Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Optimism park

Last week, as we drove around North Carolina after the Anusara CTG, I was deeply involved in a conversation with my boyfriend about self honoring, not as a concept, but as an every day sadhana, or practice. The point of the conversation was that I have a very hard time practicing what I preach. As an over-achiever, I strive for my best constantly, and like most perfectionists, think I'm falling short at every corner. I've been told I never miss an opportunity to shoot myself down. True enough. I get caught up in a fearful space of not being the best, or not getting what I want, so I fall into my default safety zone of pessimism. If I don't hope for anything, then I won't be disappointed, right? One certified teacher, named Paula, put it very well, "the inner core is the sharpest edge." Ouch. I realized that I had been living on that sharp edge for a while.

At the Certified Teachers Gathering, John Friend told us that words can have an emotional or physical charge. We must be skillful in how we decide what to put out there because it will build strength as it moves out into the world, especially when we unthinkingly repeat self defeating words to ourselves like mantras. John said, "Lay every part of yourself down with devotion." This clearly does not say, "Lay every part of yourself down with trepidation and clenching fear." If I want to live fully in the light of the Self, then I must be willing to be hopeful. I have to be willing to entertain the possibility of success. This way, I build a matrika that shows my Self the highest of respect. When I honor myself, I also honor the Self, the highest aspect of existence.

As this conversation got deeper and deeper, I vowed to myself and my boyfriend, who keeps me honest, that I would be more skillful in the matrika of optimism, rather than building the possibility of disappointment.

At this point, we realized we had overshot our destination and turned into a side street for a U-turn. Lo and behold, a sign directed us to Optimism Park. Seriously, Optimism Park? How could we resist? We accepted the invitation from Grace, and drove up to a small town park with trails, a pool and tennis courts. Hardly a place I would imagine making a vow to the universe in. But this wasn't a coincidence. It was a message. A funny one, at that. So we parked just long enough for me to close my eyes, and make a commitment to myself—to the compassion and respect that go hand in hand with it. It seemed right. Just like the adage, "You are what you eat," you are also what you speak. As a new resident of Optimism Park, I say this from my heart.

Pretty Pink Shoes

Note, this was written four years ago when my kids were younger, now I'm a no-frills mother of three children under 12.

In my everyday life, I'm a no-frills mother of three children under the age of 7. Just your standard making lunches, breaking up toy wars, wondering when my last shower was kind of stuff. Some days, I really pull myself together with a shower and mascara and just as many days, I don't. I've learned to forgive myself for those days that I knowingly leave the house with a stained shirt, planning on blaming a recent cup of coffee for those unsightly blobs. Or the days that I can smell myself when the wind blows in the wrong direction.

I have one (maybe a few) indulgence though, that makes all the difference in the world. Nothing rare — just your standard shoe fetish. Like Clark Kent emerging as Superman, slipping on my new pink Stuart Weitzman sandles transforms me from domestic goddess, into Cleopatra, Grace Kelly and Princess Di, all rolled into one. I no longer walk — I glide. My posture improves. I'm the fantasy of every man, woman and child I pass. My sons tell me my shoes are beautiful and my daughter sneaks them into her room and attempts to break her ankle in them. Who can blame her?

I'm convinced that fabulous shoes have a potentially transformative power on the universe, and every time I look at them, they make me smile. Does it matter that when I wear them, my t-shirt states, "we like tha moon!"? or that I have retained a bit of morning cream cheese under my nail polish chipped pinky nail? No, my friends, once the leather soles connect to the floor and the heels click click click against the tile, it all fades away and I once again begin to channel Jackie O. I can almost feel the pillbox hat materialize on my head as I go to break up another fight over the latest McDonald's toy. Yes, yes, these shoes are self help books, therapy and anti-depressants all rolled into one. I may sleep in them tonight, just to start tomorrow off right. I'll fall asleep, smug with the knowledge that in my world of downwardly mobile breasts, lack of adult conversation and horror of all horrors, 2 minute showers, the powers that be, have blessed me with pretty toes, high arches and a closet full of pretty leather ego boosters. I now understand the phrase "mother's little helper." For each of us it's different. In the fifties, it was a good stiff cocktail, in the sixties, it was Prozac. For me, the 21st century has brought Stuart Weitzman. In my world, I'll take what I can get.

Mothers on the edge

The most sensitive boy I've ever known is having a great time. He's in the mad stampede to gather the pinata candy, happily grabbing lollipops and plastic kazoos with a huge mangled Clifford hanging over his head, for the moment having put aside concerns about itchy tags, being bumped, and the large echo of the room. Life is about candy right now, and survival of the pushiest is the rule, His mother is relieved that he's happy, and even more relieved that there have been no tantrums thus far. It has been a smooth day. Her patience for his sensitivities runs low when other kids are acting so "normal," and she is slowly believing that since he began kindergarten, he has turned a corner and life might just be okay after all.

And then it happens. In a slow motion terrible turn of events, my husband leans over to pick up candy for the smaller kids and the cold beer he has cradled in the crook of his elbow, dumps over the top of the boys head. There is a stunned silence between my mortified husband and the six year old who's huge blue eyes are now drilling a hole through my husband's head. A milli-second later, the hysterical squall begins, and of course, escalates into a full scale banshee scream. Just before I actually fall onto the floor laughing, I manage to knock off a few shots of the torturous event. Don't think my flashing a camera in his face, or the hysterical laughter of every adult in the room helps to calm him down. Of all the children in the room, for this to happen to this particular boy, can only be described as bad karma. Which is of course what makes it funnier to us "grown-ups" who are now behaving in a manner that should surely receive a strict lecture on being sensitive to other people's feelings from any decent kindergarten teacher. What really comes through in the pictures though, is the complete disregard for the incident by every other child in the room, who, by now, are doing complicated math in their heads, as they each divide the boys uncollected share of candy in their minds. To the herd of sugar hungry kids scrambling around the alcohol soaked floor, this means only one thing — more candy for us. The moment forever caught in megapixels shows a screaming six year old, with bad hair, amidst a scavenging crowd of his peers, and one forlorn mother in the background, knowing her idyllic party scene has just devolved back into every other day of her life.