RATIONALIZING YOUR OWN BULLSHIT

A good friend of mine made up an acronym, ROB. He dropped it on me earlier this week, for good reason, and it gave me a little pause. He was right, I was. In fact, I’m so good at ROB one might think it was my full time job. People should pay me for that shit. Actually, well, they kind of do, but that’s beside the point.

The point is – I hadn’t realized I was doing it, often, again. See? There we go again with failing. Fortunately, I’m comfortable enough with myself and I know my thought patterns well enough to be okay with recognizing this. Actually, calling attention to it is simply part of being mindful.

So, who is ROB anyway, and why is he so problematic? ROB is Rationalizing [Your] Own Bullshit, and it is part of human nature. Everybody does it and it starts early. When we experience discomfort, we start to look for explanations, excuses, reasons, rationales, even others to blame. We want to clarify why it is or is not okay for us to accept or not accept, deal with or ignore, the thing that is causing the discomfort.

What does this look like in my life? Well, for starters, when things don’t my way I immediately throw on my detective hat, grab my glue (you know, so I can FIX IT) and go into “why” mode. I want to identify the problem as quickly as possible, strategize on what I can do about it, and remedy it. Bing, bam, boom, done (insert emoticon of me washing my hands of the problem here).

However. . . this works about, oh, 10% of the time. Maybe less. Work problems, sure, easy, plans and strategies are super helpful. My average is quite a bit higher in this domain because problem solving is a major bonus and practical skill set in the workplace. Life problems, not so much.

What usually happens, is I get into the why, I realize how and why I’m at fault, and then shit gets real up in here (and just for the record, yes, I am now singing to myself, “ya’ll gonna make me lose my mind, up in here, up in here, ya’ll gonna…” yikes. Squirrel!!). So when I’m faced with the reality of the situation, especially when I don’t know how to resolve it, I start to rationalize why it’s okay, why it happened, whatever I can think of to temporarily make myself feel better about it.

Now, having an optimistic attitude- great. Looking at things mindfully, trying to find a positive side to a bad situation- awesome. But that’s not what I mean by rationalizing. I mean, like something didn’t go as I planned and I am unwilling to accept it so instead, I make excuses for why it happened or why it’s okay that I don’t go along with it. Instead of leaning into the discomfort that the change brings, I pull back and start listing reasons why: a) the change is dumb, b)”they” or “it” is wrong, and c) I (or my plan), am right.

This is not productive behavior. This keeps me from growing. It keeps me from embracing change. It prevents me from experiencing new joys, new layers of happiness, new discoveries. Being unwilling to swing away at the curve ball thrown my way and instead standing there like a five year old demanding that I be given the pitch that I was prepared for, gets me, well, out. I miss out on some really amazing things because I climbed aboard ROB airlines again and I’m racking up my miles searching the globe for my lost plans.

My kids are also members of this frequent flyer club, as they regularly try to explain themselves out of a situation.  For example, I ask them to stop doing something, and instead of stopping, they tell me why they are doing it. Sometimes, this is helpful, like when I ask my daughter to please stop singing that song over and over again and she explains that actually, her class is performing it and she has been asked to practice. Okay, fair enough. The explanation would have been helpful up front, but it is satisfactory now.

However, most of the time, it’s something like “you may not run away from me in the grocery store” and the response is a variation of “but I wanted to go and look at that toy in the other aisle.” Well, duh. That part I knew, smarty pants. That explanation does not excuse the behavior. In fact, explaining behavior very rarely ever excuses it, a saying I used when I was a classroom teacher. Knowing where behavior stems from is useful, insomuch as it results in your changing future behavior. If you acknowledge it, then do nothing to prevent it from happening again, it’s useless.

So what’s the takeaway here? How shall we deal with ROB? I would say first, call yourself out when you do it. When you experience change, notice your reactions. Breathe. Try not to react immediately. Take a walk, get some perspective. If other people are involved, ask how they are feeling. If your kids are around, now is a good time to articulate to them how you are working through this problem. Watching you manage change will assist them in doing it in their own lives.

The next step is, to be blunt, get your head out of Arkansas and deal with it, player. Stop making excuses, identify the antecedents to the behavior, if there are any, take a look at your role in the situation and what the implications of that are, and then decide how you are going to embrace the change. Or not. But either way, accept it for what it is.

As a parent, model this for your children. Talk through situations positively with them, help them to see how their actions shaped their choices, then strategize with them about what they can do differently next time. Basically, hold them accountable for their own actions.

If you’ve seen the Eduardo Briceno Ted Talk on growth mindset, you’ll know what I mean when I say to you could suggest adding the word “yet.” If your child is frustrated because they can’t do something and is ROB about it, try having them say “I can’t do ____, yet.” That one little word makes all the difference. Really. Today, my statement is “I haven’t stopped ROB, yet. But I’m working on it, and…” Crap. There I go again. Damn.

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ONE STEP AT A TIME: LIVING MINDFULLY

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”

-somebody somewhere who um, passed it to his students

Well, let’s see student- check. Ready- hell yes. Teachers- check, check, checkity check.  Between yoga, the kinds of friends I have, the kind of work I do and the things I read, watch and listen to, the subject of mindfulness comes up a lot, a whole lot. Yes, Universe. I hear you. Thank you for reflecting back to me what I am projecting, way to hold it down.
These lessons have been amazing. Life changing, and I’ve spent the last year or so really working hard at applying them, daily, to my life. Learning to be in the moment and appreciate what is right in front of me without constantly scanning the horizon for the next great thing. It is something that was weighing on my heart as both a mother and an individual for some time before I finally opened myself to accepting where I was at, what that meant, and where I could go with the tools that presented themselves to me. Then, I thought about how to teach that to my kids, so they wouldn’t spend so much of their lives caught up doing the very thing I am working so hard not to do.

In the day to day business of life, I can easily get so caught up in preparations for our future, in planning for the next 100 steps, that I overlook the one in which I’m currently mid-stride. My concern there is that I am modeling for my kids, albeit unintentionally, an attitude or thought process is that what’s next is more important than what’s happening now, and quite frankly, it’s not. I want my children to learn and grow and live a life filled with purpose and success, but not at the expense of missing today’s happiness.

Now I don’t mean to throw caution to the wind in living so much in the moment today that you completely neglect your future; that’s an equally big recipe for disaster. I absolutely and wholeheartedly believe in teaching and practicing setting goals, having vision, setting expectations for yourself and being organized and purposeful about what you do and how you do it. Especially because assuredly, the things you do today have a direct effect on what opportunities are available in the future.
However, creating a color coded flowchart for your life is becomes a regular train wreck when things start to move around, when other people’s flowcharts bump into yours, when other priorities and opportunities show up. Those tidy little boxes are not impermeable to change. Not only may the contents of the boxes shift, their order of appearance is dependent upon a considerable range of elements, mainly that of surprise. The part you do get to control, however, is what you do with that.
I admit I’m still slightly addicted to google calendar, but we have a special kind of relationship, it’s really quite colorful and I just.can’t.stop.  I use list apps and I make five year plans. My kids are on their best behavior when the events of our week or month are communicated to them so they know what to expect. There is comfort in routine and reassurance in knowing at least some of what is to come next – to a point.
However, I am being mindful of my own thoughts and patterns about this; I am watching them closely to see that my planning habits don’t take a ride on the crazy train again, ain’t nobody got time for that. This is such an interesting dichotomy of course, because while I want to stay in the moment, I also don’t want to create bigger problems for later. I want to see the puzzle and the pieces, and while I worry about making mistakes, I also know that a scarcity mentality gets me nowhere. That whole balance thing. Want some more metaphors? No? How about some practical applications? You can share this journey with me as I learn how to fail, get back up again, and fail some more. Remember, fall seven times, stand up eight. Oops, I promised no more metaphors. My bad.
At a school I worked at we had a saying and shared agreement- “I will be flexible when things don’t go my way.” It was actually part of our school pledge, and while we laughed at it and found entertaining ways to sarcastically drop the line during staff meetings and district trainings, it also served as a some pretty solid advice. Even though I’m no longer at the school, I regularly say this to myself and to my kids when things aren’t, well, “going my way.”
Simply taking some time to be mindful of my own thoughts and reactions is sincere progress. For example, I catch myself in the over planning safety net quite often. Things start to get uncomfortable and I go into default mode “I don’t like this, I will make a plan to fix it. FIX IT!” This planning response mode can be effective, if it’s done well. It is useless, however, if I maintain a rigid contractual agreement between what I want to happen and what is actually happening. Instead, I will do my very best to be flexible when things don’t go my way. I will not panic and plan my way out of every situation but instead, acknowledge the feelings that arise and consider the moment, for a moment. As I adjust my plans, I will keep making room for life to happen.
So for now, as I continue this journey, I know that my first step is recognizing where I’m at, right now, what is going on, right now, and what makes the most sense to do, right now. Step 1, not step 100. I’ll still get to step 100, but after I get through steps 1-99, whatever those end up being.
Thank you universe, thank you God, this whole life changing perspective thing- it’s pretty good stuff. Keep it coming.

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TRUST THE UNIVERSE

This morning I listened to my children wake up. My son, the five year old, bounced out of bed, went to the bathroom, and came into the kitchen to give me some love before eating breakfast. He finished eating, took his dishes to the sink and went into his room to get dressed. Isn’t this a lovely story so far? So picturesque.

Now, let’s remember that my kids share a room. A small one. And here is where the real story begins of course. In order to get dressed, he needed some light, in the same room where sleeping beauty was still mid grouchy dwarf transformation (yes, I just merged two Disney stories. Work with me here). On goes the light, and here comes the whining.

She, apparently, did not get the same dose of restorative rest as her younger sibling. Mind you, the door had been open this whole time so it wasn’t like she went from zero dark thirty to shiny happy people in a split second. But when she woke up it was clear that last night the princess had slept on pea (okay fine, enough with the cartoon metaphors). Bottom line- she was in a foul mood, and she wasn’t going to let anyone forget it.
The light was too bright. The house was too cold. The breakfast was too…. sweet, or salty, or… or just too breakfast, apparently. And just as point of reference, waiting hot and fresh for her on the table were whole wheat waffles topped with pure maple syrup, sliced bananas and chopped up walnuts, served with a cold glass of milk (so, yes, I admit I might have a problem with overdoing it a mealtime. Maybe. Don’t hate the player, hate the game).
Miss Grumpy Pants, after shoveling the “terrible” breakfast into her mouth, trudged into her room and stomped about, complaining the entire time about “having” to get dressed and how it “wasn’t fair” that her brother got to play while she got dressed and that I clearly must “like him more than her” since I was allowing it.  Never mind the fact that they a) woke up in the same room, with the same mom, on the same day, b)had the same breakfast and the same amount of time to eat it and get ready and; c)we are an equal opportunity household; all members are subject to the same rules and consequences.
In any case, this all got me to thinking. Again. And all before 8am- yikes. What shows up in our lives is 100% a result of our perspective and response. As I’ve said before, we can’t control all of the events in our lives, but we can control our response to it.
Even give the same setup today, my kids responded completely differently. Just like I do, in my own life, and the way I respond to challenges. It looks a little different every time. I am not at the top of my game all day every day. I try, but shit happens. I get frustrated, I sometimes allow myself to be pessimistic, occasionally shift some blame, dodge culpability or blame it on the universe, or timing, or whatever.
Damn universe.  Or is it? Because really, is there a “right” time for everything? Or is there simply a willingness to view it as the right time? Is there a “perfect” opportunity waiting for us, or do we make something great out of something average by our own actions? There is a flip side to just about anything. All things can be viewed as a positive or a negative, a blessing or a lesson, as the proverbial adage goes.  But quite honestly, we create our own reality by the attitudes, perceptions and judgements we bring into the picture. Thus, the universe provides when we are open to seeing its provisions. When it appears closed it is the result of our own shortsightedness.
So let’s put our glasses on, shall we? Perhaps the ones with rose colored lens, for a bit, but also the reading glasses (ooh, better, let’s wear rose colored bifocals!).  Moving forward today, remember the fifth agreement (yes, there’s more, hide your excitement!)- be skeptical, but learn to listen.

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GRATITUDE

Experience has taught me that more gratitude I show to others, the happier I, and as a result, others around me, become. Joy spreads joy; the more I give the more I get.

Being grateful is a component of mindfulness that generates a shift in mindset; it’s like flipping the”optimism” button on inside your brain.  The more time you spend acknowledging the good things in your life the more difficult it is to focus on those that are challenging you.  In fact, when I’m really feeling frustrated the most effective thing I can do for myself is to make a list of the things I am grateful for right now.

I recently started a new practice with my kids during our nightly prayers, and it’s all centered on gratitude. After we say our sort of standard set of prayers, we each take a turn to do the following things: 1- Thank God for something in our lives. This could be anything, the intent is for it to be genuine and not reference something material but really anything goes. 2- Ask God for help with something in our lives. It might be strength, courage, support, patience, something we are struggling with currently. 3- Ask God to help someone else in our life; a friend, a neighbor, someone we saw in the community, a global problem. Something beyond us, that we would like to send our love and support to by asking for God’s help.

This has been an absolutely incredible experience so far. It not only is both the lesson and practice of gratitude and altruism, it is a fantastic way to check in with my kids in a very safe, loving and natural way. Through their sharing, I learn about where they are at emotionally, what’s going on in their lives, who they are thinking about, what kinds of things are on their minds and how I might better be able to support them. It’s awesome. Really, really awesome.

I take the act very seriously as my own prayer time so I make sure I keep it real. I usually find a way to reference my children in one of the three statements so they continue to hear how important they are to me. By sharing my own ideas first, I am modeling ideas and positive speech patterns/self-talk. I’m also being honest about what is going on in my life at a level appropriate for their age and understanding. They are learning how to be positive, optimistic and resilient; in turn, developing a growth mindset. We are cultivating the habit and thought pattern of a reflective practitioner – “here is where I am today, tomorrow I want to be better, and here is how I would like to do it.” 

This is legit shit people, try it. Journal it. Remember it. Live it.

 

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WAKE UP. BE AWESOME. GO TO SLEEP. REPEAT

I had an epiphany yesterday, during yoga, where most of my enlightenment occurs. Standard.

Our instructor asked us to think about the one person who loves you unconditionally, no matter what, and to dedicate our practice that day to them. I of course immediately thought of my children. They love so freely, so much, so fiercely and without reserve. Then she asked us to think about whether or not we were showing that same love back, did they know that we loved them like they loved us? And I had to stop and think- well, do they?

I think about this often, the legacy I’m leaving for my children, the impression of me that they will carry with them, the kind of role model I am for them. At the end of the day, what will my children remember about me and how I made them feel? Am I practicing what I preach? Am I living in a way that I’d want them to live? Am I teaching them to be the kind of person I want to be myself? Am I treating them as I would like to be treated?

As their mother and sole CEO of my household, I can so easily get caught up in the tasks, chores, errands and the day to day life kinds of things and forget to just be. I lose sight of the moment we are in, the beauty and the joy in this sweet time with my kids. The time is fleeting, it will pass before I know it and they will soon be gone and living their own lives. The time I have to positively influence them is rapidly decreasing, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.

Yes, I am the person responsible for their discipline. Yes, I am the one who holds them accountable for their actions and yes, I am the one who dishes out the consequences, positive and negative, all day, every day with no one to back me up. And this could be overwhelmingly frustrating. But it can also be a gift. I get to make an impression on my children that will forever shape their lives, what an amazing and remarkable gift that is!

And so I came to this conclusion, suddenly, powerfully, and joyfully during my practice. I will love my children every day like it’s the last day I’ll spend with them. Because it is. The child they are today is not the child they will be tomorrow. I will never again have this child, at this moment in time in front of me again, ever. When they wake tomorrow they have already changed. In 365 mornings, they are a new person entirely. Oh what a difference a day makes.

It is my great honor then, to leave the very best impression on them I can in every moment. It is my job to send them love through my actions and my words no matter the situation. This is how I will succeed as a mother. I will appreciate each day. I will be grateful for the time and experiences I am given. I will live each day as if it’s the day I will be remembered.

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YOURS, MINE AND OURS; MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

Feel like you are in a competition with yourself to squeeze the very most out of every day? To be at the top of your game, all day, every day and in every capacity? To be the winner of your own race? Welcome to the game of life, a constant juxtaposition of motivation and drive with balance and happiness.

During this balancing act it can so easily become a struggle to fit it “all” in. Maintaining a healthy personal and social life with a career,  relationships and families is challenging. What usually happens as a result is that we prioritize, run a little triage and attend to those wounds bleeding the most noticeably to us.  And that approach, to a large extent is quite effective. The problem though, is often those that can do the most damage are internal wounds, harder to see but just as problematic. And just like what happens in the body, while it all appears fine for a little while, sooner or later it’s going to bleed out and manifest itself in your life.

A large part of this is due to expectations, yours and others, of your time and duties. Ask yourself though, who sets the expectations? Who creates the sense of guilt, duty or obligation? Whose perceptions of satisfactory time management are running your life? Is it other people, or is it you? There are certain things that must be done, no question, the repercussions of not doing them are too great to ignore. However, as the one responsible for your own reactions, it is your choice to create the associated emotions and place that weight upon yourself. You, and your mindset, are what creates your “have to,” as opposed to your “get to,” list.

 

As a point of reference, consider The Four Agreements.  First, “be impeccable with your word.” This goes beyond positive self talk and not engaging in gossiping about others. In regard to time management, it means to say what you mean and mean what you say. It means to follow through with what you’ve agreed to doing, to be dependable, trustworthy, and most of all, realistic and clear about your commitments.

 

Making false promises or agreeing to things you well know you are unable to complete or follow through with, although made for the sake of pleasing others in that moment or  because you truly would like to be able to do it, result in eroding trust and respect and create opportunities for stress for all parties.

 

Instead, set yourself up for success. Recognize what is most important in the long term as well as the short term. See the forest and the trees. Recognize an opportunity when it presents itself; you may want to adjust other tasks accordingly to make room for something new, be willing to give up something that is good for something that is great. Acknowledge what you can and cannot commit to, given the circumstances of your life in that moment. If it turns out you cannot realistically do something, be forthcoming about it. If you require more time, ask for it. Take on what you can reasonably do, ask for help when you need it and communicate that clearly to all involved parties.

 

Remember the second agreement, “don’t take anything personally, nothing others do is because of you.” This is not to say we don’t affect others with our actions, but rather that at the root of all behavior is our own ego. Each person carries with them their own agenda and assumptions, each shaped by their perception of reality. Choosing to allow those to supersede or overshadow your own creates a sense of tension, guilt and negativity.

 

In healthy relationships where roles are clearly defined, mutual respect well established, loyalty consistently demonstrated and concern for the well-being of the family unit prioritized, time alone is a joy and is encouraged, expected, and reciprocated. Caring for oneself is actually caring for the family, as it is impossible to be a great caregiver to others if you have not tended to yourself and your own needs and wants as well. This is why we are instructed to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. Helping others requires our own preparation.

 

The third agreement, “don’t make assumptions,” underlies both of its predecessors. Assuming that others know what your intent, goal, purpose or motivation is for something, to the extent that if affects them, creates massive opportunities for hurt feelings, anger, resentment, guilt, blame or sadness for you and those around you. However, creating a shared understanding by communicating clearly and regularly eliminates ambiguity and decreases the potential for misinterpretation and misunderstandings.

 

This certainly does not guarantee an absence of disagreements nor imply regularly compromising what you want simply to make others happy.  Identifying your purpose, articulating your needs, wants, plans and obligations while also taking care to seek out, listen to, and consider those of others whose lives are intertwined with yours or are affected by your choices actually increases productivity and maximizes efficiency. Being mutually clear about your actions, intentions and purpose sets a framework for understanding that generates high performance levels and in turn, increases the happiness of everyone.

 

The fourth agreement, “always do your best,” reminds us that so long as we are putting 100% of our efforts into doing our best right now, in this moment, we can ask nothing more of ourselves. Your best, however, looks different every day. What you bring to work, to the mat, to the gym, to the table, today, is different from moment to moment. The amount of sleep you had, what you’ve eaten, what kinds of tasks you’ve engaged in already or are preparing to engage in, things going on in your life requiring more time and and energy than usual, all affect the current version of your “best.” Understanding that, recognizing what you can offer in this moment to yourself and others, is the key to finding balance in your life. If you are truly doing your best, then you cannot ask for more.

 

Sometimes today’s “best” isn’t enough to complete something as we or others expected it to be done. That’s okay. Tomorrows best might be. Your best, combined with someone else’s best might be even better. Sometimes admitting that you are not doing your “best” is okay too.  Considering why that is, making a conscious choice to reflect on it and what you choose to do about it the catalyst for change in your life. Our long term joy is gleaned from these moments. Learning to be mindful of the moment, see your presence in the present, is what carries us through the failures, helps us pick ourselves up when we fall and is how we discover who we are.

 

In fact, we spend our whole lives defining, and redefining, discovering, and rediscovering, who are are. We are a constant work in progress. Continual, never ending growth, shifting, change. Thus our course is never stagnant nor still yet our growth is often incremental. Who we are today is not who we were yesterday and it’s not who we’ll be tomorrow. Each day brings lessons, challenges and opportunities for transformation. They are ours to acknowledge, ours to accept, ours to master.

 

And while we cannot control many of the events of our lives, we can control our reactions. Over time, these experiences, and our reactions to them, form our habits, attitudes and beliefs.  In turn, those three foundational cognitive processes determine our behavior, both conscious and not. The key here, however, is that it is a choice. We choose how to react to life. We choose to maintain, or to modify, our own patterns.

 

Quite profoundly, however, is that none of that exists in a vacuum. It is not decontextualized training, nor does life hold still and wait for us to catch up with it. Opportunities come and go. Many, and some of the very best ones, such as people, never come back. We do not learn how to be happy, to to react, how to be still, in isolation or separate from the world. We learn as we go, and we learn from and with others. As we are learning who we are and what we want to be and do with our lives, we share our lives with others. Humans are not designed to live in solitude, we are social creatures by nature. Our joy is multiplied when shared with and experienced by others. Take the time to curate and nurture your relationships, share your love, bring good to others.

 

Remember, life is a journey, not a destination, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride no matter what path and vehicle you choose. Have goals, have vision, have ambition, be mindful of the road.  But stop asking yourself if it’s the “right” path every five minutes and just keep moving forward anyway. The question isn’t so much “have I figured out where I’m going yet?,” but instead the question, the real one, the one that matters at the end of a lifetime, is “am I bringing the right people with me?”

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LIFE LESSONS

Life is a journey, not a destination, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride no matter what path and vehicle you choose. Have goals, have vision, have ambition, be mindful of the road.  But stop asking yourself if it’s the “right” path every five minutes and just keep moving forward anyway. The question isn’t so much “have I figured out where I’m going yet?,” but instead the question, the real one, the one that matters at the end of a lifetime, is “am I bringing the right people with me?”

YOU’RE NOT REALLY _________ ALONE IF YOUR KIDS ARE HOME

You’re not really drinking alone if your kids are home

I saw that statement on pinterest yesterday, and it was just one of those things that you read and laugh, re-read, laugh again, think about it more and laugh some more.  It was funny on so many levels that move way beyond face value. And oddly enough if I had read that statement a year ago (#throwbackthursday anyone?) I would not have found it that funny actually. I might have even rebuked it a bit because in my then opinion- “what kind of mother drinks home alone with her kids! So irresponsible!” But . .  after a year of learning to CTFD, my perspective has taken a 180 degree turn for the better (and arguably, not so much for my wallet but FOR SURE for my Total Wine membership point status).

When I was done laughing and identifying available wall space (because let’s go ahead and admit I am totally going to print it and hang it in my kitchen. Not even going to pretend that’s not happening), I spent some time reflecting on how that statement actually applies to so many other parts of this single parent life. As in, swap out the verb for about 90% of the other things you do and it sums up your current reality.

Think about it. Try using “doing housework,” “dining,” (and by the way, that word makes eating sound so much more sophisticated), or say… “using the bathroom,” “talking on the phone,” or “working.” Pretty much those are never solitary activities anymore, right? Unless it’s like midnight or you’ve managed to negotiate some peace and quiet with your kids by engaging them in some quality activity that does not involve any of the following: glitter, glue, glass or supervision. So you know, apple tv, I mean um, like reading a book and stuff.

But really, the current status of being single involves well, you. All day, every day, doing your thing, with your kids,alone. Or does it? Because, are you really alone? Really? Sometimes it just takes a little reflection, five minutes pulling yourself out of a PLOM moment (Poor Little Old Me) to realize how many truly amazing things are going on in your life and how many resources and lines of support you have, or with a little effort, can have. That can be just enough to help you remember that the reason you moved all twelve wine glasses with you was not so you didn’t have to wash wine glasses for almost two weeks (although that is pretty awesome, just sayin’), but so you could share them (and your wine, so you know, make some room in the recycle bin), with other adults.

When I’m there, in that moment when I become overwhelmed with emotion, experiencing what feels like a fresh sense of loss on occasion, I take a few minute to reset. I journal, I list the things I’m grateful for, I pray or meditate or get myself into some heart opening yoga poses like camel, bridge or wheel, I read back through my journal, I look at my vision board (go ahead and scoff. Then acknowledge that you totally want one too so I’ll just drop the pinterest hidden board hint right here…), I look at my crazy, beautiful, ridiculous and loving children and I breathe. And I fall in love with my life all over again.

Outside of those moments when I am in a more strategic and day-to-day rather than in-the-moment frame of mind, I plan and acknowledge a couple of things that have a huge, positive impact on my life. And since I absolutely adore lists (yes, I’m a bit of a planner. And, yes, I am a virgo, is it that obvious???) here are my top ten Single Mama’s Finding Your Groove Tips:

1. Plan a regular family dinner with a friend and her kids. Another single mom is great but even dining (there’s that sophisticated word again) with your married friends is awesome. The chance to take something routine, like making, serving, eating and cleaning up dinner with another family is such a huge stress reliever, even if it’s only once a month. I try to do this once a week when I can but I don’t set any rules to it. When it works, it works. When life is too busy, it’s too busy. Listen to the universe, let it provide and make plans to socialize during mealtimes as much as is reasonable.

2. Hang out with people who offer something different that you can. For example, I love going over to one particular friend’s house and watching her husband play with my kids. It’s so wonderful for them to get some silly man time in and do things that I quite honestly, as the only parent in my household with my kids full time, don’t really have the energy or desire to do. Like wrestling, for example. That shit is just not gonna happen with this mom. I can try, but they see right through me. I prefer to stick to things I can be authentic with. So being a good housekeeper, rough play, pushing kids on the swing – those are out.  Baking, cooking, reading, dancing badly, wit and sarcasm and generally holding it down – so in.

3. Get out of your comfort zone. Find a Meetup group(s). Honestly, I didn’t really know what meetup was until last winter. Go ahead and laugh if you will but it had never occurred to me to even look into something like that. It has been so worth it. I found a group for single active parents (as in the kind who don’t like to sit around on their couch all day and actually prefer going out and doing things with other, gasp, real people and their children), a group of parents who hike with kids, a running group, even a women’s golfing group (that one is just for me, obviously). But seriously, there are groups for just about any interest and they are a fantastic way to meet new people and try new things. The kids love making new friends, we go on fun trips and playdates and I get to socialize with other grown-ups, which as someone who works primarily from home (alone….), is a serious bonus.  So suck it up, put on your big girl panties, join a group and then JUST DO IT. Wear Nikes if you are really feeling the need for support.

4. Go Adventuring. There really are no reasons your kids can’t go with you pretty much anywhere. Your excuses are YP- Your Problem. Take your kids for a walk, a bike ride, a hike, to the duck pond to throw foul bread at waterfowl, to the park (just don’t make promises about those damn swings or you’ll be stuck there all day). Create a scavenger hunt for them in the neighborhood, go to Farmer’s market, take a yoga class together, go to a museum, see a play, hit the drive-in movies on a weeknight. Get out and explore your world, it’s there, waiting for you. My kids and I love to go to a different place every time and discover a new part of our city. We have our favorites to be sure, but my enthusiasm for building our urban street smarts and cultured knowledge base while maintaining an active, healthy lifestyle are rubbing off on my children. Not a day goes by without them asking “what are we going to do today mom? Where are we going?”

5. Meet your neighbors. Seriously. They can hear you yelling at your kids. You should at least take the time to get to know them and let them meet your children so they’ll understand the regular fluctuation in volume in your casa. . . But really, they are a resource and in modern times when we get so absorbed in what we are doing, it is essential to stay connected to those around us, literally. Even if you don’t end up being besties, this is important to do, especially if you have recently moved. I’m currently working on a block party with my neighbors. They rock. And I never would have known it if I hadn’t taken the time to meet them.

6. Get a good babysitter network. Especially if like me, you don’t have family in town. There are going to be times (probably more often than not) when you need a sitter. Ask those helpful neighbors for names (and SUPER BONUS if one of them is a teenager who babysits. SCORE). Another good source are parents from your kids classes, both for names and for trading. I have setup trades with several sets of friends over the last few years. Currently I have a once a week trade with a new neighbor friend of mine. I take her kids Wednesday afternoons and she takes mine on Thursdays. It’s free, the kids have a great time (I even get work done- both days- whoo hoo) and the two of us usually end up socializing and having a glass of wine at the end of the day so it’s a win,win, win.

7. Take them out to eat. In public. Regularly. Okay, so the first few times aren’t that much fun. But eventually, they get it together and it’s awesome. This is partly for you (food you do not have to prepare, serve or clean up the mess from) and partly for them so you can socialize and teach them good eating out manners so that a) you don’t have to live in a box for the next ten years and b) someday when they grow up and leave your side for more than 30 seconds at a time they’ll be able to take someone out to dinner without total humiliation  My favorite time to do this is during happy hour, and at a restaurant we can walk to. Not only are the drinks at least half price ($4 wine anyone? $3 well specials? Gee, twist my arm), but they are offering some sort of small bites on the cheap too, which means I can order a few plates for my kids and bam- dinner is done and the bill is usually under $30 for all three of us, including my mommy juice. Happy mommy, happy kids, happy waitress, happy other customers. This is one damn HAPPY hour.

8. Stay connected but not dependent. In these times of struggle it is easy to either totally shut down or to become super dependent on a few friends or family members. Don’t. Spread the love. Take time to see people who are important to you and let them know it. Appreciate them and make an effort to keep up with what’s going on in their lives. With the full blown infiltration of social media in our everyday lives, it is increasingly easy to stay in touch with friends. However, be careful not to let that replace actual conversation and face time (and I don’t mean on your iphone). Try to call one friend a week and have a good old fashioned conversation. If you have to do this at 9pm when the kids are in bed then do it. Otherwise, there’s always the hall closet where you can snuggle with the winter coats and wax nostalgic about your high school days, assuming you can find room on the floor anyway.

And while you’re at it, work a little bit to hide your crazy now and then. Take the opportunity to give back. Let  a friend unload on you and just listen. Don’t give your opinion or listen only to essentially “one up” her by sharing how not only do you know how she feels, but “listen to how this same thing happened to me!” There is give and take in a conversation to be sure, but if you take the time to listen, without judgement or agenda, to listen for the purpose of allowing them to be heard, rather than for planning how you will respond, you will both grow in more ways that you can possibly imagine.

9. Don’t overschedule. Activities, good. Google Calendar, amazing. So many colors on google calendar it looks like a godamn rainbow- no bueno mama. Remember to schedule downtime for you, and for your kids. Do they really need to do a sport, a club, and a fine art? Really? Let’s just shoot for one extra curricular commitment at a time, shall we? See how that goes and if they really have an inclination to do more and you all agree that you realistically have the time, energy and motivation to do it, then go for it. But keep it real. Doing a bunch of things half-assed is not as beneficial as doing one thing really well.

10. Plan trips. Yes, they cost money. Yes, you will be tired. And no, you can’t place a value on the memories you will make. Impossible. Life is short and you can’t take your money with you. Now is the time to travel, to do goofy things while your kids still think you are cool and aren’t embarrassed to be seen in public with you. Go to Disneyland and take pictures with characters. Go explore an aquarium and plaster your faces all over the tank, marveling at the wonders inside. Ride a roller coaster with your hands up. Go to the beach and jump in the waves. Build sandcastles. Zipline through the jungle.  You don’t get this time back, saving it for later may mean ultimately mean never.

So carpe diem already. Start planning. Go with another family and save some serious dinero and sanity but be sure to also schedule a few day or weekend trips in with just your family. I promise you won’t regret it. When thinking about the legacy you’ll leave behind, the memories you are creating for your kids, ask yourself what you want them to remember. For me, I want them to remember that I loved them, that I taught them to be good people and that we, the three of us, took life by the hand and enjoyed every minute of it.

 

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THE DAILY RUN: QUALITY CONVERSATION WITH ME, MYSELF, AND I

Twice a week I am fortunate enough to have a work schedule that provides me with the mornings to myself. The kids are at school, I’ve already put in a good three hours of work before they got up and off to school and I have deemed myself worthy of a break. Well, not just any break. An exercise break. A mommy is getting her zen on break. Some days this means a yoga class. Some days it means a run. And some days (really “lucky” ones) I do both. Gasp.

On the running days, I really look forward not just to the benefit from the post-run endorphins but also the quiet self reflection time I get out of it. No work, no kids, no phone calls, emails etc… Just me and my thoughts ’till I collapse (yep, that’s an Eminem reference right there. Anyone? You are so missing out if you don’t know what I’m talking about).

Like many things in my life, I like to “go big or go home,” meaning that I regularly overcommit myself and set the bar unreasonably high. So basically, when running, if I don’t feel like I am going to die when I stop then I don’t think I pushed myself hard enough. However… the thing about running though, is that it’s all you. 100% your effort. Run when you want to run. Quit when you want to quit. Nothing to push you but your own motivation. In reflecting about this (during my last run, of course), I couldn’t help but consider the typical thought process that goes on during my cardio excursions.Most days, it goes down something like this:

The night before or early that morning:

“I’m going to run 5 miles. Yeah. 5 nice moderately paced miles. That will totally work off my breakfast. And dinner. And um, bottle of wine from last night…”

The First Block-

“Ruuuuunnnnnnnnn fast! Faster. The neighbors are watching you. For sure. With their blinds closed. . .. RUN. FASTER. Fast = badass = merit badge for self-esteem trophy shelf”

The Second Block-

“Still runnnnnniiiinnnnnggg faaaassssttttt. I’m so fast. I like these shorts. These are good shorts. And this shirt? Gangster. I am totally going to keep it on the whole time. This shit is not coming off today (ha, ha, that’s funny. shit. Sounds like shirt, only not. It’s like a punny auto-correct joke. Get it? punny… I crack myself up. And now I’m smiling like an idiot while I run. SERIOUS face.SERIOUS. You are running Michelle. Running is SERIOUS.”

The Fifth Block-

“Okay maybe I should slow down. A little. I maybe can’t keep this pace up for five miles. Think I’m out of sight of anyone who saw me start running so it’s cool if I slow it down a bit. Slowing down a little bit at a time .. . OH THANK GOD THE LIGHT IS RED I CAN STOP. Actually, no. Bad plan. If I stop I might never start again. Maybe I’ll just dodge traffic. Like a squirrel. Or a rabbit. Or a dumb dog. No. Maybe I will bounce up and down at the light like an eager participant in a Richard Simmons jazzercise video. Where are my sweet socks and headband though? I totally need those. Gotta check zappos when I get home. For sure I have time and money to spend there. Obviously.

Hey, I am now the kind of person I would make fun of if I were the person driving by in the car. There ya’ go. Make someone else’s day by making a fool out of yourself so they laugh. That’s me, always giving back to society. You’re welcome for that gift. I’ll be serving wit, sarcasm and mediocre dancing and lip syncing skills all day, free of charge. Tips welcomed.”

Mile One-

“So that was a rough one. Perhaps over-exaggerated my cardio fitness level. Reality CHECK just arrived. But hey, one mile down. four to go. . . four. FOUR? hmmmmm. Maybe today is a three mile day. Yeah, I haven’t run in awhile. Like, since, um, yesterday…Today is a good day for three miles. I’ll just run really fast the last mile. Tomorrow is a better day for five miles. I’ll have more. . . time, or something like that. “

Mile Two-

“This isn’t that bad. I think I just hit my stride, I’m in “THE ZONE” baby. Sweet. This ought to last all of five minutes. Maybe I can run five miles after all. Wait, I’m supposed to run fast the last mile. I’m almost to the end of this mile. AHHHHH! Sprint or keep running this pace? Sprint or keep running this pace? Damn it all this is the longest damn mile of my life. Make a decision Michelle. Make a decision !!!”

Mile Three-

“Picking up my pace. Yep. Ow. That’s what I thought. That freaking hurts. Okay, let’s go back to plan A. I mean, what am I, a big sissy? Five miles is no big deal. That’s like 15 extra minutes of running. Okay maybe 16. Fine, closer to 20. Whatever. I can do it. I’m strong, I’m healthy and I don’t quit. QUITTER.”

Mile Four-

“Well, hmmm, I made it past three miles. But five? Ugh. Damn it all to hell. But I made a commitment, and I say what I mean and mean what I say so… wait, did I actually say that to anyone? Maybe it doesn’t count. I can retract my own statement. Big breath. Just do it. Turn up the volume on this song. Hey, I like this song. I forgot I had my headphones in. AHHHH! TREE! Note to self- don’t look down at armband while running. Just stop and switch songs. Way less bruising that way. “

Mile Five-

“I can do this. I can do this. Just breathe. Take like 100 breaths. I wonder how many breaths it would take me to run a whole mile? Ooooh, pretty bird. That lady over there looks funny doing burpees with her baby. But seriously, bad form girl. Ew, creepy man coming up on the right. OOOOOHHHH, hot guy running toward me, speed up, look cool, lllooooook cooooooollllll. Phew. Made it. Slow the hell down again. Oh dude, gross. Put your freaking shirt on man who is scuffling along behind hot guy that passed me, that beer belly needs coverage.

Speaking of bellies, hmmm, when did I take my shirt off? And where the hell is it? Damn. I wonder if MY belly is hanging out?!?!? Shit, now I gotta suck it in and run and that’s way harder. Breathe. Breathe. Squirrel! No wait, that’s an actual squirrel. That’s so funny because remember how last week I saw that funny pin about getting easily distrac- hey, look at that, I finally finished. I ran five miles! Go me, “it’s your birthday. it’s your birthday. I’m gonna party like it’s your birthday.” Dance partaaaayyy up in here. Oh damn it all. I’m .85 miles from home still. Awesome. High five for good planning on my end. WINNER.”

 

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NO MORE EXCUSES MORNING ROUTINE

October is here and it’s time for a revision for my morning routine, shake things up a little. Hey, nothing says spontaneity like a schedule. . .

So here it is. My new agenda. It is totally happening. Like every day. For sure.

1. Tea. Vitamins. WATER. In that order.
2. Read newsfeeds for 30 minutes, only. Actual news is good since it’s helpful to have an idea of what’s going on in the world around you besides the fake lives people put on facebook. Yep, recognition of hypocrisy right there. High five self for acknowledging this. But seriously, Set a timer for 30. then shut.it.down.sister.
3. Breakfast- Protein and veggies. Dairy- si! pero Grains-no bueno. And stop staring down the trail mix. You can have that crap later. On your salad. For lunch.
4. Journal five to ten minutes. Buy hey, if you can write longer than that go for it (after all, verbosity is the hallmark of exceptional ideas and a large vocabulary. Hello… case in point).
5. WRITE THESE AND REMEMBER THEM EVERY DAY
– Be impeccable with your word
– Don’t take anything personally, nothing others do is because of you
– Don’t make assumptions
– Always do your best
6. Exercise for 20-30 minutes. Do a HIIT or quick yoga flow. Stop making excuses. And c’mon, you get to eat carbs after this- yippee! No exercise = no carbs. Word.
7. Coffee. Carb time. Halle-freaking-lujah
8. Kids breakfasts. I guess they need to eat too.
9. Shower and get dressed while kids kill each other. I mean, um, eat their breakfasts and get ready for school.
10. Out the door by 8:35. OUT the DOOR at 8:35. Not 8:40. Not 8:43 Not 8:50. EIGHT F#@*ING THIRTY-FIVE, GIRL. GET YOUR GAME TIGHT.
Let’s see how that goes down. I’m totally committed. One way or another. . .

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