A Resolution I Can Keep

Mama Kat ButtonA couple of years ago I was really struggling with a mix of changing hormones and over all stinkin’ thinking. I allowed turning 40 to be a burden rather than a time to celebrate. Whenever frustration or disappointment crept in my soul, I foolishly gave it a place to hibernate. The heaviness sat there day in and day out.

At the end of 2012 I started going to a yoga studio, mostly out of peer pressure. My best friend was studying to be a certified yoga instructor and there was a new-found peace about her that I had not seen in many years. She seemed more centered and more in control of her emotions. She just seemed more present. So I went to yoga, off and on, for months. More off than on to be honest. I’d buy a block of time since it was less expensive per session that way, and because I thought maybe by prepaying for something I would be more apt to follow through.

Not so much.

But then one Sunday morning in January of 2013, I dragged myself out and showed up at the studio in all my bed head and morning breath glory. I can still picture myself staring at chipped toe nail polish and feeling very far away. Electric heaters carefully placed around the room helped block out the bitter cold of our Michigan winter, slowly bringing my body to a more comfortable temperature. I began to settle in to the space.

I remembered why I came.

I remembered why I should always come.

With it being the first classes of the new year, our instructor was focused on helping us concentrate on finding a purpose or mantra to carry us through each day. I had never thought to do this before. I  had always given in to the socially acceptable, perhaps socially driven, idea of setting New Year’s Resolutions. Mine was typical: lose weight, be more organized, volunteer, write more. Unfortunately, most of these resolutions would either be abandoned early on or just cause anxiety. But the idea of a one word or phrase to focus on all year seemed possible. A resolution I could actually keep.

I chose the word Joy.

wpid-20150115_125100-1.jpgAnd from that moment on, instead of worrying about the how or why of anything, I just focused on finding the joy in each moment. I even had a leather bracelet made with the word JOY and wore it every day so I could remind myself constantly to find joy. It worked too. I found joy more easily each day and by the end of the year my heart and head was overflowing with joyful memories. It changed the way I looked at everything. The next year I chose the word patience, although I did not make sure to put it in my line of site every day. I realize now that I need a very visual and tangible reminder. I am a list maker, a poster printer, and a task oriented nerd. There were far too many times last year that I lost my patience, perhaps didn’t even look for it in the heat of a moment and got distracted. By the end of last year, I started wearing my joy bracelet and suddenly, I was at peace again.

So this year, I chose the word and phrase Be Present and yes, I just ordered my mantra bracelet to remind me everyday to be the person I know I can be.

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There are no bad people, not really

“Do you think my mom is a bad person?” Peanut asked, sitting at the kitchen counter, feet dangling over discarded flip-flops while eating a late breakfast.

“I don’t really know your mom,” I answered cautiously, “why?”

“cuz my last foster parent said my mom was a bad person and that’s why I can’t live with her right now.”

Glass mugs and metal pans clinked and clanked as I emptied the dishwasher, wondering how to approach this conversation. One of many challenges when fostering a school-aged child are the questions. Training had prepared me to answer most inquiries with a “maybe”, “someday” or “I don’t really know”. It had not prepared me to help define an 8-year-old’s perspective of his very foundation and core of his identity.

“You know me, ” he continued, “so you kinda know my mom.”

I stopped putting away the dishes and faced him at the counter, taking in every curve of his face and slightness of his body. I pictured him holding the door open for me when we came home and how he rushed outside to help me bring in the groceries. I thought about how thankful he is when I wash and fold his laundry, the way he makes his bed in the morning without being asked and helps clear the dinner dishes before I’ve even left the table. I could hear his sweet voice in my head, every please and thank you without hesitation, every made-up story or joke told. I could feel his warmth and affection from him resting his head against my shoulder while I read him a book. Most of all, I couldn’t ignore all the times I had already witnessed him put fear aside and try something new with optimism and eagerness, like swim lessons, making friends, tasting an unfamiliar food, or living with us.

“I believe there are no bad people, just people who sometimes make bad choices, ” I said carefully. “I also believe you are kind, thoughtful, honest and compassionate. I also believe that you are brave and loving. You are funny and easy to get along with, and most of all, you bring joy to the people you meet. And I believe that you are this amazing person because of your mom.”

Peanut smiled, his eyes slightly moist.

“Yeah, that’s what I thought too,” he said quietly.

It is humanly impossible to avoid all opinion about a person who can not currently care for their children. But after spending time with this child, I realized “she isn’t what I thought though. I still don’t know who she is, but I do know now who she isn’t.” (Anne Lamott, bird by bird, pg. 82)

*This post was inspired by The Daily Post






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Expect Nothing

Expect prompt

I’ve spent a lot of wasted time expecting people to be different.

Expecting them to be thankful or honest.

Expecting them to love unconditionally or be tolerant without question.

Expecting them to be compassionate, self-less or encouraging.

Expecting them to apologize.

But mostly, I think I’ve just spent a lot of wasted time being disappointed, time that would have been better spent giving wholly of myself without expecting anything in return.

As I crossed over the 40-something threshold a couple of years ago, my perspective changed. My focus became less about being and more about doing. My mind’s eye has finally partnered with my heart’s desire, working together to hopefully leave this world a better place than I found it and without any expectation of being recognized for my efforts.

Give without getting.

Forgive without an apology.

Trust without hesitation.

Help without judgement.

Love without condition.

The more I work through my days looking for opportunities to do good, the lighter my spirit becomes and the more relaxed my body feels. Holding on to anger, disappointment and frustration is cumbersome and suffocating. It weighs heavy on your heart, puts a physical ache in your bones, making it hard to feel anything else.

Some days take more effort than others.

Some days seem effortless.

Just a month after our foster child came to live with us, I found myself saying “I love you” as I tucked him into bed at night. It felt natural, especially after putting The Tortoise and The Hare to bed. I know my words of affection carried through the house, and it pained me greatly to think of this little Peanut going to sleep at night without the reminder that they are loved. One night as I whispered “I love you” and gave a quick kiss on the cheek, arms suddenly wrapped around my neck, keeping me from pulling away.

Our eyes locked.

Our breath in unison.

“Is it okay that I don’t tell you that I love you back?” Peanut whispered.

“Of course, little one, ” I replied, “How you feel about me doesn’t change how I feel about you.”

Peanut pulled me closer, hugging me tightly.

“Is it okay that I love you?” I asked.

I could feel a smile press against my cheek.

“Sure,” Peanut said, “and you never know, if you say it enough I might even say it back one day.”

*This post was inspired by The Daily Post and Two Shoes in Texas




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