Sunday, March 29, 2009

Stretched Out

Sometimes I'm not the best mom.

Sometimes I'm running late for this thing or that, sometimes I have to bring work home night after night, weekend after weekend, and sometimes I have to deal with jerks. All of these things collectively build until the relentless barrage of a five-year-old's questions can irritate me.

In this case I usually close my eyes, take a deep breath, and say:

"Cracky, can you give me a minute? I'm a little stressed out."

Which usually leads to him asking me:

"Mom, why are you stretched out?"

So then I tell him, and then he asks me if it will help if he gives me a hug when we get home.


If only all relationships could be this easy. I know it's an oversimplification to suggest that the relationship skills you use on your child and your child employs on you could be applied to other adults, but damn. If only we could do that.

Instead of snapping at each other, it would probably help if we thought about other adults just as we do five-year-olds. We know we can't snap at a five-year-old because they won't understand why we're yelling at them. They'll think they did something wrong.

That's why I explain to the kid that Mama's stressed out. He asks why, I explain the root cause of my stress, and then he hugs me.

I think this could totally work with other adults. Hell, if I snap at a grown-up, I'm sure they wonder what the hell they did to piss me off. Either that or they think I'm a bitch.


Who would ever think that?


Anyway, if only I could picture adults like over-sized kids. I'm sure I'd communicate much better with them. I certainly don't expect my little boy to be a mind-reader, why should I expect anyone to do so regardless of age?

I also think Cracky's misunderstanding of the word "stressed out" for "stretched out" is pretty apt too. I know when I'm stressed, I do feel as though I were stretched thin, like a bow ready to snap.

* * *

Please check out Megan's blog for a little stress-relief. She's hosting a Pay-It-Forward blog. It's your chance to win an act of kindness by commenting on her blog. I really want the scarf. I mean, I really want to do something nice for someone else. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


They find fault in one sitting silently,
They find fault in one speaking much,
They find fault in one speaking moderately.
No one in this world is not found at fault.
There has been, there is,
     And there will be no person
Who is only criticized,
     Or only praised.

Dhammapada 227-228

I wear a necklace everyday with the Four Immeasurables engraved on it — in Sanskrit on one side, English on the other. It is rather my hope that perhaps the constant rubbing of the prayer for love, compassion, joy and equanimity will somehow rub off on to me and stick.

The one quality I hope for most and the one that most eludes me is equanimity. If only I could be even-tempered and even-handed with all my dealings in the world! I wish I could maintain a calm inner-state no matter what struggles I encounter or conflicts I face. If only I could approach all of it with openness, calmness, candor, kindness and curiosity. 

Yes, please. 

I'd like to order up that personality. And can I get it To Go?


There is plenty in this world to ruffle the spirit. There are jobs to be lost, cars to break down, bills to pay, sickness to fight, children to guide, lovers to tend, employers to impress, friends to help and family to tolerate. Amidst all of that, it's no surprise that things are constantly going wrong. You simply can't make everyone happy all of the time, and you can't prevent bad things from happening, no matter how large or how small.

But how to approach it all with even-mindedness and balance? How to remain unruffled when the winds are blowing? 

You must seek refuge within. The world outside is full of uncertainty and change. You have absolutely no control over whether you'll get cancer tomorrow or lose your job, to a certain extent. I mean, you can exercise and not smoke, work hard, be helpful and pleasant — and yet  you still can't prevent either of these things from happening anyway.

Some events are simply out of your control. Well, most are. 

It's a very disturbing concept. "What do you mean I'm not in control? That's bullshit!" I hear you, hell, I hear my own mind rebelling against my words. "I'll show you! Watch how hard I'm going to control this life of yours, lady!"


You can go on and think that, rant and rage, work and dig at it, and exhaust yourself in the process while you still encounter some sort of tragedy or suffering, misfortune or irritant. The only peace is the peace within, that you yourself have cultivated.

Rude comment on a blog?

Meh. I shrug it off. I've listened to my readers enough now that I get it. All of the comments on my blogs are reflections of the commenters, not me. Now I cock my head to the side and say, "How very interesting!" as I try to figure out what's going on in that person's psyche that they would react this way.

Bad day at work?

I can't make everybody like me or my writing at work either. By the time I've written a piece of advertising copy and it goes to print or appears on the web, hundreds of hands have written on it, commented on it, changed it, disparaged it, praised it, loved it, hated it, didn't notice it, remarked on it,  and re-written it. Am I going to let my life and happiness be swayed by the changing tides of clients, bosses, account people, editing departments, product specialists and other writers? My happiness would be set out to sea if I did. 

Better to watch the process with equanimity, as if it were a separate entity than myself. These words on paper are certainly from me, of me, but they are not me. They change once they hit the paper, they change once the reader sees them, digests them, and filters them through their brain and the memories therein.

What my words become after that is entirely out of my control.

And so I will cultivate this equanimity. I will sit and quietly observe. I will watch the tide of my emotions as they crest and subside. I will turn my focus away from my own thoughts and see what is happening outside of it. I will notice how very different the world is from my own view, my own feelings, my own experiences.

And I will marvel at it all.

I will not own other's feelings nor their reactions to me. I will not own my successes and failures. I attach myself to none of this. I will not be washed out to sea.

I will stay here.

In the calm waters of my mind. My mind is an ocean, fathomless, deep and still.

I will practice this, and this alone will last. This alone endures.


Monday, March 2, 2009

So Lightly in Their Fingertips

While trolling through the internet searching for quotations and dictionary definitions to try and get the dried up riverbed that is my creative brain to come up with headlines, I read this:

"Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option."

I tried to scan down to the next quote, clearly this one had nothing to do with the snappy automotive headlines I so desperately needed, but failed to do so. My eyes kept leaping back to that line, reading it over and over again while one relationship in particular flashed in my mind like hazard lights.

It also made me think of so many friends and loved ones. How many stories have I heard of men and women who dedicated themselves to a husband, wife or lover who didn't seem to care one way or another about what their actions did to their significant other? Oh, how they held that love so lightly, so carelessly, they let it slip from their fingertips as though it were nothing more than last season's silk scarf.

I read once that the only way to guarantee a happy marriage is to marry someone who loves you just a little bit more than you love them. Never be the one who loves the most, or you'll surely be heartbroken at some point. Certainly I've seen marriages like this, and I've seen a lot of happy women who were worshipped and adored by their loving husbands. How they doted on them! How secure and carefree were the beloved wives in their husband's affection. I marveled at it.

Such confidence. Such self-assured ease.

Women are told that men won't love you if you're too clingy. We all want what we can't have, men love a challenge, and all that pop psychology we've digested in Hungry Man-size portions. "He's Just Not That Into You," is entirely based on this premise. Don't chase after someone who isn't as into you as you are them.

But some of us seem to be chasers. Men and women alike. We think if we just love them enough, or the right way, or change ourselves just so, that they'll come around. It's a humiliating enough experience that it could turn your heart cold if you let it.

Rather than let it turn my heart cold and untrusting, I did develop a hyper-sensitivity to being "optional." If I'm in a relationship, you're the priority. If you aren't the priority, I'm breaking up with you. I'm not going to string either one of us along. If I get the sense I'm being balanced ever-so-lightly on your fingertips, I'm outta there.

I won't ever make that mistake again, and neither will my boyfriend. Perhaps it works for us because we were both there. We both lived life as someone else's option, while they were everything to us. Rather than be embarrassed by this, I often remind myself of my sister's kind words:

"You should never be ashamed that you loved and trusted someone. They should be ashamed for betraying that love and that trust. They are the losers, not you."