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Month: August 2009

Worry Not

My father lives the advice, “never worry about anything until there is something to worry about.” He has a calm demeanor during prospective crises, as everyone around is scurrying for cover. If there is no proof of danger, alarm, or grave disappointment, he calmly walks through life with ease. Why he is wired this way, while others fret, expend energy needlessly, and hearts race with a deliberate sense of danger, is anyone’s guess. I suppose growing up with an ill sister who needed 24/7 care prepared him, as well as being an avid Red Sox fan for many decades, while the team often appeared on the verge of winning it all. He does not get too excited about something until it finally happens. Perhaps it is simply in his nature to remain even-keeled, keeping his blood pressure low, and awaiting the outcome. He simply does not waste energy on the prospect of events. Either it happens or it does not.

This makes me wonder whether expending energy and anxiety on bad news, is worthwhile. Case in point, I have been living my life quite peacefully in the past years, believing that I am healthy. In the past week, I have become privy to information that states that my body is not in the shape I assumed it to be. As someone who hoards information, dwells in the splendor of the more, the better, I am beginning to wonder to what end is this grand state of being. When is too much, too much? I am typically a believer that information enables people to make informed, conscientious decisions about their health. Without it, you live blindly, enabling the body’s systems to conflict without treatment. Eventually it comes to a head, and often is too late to treat.

As I recently awaited blood test results (from the twelve vials taken from my left arm), I took my dad’s advice to heart, and thought there is no reason to worry until there is something to worry about. Yet the test results confirm that my body contains Lyme disease, my thyroid is malfunctioning to a degree, I have some vitamin deficiencies, and I am headed for a variety of treatments. From these diagnoses, I contemplate the degree in which I expend energy on anxiety. My first reaction was, fantastic, now I can make informed choices and put an action plan into place. I also caught a glimpse of the difficulty of diagnosing what are called soft symptoms, such as exhaustion and joint stiffness. Although impressed by the technology that has made diagnosis a tad easier, thinking about the road ahead has given me pause.

With little negative reaction to the diagnoses, (In fact, I was elated to discover that years of symptoms were not “in my head”), I began to relay the outcome to family members and friends. Their response has been slightly disturbing to me, as the need for others to share their experiences with these diseases, has caused a level of anxiety. Twelve hours prior to telling no one, I was cool as a cucumber, and then a day later, am worried about immediate treatment, and the “what if “scenarios. The fact is that I feel no different today than I felt last year or the year before. What has changed solely is the information that I have now been privy to. The energy that others expend upon my diagnoses ought not to affect me, but has.

In order to protect myself from other’s anxious need to help, share, console in a disconcerting way by relaying the stories of other’s nightmares, I wish to remain in the dark, uninformed hemisphere. I recognize their hearts have good intention and are full of empathy, but the objective listener would have cause to stop them in their tracks. No more discussion with others; it rains on my happy parade.

The way I choose to accept this information is that there is nothing to worry about until there is something else to worry about. By living in the present moment of how I feel physically, anxiety not among those feelings, I cannot take in anyone else’s issues. That does not mean that I will not take action. It simply indicates that I will be at ease during the action plan I wish to implement. This is my body, my life, and other’s opinions of my ailments, and me is really none of “my” business. I choose the calm demeanor my father so eloquently demonstrated. He chooses the path of least resistance, the heart beating slowly until something worth his energy comes to fruition. I am fortunate to have been in his tutelage, and learned the behavior he displays. He is a wise man and living in a state of bliss, not ignorance. His footsteps are the ones I choose to walk in, along a path I now follow.

To Have Or Have Not

When you discover that one of your life’s purposes is to procreate, you may want it to happen as soon as possible. Of course, there is an order to this, finding the partner, maybe marriage, and then the fun part. However, when you already have conceived and brought one human being into the world, this directive of continuing to populate the universe is an especially different matter. The question is to have or have not, one more mouth to feed, one more responsibility, or one more being sharing your space, energy and body. For many that notion is incredibly beautiful. As you contemplate this assessment, you have much to consider. Although the big picture view, contributing to the human race, seems extraordinarily full of service, the realities also include the monetary and physical implications, other existential nuances that cloud the judgment, as well as the time, energy, and space continuum (to be explained below).

After producing one child, and loving the experience, time passes. You forget the difficulty of the sleeplessness of the first year; memories of a total dependent infant needing you at every moment of the day begin to fade. The challenges that you faced each moment of the first couple of years turn to a space of greater freedom, as your child develops independence, the ability to play alone, eat with one’s own utensils, walk, talk, and move through the world with a greater degree of self-sufficiency. When this occurs, your thoughts turn to the possibility of having a repeat performance. Your confidence waves a flag in the brain stating, “We did well. Let’s do that again.”

The learning curve also has brought most mothers to a space of “I can do better this time” syndrome. Therefore, the decision-making begins on whether to have or have not an additional offspring. Many of us wonder if we can afford one more. On August 4th, 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a new report, Expenditures on Children by Families, finding that “a middle-income family with a child born in 2008 can expect to spend about $221,190 ($291,570 when adjusted for inflation) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next seventeen years.” If individuals ponder the expense of having a child too much, birth control would be practiced diligently, eliminating any worries of over population. The reality is that to have another child or not, means increased cost, with some economies of scale. Some fixed costs include car seats, clothing, and housing. These shared necessities decrease the cost per child’s bottom line. Additional expenses include diapers and food, to name a couple of the non-reusable items. Therefore, the price per child decreases, making it a win-win proposition. The fact is you make adjustments financially to make it happen, eliminating or decreasing non-essentials.

Hence, with financial reasoning pushed aside, you consider the physical ramifications. Much to ponder are age considerations, gaining baby weight, sharing your body with another being, exhaustion, and every physical implication that enables a child to enter this world and sustain life for forty weeks. If you happen to be approaching the 35-year mark, the reminders by doctors, nurses and statistics that your biological clock ticks louder year after year, with greater risk of conceiving an unhealthy infant is constant. She thinks, “Here I have been fortunate to have a healthy family, why risk changing that?” Lots of information to extrapolate to choose additional fertile ground can be daunting. The prospect, to choose 25-45 extra pounds weighing on your body frame, eating as if a parasite is sucking the life from you, changing the chemistry of your body via hormones, the exhaustion and emotional flip-flops, that are entranced with the physical transformation make the choice to have or have not, one more child, a challenging decision.

There are also existential observations that can fill the argument to have or have not. One such paradox is, if you are the third child contemplating having a third child, you cannot help but think that if your parents had chosen only to have two offspring, you would not exist. This is true for any combination, of course. Additionally, if your second child may be the president of the United States some day, and you chose to have one child only, then you have changed history. The fact is that existential arguments do not hold, since you cannot ensure what affect either outcome will have. Therefore, remove this element and you simplify the decision-making process.

Yet, if you get past the financial and physical contemplation, ironic existential arguments, there is still time, space, and energy that weigh on a mother’s heart for further procreation. This continuum is equivalent to mind, body and spirit. To switch from the practical aspects of money and physical attributes that contribute to additional offspring decisions, there is the larger picture. The balance of nature attracts the notion of perpetuating the human race with decency and love. There is a natural instinct to add children to the world for the pure sake of adding love, advancement of goodness, and a legacy of improvement of souls from one generation to the next. The love between siblings, the sharing of life between mother and fetus during pregnancy, the bonding of parents and their children, and the development of a perfect being that starts at conception, meets directly with the meaning of life.

To have or have not, another child is instinctually easy. It really is not contingent upon the concrete issues, such as “can we physically do this, fertility-wise, financially, physically, or to initiate the balance of life.” Those are only a few examples to contemplate; parents know there are hundreds more. Although those areas of a pros and cons list may seem relevant, I believe that intuitively you know the answer prior to the debate that plays in your head. To move along the life continuum that enables the world to spiritually grow and improve, brings the decision to a greater plain. When you discover this, the assessment becomes manageable and simplistic. Whatever the conclusion to this query, it is the right one for you. Remove the mundane elements like time, energy, money, ability, and simply consider, is this right for you? Suddenly the answer sits right between your eyes, as if it was there all along. To Have Or Have Not is not the question, but an answer that was there all the time.

Challenge the Mundane

Opportunity knocks at the most interesting, inspirational, and even during the dry, does-not-seem-like-anything-is-really-happening-at-all-moments.  Sitting around a kitchen island while my children eat organic macaroni and cheese is hardly an exciting experience in one’s life, yet my inventive spirit often challenges the mundane.  Today is no different. 

As they eat their food with child-fun utensils, a yellow fork in my son’s hand that looks like a bulldozer scooping out his food, and my daughter with a fork shaped like a train, I make a protein shake in the blender.  Experience has taught me that my two-year-old does not welcome abrupt noises; creative approaches are a necessity.  As I am about to hit the On button to the blender, I announce lift off will occur in minus ten seconds, and the count down begins.  Within a 10, 9, 8, my eyes widen to communicate that their participation is necessary to continue.  Then in unison, the count down meets shouts of excitement, “7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.” “Blast off,” I yell, as the blender takes off, pulverizing ice cubes, swishing water in every direction, and combining protein powder until no longer a dry, fine particle exists.  Within seconds, the mixture is compounded by the release of turbo boosters, and “Boom”, with the flip of a button, the high position goes on, as the noise level rises.  A few moments later, the air is silent as the off button is engaged, but the smiles of this trio continue to unite and glow.  Our spirits like to pretend, and the energy that is moved from such moments brings a carpe diem attitude. 

Within a few minutes, my six-year old daughter looks down at the floor beneath her dangling feet, and announces quite nervously, “Look mom, ANTS!” Then without provoking him, my son joins in, “ANTS! ANTS! ANTS!”  I run to their side of the island to see a swarm of hundreds of ants, mainly crawling upon cereal that had fallen aimlessly from the counter earlier, from my son’s breakfast spoon.   My smirk and bewildered look show amusement and amazement at the scene upon me.  The ants are attacking Mighty Bites, gingerbread man-shaped cereal.  It looks like killer ants are attacking people, a scene from a horror film.  My eyes dart back at my children; I see expressions that are neither amused, nor amazed, only bewildered and interested on what my next step may be.  I look up with a gentle smile, a curious look to show my mind wandering freely, and then state matter-of-factly that an opportunity is upon us.  I grab a napkin and kneel down to push the ants towards a circular pile.  My words loudly pierce their ears,”An opportunity is upon me to be brave in the face of the ants that are marching one by one, hurrah.” 

As I begin wiping the ants to the center, I am repeating the words, “Gross, gross, gross, I am really grossed out, but this is an opportunity to be brave.  See? This is what it means to be scared of something, but do it anyway.”  I then go underneath the sink to retrieve some type of ant-killing spray.  Gathering ants to a circle, as they try to escape, is not helpful for disposing of ants.  I did not find any ant-killer anywhere, since potent, toxic spray of such sort is kept in the garage.  Not wanting to leave my children, I searched for an alternative insect destroyer.  This was no time for collecting ants and setting them free outside, as we had done countless times. 

I found a can of Lysol, anti-bacterial cleaning spray.  My knowledge about its toxicity is that it is enough to keep under the sink in a locked, childproof cabinet.  With lemon freshness, I spray the ants with vigor, as my children question my technique; “What’s that, mom?  Will they die?” I speak the truth when I say, “I don’t know.”  Sure enough, the spray sends out a glorious lemon-fresh scent while ants seemed to be stopped in their tracks. 

In celebration, I wipe up the ants and leftover Mighty Bites with a paper towel and begin to march while singing, “The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah.  The ants go marching ….”  My youngsters, thinking that this looks like fun, join in harmony and we march together around the kitchen, hands raised, and with a rhythm in our step. 

The opportunity to seize the day adds energy to our spirits.  We are uplifted, engaged in life’s music, and we find a shared connection between us.  The contagious laughter that spreads throughout the kitchen, the smiles that emanate across our faces, and the joy that fills our hearts to make the most of every situation that arises, is a strong boost to the mood of the day.  Bringing the dull, uneventful day-to-day experiences into energetic, musical adventures full of gusto, rocket ships, cleaning with Lysol the ants that attacked the fallen Mighty Bites, add such exuberance to our lives.  My only hope is that my children entertain the thrills that the ordinary offers them, to see them as opportunities of entertainment, problem-solving, facing one’s fears with bravery and action.  With a blender, some ants, Lysol, and with song, anything is possible.

As I start to ponder the incredible energy that entered our realm so inconspicuously, my daughter says, “Can we go outside and play now?” as if we were not playing already.  May non-playing always be fun opportunities to seize the moments of the ordinary, transforming them into the extraordinary adventures they potentially possess.  May our inventive creativity always challenge the mundane.

A Pearl of Wisdom

Is it possible to teach our children that the world truly is their oyster?  As a parent constantly searching to improve the outcome of my child’s life, I wonder if I truly affect the early years’ foundation, prior to the external environment’s influences. Is it only my perception that I carry such weight to mold a young mind?  Is destiny already in place?  I believe that the energy I move enables life to shift and with this intention, I influence destiny. 

Lately when I have been helping my six- year-old daughter drift off to sleep, she has begun seeking guidance on what to believe about life.  Recognizing the powerful impact I may have in this moment-by-moment interaction, I cringe at the weight of what to say and what not to say.  I originated from  from a black/white and right/wrong perspective; my aim is to offer a broader outlook to my offspring. 

My child inquires, who am I?  What am I? With such existential questions coming from an incredibly young inquisitive mind, I answer her with the honesty that moves within my heart.  I say to her, “Let me explain it this way.  What does it feel like when we skip down the sidewalk together?”  She tells me that it feels good, it feels happy, and it makes her smile.  I then say, you are that. You are the happiness, the good, and the love when your spirit sores with energy.  You are what it feels like to skip, jump, run endlessly in any direction, and twirl happily in a circular motion, watching clouds roll by and the rainbows that touch our hearts when we see them shine.  You are what makes life smile, I tell her.  Yet as the words leave my lips, I cognitively recognize the confusion I may be causing from the metaphors that escape her understanding. 

However, just as I am about to surrender to the basic rational, right-brained definition, she whispers, “Am I the way I feel?”  I sigh with pride and think, she is wiser than I could have imagined.  I answer softly, “You are that and everything you ever choose to imagine.”  You are not better or worse for the clothes you wear, nor greater or less for how fast you run or for getting in line before another person; you are as worthy as the next person, not more important or less.  What makes you different is how you feel about yourself on the inside.  You were perfect from the moment you were born, and all that follows is what you make of yourself, what comes from your heart, comes from your spirit, and your energy.  Remember that you are what rainbows are made of, where smiles originate, where blue skies get their essence. 

From this conversation, I recognize that a six year old comprehending the abstractness may fail some absorption.  My hope is that some of these moments where I preach pieces of spirituality, there will be a moment later in life, where she may turn to me and say, “Mom, I understand.”  When it comes to self-esteem and self-assured confidence, I trust when approached by a diverse perspective or negative judgment from another individual, she will soon be able to assert that she knows who she is, and that his opinion of her is none of her business.  My estimation is this will take time and be tested over the years. 

These moments as she engages in conversation of how her life began, how fears became established, how to obliterate the doubts that life presents her, she begins to recognize the keen sense she has to empower her life with intention.  May she have the energy to shift her life in the direction she so chooses.  She senses the gems of guidance I offer her now, but is starting to disregard these natural instincts as exposure to the mundane begins to occupy her brain.  Her gift of living life fully enables me to share a description of what she is experiencing.  We act as two-way teachers.  She offers me a gift in remembering my own essence, and I tender an avenue of maintaining her belief that all that she dreams is on its way to fruition.  The fact is that the world is her oyster and her heart occupies the pearl.

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