Everyone who is familiar with my story seems to have a highly idealized scene in their mind. I quit my job, live in the country, commune with hummingbirds all day, and everything is perfect. And while a lot of those things are true – the reality is of course – much more….well, REAL.
We live on a family homestead on 40 acres and often have not only 3 generations on the property but 6 grandparents and friends and cousins too! Almost every child on the property has called in a different school environment from the other, carpool schedules into town (not to mention sports and doctors appointments and everything else) mean that the days are often very full and frenetic and yes, sometimes even chaotic.
Of course it is wonderful to be living in a beautiful place that I love, in a home that we built of the earth and with love and sustainability in mind – major blessings and gratitude – but the truth is your life doesn’t just get magically PERFECT when you __________________ (fill in the blank: move to the country, quit your job, or change your life in some other idealized way).
The truth is that life follows you wherever you go. There are health challenges, divorces, lost job, and family dynamics where ever we live – so if it isn’t about making the grandiose gesture toward living the perfect life through big change – what is it?
I’ve definitely experienced that the tiniest changes can have big impact down the path. One tiny tweak here and everything changes a mile down the road. It’s all about coming back to what is important – and finding your way home…wherever and whatever home may be to you.
Here are a few simple but powerful “little things” you can do to access that calm within the reality:
1. Step up your gratitude practice – It’s not always easy to give thanks for the hard stuff – the sticky stuff – the messy stuff – the downright devastating stuff – but resisting it or holding on the struggle doesn’t help us out any either. Apply gratitude to the nasty stuff and something magical happens – release, surrender – and on the other side of that come equanimity and then peace.
2. Breathe – it is so easy to fight against what is causing us pain – whether chronically or in the moment – but there is tremendous magic in letting go, accepting what is, and breathing into the moment. So the next time you are ready to throw that shoe or slam that door – see if you can step outside the moment – however briefly – and catch your breath. It may be just the pause you need to reclaim your center.
3. Ask for help – when we idealize someone else’s story or journey it is typically because of the “story” we build around it. “She moved to the country so everything is relaxed and peaceful and bucolic in her world.” When we sink into that story we get clues about where we are needing or wanting more “something” in our own lives – the most common “somethings” are time, quiet, and support. And asking for help – even just a little bit of help – can help create more of all of those things in our life.
On of my favorite experts on meditation and mindfulness, intuitive guide and coach Kathleen Bloom, shares her story below of finding calm in the chaos. Seems the stress and the hum of daily life isn’t going away anytime soon….so the more we can remind each other of basic and accessible tools for making the most out of our precious moments in any way that we can, the more peace to go around for everyone.
In gratitude and more…
From Kathleen Bloom
I drive a lot. Carpools, pick-ups, drop-offs, ballet, art classes, high school, middle school, elementary school, aikido, library.
And that does not count anything extra – field trips, special events, science fair presentations, birthday parties, performances, dress rehearsals and mandatory parent meetings (x3!)
Now I have two things to say about all this.
First, I have to drive; there is no getting around that. And much of it is in heavy daily traffic, so I figured out how to stop fighting it (mostly) and settle into the Zen of Driving: on the way to pick-up or after drop-off all by myself with no one else in the car, no music, no cell phone…ah, that is when my creative mind can solve problems, work out details, or just relax. When I arrive after the Zen trip, I am calm and ready for the adventure that is ahead.
Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way…
There is no Zen of Driving when the kids are arguing and grumpy, either first thing in the morning or after a long day at school. I actually went into the Honda dealer a few weeks ago for the regular tune up and asked if they could install a bullet proof, sound proof shield between my front seat and the back seats of my minivan.
You know, like the ones they have in taxis. I am even willing to have a little slot so the kids can slip me some money to pay for the gas. Or maybe even a tip, hmmm…
Anyhow, I put my foot down when it comes to excessive arguing and will pull over to get everyone quiet before I start again. When it’s only my own children in the car, it’s fine and everyone shapes up and when we get back on the road, no one is worse for the stop.
But every once in a while when I am driving other children in the car, the whole group becomes so wild, loud and over the top that it actually become dangerous for me to drive under those conditions. I have to pull over to calm and quiet them down a bit.
This of course is completely embarrassing for my kids. But it is effective and driving off after an awkward “pull-over” results in a completely well behaved ride the rest of the way home.
I have been at this for a while and when I pull up to the bus stop for the pick up and everyone piles in, anything can happen. And that leads me to the second thing I have to say about driving the carpool…
Sometimes, it is exquisite.
A teenager might climb into the front seat and tell me all about her day, her worries, her classes, her weekend plans, her uncertainty, her fears, her hopes and dreams. It happens.
Sometimes we all share a long standing joke that only comes up in the routine of the carpool. And one day comes when we are roaring hilariously over a funny scene that has unfolded over the course of time, maybe weeks, maybe years.
In the carpool we sing, debate, explore ideas, exchange mundane this and that, tell stories, share sadness, laugh and occasionally we all sit in natural silence each in our own private reverie. It is precious time and I know it will be over some day.
So this is a job that takes up a lot of my time. And honestly, plenty of time I don’t really love it. But you know what, it is also a gift. And when I am willing to be present for it, magic happens in the carpool.
I know you have something in your life that is difficult, annoying, challenging, frustrating and will not go away. But consider that it can also be a gift and see what small pleasures you can receive from it today.