White Picket Fences

We envision the life we see ourselves having, and I’m not sure if we are lucky or not if we get that life. I guess it depends on the wisdom of each dream, or dreamer. Anyway, most of us have some illusion of white picket fences. Not literally, of course, but the idea that we will be happy if we have X or Z and that’s all we’ll need. But, as you get closer to X or Z, one might realize the choosing is harder.

Do we stay at home with our children, work full time, or something in between? Do we learn how to cook to please our in-laws, friends, or (god forbid) husbands? Do we try a juice cleanse or give up gluten? (I know, very 1950’s housewife examples but that’s what is on my brain…)

A friend recently told me she thinks the harder choice is always the right choice. I’m not sure if I agree, but I am thinking about it. Does that mean we are wired to resist what is right for us? Does that mean, since we gravitate to whatever our white picket fence is, that it is incorrect for us?

I think the goal is to ensure we stay flexible. Maybe we’ll get that fence, but maybe we won’t. Maybe we fall short of other people’s dreams for us (so what?). Life’s challenges are going to arrive precisely when we are NOT ready for them, so all we can do is stretch ourselves farther than we think we can, be kinder to others than we think we can, and breathe deeper, more often than we think we need.

It seems to me, my dreams get closer – then farther – then closer. It seems I get that snow storm in May, but as soon as I am just about done heaving that snow off the proverbial driveway, the snow melts away on its own. 

I won’t wish my next struggle upon myself, but I also don’t regret having to use my grit to get to where I am. It makes my feel happier with whatever white picket fences do finally come my way…and appreciation is always a good thing.

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The Art of Slowing Down (Without Slowing Down)

I am happy. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the presence of this elusive thing, but it found me. After so many months of turmoil – not all of it behind me by any means – I’ve found the ability to take deep breaths again. I’ve found the ability to wake up without panic, sadness, and the sharp pangs of devastation.

This could be because, on recent days, the sun comes through the windows and makes my eyelids red with warmth when I close them in its direction. It could be because I know I get to sleep in my own bed (enjoying to-die-for linen sheets, my sweet husband’s warm body beside me, and my little pup sleeping with his head on my feet) for at least a week straight – without hosting any overnight guests – for the first time in what seems like ages. Or, perhaps, I am happy because I’ve stopped fighting the unknown (at least for the moment).

Ambiguity has become such a constant for me. One of my dearest friends recently told me, “I’ve known you for almost a decade now, and there have been rare times you haven’t been in transition.” That hit a nerve. I hadn’t realized it was true until she said it. On one hand, I cannot deny I’ve been living a full, emotions-on-end kind of life. On the other hand, I’m exhausted. So, I’ve tried to perfect the art of slowing down – to steal nectar – when life won’t let you really slow down.

How is this done? I am still learning every day, but here are a few things people have told me lately that I am trying to incorporate.

-Exercise every day, but keep it easy. (I am used to exercising but of course I push my limits. Wouldn’t it be nice if I did more of it, but remained gentle with my body instead of using that time to, once again, mentally push myself? How nice to use it as a break instead of as another stressful, achievement opportunity.)

-Worry less, drink more. (This was my friend’s advice on getting preggo. I love the irony in it and the laidback, not-in-your-head-analyzing approach that is implied. She is classy, never drinks too much, and put a smile on my face by her assessment of what needs to happen next since it was unlike her to say, but such stress free advice.)

-Don’t do what others expect. Do what is necessary. (I know we’ve all heard this, but to really live it is challenging…and yet freeing.)

There is a lot of good advice in this world. I struggle to incorporate most of it. I’ve learned, though – if I can turn off my mind – sometimes I can hear the birds chirping through the open window a little clearer.