The Years are Short

There’s something magical about one-on-one outings with a child. With just the two of us, goal alignment is easy. We can see what he wants to see, lunch where he wants to lunch. There’s no negotiating between siblings about what to see next, how fast to walk, who gets to sit next to the window.

We go at his pace.

We see what he’d like to see, for as long as he’s interested.

We pause and listen to the musicians on the common, and to look at the water fountains or wait for a passing duckling to mosey on by.

No one is telling anyone to hurry up. I, the happily indulgent parent, stroll peacefully next to him answering questions about the whereabouts of the bridge and the depth of the pond water. No one interrupts us.

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It’s glorious. I knew it would be.

I remember feeling a bittersweet loss of my one-on-one time with Will when Andrew was born. He and I did so much together when it was just the two of us. We went from grabbing the stroller and exploring the world together to being at home with a newborn. It was no longer easy to go to the grocery store between naps and feedings, let alone the aquarium.

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Remembering those beautiful times with Will made me pause a moment when I thought about these few weeks with Andrew home and Will still in kindergarten.

The years are short.

When will I have another opportunity like this dropped in my lap to have one-on-one time with Andrew?

So yesterday we took the T to Boston and wandered the Common, had a picnic lunch and rode the swan boats.

Today we’re meeting Greg on his lunch break to go kayaking on the Charles.

Next week he’s in a day camp with friends at a preschool teacher’s house. I’ll be doubling down on my outstanding obligations because the following week we have plans to hit up the local Stamp museum, go into Harvard Square to visit the Curious George store, and maybe head over to the Boston Aquarium.

(We’ll get Will some special time in the next few weeks, too… perhaps with Dad while Andrew helps me fold all the laundry that’s piling up or heads with me to the grocery store.)

I’m glad I had the wherewithall to take a step back and recognize where I was in time, at a moment when my child is thrilled to do something special with me, and I have time to do it.

Because the years are short, and I’m lucky to be here now.

 

Reframing Your Missed Workout Excuses

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I haven’t been blogging because I haven’t been to the gym.

I haven’t been to the gym because I’ve been busy.

I’ve been busy because my life is full of joy!

My sister has found someone wonderful to spend her life with and is getting married so we went dress shopping. My husband is super intelligent and worth flying overseas so he went on a business trip while I parented solo. I’m privileged to be able to stay home with my children and my youngest is sick so I’m home making him tea instead of exercising. I have a great upcoming opportunity to speak to a local green group about environmental choices so I’ve spent time tailoring a presentation for them. I’m lucky enough to have plantar fasciitis so… nevermind. That one just stinks.

I’m sorry to leave readers without a post for a while! Never fear, more inane stories of me trying to make it through some high-intensity class or another are on the horizon. And I’ve gotten in enough Couch to 5k workouts to stay sane.

I’m happy that I’ve learned to correctly frame these busy weeks of my life as choices. It makes me feel less frustrated or guilty about missing workouts and it’s true. I’m really lucky. When my schedule gets busy and crazy it’s because I have so many opportunities to spend time making a difference with volunteer work, socializing with people who make me laugh, or parenting my wonderful kids and supporting my amazing spouse. I could choose to get up early and fit these workouts in (which I have in the past and it’s also a great choice), but I choose to be rested and fully experience the joyful events happening now.

I’ll work out next week.

Whatever you choose, remember that you do have power over how you react to circumstances and how you frame them.

Feel free to post your missed work-out excuses below if you need help with re-framing 😉

How Mindfulness Can Help with Goal Slip-Ups

Mindfulness is the practice of being conscious or aware without judgment. When I get distracted by my thoughts during meditation I simply notice that my attention has wandered and bring my focus back to my breath.

No judging, no being upset that my mind has wandered.  Minds wander! An important part of meditation is the noticing and the bringing of the attention back without judgment. Doing so builds our “mental muscle” that is capable of gently refocusing our attention when it wanders.

Taking time to be upset that our attention has wandered costs us time that could be spent refocusing ourselves.

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This same technique can help us when we slip up on our goals.

Missed a workout? Overslept? Ate an unhealthy breakfast?

What if we skipped self-judgment and dwelling. Instead we can acknowledge the lapse and then gently bring our intention and actions back on track.

“Ok, I didn’t get up early so I wouldn’t have to rush today. I missed a day. I’ll set my alarm for tomorrow now and try again tomorrow.” End of story. No agonizing over the consequences or interpreting lapses as an indicator that you’re not capable of meeting your goal.

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One of the hardest parts of meeting my fitness goals is missed workouts. Snow days, sick kids, sick me, school vacations, school conferences, volunteer shifts… sometimes these workout interrupters are sporadic, sometimes they happen all at once.

In February I had over 10 days go by without a single workout because of sickness and snow days. Then I worked out for two days and went on school vacation and missed another 5.

Now I’m back on track and I’m not going to waste time worrying about it.

When you slip-up on a goal that’s important to you, it’s hard enough to have missed that goal. It doesn’t feel good. Dwelling on it only makes it worse. If we can notice the lapse and gently redirect ourselves we may find it easier to stick to the goal in the long run. Dwelling may tempt us to give up the goal so we don’t have to feel bad about the days that we don’t meet it.

Instead we can stop feeling bad when we miss a day and just get back on track for tomorrow.

Special thanks to Cory Halaby who introduced me to mindfulness and meditation.

 

How mindfulness is going to keep me from losing my mind

Watching Greg and Andrew arrange flowers was a highlight I might have missed if I hadn’t gotten out of my head.

I’ve been pretty stressed out lately.

I can’t stop thinking about the election, and social media doesn’t help. Not only is it everywhere, but I don’t want to mute it; I want to keep my eyes open. Do my part. Speak up. I don’t want to wish I’d done more.

Watch this.

This is what I’m thinking about, most of the day, every day.

But it’s not healthy.

I’m distracted at dinner. Moody. Distant. I need to snap out of it, or I’m not going to make it 45 more days until the election.

That’s where mindfulness comes in.

It’s more important than ever for me to be aware of the present moment. Not to be constantly distracted by thoughts about Election 2016, waffling between outrage and fear, constantly planning what I will do next to help keep hatred out of the White House.

Mindfulness helps.

Tonight, while we were making dinner, I realized I was living in my head and missing some beautiful moments. I focused on the present. I watched Greg and Andrew cut and carefully organize a bouquet of flowers together. Carefully supervised Will using a sharp knife to slice olives for pizza, a parenting task that requires constant focus. I paid attention to the feel of the pizza dough in my hands, watched the focus on Will’s face as he rolled it out.

When I noticed I was thinking about something other than the present moment, I made note of the distraction without getting discouraged, and looked around the room and anchored myself back to the present moment.

Was I entirely successful?

No.

But I had some solid moments of peace, the feel of which made me realize how tense and not myself I’ve been by allowing this preoccupation with the election to take hold of my thoughts.

I want to think about the election when I’m helping with the campaign. Then I want to stop thinking about it. I’m going to work harder on mindfulness, seriously restrict my social media time, and set aside time for checking election news and volunteering for Hillary’s campaign.

Worrying about it all day doesn’t mean I do more to help, it just means it affects me more.

Maybe it’s not Election 2016 for you… but if you find yourself living in your head, worrying about something, mindfulness and meditation may help.

How Mindfulness Can Help You Get The Most Out Of Vacation

This  is my view right now, as I sit sipping coffee in the Cayman islands.

I love vacation, and I’ve noticed that my mindfulness practice is helping me enjoy this one to the fullest.

I’ve been keeping up with the Headspace app, which means that most days, I sit down for 10 minutes and meditate. The guided meditation has me practicing specific mental exercises. I focus and extend my awareness of sounds in the room. I scan my body slowly from head to toe, intently noticing how I’m feeling. I pause to reflect on my underlying emotional state.

Then I focus on the breath, practicing letting thoughts come and go without resistance and without following them. Gently bringing my attention back to the breath as soon as I notice I’ve been distracted. Being aware of the thoughts but not judging them, just noticing them and returning to my focus on the breath as soon as possible.

These skills have all translated to an increased ability to enjoy this vacation.

I’m less distracted. More aware of my surroundings. Able to focus more intently on the feeling of my feet in the sand, the warm breeze, the impeccable view.

I can more easily let go of thoughts that would distract me from enjoyment of the present moment. Out on the paddle board, I can let go of worries about not being with my children right then, or the fact that I haven’t checked my e-mail in six hours. Without resisting the thoughts, I can acknowledge them, let them go, and return to the feeling of the board under my feet and the beauty of the blue sky ahead.

These are things I have always tried to do on vacation, but they’re much easier when you’ve been practicing letting thoughts come and go without resistance or focus.

I’m much more skilled at not worrying about things I have no control over at the present moment, because for 10 minutes a day, I practice letting go.

One of the books I’m reading right now encourages people to find a system of organization that will allow them to keep track of every “open loop” on their to do list so they don’t have to store any of them in their mind. It jokes that your mind is really kind of stupid, because it reminds you that you need batteries for the flashlight when you try to use the flashlight, not when you walk by batteries in the store.

How often do we let our minds do this, remind us of things at the wrong time, when there’s nothing we can do about them? A daily mindfulness practice has helped me not to spend my time on the paddle board worrying about what to feed the kids for snack, and my time making snack for the kids day-dreaming about being back on the paddle board.

I feel like the dog in that Cat Vs. Dog diaries because I’m able to enjoy each moment more while I’m in it. I focus on the calm enjoyment of being with my children and caring for them when we’re together, then fully experience the freedom when I have the chance to be out paddling the Caribbean.

And that’s worth a lot more than 10 minutes a day 🙂