Archive for 'Daily decelerant'

Resistance is futile.

Our refrigerator door has a feature in which a tight seal is activated each time you close the door. Once you shut it, it takes a few seconds, maybe 3 or 4, for the seal to loosen enough to open the door again. So if you  try immediately, it is difficult to pull. There is resistance.

It used to bug me this feature. I occasionally even exclaimed out loud a rather inappropriate epithet, followed by a frustrated sigh. To a refrigerator door. For a delay of possibly 2 seconds of time.

Then one day when all was calm and the seal had activated as I was putting away groceries, I just stood there, hand on the handle, and took a big deep belly breath. In, down, out. In the time it took to take that breath, the seal released its vulcan grip, and I easily, effortlessly opened the door. AND had the benefits that a deep breath can bring.

Simple as that. What was frustration, was now benefit. What was blood-pressure-raising, was now calming. And at the risk of sounding all spiritually haughty, what was resistance, was now empowerment.

All day I looked for more chances to turn frustration around. And I didn’t have to look too far. Each time I came across the little things that aggravate like red lights and toothpaste on the counter and socks on the living room floor, I froze. And took a breath. The things that are so momentary and so minuscule really, but became monumental in the way I let them impact me. And all day I used those frustrations as a reminder to take a deep breath.

Now it’s my sometimes mantra. FREEZE! Take a breath. Feel better.

Because really, though I long to remember these mantras of mine ALL the time, I am human and it is only sometimes I am wise.

I am grateful when I do remember, and even a tiny bit grateful for these little frustrations now that I know I can use them to my advantage.

Because believe me, living in a house with 4 other humans,  those little frustrations aren’t going anywhere and I am breathing deeply all day long. When I am not shouting inappropriate epithets that is.

 

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We are about to move. From one part of Austin to another. While I’m not thrilled about the move itself, I am thrilled that our world is about to shrink. Significantly.

Between the 5 of us currently we are commuting a collective 8 hours of drive time. Some of that is on the city bus. Some of that is in the car. Some on foot. While we live central, and I work from home, our schools are north and south and so we travel to all of it. That’s a lot of time spent getting to and from where we need to be. And that’s on a normal day. That’s not a day when there’s a back to school night or booster meeting or any such thing. That’s just daily drive time. And in growing Austin, daily drive time seems to compound monthly.

So, as I said, we’re moving. And where we’re going we’ll all be walking or biking to where we need to be. In fact, the youngest’s commute from our back gate will be shorter than it currently is to walk from where we park to his classroom. The older 3 will bike just over a mile to their respective schools. And I’ll be standing in the yard waving goodbye.

Here’s what I think I’m going to gain…

  1. More sleep each morning
  2. Less road angst
  3. Less arguing about who gets shot-gun
  4. Less chance of car accident
  5. More time in general
  6. More ease
  7. Less crankiness

What’s funny is this schedule we’re on now was fine for us. Until it wasn’t. Which leads me back to one of the basic tenets of Slow Family Living, the question, “Is this working for us?” It was. Then it wasn’t. And when it wasn’t? We made a change.

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Recently I did a post about these last few weeks of school. In it I had a list of things I was going to do to make them feel more sane, more productive, more connected and easier overall. One of the things on my list was to “schedule spaciousness” and someone wrote me to ask what that even meant.

In no particular order, here are 7 ways to schedule spaciousness…

  • Give your schedule more space. Whether it’s 2 minutes or 20, give yourself and the people in your home enough room to breathe between activities. Whether you’re picking up at school then getting to the dentist, or leaving the house for a party, or going from work to home,  factor in a few more minutes than you think you’ll need for seeing, connecting and enjoying the people you’re with. By planning in the ability not to rush, you will feel happier and easier too. And just think how much more pleasant you’ll be in traffic!
  • Do one less thing than you think you can do. Need to get everyone out the door in the morning? Need to get everyone to the table or to bed? Decide to schedule in a few minutes of just sitting. I’m talking 2-3 minutes if that’s all you have. Leave the last dishes or the email or whatever is the thing that you scurry to do before you move onto the next. And if 2-3 minutes feels like too much, take 1. Just 1 minute of standing, breathing, witnessing, or even drinking a big glass of water, can give you the pause you need to connect with yourself and a bigger connect with the people in your home.
  • Put Family Time on the calendar. Be it a few hours on a weekend, or an entire day, write it on the calendar so it doesn’t get taken up by other events. We schedule everything else, why not schedule that too!
  • Decide not to rush. Sometimes the feeling of rushing is more about the feeling than about the actual clock. When wrangling so many little people, it can feel like panicked rushing is the only option and if you don’t create a feeling of hurrying that nobody will get anywhere. Try some morning to just let go of the clock and simply move through the necessary steps of getting out the door. I speak from my own experience on this one. When I am rushing and rushing those around me, things spiral in a counter-productive direction. When I let go, and we just move through the steps, we actually seem to speed up.
  • Pause before you RSVP. Whether you are invited to a party or a committee. Before you respond, pause. And determine the cost vs. gain for you and for your family.
  • Examine your commitments. Look at your calendar. Assess what’s on there. Meetings, parties, events, etc. Then ask yourself, “Is this working for us?” Ask weekly. Or monthly at least. If it is, keep it going. If not, find a way to make a change.
  • Decide to be done. You will never really be done. So decide to be done. At various points throughout the day, simply decide to be done.

Like right now! I’m done!

Seems hard to believe, but according to a poll of 4 students that I know, there are only 21 school days left in the school year. Really. 21.

With a few big events behind us, like the Austin Maker Faire, a few house guests and getting our house on the market, I am ready for some solidly intentional days.  I want to make sure that events, practices and obligations created are events, practices and obligations desired.

My goals for these next few weeks…

  • Each day do my own work first.
  • Ponder each invitation before saying yes. Be they meetings, parties, or other. Not always easy for me, especially when faced with so many exciting things!
  • Schedule in spaciousness.
  • Put family time on the calendar.
  • Play outside more. And really just play more in general.
  • Turn my phone off at random intervals.
  • Schedule a couple of “spend nothing days” each week. Not even for the money but for the freedom from consuming. And the freedom from the many demands for impromptu spending.
  • Write a note to my children’s teachers telling them how much I appreciate their love and devotion.
  • Do one creative thing everyday.
  • Eat outside more.
  • Find a way to celebrate a school year completed by each and every one of my children.
This time of year, things seem to speed up a bit, so I’m going to be attentive to really slowing it all way down.

 

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Untangling the mess

Last night I was struggling with a knot in a pair of shoes. Pulling. Tugging. Trying very hard and getting seemingly nowhere other than really, really frustrated. Finally, in my  I”M FREAKING OUT IF I CAN”T GET THIS UNTANGLED AND IT”S TAKING WAY LONGER THAN I ACCOUNTED FOR AND…insert your own expletives here.

In retrospect it was a small matter but at the time it was taking all my energy, both mental and physical. It was silly really that I was getting that worked up over a knot. Ridiculous that I was giving it so much energy. And even more absurd that I was working up a sweat.

Finally I paused. I put the shoe down and went to do something else.

Later on, calmer and not in a panic of momentary overwhelm, I picked up the shoe again. I grabbed both ends and pulled. Not hard but hard enough.

And the knot came out. Easy as that.

The struggle. The freak out. The panic. It did nothing towards my cause.

The pause. The letting go. Then the returning with a new state of mind?

Yes, that was just the thing.

Lesson learned. From a shoe.

So either I’ll learn to pause when things feel out of control, or I’ll switch to Velcro.

 

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Drama around you…

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“This is supposed to be fun.”

Those were the words uttered to me a couple weeks ago by my 11 year old as we were shopping for ingredients for her birthday dinner. Just the two of us at the grocery store, which might not seem like a big deal to some, but when you’re 3rd of 4 children, actually it is. And when it’s your birthday weekend ESPECIALLY it is.

So we’re in the store, just the two of us, and I am feeling pretty stressed out. We had just moved about a week prior and there was lots ot do to prepare and adjust and organize AND I had a lot of writing work on my plate that week and, I had a birthday dinner to make. Which isn’t really that much more work than just making a regular dinner but in my head I was letting it swirl as monumental. And I was being cranky and short-tempered and admittedly slightly martyr-ish and worse, I was rushing her through this ritual she had been counting on all week.

About halfway down one aisle she started crying. I looked over slightly surprised by her tears, put my arm around her shoulders and asked sympathetically, “What’s wrong?”

Without any hesitation she answered, “This is supposed to be fun. And you’re ruining it because you’re so stressed.” And she was right.

And I realized in that moment that regardless of what else was on my plate, or of what needed to be done, at that moment in time I was there, with her, in the store, getting the stuff we needed for her dinner. And my crankiness and rushingness wasn’t going to change anything at all about what I had to do or what I had been through. All it was doing was making this task miserable.

So I hugged her again. Took a deep breath. And said, “You’re right. I’m sorry. Let’s have fun.”

And we did.

For the rest of the outing, the shop, the meal making, we had a really good time. It was really as simple as making a decision to have a good time. To not worry about all the stuff that needed doing, because I wasn’t going to be doing it anyway, and worrying and stressing about it wasn’t going to make any of it any easier or make it go away,  so in that moment of time, why NOT choose fun.

And since that outing just a few weeks ago, that phrase has become one of my (many) mantras…”This is supposed to be fun.”

It’s a reminder I say out loud and to myself. And though some may argue that it’s not as simple as that, really, most times it is. It’s as simple as shifting my attitude and deciding to have a good time at that moment in time, with the task at hand and the people I am with.

I might just have to etch that one in over the front door – going in and out…This is supposed to be fun*.

 

*I actually got a chance to talk about this and other attitude shifting ideas, with Carrie Contey as part of her virtual conference entitled, “Your Extraordinary Family Life.” Check it out if you have a chance, there was some really great stuff being said!

THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN.

 

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Here’s one thing I have realized lately…

When I’m scheduling a time to meet up with someone, rather than giving a definitive time, I give a small 15 minute window. So rather than saying, “I’ll meet you for coffee at 9:30.” I say, “I’ll meet you for coffee between 9:30-9:45.” And what it grants me is a feeling of calmness that never existed for meetings set at an exact time.

Because when I’m driving across town for a 9:30 meeting and I allow the standard 20 minutes to get there but then there is a bit of traffic or an accident or I need to stop and pop a piece of mail in a drop-box, the 15 minute window gives me a feeling of peace that I wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s more human. And more realistic. And allows me to feel the feeling of slowness the entire time I’m transporting myself.

And the same goes at home. If I say, “We’re leaving at 12:00 sharp!” It can cause a bit of panic as the moment of the sharp draws near. Ack! I’m not ready! I have to use the bathroom cries one or I can’t find my shoes cries another or where are my keys cries me! Until everyone is spinning in tension.

But if I say, “We’ll depart between 12:00 and 12:15.” It’s all cool. And the things get done without panic. And most often we’re in the car and ready to leave at the early part of the equation rather than the later and we’re coming in calmly.

Truly, it’s a little bit of magic. And I urge you to give it a try. It just takes the edge off.

And if you get where you’re going first, or if you find yourself waiting for the others to be ready, just take a few minutes to breathe.

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Travel Itinerary

I went to a retreat on Saturday given by the amazing Carrie Contey, my co-creator in this Slow Family endeavor who now has a beautiful program of her own. She had everybody trouble shooting, with a dose of exploration and experimentation, various parenting issues that came up. One parent talked about how his child really had difficulty with transitions and that the child really resisted these changes. He realized that part of the difficulty was in the fact that the child felt unaware of what lie ahead. “It was like he had no travel itinerary for his own day.”

Head smack for me. OF COURSE!

Imagine going on a trip without knowing what your plans were or what flight you were on or what time your tour started or whether you’d be scuba diving or mountain climbing? Imagine if right before you were about to embark on any portion of it someone rushed in and said, “Okay, come on, get your gear, let’s go! AND HURRY!”

It seems sort of absurd. But really that’s kind of what we do to kids a lot. I try to give ample warning time for things but it doesn’t always happen. I try to keep everyone informed but with 6 people in the house I sometimes end up telling one person twice and another not at all. I try to let them know what’s coming but honestly sometimes I expect people to live inside my head.

But this reminder from this dad about the importance of keeping people informed made me break out the family calendar and start writing things down. Sure I’ve got my electronic calendar but that’s more for me. And we’re not fully-family-tech yet to have a shared electronic calendar. But what we do have is a big giant paper calendar hanging on the wall. It is a great tool. When we use it. And can definitely serve as our family’s travel itinerary from week to week.

So I took it down the other day and sat down with my 10 year old secretary and entered in all the things coming up in the months ahead.  And with just that simple gesture, we should have a bit more of a smooth sail, or plane ride, or road trip – depending on what’s on the agenda. Our own family travel itinerary which should make our travel and transitions way easier.

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Pivot.

Randomly I put various parenting techniques into renewed and intensive practice. Like any new skill or habit, I figure if I really focus on something intently and intentionally for 7 days or so, it’ll just become part of my  repertoire.

This week I’m practicing my pivot.

It’s pretty easy in theory. And when I use it, it really helps me out of whatever pent up jam I’m in – be it mad or overwhelmed or resentful or whatever. And it allows me to move on to feeling more good and less bad and get more of what I need and want.

Let’s say, hypothetically speaking of course, we’re all getting home from an outing. As we emerge from the car, everyone runs off, leaving me with all the stuff to carry in from the car. (Remember, HYPOTHETICAL!) So I’m mad. And resentful. Because I want them to help without being asked. (Which they do sometimes just not this “hypothetical” time) I can linger in the mad, and yell at them to come back, using a less than stellar tone. Or…

I can pause. Take a breath. And pivot. Turning in the emotional direction I want to go. Seriously, just like that.

Then I can call them back. With a nicer voice. Leaving the resentment in the dust.

What I usually get in return is  nicer, easier, calmer. Instead of people coming back all mad because I’m all mad which then spirals into a big mess of madness which just takes on a life of its own. (Again, hypothetical of course.)

From my pivoted state, I am not asking for anything different than I was, but I’m asking from a completely different state of being. And hence, with a completely different voice. Which feels better to me and to everyone around me.

You can use it for lots of things, big and small. With family and insurance company representatives.  It’s about shifting how you feel. Making the decision to feel differently than you do. In that very moment of time.

For big things you can take all night long to pivot. Just  make the decision as you’re drifting off  to sleep that when you wake up you’re going to feel different. You’re going to feel better. You’re going to approach whatever or whoever it is from a more positive feeling place and take it from there.

I’ve got some more practicing to do on this one without a doubt. But one thing I know, when I do it, especially at home, I get way more of what I need.

And when I forget, then it’s time to implement the do-over. That might be my practice for next week.

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