (will we reopen? Will we have to wait longer? What will reopening look like?) more than ever we need to hold fast to the traditions handed on to us. They are bigger than a bag of candy out of a trunk or pictures with Santa.

Now more than ever

We need to make the choice not to be guided by the storms around us, but to find the thing that anchors us to where we are, where our home is, who we have been and who we want to become.

The traditions matter because they speak not just to what is fun, not just to the overwhelming marketing of big business in a capitalistic society, but they connect us to the generations that came before us, the generations that come after us and a culture filled with individuals celebrating likewise.

Joined together with these traditions, we sense something bigger than ourselves at work. Something real, although abstract. Something transcendent, yet as ordinary as an annual holiday.

How we observe these traditions differs. It differs between families, religions, and over the years. This year will be no exception. But the importance remains.

Celebrate.

How to take the next crisis in stride

The world reopened but then it shut down again.

The smoke cleared but then came another hazy day.

The heat dissipated but then came another high-temperature, red flag warning wave.

Are you in the camp who continues to think, “It will pass. It will pass”?

When it passes, do you breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Okay, good, that’s over with”?

Or are you in the camp who says, “It figures this would happen now” or “just our luck.”

And when it passes, then say, “well, what bad thing will happen next?” or find it difficult just to believe the bad thing has actually passed, sitting waiting for it to come again.

Our minds try to grapple with the uncertainty of life. We like certainty. We want to know that if I do x, y, and z, then I will find peace, security and happiness; I will be safe.

But life keeps coming, making it seem impossible to find security and hold on it.

Often we look at the intense waves, the storms, the dark times as things to just be gotten through, grit our teeth, hold on, white knuckle it and press on till it passes.

This works most of the time.

Until it doesn’t. Until the waves come one after another, until the storms pile high, until the air is so full of smoke the meters tell us it is hazardous to breathe outside, until we have gone seven months without hugging our loved ones who live beyond the boundaries of our homes.

Then comes the time to figure out a plan of action because sitting and waiting no longer works. The emotional reservoir is drained. The energy is depleted.

Then comes the time when we must face facts.

Life is uncertain.

Maze
Photo by Luemen Carlson on Unsplash

And yet, there still must be a way to live it because people have thrived and succeeded in great things despite the uncertainty of life. Imagine all those great achievements before modern medicine and technology? They had fires and pandemics then, too.

We risk never believing the good thing is actually here. We risk never accepting the easier moments when they change place with the difficult. In making the effort to predict what will happen next or how long things will last, we risk never focusing on the moment…right…now.

This is the first task to finding peace in the midst of uncertainly, legitimate worries, righteous anger and ongoing grief.

The present moment is what we have. We must find a way to accept that this moment is what we have in our possession. The future has not yet come. We cannot control it when it does come. It does us less good to spend our energy trying to predict what it will look like when it does come.

And when we accept its presence, we can look at the present moment and say, “What is there for me here?

What meaning can I find? What purpose can I find?”

Patience.

Solidarity with those suffering directly from natural disasters.

Delayed gratification at the never-ending California heat when all of social media and the Midwest have entered autumn.

There are ways you and I can grow in those good qualities called virtues during this crazy year.

And there is a purpose we can discover in it as well, a mission we can support.

Are politics your passion? Maybe finding a way to keep politics civil and allow for actual nonjudgmental listing, conversation and view sharing – but avoid social media, aka, the pit of anger and despair.

Is community your passion? Support, volunteer for and attend events that are still happening like the Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Find a way to further cultural traditions like Halloween or Thanksgiving within your comfort zone and safety precautions.

Every day is an invitation for us to grow.

That invitation begins with learning to take what comes as it comes, and make the best of it, to the betterment of our hearts, our families and our communities.

Lessons from The Hospital

What a long week it was.

It was alarming but not life-altering for my family when the shutdown began in March. When the smoke billowed into the San Joaquin/Central Valley, that changed our lives for the time being. We had just bunked the four older children in one room to create a nursery for the littlest. The school desks moved to the living room as a temporary solution.

Life is a constant juggling act when there is a houseful of bodies.

The children could not go outside. When one napped, they must be quiet in the living room or dining room as others strove to complete their work. There was little place to play.

I got caught up in the crankiness and frustration of everyone in the house. What could we do? It was hazardous outside, airnow.gov told me. 

But this was getting out of hand. 

The days shortened. The nights lengthened. 

We moved the van out of the garage, took the outside patio furniture and play furniture from storage, put them them in the garage and made a play place. A playhouse with a custom border of Costco size diaper boxes and clothes waiting to be grown into.

This was my best moment coping.

There were plenty worse.

As this strange year of 2020 begins its fall season, I continually asked myself how my past experiences of suffering are helping me to face the reality of the present moment. No answer.

Surely, I must be more patient, more trusting, more adaptable, more loving.

Surely, I must have the secret answer to suffering.

Surely, the wisdom of embracing the present moment, which I learned so well beside my son in the hospital or visiting my daughter’s grave, would have some impact on me.

I cannot say that it did, other than that I remember a time when I did it, and I know when things get difficult there is a way to do it again.

Beyond that, I go in green and must learn a new way in new circumstances. The bustle of a house full of children itching to go outside and bickering until they have space to get away from each other is miles away from the quiet of a hospital room and solitary walks around a strange city.

In this case, it was a house, a room with a view of a garden I ached to tend, where my coping skills lie, and little lives to manage and persons to educate. Though the days were taxing I appreciated the way school filled our days with routine and occupation.

I remember that lesson from the hospital room.

On the weekend, with little to do, I put on a movie. Then my husband came home from work. I put on another movie. Sometimes you just do what you have to do to get through as pleasantly as possible. I remember that lesson from the hospital room.

For a few nights, I stress ate, I admit it. Nachos and ice cream worked well. But I also know the toll this diet will take on my body. I remember both those lessons from the hospital room.

I made space to stretch though I never quite got to exercising. 

We bounded outside as soon as the air was moderate or good, which happened but little the week of this writing. We took full advantage of the opportunity and relished in it. I remember that lesson from the hospital room.

It seems the past experiences shape us more than we realize.

When we take the time to pause, reflect, see what we have done well or not well, and make the connections, only then do we see. Otherwise it may feel like we are floundering now like we floundered then. I’m not entirely sure what good the reflection does, except to say that we got through it then, we can get through it now, and maybe pick up some new tools along the way.

Find Your Way Pandemic Style

I am not a medical expert, but I am a medical mom. As a medical mom, I learned one thing again and again –

to adapt.

Whether I stayed bedside with my son for a weekend or a month, I  took the same size suitcase and the same toiletry bags. There is the mode in which you operate like things are temporary. You put up with some discomfort because we can get through anything if it is only one night.

The time comes though, at times, when it is clear that this is not going to be one night, one month or one season, that we are in this for the long haul.

I think that is where we are with this now not-so-novel coronavirus.

I venture to guess by now we can look back and see a series of stages in how we approached the shutdown as it began, as we sank into some rhythm, as some of us thought we had better make some use of the time, as some began to push against the restrictions. I remember the anxiety with which I followed the headlines in those early days, as the cases ballooned beyond the borders of China. I remember the relief of having additional help at home during meals when my husband worked on his computer. I remember the aggravating conversations as we considered income fluctuations and concern for fellow business owners.

I thought the new normal was going to be life after COVID-19, that that was the horizon we were looking for, but now it seems more like our society will live in a state of chronic illness, opening and shutting its doors according to state and county guidelines, finding new ways to live, move and find meaning in our day-to-day lives.

Now with a number of months under our belt, our employers are seeing where things stand. A new wave of skilled workers might just hit the proverbial bread lines. It might be time to find some new revenue streams.

This is where we are.

This means it is time to adapt.

The more flexible we can be, the better we will weather in the long haul. Are you a caregiver under lockdown with your patient? Are you a parent stuck at home pushed into a homeschooling life you never planned to choose? Are you finding routine difficult with so many personalities at home? Are you now unemployed after months of hoping your job would hang on? Are you leading an organization that faces dramatic losses if a new approach is not made soon?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone. None of us are alone. We are all in this boat of trying to figure out a world that feels so markedly different from 2019.

We have to get used to uncertainty, to the realization of our mortality and know that this is an invitation to live to the very fullest, the best life we can, the best relationships we can, seizing the moments as the opportunities they are to love, to delight, to celebrate. I may have taken things for granted in the past. Now is the time to savor the moment.

It is also a time to reflect on how we have done and what we want life to look like moving forward. If we rail against the situation in frustration, we get nowhere. If we can find a way to take it as it comes, roll with the punches, as they say, then all the emotional energy we spent aggravated or anxious becomes fuel for finding a way forward.

It might be time to get creative. There’s a path out there waiting for you and me.

Let’s find it.

Photo by Wai Siew on Unsplash

Manage Your Emotional Bank

When I was a teenager, I wanted to save the world. I wanted to fly to Indonesia to give aid after the tsunami.

In my twenties, it was all about laying the path to professionally make a difference.

In my thirties, it is now that I realize the world is right here around me, concentric circles, like ripples in water, emanating outward. My world of work and effort is at the center. Beyond that circle, lies another and another.

The strength of my influence changes with each one.

Here at the center, a lot of people live in my house. I am responsible for most of them. I hear them yelling and laughing and complaining and crying in the background. When I look out my window, just past the flower beds you read so much about, I see a spread of bright green grass, boarded by a row of irises, their tips browned by the sun and dehydration, with weeds slowly matching them in height. Beyond them lays a perfectly mowed lawn of varying hues of light green to brown, mostly brown.

Then the weeds.

Then the road, which I cannot cross unless I can run because Whitmore Avenue is a busy place.

And just beyond that, an almond orchard whose white petaled blossoms fragranced the air in spring and whose green leaves provide the perfect complement to the golden yellow walls my historic home’s living room.

On most days I appreciate the orchard. I have no idea how many acres there are, but there are some industrial techniques geared towards efficiency that mean I cannot open my windows some mornings. The baby sleeps beautifully through the white noise on those days.

The traffic is beyond my control.

The weeds are within my control. The irises are within my control. Theoretically, the watering issues are within my control. I control how often and how well-timed I bug my husband about it.

Drawing my view back towards the center, that green grass, the flowers surrounding the house, the successful succulents, the happy hydrangea, the pruned roses, these are within my control.

The four-year-old running through the living room, the tired six-year-old crying, the complaining seven-year-old hit on the arm, the book bug nine-year-old, these are less in my control than I might like.

If I spent too much time thinking about the orchard across the street, and the traffic on the street, I’m not sure how well I can handle the noise in the center of the house or the noise in the center of my heart.

Through each sphere cuts mainstream media and social media, discussing the things in in my home and the things beyond my home. They are designed to tell me that everything is so important no matter what circle it is in.

The world is kind of an exhausting place right now.

There is a lot of in-between-ness going on. Are we in crisis? Are we out of crisis? Is this the new normal? Or has that still not happened yet?

It is hard when everything feels so important.

Beyond the places where it feels normal, I am reminded online of how very, very not normal, how chaotic and how critical these times are.

I watch the things across the [metaphorical] street, but the only control I have is to curb my internal or external reaction to cars honking or screeching tires. The farther out the circle of influence goes, the further in my heart lies efficacy.

The task at hand is not to save the world, because I cannot, but to find some way to relate to these concentric circles in a healthy and manageable way without draining my emotional bank before I have served those in the immediate sphere.

To get a response, a click, a shared link, many rely on fueling the reader’s emotions.More than ever, when there is so much to feel about each of these circles, I need to be careful in considering how I spend what I’ve got.