Wednesday, April 24, 2019

how to be happy # 194

I've been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately. She was a French Catholic wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend. If you were to ask her who she was she would have said "I am Paul's wife. I am the girls' mother." I can't imagine she would ever have said "My name is Marie-Reine and I dream of one day going to Paris or petting a koala or playing the piano in front of a crowd." This wasn't who she was. She supported her husband and her family. Whatever she had wanted to achieve in her life came far, far below everything else that was expected of her.  I didn't understand it when I was little but she didn't star in her own life story. Life was about making other people happy.

I think about this now as I run through my day trying to make sure Waverly and L are happy. It's a balancing act to juggle clients, family, friends, maintaining a healthy and happy home and volunteering. At the end of the day as I fall into bed I think of what I accomplished but I never fail to feel regret for what I didn't accomplish that day. It seems that time is so limited and I forget to do things that move my own life story forward. I look at sweet Waverly who will be 20 months old tomorrow and I think "We have read books and colored, counted and moved and stretched and explored and built. She will hopefully retain some of what we did today to help make her a well-rounded happy, smart, compassionate member of society." I fall asleep reading books to learn more about the psychology of toddlers. Since we had Waverly, I can't remember the last time I thought about my own path and what I want my future to look like other than being a wife and mother.

Last week I made the decision to take a weekend away to sort through my path, to figure out how to star in my own story again. I feel like as wives. mothers, partners, fathers, friends, we can get so caught up in other people's lives (and yes, sometimes drama or serious emotional or physical issues) that we forget that we need to put our own oxygen mask on first. So, this weekend I am taking a girls' weekend. I am going to take time to think about my future. I've been thinking about a screenplay that I've wanted to write for a few years. Why haven't I done that? Several years ago, I started working towards a master's degree but stopped because life got too hectic. What does that plan look like, if I went back? So, while L and Waverly spend a Daddy/Daughter weekend together, I'm going to take some breaths, inhale the salty Cape Cod air and plot out the next chapters of this story called life.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

What I learned at the Elizabeth Gilbert lecture

I believe in synchronicity. I believe that when you really need to hear a message, it will come. I know it sounds hokey and new-age but it's happened to me too many times in my life to think that it's a fluke. Sometimes it's so wild when it happens that I look up to the heavens and I think "Why, God, aren't you clever sending me the message this way! I got it. Thank you! Now if you could work on extending the life span of dogs that would be great."

This weekend there was a message I needed to hear.

On Sunday night I went to see a lecture by Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat Pray Love," "Big Magic," and soon to be released "City of Girls." I almost didn't go. I had bought the ticket months ago and promptly forgot about it until my calendar alerted me to the event. My first thought was this:  "I'm busy. It's raining. I need to feed the baby and put her to bed. I would rather just go to bed early. I hate driving into the city."  Then I realized it's Liz Gilbert. I have "Eat Pray Love" DVR'd so I can watch my favorite parts of the film in Italian and remember that she was the reason I took three semesters of Italian after seeing the film. So, (to quote Liz) I put on my big girl panties and got dressed and went to the lecture.

There is something wonderful about being around other people who just want to live their best life, like the audience there for Liz. When she came out on stage, the audience, of course, cheered and then sat there rapt as Liz shared the heartbreaking story of her partner, Rayya Elias's struggle with pancreatic cancer. It wasn't just a struggle with this terrible disease but also her struggle to avoid taking opioids to help with her pain. As a former addict who had been clean for 17 years, she didn't want to go back to that dark place. The pain, though, was too intense and she finally did submit to pain-relieving drugs which unfortunately started her spiral into the darkness again.

In this clearly painful story to retell, Liz told how at one point she was to administer pain relieving patches to Rayya. These were serious patches-Fentanyl, an opioid 80-100 times stronger than morphine. For 72 hours Liz administered these patches but for 72 hours Rayya had no relief. It wasn't working. They were both in a cataclysmic hell. And then Liz called the nurse. When she same over, she looked at the patches on Rayya and it was then that she realized that Liz hadn't removed the thin layer of film between the patch and the Raaya's skin. Liz stepped away to the bathroom and cried tears of regret. She knew that for those 72 hours, the hell that Rayya was living was because of her. And then she took a moment and asked herself what the old Raaya, the Raaya before the cancer would have said. She would have forgiven Liz and Liz realized if it was anyone else that this happened to, she would have told them "Forgive yourself. It sucks but it was an honest mistake. If you knew better you would have done it differently." Liz realized that she would have been gentle with anyone else but not with herself. She had to find mercy and forgive herself.

This resonated with me so much that my eyes welled up as she spoke. I have forgiven people who have done unkind things to me (maybe not immediately but I found a way). Yet, I still carry my regret, sadness and anxiety around with me. It's like a wound that I just keep aggravating. I cover it up instead of letting air and sunshine get to it and let it heal. I hold onto it because I feel like I should.

As I drove home in the Seattle traffic on Sunday night with the rain was coming down in waves, I had the radio off and I realized that beating myself up isn't working. This self-sabotaging thing isn't working either.  I had a conversation with God. I asked Him to forgive me. As a Catholic I've gone to confession and I know that I have received absolution. I thought if God can forgive me, who am I to not forgive myself?  I asked Him to please let me be gentle with myself.  Showing yourself gentleness and mercy doesn't mean it never happened. It means it happened, yes, but you have made your peace (however that is with God, yourself or someone else) and now it's time to leave it behind.

I hope in the next few days, weeks, months that the anxiety and regret in my heart dissipates like fog on the beach in the morning. One minute it's there clouding everything up and then just like that, it's gone and you're standing there in the sunshine. I'm looking forward to that.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Happygirl Essentials: Beekman 1802 Goat Milk Soap

On a farm in New York, there lives a herd of goats.  And on that farm, there are two men who came to care for these goats and went on to create the lifestyle brand, Beekman 1802.

This week I received a box of Beekman 1802 love. Tucked into this box were six ultra-creamy goat milk soaps in scents like Ylang Ylang & Tuberose, Meadow Lark and Arcadia (clematis, jasmine and almond) and a jar of whipped body cream sinks into your skin like, well, milk. Waverly loves the scent so much she keeps burying her little face into my neck

This morning I used the Meadow Lark soap for the first time. When I got out of the shower, my skin felt soft and I smelled delicious. (I took the soap wrapper and put it in my lingerie drawer.) I'm looking forward to trying the others scents. I already have my eye on Hello Sunshine After the Sun Bar.

I also love the story of Beekman 1802. Josh Kilmer-Purcell (advertising executive and NY Times Bestselling author)  and his partner, Brent Ridge (physician and former  Vice President of Healthy Living for Martha Stewart Omnimedia) left New York City after they both lost their jobs within a month of each other in 2008 to live on historic Beekman 1802 Farm, which they had purchased the year prior as a getaway from the city. They started thinking about their steps. After taking in a neighbor's herd of goats they learned how to produce goat's milk soap and cheese. Today, Josh and Brent run Beekman 1802 and they work with farmers and artisans to market locally made goods to enhance your life.

I love the product, the packaging, the scents and the story.  I also love that the bars are made free of sulfates, parabens and artificial fragrances. I'm inspired by people who have been through a downturn in life and made it into something positive. I'm looking forward to gifting Beekman 1802 to friends. I hope they'll feel as happy as I did when I saw this little goat staring back at me.

photo courtesy of Beekman 1802

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The thing about all's fair in love and war

I don't know if it's something in the air or that time of year but lately I have had a number of conversations with friends about issues they are having with other people in their lives who aren't playing by the rules and come out ahead.

The questions ranged from "Do I tell our boss that he is outsourcing his work?" to "I don't think I can still be friends with her. Is it OK to feel this way?" and "I hate her for getting ahead this way.  I'm pissed that she's getting away with it. I'm jealous. Does that make me petty? Do I say something?"

I am experiencing the same thing too. I have a friend who believes you should always take advantage of situations if they fall into your lap. She always takes the receipts when she goes out with friends to use them for tax deductions. One of my friends has a friend whose parents made a hefty donation to her college right before she was accepted. Another friend has a friend who stretches the truth on dating apps. I once had someone tell a potential boss that I was trying to have a baby so I was unsuitable for job that involved travel. (I didn't get the job.) I have to wonder if winning feels good, even if you achieve your goals through unsportsmanlike behavior.

I have Catholic guilt. I have not always acted sportsmanlike. This is a hard thing to admit.  Truly. However,  I have found our that when you take the low road, it ALWAYS comes back at you. Maybe you won't get found out but you know what you did. Yes, it's tempting to know you can tilt the tables in your favor by taking a glance at the answer sheet or not sharing information with someone when you know it could help them get ahead but there is something to be said for acting nobly. Maybe you don't deserve the promotion right now. Maybe you don't deserve to get into that college. (Seriously, I have to wonder about the parents who cheated their way into getting their kids into a prestigious university. Do they realize that their kids actually have to do the school work once they get in?)

I believe that when you live your life with grace in your heart, when you take the high road, when you are transparent, when you say "I did this. I'm sorry." that life has a way of rewarding that behavior. Maybe you don't get what you wanted but you are a decent, kind person. You're the kind of person that your grandmother hoped you would be. You don't have to worry about being found out or that someone knows what you did.

It won't always feel good.  Life can be unfair. There will be some moments that sting but you can hold your head up and know you did your best. Maybe you lost the round but in the game of life, you won.

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