Ungrateful

My constant companion is anxiety—with just a smidge of depression—that I keep in check (mostly) with diet, mindfulness, journaling, an hour or more of exercise each day, and one massage a month. It works, mostly, to keep the eddy of worry from swirling into panic, but it’s a delicate balance and when my spouse goes out of town and I’m left with all of the responsibilities, my barely-held-in-check anxiety goes into hyper-overdrive.

I’m wound so tight, if you bumped into me, I’d twang like a guitar string. Or I’d deck you, just because I’m in this perpetual fight-or-flight thing that has me screaming at drivers who randomly try to give me the right-of-way even though they have a stinking green light and are going straight and if I turn left in front of them and at that moment someone decides to pass them, I’m in an accident and it’s my fault because I didn’t have the right of way. I don’t care how much you blink your lights and wave your arm, there’s no stinking way I’m turning in front of you because you have a green light! Green means Go, and following that rule is what makes the world work and keeps us from descending into chaos. Chaos!

When I’m not in the car, I indulge in escapism—part of the anxiety package deal—and since I’ve got urchins to care for and I can’t literally escape, I “escape” via the Internet. Doing this, it doesn’t take long before I find the posts about about how wonderful gratitude is. Science has proved that gratitude is the secret to being happy and not-anxious, so if I just give it a try, I’ll be calm and fine, and everyone else will be spared my shitty moods.

But gratitude doesn’t work that way for me.

Whenever my spouse is out of town, I think about my mom and how she had three kids compared to my two and how my dad was on cruise with the Navy for six to ten months every other year rather than a week or so three or four times a year, and you know what? It doesn’t help.

Yes, I am grateful that the guy who scoops the cat litter and brushes the little kid’s teeth before bedtime and does the dishes so I can be alone before 9pm is only gone for a week rather than ten months. I’m grateful that I can leave him a voice mail or send him an e-mail any time I want to, or, if it’s a big emergency, I can call his hotel because I know where he is, unlike my mother who wasn’t allowed to know beyond the most general descriptions where my dad’s aircraft carrier was.

Admittedly, I would feel more grateful if my spouse didn’t tell me about how great it is to sit in his kid-free hotel room drinking beer and watching football, and I’d also be grateful if he didn’t micromanage my handling of Garbage Day remotely, especially not while the kids are fighting with each other in the background and I’m trying to figure out what these maggoty things are all over the basement floor. (Turns out they’re acorn weevil larvae from the acorns we collected week before last. Public service announcement: don’t collect acorns with cracks or holes in them unless you like fat little grubs eating their way through the plastic bags you stored your acorns in.)

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Even feeling grateful that the grubs weren’t something that would infest anything we have in the house because all they care about is acorns doesn’t make me feel better. (Okay, maybe a little better.)

Despite the promises of science, I’m able to feel anxious even while feeling grateful.

What gives? Am I just contrary? Not trying hard enough? A scientific anomaly?

Nope. Digging just a little deeper I found this:

In a study looking at the effects of sleep and gratitude on depression and anxiety in patients with chronic pain, researchers “found that after controlling for the amount of sleep people got, gratitude still had an effect on lower depression scores. This means that regardless of their levels of insomnia, people who showed more gratitude were less depressed. With anxiety they found a different result. After controlling for sleep, gratitude showed no effect on anxiety. So while higher gratitude led to less anxiety originally, this is simply because it helped people sleep better, and sleeping better improved their anxiety.” (emphasis mine)

As it turns out, I’m not a freak of nature; I’m just a victim of the oversimplification of the results of scientific studies. (For those interested, here’s the abstract of what I think is the original article referenced in the link above: “The differential effects of gratitude and sleep on psychological distress in patients with chronic pain,” by Ng et al, published February 2013, in Journal of Health Psychology.)

Tonight after I put the kids to bed maybe I’ll turn off the computer and go to bed myself, feeling grateful that I’m getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

Yep, I’m sure it will happen just like that.

The Stretch

I used to do a lot of yoga. I’m not a naturally flexible person so yoga was a particular challenge for me. Not only was it a challenge to reach for my toes in a forward bend, but it was also a challenge to avoid looking in the mirror to see just how far I had to go. I hated that feeling of stretch, of being unable to do something I set out to do.

But I stuck with it. I kept pushing that edge, easing into it and sitting with the intensity until it subsided then easing into it again, this time a little farther, playing that edge of pain and fear, not quite going straight into it, but just pushing the border. Once in a Yin Yoga class we held a hip opener for a million years, and I felt my right hip relax beyond any relaxation point it had reached before, and I suddenly thought that this relaxation might be boundless and therefore my body might be boundless and then what did that mean for me? Panic rose up through my chest along with the urge to run out of the room, and I might have had my leg not felt like it wasn’t a part of me anymore.

Stretching changes things. It changes me and my idea of myself. It opens spaces in my body that I didn’t know were closed.

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Have Gun, Will Travel

Last week I found myself in a field in northeastern Ohio hunched over a loaded AR-15.

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It started a couple of weeks before when my sister and her boyfriend stayed with us in Massachusetts. Her boyfriend learned that I’d never fired a gun before, and I could see the wheels begin to turn as he planned a shooting outing for my spouse and me next time we would be in Ohio.

I’ve got a lot of existential angst, and I sometimes find it a little too much even just to drive a car knowing that, at any moment, I could drive off the road; nothing’s keeping me in my lane but my own will. So, the idea of firing a loaded gun has never really appealed to me. But I also enjoy new experiences and challenging my fears, so I said I was in. We lined up my mom to babysit the kids the Friday we’d be in Ohio, and soon enough we were driving up to the outdoor range in my sister’s boyfriend’s pickup truck.

We didn’t start with the AR. We started with a brief gun safety lesson in the Gun Room of my sister and her boyfriend’s house. I held the Glock and my husband held the FNX and my sister’s boyfriend ran us through how to pop in the magazine and how to chamber a round (sans ammunition at this point) and how to make sure there were no more bullets in the chamber.

Then he started packing up, getting out one gun after another and putting them in a black bag.

“OK, so we’ll shoot the Glock and the FNX and the 0.38. Oh, and the AR, of course. Not this one, though. It’s all loaded and ready. It’s my home-defense weapon,” he explained, placing a large firearm back into the gun safe. “And the shotgun.” He handed the shotgun to me.

“It smells different from the others,” I said. “Kind of like oil.”

“It has a wooden stock,” he explained. “You have to oil it to keep it from drying out.”

The wood on the stock was smooth and chestnut-colored. It was actually quite pretty.

“Honey, where’s your 0.45?” he asked my sister.

“In the bedside table,” she answered, and in a flash I wondered if I actually knew my sister as well as I thought I did. I mean, I knew she liked their trips out to the firing range, and I knew she’d gotten her Concealed Carry Permit, but keeping a gun in a bedside table seemed to cross another threshold.

Watching my scientist spouse with his greying hair carry black, gun-shaped bags to the back of the truck was surreal—“You’re finally exercising your Second Amendment rights, Honey,” I joked—but not as surreal as it was to actually hold a loaded gun on the range.

The first gun was the Glock 9mm. My sister’s boyfriend complained about it a lot because it wasn’t acting right. It’s a semi-automatic so you shouldn’t have to pull back the slide to chamber a round between shots, but the Glock wasn’t acting semi-automatic. It’s also pretty difficult to pull back the slide. My spouse actually cut his thumb pulling it back because he had his hand in the wrong spot.

I didn’t injure myself, but my hands shook as I tried to sight the target. Even so, I shot best with the Glock, I think because it was my first gun and I hadn’t yet developed the anticipatory flinch that preceded each pull of the trigger from the second gun on.

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In addition to the Glock, we shot three different 0.45’s (an M1911, an FNX, and my sister’s XD-S subcompact), my mom’s shiny nickel-plated 0.38 Special, the AR-15, and a 12-gauge shotgun.

The AR was the scariest-looking of the bunch. The civilian version of an M16, I found it a little intimidating both in looks and in reputation. I didn’t feel any less intimidated when I found how easy it was to shoot it.

I loaded the magazine into the rifle using a “beer can grip,” as my sister’s boyfriend instructed. He led me through turning the little safety dial to the semi-automatic setting and chambering the first round. (The dial indicated that there was a three-round burst setting (you can see it in the photo of the AR-15 below), but apparently that’s just for show. By law, guns can’t have the innards that can make them fully automatic unless you have special and very costly permits. Also, it wastes ammunition, which is probably why we wouldn’t have used it even if the automatic function had been active.)

I looked down the sight and lined up the little red light with the center of the target.

“We’re only 25 yards away from the target and the sight is set for 50 yards, so you’re going to shoot low,” the boyfriend had explained. By this time, we’d already shot four other guns, and I could never really tell where the bullet hit the target anyway. For one thing, the bullets went straight through the paper and tore up chunks of sod on the other side, which made it tough for me to know if I’d hit the target or just missed it entirely. For another, no matter how hard I tried, I could not keep my eyes open when the gun fired, even if I wasn’t the one firing it.

“We spend a lot of time training to reduce the flinch,” explained my sister. I hadn’t really thought of it as a flinch, just as an uncontrollable urge to shut my eyes when the bullet exited the gun, but I suppose that’s firmly within the “flinch” definition. “We’ll hand each other guns, and we won’t tell the other person if it’s loaded or not. That way, we can gradually shoot as though the gun is always unloaded.”

With the AR, I did seem to hit the target, although low, as the boyfriend had predicted. I was a better shot with that than I had been the pistols we’d shot so far. I thought about Newtown and Aurora and that ease of hitting a target the first time out with an AR-15 did not make me feel better.

That skull thing is "The Punisher."
That skull thing is “The Punisher.”

Also, the rifle was very heavy. I gave the gun to my sister to fire the last few rounds because I just couldn’t hold the barrel up anymore.

With the shotgun, we used full water bottles as targets. My spouse shot first. He had five shells, and although he hit the bottle on the first shot, my sister’s boyfriend encouraged him to keep firing at it. We joked that he was really teaching that water bottle a lesson, but I admit, I found joking about live ammunition a little uncomfortable.

Then it was my turn with the shotgun.

“Don’t worry,” said the boyfriend, “we’re only using game shot, so this won’t have much kick. It won’t even have as much kick as the AR.”

So, I held up the long shotgun, pumped the forestock (with a chick-chick sound, like in the movies), and pulled the trigger. I hit the water bottle, but I also clanged my teeth together and felt pain in the right side of my chest where I’d pressed the butt of the gun. A little shaken, I tried a second shot. This time I held my jaws tight so my teeth wouldn’t bang together, but when I fired the gun, I felt lines of pain down the back of my neck.

“I’m done,” I said, handing the gun to my sister to fire the last three shells.

Although I don’t recall ever expressing anti-gun sentiments (my views on gun control legislation are fairly abstract; I can see both sides of the issue and long for open discussion about how to preserve the rights of citizens to own firearms while preserving the rights of everyone to not be shot), I think my sister’s boyfriend was trying to convert me into a gun-lover with this outing.

Back in my kitchen weeks before, he and my sister told me about their friend Kim.

“Kim’s, what? Five feet tall?” the boyfriend asked my sister.

“At most. She’s tiny,” my sister said.

“At any rate, we take her out to the range, and she gets out there and fires the AR, and when she’s done she’s grinning like crazy and saying, ‘This is so fun!'”

Knowing this was the reaction he seemed to expect from me, I tempered my negative response.

“Yeah, it’s not really my cup of tea,” I explained. My favorite part of the outing was looking through the grass to collect the shell casings so my sister’s boyfriend could re-load them.

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Before we went to the range, I’d worried mostly about the emotional discomfort I might feel firing guns. There was a bit of that, but the biggest discomfort was physical. Although I liked the smell of the gunpowder—it smelled like the breeze after a fireworks display—I didn’t like not being able to hear with the protective ear plugs in. My wrist was sore from the kick of the pistols, my shoulder and neck were sore from the shotgun, and my arms were shaking from holding up all of that weight in a static position for so long.

On the drive home, as I tried to stop myself from thinking of every animal we passed—deer, cow, horse, and rabbit alike—“I could shoot that,” the thought occurred to me that my arms are conditioned for snuggling my babies, not for firing guns. Sure, I could do both, but there’s one I just like a whole lot more than the other.

Biking Home From Church: A Springtime Olfactory Journey

Decaying leaves.

Lilacs.

Honeysuckle.

Cow manure.

Cut grass.

Wild onions.

Charcoal smoke.

Fecund earthiness of the wetlands.

Car exhaust.

Warming asphalt.

Mild sewage smell from the water treatment facility.

Pine needles.

Congealed petroleum in the garage.

Pretzel sticks in the kids’ bike trailer.

Fishy, stale bicycle tire air.

The Contents of My Purse

My friend Lori has a blog post that includes a picture of the contents of her purse. The idea intrigued me, and I decided to do it, too. In preparation, I did some internet looking and found art exhibits, blog posts, and even a movie about the contents of folks’ purses, backpacks, and pockets.

It’s not clear to me what the contents of one’s bag are supposed to reveal, but it seems like they reveal something.

What do the contents of my bag reveal about me?

For one thing, they reveal that my go-to “purse” is actually a diaper bag backpack thing (although, as evidenced by the presence of only two pair of training pants, we’re about out of the “diaper bag” stage. I hope). I do have a cuter, smaller handbag or two that I take when the kids aren’t with me, but neither of those was loaded up when I wanted to shoot the picture. Maybe sometime this weekend.

(Note: I removed all old receipts and and used tissues from my bag before taking the photograph.)

Adventure for the Non-Adventurous

Wasn’t it about this time last year when I was fixated on the idea of selling everything and moving into an RV? I wonder, if I looked at my journals from the past two decades, if I would find that every late-winter brings me this “itchy feet” sensation.

What’s interesting this year is that my husband seems to have it, too.

“I think we should have some kind of adventure,” he said last weekend.

“Adventure?” I repeated, one eyebrow raised. “What kind of adventure?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Maybe a road trip.”

“We’re going to western Mass in July,” I said. “We could drive up to Acadia and camp sometime. We could drive down to DC and see my dad, visit some museums. Oh! We could fly to Mexico and visit Tucker and Victoria before they head across the Pacific!”

“I’d like to see Vermont,” he replied.

“What about the big Canadian/Upper Midwest road trip you wanted to do?”

“I still want to do that,” he said after a slight hesitation.

“We’ll need to plan it, then. Hey! We could camp all through Canada on our way to Detroit!”

“Umm…” my husband replied.

“The kids and I need passports, and to get those, we need you to come with us to the post office between 10 and 3 one day.” It doesn’t take much to get me off and running in planning mode.

“Okay. Let’s do it. We’ll make the deadline for applying for passports March 1st.” I was impressed by the decisiveness of his reply.

Of course, we’ve not done anything else towards this goal. The passport applications are still collecting dust on the desk. We’ve not investigated routes or campgrounds or timing for a Canadian adventure. We’ve not seriously considered whether our car is big enough for camping equipment for two weeks AND the family.

And it’s not all my husband’s fault. I talk a lot about taking adventures, but when it comes to action, I’m as guilty of procrastination and equivocation as he is.

As much as we’re craving adventure, we realize that our definition of “adventure” is different than other people’s. For us, the 30-mile trek into Boston is preceded by weeks of planning (and then eventually scrapped because it’s too much work/the kids won’t get much out of it/parking will be a pain/it’s too expensive/what will I eat? I missed the Pompeii exhibit at the Museum of Science for all of these reasons).

We will, with little hesitation, pull up stakes and move across the United States, something that other people find unthinkable, but at the same time, the trip to visit my dad in DC has been postponed indefinitely because I can’t decide if he’d be offended if I bought a salad spinner, brought along my Vita-Mix, and filled his fridge with kale during our visit and because between train, plane, and automobile, I can’t think of any way to travel alone with my children that would actually be “pleasant.”

But should adventure be pleasant? My friend from middle school, Maggie, who recently spent a year traveling around the world, wrote about sixteen-hour bus rides with no bathroom facilities (and along narrow roads cut into the sides of cliffs…not sure which part I found most unnerving about this). She wrote about trips down the Nile that resulted in her contracting some kind of parasite. She wrote about almost getting kidnapped and robbed by a motorcycle cab driver in India. She wrote about drinking some unidentifiable liquor during a power outage somewhere in Africa. She risked injury, illness, and death on three continents, and this was all still part of her definition of adventure. It falls more in my definition of “near-death experiences.” Chances are, it’s a little of each.

What, then, is our (our family’s) definition of “adventure”?

I’ve referred to taking the kids on the bus through downtown Salt Lake City as an “adventure.” There was an element of the unknown. We were doing something out of the ordinary, although not unprecedented. It required ignoring the unpleasant (like the smell of the guy in the seat in front of us) in favor of focusing on the pleasant (my son’s amazement at finding himself inside this huge vehicle, my daughter’s elation at getting to pull the cord to request our stop, my own satisfaction at successfully reading a route map/schedule). But there was little danger of physical harm or even of getting lost. If all else failed, we knew how to get home thanks to the grid system upon which the roads are laid out (my daughter learned early on to ask, “What South are we?” a habit that’s less helpful in New England). And I always traveled with ample snacks and clean water, in case we found ourselves stranded on State Street where there would be nothing but fast food places and adult bookstores (like the one advertising “used” magazines. Ew).

Tucker assures me that adventure is different for different people and that my little anxiety-filled adventures are just as adventurous as his family’s upcoming voyage across the largest ocean in the world. I have the sense that this is at least mostly true, but I’m not  entirely convinced.

I mean, which do you think sounds more adventurous? “We took our two kids and sailed our boat across the Pacific Ocean,” or “We took our two kids to the children’s museum in Salt Lake City via public transit”?

Or how about, “we camped our way across Canada from Boston to Detroit with two kids and a salad spinner?” (Yes, I know neither Boston nor Detroit is in Canada, but there’s some Canada in between the two cities.)

 

Perspective

With our late-October freak snowstorm, four-day power outage, and the start of National Novel Writing Month all hitting at about the same time, the degree to which I’ve over-scheduled and overcommitted myself and my kids became alarmingly clear. The chaos began with my husband’s lay-off in March and has just continued long after its needed to. Here we are, months after moving into our house, and I’m still in something like survival mode. I’m not happy. The kids aren’t happy. My husband’s happy but that’s because nothing ruffles his feathers. But even he admits things are more complicated than they seem like they ought to be.

As Janet Luhrs points out in The Simple Living Guide, we often keep ourselves busy to avoid intimacy with others and with ourselves. Whether or not that was my intention as I added so many responsibilities, it’s certainly had that effect. I feel so rushed, I rarely take the time any more to just be with my kids. I have no time for their emotional bumps and bruises because we’ve got somewhere to be in twenty minutes and the drive takes thirty-five. When my daughter was two years old, she had very few tantrums, in part because when she started to feel overwhelmed or upset, I had plenty of time and energy to empathize with her and talk her through our options. If push came to shove, we’d just scrap our plans for the day.

I don’t know exactly when I stopped doing that, but I’m sure the best my son’s gotten is the emotional equivalent to an emotional band-aid, so it has to have been at least two years. As a result, all three of us have more tantrums.

I repeat to myself over and over, “I don’t have time for this. I don’t have time for this.”

Why don’t I have time?

It’s because I’m prioritizing other things over being there for my kids. Or my husband. Or myself. And by “being there” I mean not only physically in their presence, but present in the moment, with them, where they are right then.

I’m not going to solve this with creative scheduling or some magic combination of activities. I have to solve it from the inside out, and that means giving myself the space to think, reflect, connect, and just be. It means deciding what activities will feed us and help us connect and bring us joy, and it means saying a polite but decisive “no” to those activities that don’t do these things. It means accepting that being at home together, playing, and connecting as a family is enough.

It means letting go of my reliance on things outside myself when I estimate my self-worth. I am not my blog stats, my Goodreads list, my Twitter feed, my Facebook status (no matter how witty), my deliberate wardrobe, my intentionally messy up-do, or the numbers on my caller ID.

I don’t know yet what I’m going to cut and what I’m going to keep. I don’t want to make any abrupt changes, so I hope that I’ll be able to take this slow.

I have no immediate plans for the blog (just for the blog stats, which I plan to ignore as much as possible). Just know that if you don’t read something from me for a while, it’s likely because I’m making space for something else.

Week 48 Review: Embracing Entropy

Back when my daughter and I were in preschool together (we did a one-day-a-week parent-participation preschool program with an evening parent-ed class), we parents used to talk about periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium. Kids go through periods of relative stability when things seem just peachy-keen and they’re agreeable, sweet little creatures and their parents feel like geniuses at child-rearing, for what other reason could there be for their children to be so wonderful? These stable periods alternate with periods of learning and growth and instability, marked by tantrums and irritability and frustration, which leave parents feeling like they clearly have no idea about this whole parenting thing and they probably should never have had children in the first place.

Equilibrium and disequilibrium. And not just kids go through these periods. We all do, to one extent or another.

I think I’ve been through a little period of disequilibrium this week.

Of course things are up-in-the-air. We just moved cross-country, sold one house, and are in the process of buying another. We live in a hotel, for crying out loud, and as of Tuesday, we’ll have no home address whatsoever. I have an oven, but no pans in which to bake anything. We have no set place to put the scissors or my headphones, and so I can never find these items when I want them (but am constantly tripping over them when I don’t). The housekeepers might show up at any time during the day, or they might not show up at all and we’ll be left with overflowing trash cans and dirty towels. I don’t leave the hotel without a stack of maps and written directions to even the simplest destination.

But even within this period of upheaval, I notice the ebb and flow of equilibrium and disequilibrium.

I think that this most recent period of disequilibrium came about with the knowledge that this is the last month of my Happiness Project and I really don’t know what I’m going to do next. What kind of blog will this be after August 1st? Should I even continue keeping a blog? I spend a fair amount of time blogging, and perhaps my time would be better spent.

Maybe I ought to focus my time on reading classics of literature, history, biography, and poetry in order to make myself a better teacher for my children and to enrich my own life through education. Maybe this is the time I should get myself into a more intense workout routine, maybe finally do a triathlon or a half-marathon or something. Or maybe I could take piano lessons. Or I could play my flute in a community band. Or take a course to become a naturalist. Or I could just go back to my perennial goal and finish the novel I started in November and join (or start) a local writing group.

And I feel irritated because even when I decide what to do, I won’t be able to put my plan into action until we’re settled in our new house.

I know that things are going well, and I’m very grateful for the fact that we have a closing date and a move-in date set for our house here. I’m enjoying it here and loving the hikes the kids and I take. But we’re still in flux and it’s getting to me.

Tonight, after a lot of pouting and stomping about, I left my husband with the kids and spent an hour on the treadmill downstairs. By the time I was nice and sweaty and tired, I’d decided to do my best to embrace the disequilibrium. I can’t get to stability and routine without going through the chaos. This is a time to release my hold on all of the routines and objects and ideas I’ve clung to so fiercely and let myself explore other possibilities and take in new ideas. There will be a time to choose a new course, or to allow a new course to unfold before me, it’s just not now.

The key during this time I’m in now is to read and to hike and to meet new people, to spend my time in enriching activities and taking care of myself by eating as well as I can and getting a decent amount of sleep. And I need to remember that feeling confused or in chaos doesn’t mean that I’ve failed as a mother or a person. It’s just the result of this period of growth. This is a time of waiting and collecting and learning. The equilibrium will follow. Things will get easier. I will find the scissors and maybe even the headphones.

And then, just as certainly, they’ll get more difficult again. I might as well sit back and enjoy it instead of railing against it.

Explore Month in Review

Ah, January.

It’s been a month of surprises and a fair amount of shifting of perspectives.

I skiied. And liked it OK. I’m not sure I like it well enough to get over the energy barriers of getting childcare, acquiring stuff (either purchased or rented), and making my way to a skiing location, which may or may not have a small hill I’d have to navigate before getting to the groomed cross-country trail with its comforting parallel grooves.

I started taking Aikido. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, and then I loved it. I’m going to continue doing it. It doesn’t require the preparation that skiing does.

I didn’t dance in public. But I did order food and I called a local pizza place and asked questions about their gluten-free crust and I chatted with a man with long hair, a full beard, and coveralls about chocolate bars that were on sale at the supermarket. These are rather tiny things, but they’re things that I generally avoid if at all possible. The fact that I did them and did them without feeling incredibly anxious and without going over in my mind again and again every single word I said afterwards is the impressive part.

So, I think Explore month had a positive effect on me.

Let’s see what “Marriage” Month holds for me in February…

An Harmonious Day

A selection of flutes from around the world
Image via Wikipedia

Our day today was all about music.

We began with a 9am graduation recital for my daughter and the other students who’ve finished a Suzuki flute book and are moving on to the next level. My daughter finished Book 1 and played “Long Long Ago” for her recital piece. She looked like a deer in headlights up on stage, and I was a little afraid when she just continued staring unblinkingly at the audience when the accompanist asked if she wanted an intro or just wanted to start playing. But once she heard the piano intro, she jumped right in and played her piece.

I really enjoyed watching the other flutists play this morning. One young woman in particular who’d graduated from Book 8 was amazing to watch. She would raise her eyebrows and move her shoulder a bit, lean forward and then pull back along with the music she was playing. She played a variation of Carnival of Venice that was technically challenging which made the ease with which she played all the more impressive. At some point during the song, the flute just seemed to fade away, and it seemed like the music was emanating from the young woman herself. I’ve had that experience for brief periods of time playing my flute, but I don’t recall ever having it while watching someone else play. I found that it left me feeling satisfied, joyful, and optimistic about my day.

After the recital, my daughter went to two short flute workshops with my husband while I took my son to our Music Together class. As we drove up and he saw the building where the class is held, he started saying, “Me-me! Me-me!” and signing “music” frantically. He practically jumped out of his car seat when I unbuckled him. In class he danced and played the drums, in between stopping to touch base with me and nurse a bit. He smiled the entire time and was especially thrilled when the teacher brought out balls to roll with the beat of one of the songs.

At home this afternoon, my daughter got out her flute and began improvising a little tune, adding in bits and pieces of songs she already knows connected with little trills and rhythms of her own design. This evening before bed, she offered to help me memorize Bourree, the final piece in Book 1. I tried to explain to her that her brain is at a developmental stage better suited to memorization than mine is, but she just took that to mean I needed more help. She clapped while I played, and she helped me by telling me the notes when I lost my place. We both had a fun time.

Usually, I find outings on the weekends stressful and find myself complaining and yelling more than I’d like. Today was a pleasant change from that. There were challenges and stresses, but on balance, I found myself feeling joyful all day, just playing and having fun with my children and our music.

I’ve been making a mental list of things that leave me feeling expansive, connected, and hopeful. Playing music with my children is going on that list.