He looks like a fixer. Arms crossed tightly, closed off to the story and probably already planning the action!

He looks like a fixer. Arms crossed tightly, closed off to the story and probably already planning the action!

I am a fixer. Until recently, I said those words proudly when someone came to me with a problem. I saw this as a sign of strength, compassion, ambition, and love. In my mind, wanting to fix someone’s problem meant I love them and want them to be happy.

But now? Now I say it in a completely different tone of voice, apologetic even. Now I see it altogether differently.

I’m enrolled in a 12-week balance skills (focusing on mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness) group, and I’m learning a lot there. I’ve learned at least 4 breathing techniques to help me dial down my emotions (particularly anxiety), and I’ve fallen in love with 4-7-8 breathing. I’ve learned the difference between willingness and willfulness. I’ve become more mindful in my everyday life. I’ve learned so much more, but the biggest lesson so far is that sometimes the Universe actually DOES give me what I need exactly when I need it. And this week, I finally realized that trying to fix people’s situations (ok, and my own) is actually problematic for a number of reasons! It’s like the Universe taught me this lesson many times over the past few days, and now I’m writing it down to hold myself accountable.

First, fixing is willful. It’s crossing your arms tightly in front of you and not accepting reality. An important piece to acceptance is giving up the fight. Not fighting a situation helps us to tolerate it (the distress) better. According to Marsha Linehan, “Freedom from suffering requires ACCEPTANCE from deep within of what is. Let yourself go competely with what is.” Fixing is stubborn, unyielding.

Fixing is saying “You are not good enough as you currently are.” In another moment of synchronicity this week, my friend Story shared a Momastery blog post with me, Our Sacred Scared- Day One. I practiced pausing and listening, and then I clicked through to the message. I’m new to Momastery, but immediately after reading this post, I subscribed to the blog and I’m looking forward to reading more about Our Sacred Scared. Here is the piece of that post that resonated most with me on my new journey to stop fixing, but I encourage you to head over there and read the example that follows this:

When someone lets you into her Sacred Scared – she is showing you her messy insides NOT because she wants you to fix it, but because she trusts you enough to let you know the real, true her.

Sometimes, fixing is not listening with our full effort and best intention. What do people generally want? We want to be seen and heard. Sometimes all we want is a “me too.” As a fixer, it sometimes is hard for me to pause and listen because my brain is going, going, going, devising a plan to solve the problem (sometimes even while the other person is still talking!), make the unpleasant situation go away, and generate happiness for my loved one.

Fixing is also frustrating–it can be for both the fixer and the fixee. The fixer may become upset that the fixee isn’t receptive (enough) to the plan for action or seems to choose to wallow, and the fixee may be offended by the attempt at fixing when maybe all he or she really needed in this moment was to be understood.

Going forward with the things I’ve learned about acceptance, I’m going to practice not fixing but listening, understanding, and accepting. Will you join me?

photo by: Forest Runner

I haven’t had much time for blogging lately, and I sure don’t have time for it today either. But I’m compelled at this moment to carve out 5 minutes to process my feelings through a bit of stream-of-consciousness writing. I was moved just now by a video, “3 Queens,” shared on Elephant Journal, and so I’m taking a break from my work and thinking about motherhood, feeling grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to be Jackson’s mother.

3 Queens from Matt Bieler on Vimeo.

Being his mother is the best thing I’ve done with my life. Nothing will top this, I am sure of it. And when I think about how lucky I am to have him, my heart nearly bursts.

Some days while I’m at work, I regret not finding a way to stay at home with him longer than my maternity leave. It simply wasn’t meant to be. Jax was born in 2009, smack in the middle of the economic downturn–the one that caused my husband to lose his job. There was no way I could stay at home with Jax, as my income was (barely) supporting my family. I had a lot of anxiety about returning to work. Actually, “a lot of anxiety” doesn’t come close to describing how I felt.

A few months into my return to work, I felt more at peace with my decision. I began to find enjoyable moments, even. The ones you would expect a working mom to say: peeing in private, eating a hot lunch, and all the other things I had previously taken for granted. Sometimes, though, this made me feel guilty.

Now that he is 4 years old and I’ve been back to work for so long, I’m mostly OK with being here. But not today. Today I want to be home with him, reading books in our jammies and then out exploring the neighborhood together. I don’t want to be stuck at my desk, where the best I can do is occasionally glance at a photograph of him and daydream about our 3.5 hours together after work and before bedtime. It doesn’t feel like enough. It doesn’t feel fair that I spend 8.5 hours away from him and only 3.5 (awake) hours with him.

I hope I’m giving him enough of myself on the weeknights. I have doubts sometimes. Some nights, it takes effort to be present with him and ignore the chore list. I tend to overcompensate on weekends.

I think about all this and I tell myself that I am a good mother, and I believe it. I’m doing my best, I can say with certainty. I love him fiercely, whether he’s with me or not.

I think it’s almost time to use a sick day and have a mommy-and-Jax day.

 

Today marks one year since my biological father passed suddenly. I’m not sure what to think or feel, let alone write here. But I wanted to acknowledge the uncertainty and make peace with it for today, so here I am, freewriting to help me process what’s going on inside.

We weren’t close when he died. We hadn’t talked in 11 or 12 years, and we had also spent 7 or 8 years before that without speaking. That means he missed more than half my life. Do I have regrets about that? Sure, I do. I’m human, afterall. I have a lot of questions about his life without me and my brother in it. I have to live with the fact that I’ll probably never know what he was like, except for a few tweets I saw and what is public on his Facebook page, and maybe a few questions I can ask of people who did know him at the end of his life (if I can ever bring myself to ask). We never had an adult relationship. He never met my son, and I don’t think he knew he was a grandfather. All I have are my childhood and adolescent memories, many of which aren’t good or comforting. Should I cling to the ones that make me smile, ignoring the painful ones? Is that doing myself a disservice, or is that being kind to myself? What will I share with Jax some day?

Those are some of the thoughts that run through my head today and occasionally at other times. I don’t know what to do with the questions, the emotions that range from sadness to anger to guilt, or any of it.

How do you forgive someone who is dead? I tell myself that he was mentally ill and also in physical pain, and my empathy for those who struggle helps alleviate some of my pain about our relationship. I tell myself that because he wasn’t in my life, I was able to be closer to my stepfather, who has been a strong, positive influence for 30 of my 35 years. I remind myself that life would have been very different for me, my brother, and my mom had she not divorced him when I was little. I think about what I know about his relationship with his third child, my half-brother, whom I first met at the funeral, and I take comfort in thinking that my dad learned from his mistakes with me and my brother and was a better father to his third child. I tell myself that I have learned from those mistakes, too, and that I am a better parent as a result.

I guess the best thing to do today is allow myself to grieve for the relationship I didn’t have with my dad after the age of 15. And breathe.

 

Every mother can probably think of a thousand strange things her child does that only a parent could love.

Conversations About Poop

My list begins with all our conversations, initiated by Jax, about poop. For example, this one: “Why do birds poop on cars? Why is their poop so sticky? They probably eat a lot of bread and butter and macaroni and cheese.” That’s a direct quotation from Jax, as we drove to daycare in the morning last week. It’s gross, all this focus on poop, but I do admire his curiosity about everything. And his question phase is still so brand new that I find it cute. I’m sure that won’t last much longer!

The Beauty of a Fish Oil Supplement

Every day, when I take my handful of vitamins and supplements, Jax tells me how much he loves my fish oil pill in particular. He thinks it is “beautiful” and asks if he’s allowed to hold it. I sometimes oblige, strategically hovering to ensure he doesn’t drop it around Rooney, although he’s eaten his fair share of fish oil pills and survived. I enjoy that my 3-year-old finds the beauty in a translucent, oval fish oil pill. It reminds me that beauty is all around us, if we just look, and that touch is powerful, necessary, transformative. I can honestly say I have never admired the beauty of a fish oil pill until Jax noticed it and made me see it his way.

This is what I have to jump over most mornings!

This is what I have to jump over most mornings!

Making a Bed on the Bathroom Floor

Most mornings, Jax lay on the bathroom floor while I shower. He doesn’t get in my way at all. He lets me shower mostly in peace the majority of the time. I hardly would notice he’s there, except that he usually forgets to close the bathroom door and I feel a rush of cold air. I try to remember, before I get in the shower, to bunch up my pajamas into a pillow shape for him, so he won’t have to lay his head on the cold tile floor. I think it’s adorable when he uses my pajama pillow.

Re-framing

Of course, those things I listed above sometimes drive me insane. Can you imagine hearing nonstop poop talk? I mean, who wants to think about poop for more than 1 second?! Or even at all?! And some days, I’d like to take my vitamins in peace, without my 3-year-old needing to play with them first. And what mother doesn’t miss pre-baby showering, when you could take as long as you wanted and not have to step over a child on the way out? Some days, I risk my life jumping–literally–out of a wet bath tub over my son, careful to try to land on the bathmat instead of the tile floor so I don’t break my back! All without losing my towel, no less!

I use reframing ALL. THE. TIME. You know the drill: Trying to change your self-talk from “Oh my god, how annoying!” to “Oh, how cute!” Most days, it works. Other days, not so much.

What I’d love to know is how to reframe a toddler climbing all over your body when you’re trying to accomplish a chore you hate, like folding laundry! Is it possible?

What do you love about your kid most of the time (but find annoying other times)?

 

Bus Stop Early MorningIt’s been gray here for a week, at least. I’ve lost count of the cold, dreary days. I’m trying to use the SAD lamp my parents bought me for Christmas; most days I can squeeze in 15-30 minutes, but not today–and it shows! Today, I feel like it’s never going to be sunny and warm again. I also feel like a shell of myself. Where has my usual confidence disappeared to? I’m writing this post at the beginning of my lunch break after half a day of feeling incompetent and, frankly, kind of dumb. Like everyone else around me is so much smarter than I am, and soon they’ll figure that out.

I guess it could be a case of overload. I am struggling to keep up with all the new things I’m learning at work. I need a few extra hours in the day–every day–to process and organize all this information, as well as all my innovative ideas and suggestions, at my own pace. I do things quickly, to cross them off my list. I’d like to spend more time thinking about the process, making sure I fully understand it. But it doesn’t feel like I have that luxury right now because there is simply too much to be done.

Social media overload is getting me down, too. I’m not one to compare myself to others, usually–I know better and can curb that temptation pretty well; yet this week, when I log into Facebook, I find myself wondering why certain individuals get a whole lot of attention, support, and love and I don’t. (But really, I do! It just isn’t displayed on Facebook!) I feel left out on Twitter because I haven’t had the time to keep up with things there. I missed a G+ chat with my best bloggy friends earlier this week, and I’m still sad about it.

Most days, all of this is a non-issue for me. There’s just something about this week…

It’s gotta be that it hasn’t been sunny here in so long.

Or that last week, I felt like I was on top of the world, with lots of positive feedback and good news, new goals, and socializing. The blog hop was so well-received, which was a surprise and a nice start to the week. Blogging in general was fantastic for the first 2 weeks of 2013, with a few opportunities to make some bucks and a bunch of new subscribers (who will probably unsubscribe after this miserable post!). Last week still had that new year feel to it. I started running. I had some fun nights with friends. But now it’s just boring old mid-January. Blah.

It’s apparent to me that the best place for me to be today isn’t online, but rather in my own head. Days like today, if we use them correctly, help us to re-evaluate where we devote our energy–are we spending too much time online instead of with the people close to us (at least physically)? Are we comparing ourselves to others too much? How can that be changed? What are the other changes we want to make? In my work life, I want to declutter my desk, organize my notes for the new tasks I’ve learned in the past year, and practice skills that I’m not confident about just yet. These are the things I need to find time to do so I feel generally better.

After I finish this work day and the tasks I perform each night at home (dinner, cleaning up, bathing Jax, etc), I’m promising myself a half hour to sit quietly and think about my goals for the next few weeks. Not for the year, as that feels too overwhelming right now. Maybe I’ll write a short list–because I can’t deny my list-making tendencies–of the things bugging me and brainstorm what to do about them.

And then I’ll make a list of the things I am happy about and grateful for, just to balance things out. Topping that list, for sure, are my friends and family. I’m very lucky in that department. In all departments, really.

See? It’s already working. Things are looking up! I just needed to write, stream-of-consciousness style, to remind myself that life is really good, despite the lack of sunshine.

It feels appropriate now to bust out into a rendition of this:

Did you laugh? Me too. Thanks for reading.

 

photo by: h.koppdelaney