2,300 Words and a Trip to the Emergency Room

My mom bought me a MacBook, about which I’m very excited as it will make it easier for me to sneak away and write during NaNoWriMo. It’s supposed to arrive by Wednesday. Until then, I’m finding alternative ways to write away from the kiddos.

Today’s big plan: take the kids and the babysitter to the library where they’d all play in the children’s section while I wrote on the computers in the “Technology Center”. All was going according to plan. There was a computer available immediately, and I sat down and started to write. Every time I started asking whether what I was writing was any good or why I was trying to write a novel or if anyone would ever want to read this thing or what the people surfing the internet on either side of me would think if they knew I was writing a novel, I just took a deep breath and kept writing. When I hit a sentence I didn’t quite like, instead of deleting and re-writing it 17 times, I just wrote an alternate sentence or phrase to remind myself of the newer, greater wording I’d come up with, then I kept on going.

About an hour and a half later I had 2,300 words. Not a bad start for Day 1 (the goal is to average 1,667 words per day). I browsed the CDs for a bit, hit the restroom, then went in search of my children.

When I found them, it was clear that the baby had been crying. He resumed crying quite heartily when he saw me. Turns out, he’d fallen at least twice and bumped his head pretty hard on the steps in the Ice Cave play area. He calmed down long enough to nurse, then picked up the frantic crying where he’d left off. By the time we got home, he’d been crying for about 45 minutes, which is longer than he’d ever cried in his life. I put in a call to the doctor’s office and they instructed me to take him to the emergency room. He’d been crying for about an hour and a half when we got into a room, at which point he promptly stopped crying and started acting like his normal happy self. Three nurses, two doctors, and 90 minutes later, we were given the all-clear and left for home.

Not exactly what I’d planned for the first day of NaNo, but I suppose it’ll make both events more memorable (the first day of my first NaNo and my son’s first ER visit). Now to get everyone to bed and snuggle in to sleep myself in preparation for whatever adventures tomorrow may hold.

November: Writing Month Kick-Off!

240/365 National Novel Writing Month begins

Image by owlbookdreams via Flickr

Here I am jumping into November with as much enthusiasm as I can muster! I’m excited for this month’s resolutions, but I’m also greeting them with some trepidation as they’re pretty darned ambitious.

November 2010 – Writing
Focus: Jump start my writing practice and make it a part of my daily routine again.

-Write a Novel. November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo or simply NaNo for short. Did I know about this before this year? I think I must have. At any rate, I know about it now. One of the biggest hurdles to my writing has always been that pesky inner critic. She shoots down ideas before I can even get them on the page. She’s such a perfectionist that I end up staring at a blank page or an empty screen until I finally just give up and read a book. NaNoWriMo is my attempt to side-step this inner voice. I figure if I set a writing schedule and sit down and write as fast as I can and focus on averaging 1,667 words a day rather than on writing something “good,” I might be able to complete a “Shitty First Draft” (as Anne Lamott calls it in Bird by Bird) before that inner killjoy realizes what’s happening.

-Establish a Daily Writing Schedule. This is the second biggest hurdle to my writing practice. Something is always more important than writing. I recognize that this is largely a reaction to fear of that inner critic (she’s really mean and scary), and I’m hoping that with such a lofty goal as NaNoWriMo to motivate me, I’ll finally figure out how to squeeze in an hour or two of writing each day. I suppose I could always just count the time I spend blogging; in which case, I’m done!

-Facebook Fast. Facebook is the biggest time-suck of my day. It does often add value to my life, but the value I get back is a very small percentage of the time I put into it. The other thing I get back is information overload and a compulsive need to check for updates and comments people have left saying how witty I am, both of which are probably just as damaging as the sucking away of my time. I have my blog set to notify Facebook automatically when I post new entries, but I haven’t figured out how to automatically notify my Imperfect Happiness Facebook Page, so I might allow myself to log in once a day to post the link to my latest blog entry on the Page. If any of you Facebook-and-Wordpress users know how to do this automatically, I’d love some tips. Because I’m not at all sure I can simply sneak into Facebook, update my Page, then sneak back out again without getting sucked in. Also, I will allow myself to reply via e-mail to comments friends make on my profile and links and to messages they send, so if you’re a FB Friend and see me commenting, don’t get your panties in a bunch thinking I’ve broken my fast so soon. I’m just circumventing the spirit of the fast via e-mail, not breaking the rules per se.

I’ll also try to keep my resolutions from August, September, and October, perhaps without quite so much intense decluttering. If you’d like to see my full Happiness Project Schedule, please click the link to the left.

Martha Stewart is no Friend of Mine

I don’t know if it’s country-wide, but in our neck of the woods, trick-or-treating happens on the 30th when the 31st falls on a Sunday. My Halloween experiences have given me a sneak peak of what I’m likely to experience throughout this fall and winter holiday season. And unless I can change my outlook, it’s not going to be pretty.

I’ve recognized for a number of years that I can’t reasonably accomplish all of the things I ideally would like to in relation to holidays. Since I’ve never been quite willing to give up my desire for perfection, however, I generally compromise by doing a half-assed job while feeling as tense and acting as irate as I would were I actually attempting to achieve perfection.

The past couple of years, we’ve gone trick-or-treating with our friends in their neighborhood. This year, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, we’re on our own. Now that my daughter is old enough to remember Halloweens past and compare those with this year, I felt extra pressure to make this Halloween special for her. I’ve sought out every event involving costumes I could find, and we’ve been attending Halloween-related activities since the 21st. As a result, I’ve been burned out on Halloween for a week already and it’s not even officially here yet. And my daughter seems totally content with whatever we end up doing. Trick-or-treating? Great! Staying home and giving candy out to the kids who come to our door? Great!

I’m really at a loss as to how to reconcile my desire for traditional holidays (with things like decorations and special foods and gift wrap) with my desire for holidays that don’t involve my daughter very patiently explaining to my husband that Mommy tries not to yell, but that sometimes she does anyway. (“When she yells, I just cry and ask her for huggles. Sometimes she just says bad words without yelling. I think when she yells, she’s teaching me to yell.”)

Do I lower my standards even further, which would reduce our celebration of holidays to little more than a “Happy [insert holiday name here]!”? I would love to hire someone to do the decorating and planning while I just relax and concentrate on not criticizing the people I’ve hired for not doing things the way I would were I perfect. I don’t really see how I can do any celebrating at all while at the same time letting go of the perfectionist part of me.

I guess the nice part is that I’m thinking about this already and it’s just Halloween. This gives me hope for figuring something out by the time New Year’s rolls around.

In the meantime, here’s some of what we did:

 

Our Jack-o-Lanterns. Somehow I ended up carving them all myself (although I only chose the design for one). I let go of my desire for the perfect photo and let my husband take the picture while I made dinner.

This is the only reason I carve pumpkins at all.

 

 

Compromising with Gravity

Last night I followed two of my commandments: Risk Looking Silly, and If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing Poorly.

First I side-stepped my inner perfectionist by finally framing and hanging all of the prints I had made and the kids’ birth samplers that my aunt cross-stitched. We have a dentist we like, a place to service our car, hikes we love, farmers we know by name, and now I’ve hung photographs, which means we’ll probably move out of state within the year, given our history. If I find a church I like, it’ll be even sooner. (That reminds me, I had a dream that I tried out a church downtown, and they showed up the next day and mowed my lawn and poured us a new driveway. I thought, “Wow, what a great way to get visitors to continue attending!”)

But back to the topic of this post:

In the evening, I attended an Anti-Gravity Yoga class with some friends for our monthly “Ladies Night.”

For those unfamiliar with Anti-Gravity Yoga, it was developed by Christopher Harrison (a Utah native who now lives in New York City), and involves hammocks hung from the ceiling in which the practitioners sit, wrap themselves, swing, and flip, and out of which, with any luck, they do not fall.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog (and/or if you know me in person), you may have guessed that I’m not much of a thrill seeker. There were a number of things I wasn’t interested in trying in the class last night. I didn’t really enjoy the swinging part and was tentative about the flips. The fabric of the hammock kind of cut into the meat of my thighs and hips, which was uncomfortable and not really something I needed to see reflected in a floor-to-ceiling mirror. But there were some stretches, like downward-facing dog, a variation on pigeon, and warrior 1, that were greatly enhanced by the support of the hammock. The shoulder/heart openers were quite intense, in a good way. My abs and back muscles are quite sore today, which is a little surprising because I didn’t realize I was working my core that much. And man, savasana in a hammock was about the most relaxing thing I’ve ever done.

I was fairly impressed with my willingness to be a little adventurous and try out this new activity. My husband asked what I thought of it when I got home, and I couldn’t really come up with a succinct answer. I don’t generally like things I’m not automatically good at. I’m aware of this and adjust for it in my thinking, so it’s not surprising that my opinion about Anti-Gravity Yoga is nuanced. I think it would take attending 3 or 4 classes before I could say for sure whether it’s something I enjoy or not.

But I definitely enjoyed getting together with friends and meeting new people. If I’m going to hang upside-down with my feet hooked in a sling, I’d much rather do it in a room full of people I know than in a room full of strangers.

A Record of my Accomplishments (Decluttering-wise)

Here’s what I did yesterday while the sitter was with the kids:

 

Left side of upstairs closet #1. Luckily, it passed the cat's rigorous inspection.

Right side of upstairs closet #1. Don't ask what's in those plastic storage bins.

Pantry (aka, closet under the stairs with the low doorframe I always whack my forehead on). Yes, it's stuffed. But that's a good thing, right?

 

If you sent us a card for our wedding, sorry but it’s now in the recycling. (Well, I kept a couple of personal notes, but the cards that were just signed are outta here.) And what you don’t see is that there used to be a ridiculous set of white plastic shelves just inside our office door that served as our pantry. I managed to get rid of enough stuff that I was able to fit all of the items from those shelves into either the kitchen cupboards or that under-the-stairs closet, which might explode next time we go to Costco. The shelves are now in the upstairs bathroom waiting for the extra toilet paper and tissues that are currently stored in my clothes closet.

Today, I moved all of the craft supplies from the upstairs closet to the hutch-and-buffet thing in our dining room, which is where we do most all of our crafts anyway. I made space in that piece of furniture by moving a bunch of cake pans and glass pitchers to the otherwise useless space in the back of the corner cupboard in the kitchen. I did this while standing on a stool with my son clinging to my legs and laughing.

The bottom shelf still holds food items, but the upper two shelves are all crafts.

 

Craft closet/pantry extension/hutch and buffet. The green boxes are from the extra wedding invitations I finally discarded. They now hold pompoms and sheets of colored craft foam.

 

While the potatoes simmered on the stove this afternoon, the kids and I raked the yard in preparation for the snow/rain/sleet/slush we’re getting as I type this. Mostly what the kids did was sit in the leaves I piled on the tarp then rode on the tarp as I hauled them and the leaves to the holding piles under the big evergreen tree things at the edge of the yard.

I got one heck of a workout this afternoon.

 

Leaves that were, until a few hours ago, covering our lawn. We keep them in piles to use as "brown" for the compost throughout the year and to cover the garden beds in the hopes we'll have lovely soil in them that's ready to plant come spring.

 

I also went through a collection of keepsakes in the antique trunk my mom gave me when I got married. I found portions of my childhood rock and shell collections, which I gave to my daughter, and several stuffed toys which I tossed towards the children and let them dive upon. Included in the bunch was a plush football with the initials of my high school on it that my brother made in home ec class, a hand-made “word fun” activity sheet (an Easter-themed word-find) that my sister made for me, I think when I left for college, and this:

 

I'm pretty sure my little brother drew this for me to take with me when I left for college. I love that Garfield is saying, "Rad."

 

I also found several school photos, band photos, and homecoming photos of friends from middle school and high school. I considered scanning and posting those to my Facebook profile, but decided that these were people I’d prefer didn’t unfriend me.

When my husband returned home from work, my daughter immediately showed him all of the great stuff I’d given her and made a point of how special they’d been to me when I was a kid and that now I had given them to her. My husband spent the evening asking me where things were. (“Honey, where are the crackers these days?”) I gave him helpful responses. (“In the cracker cupboard, dear.”)

Joyfully Moving

I got to attend the Monday night step class at my gym tonight, which I’ve only done once before, even though I loved it that one time I went. I’ve got the babysitter from 2-5 on Mondays and the class is at 5:30. Every time I think of how much I want to go to that step class and start to reason through how I can make it work to attend the class, I stop myself. It’s bad enough to take time away from my kids to go to the gym. I should just work out while the babysitter’s there and not try to take any more evening time. It’s too much trouble for my husband, it’s too much time away from the kids, it’ll mess up dinner time.

I recognized this attempt to avoid doing something for myself in the section of Marion Woodman’s Addiction to Perfection that I read last night:

For the perfectionist who has trained herself to do, simply being sounds like a euphemism for nothingness, or ceasing to exist. When the energy that has gone into trying to justify her existence is redirected into discovering herself and loving herself, intense insecurities surface. Abysmal emptiness questions whether she is here at all . . . To cease to give is to cease to mother, and where the ego is identified with mothering it doesn’t know at first what to do. It is so used to giving that it doesn’t believe it is worthy to receive, or else thinks that receiving is demeaning or selfish.

I smiled as I recognized myself in this passage. Then I took a pad of paper and wrote a note to my husband (who was already in bed) explaining that I was going to stick around home and clean out closets and get dinner ready while the babysitter was here, and then I was going to go to the 5:30 step class.

During the morning, I did manage to do some prep work for dinner (including making two batches of GF/CF pita bread, one that turned out more like GF/CF hockey pucks and the other that was softer but for some reason didn’t form the little pocket in the middle). But I ended up spending the entire three hours that the sitter was here on two closets, and I didn’t get any more done on dinner. I considered scrapping the step class idea, but in the end, I stuck with the plan and left my husband with a recipe book open to the falafel recipe and a bowl full of soaked garbanzo beans.

Waiting for the step class to begin, I scrutinized my image in the mirror (especially the tummy pooch I still have because I cannot seem to get my abdominal muscles to close up since they separated while I was pregnant with my son), compared myself to the other attendees, wondered if I should have worn long pants instead of shorts or a short-sleeved top instead of a tank top or if I was lame for having only one riser under each end of my step rather than two like most of the rest of the class had. But as the class began, I let these thoughts pass and focused on the beat of the music and my breath and the rhythm of my feet. I found that I was able to keep up with the cues better when I didn’t think about them. There were a number of times when I got to the end of a sequence and realized with surprise that I was actually on the same foot as the instructor and facing the same direction as the rest of the class without consciously trying. I also enjoyed watching how the instructor clearly enjoyed leading the class. I decided I really liked him, and I really liked my gym and Salt Lake City and my kids and my husband. I spent the class filled with love and joy, and I had just a great deal of fun.

I worry sometimes that the step class isn’t as intense or well-rounded a workout as my regular workout. As a result, I tend to consider it a treat to only take part in once in a while rather than as a core element of my exercise regimen. If I start going to the class regularly, I wonder if I’ll experience what Woodman describes: “once that forgotten energy begins to flow through dancing, painting, singing, joy is not experienced as selfish or luxurious, but as an absolute need.”

Woodman also writes about a lecture by Northrup Frye in which he points out that the word “rejoicing” in a passage from Proverbs is translated from the root word for “play.” One of the churches I’m planning to visit has this note on their website:

We Worship God Through Movement As Well As Words
Our bodies are God’s own creation through Jesus.  God knows what it is to be human.  Movement can be a way of giving ourselves back to God.  You will see many people crossing themselves, bowing, and kneeling at certain times.  When you come to worship try movement and see if your experience of God is made greater.  Movement, though, is not required. You may find it perfectly fulfilling without it.

I noticed that when I first read this, I felt a little uncomfortable. It seemed kind of hokey to me, and I felt a little nervous about what the service would be like with everyone moving around and giving themselves to God. But now I’m wondering if this could just be the reaction of that part of myself that is more comfortable with the “masculine” and resists any shift towards the more “feminine,” which would include the physical body rather than just the intellect. Maybe I feel more loving when I’m moving with the music in step class because I’m more complete and therefore more open to the spiritual. Maybe I’m rejoicing through play.

This morning while mixing up the first batch of pita dough, I put Chopin’s Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op. 53, on the CD player. The baby smiled up at me and started dancing. He ran his little feet, flapped his arms, spun in circles until he fell down, and laughed when I joined him and danced across the kitchen. I remember dancing with my daughter when she was around this age. Her favorite was Bing Crosby singing Jingle Bells. I wonder if kids are born knowing how to rejoice through unselfconscious movement and we—well, some of us—just lose it as we grow older. Maybe we’re all born with the masculine and feminine fully integrated within us, and as adults, it’s simply a matter of rediscovering that balance.

Getting to the Nitty Gritty of my Perfectionism

My mom just visited for about a week and a half, which gave me the chance to observe perfectionism in action from the outside. Usually I’m just trapped inside, observing my own actions, which isn’t nearly so enlightening as watching from outside.

The way my mom’s perfectionism manifests itself during her visits is in non-stop projects. Those who have been reading the blog this past week or so have some idea of the frenetic levels our home-improvement (and “me”-improvement) binge reached. I get the impression that when my mom looks out at the world, she sees all of the things that are wrong with it. Then she focuses in on the things that she might be able to change and gets to work. I can recognize this because this is pretty much what I do (less with the home improvements and more with the self improvements, although I do move furniture an awful lot and used a caulk gun for the first time last night instead of going to bed at a reasonable hour).

This is where my perfectionism gets in the way of my happiness, I think. In addition to interfering with my sleep and causing me to ignore (or attempt to ignore) my children, the underlying belief driving all of this fault-finding is that things just aren’t right. There’s something wrong in my surroundings and there’s something wrong with me. There’s a related belief, which is that if I can eliminate everything wrong with my surroundings, that the wrong things in me will disappear, too, and vice versa. When I feel stressed and I get that “wrong” feeling, I immediately retreat to perfectionism. I make lists, schedules, routines. I track my food intake and develop rules for my eating. I either avoid social interaction or my conversations are peppered with long pauses as I attempt to say just the right thing (or at the very least to avoid saying the wrong thing). I can keep this up for a few days or as long as a week, and then I start to falter and quickly descend into chaos, from where I then lift myself out via perfectionism and the cycle begins again.

What’s interesting to me is that the chaos I feel inside doesn’t seem to show itself on the outside. We had dinner out with some friends from North Carolina last night whom we hadn’t seen in seven years. I don’t know how we got to it, but at one point the other three adults at the table all emphatically declared that I am very organized. I don’t often feel organized. I wonder if this suggests that the chaos and disorder I feel are mostly on my insides but because I don’t recognize that reality, I try to eliminate the chaos by changing my outsides.

My mom’s visit was like an orgy of perfectionism. Oh, look! This thing I’ve not done anything about because, you know, I’ve got two kids and I’m homeschooling…I can complete it and 15 other things I’ve not even thought of doing because my mom’s here to help. It was awesome and it was exhausting and now I’m trying to let myself down easy so I don’t drop into a pit of disappointment at my relative lack of productivity.

So here’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to follow my own advice and Not Jump to Solutions. When I feel that “wrong” feeling, I’m going to just sit with it. I’m going to observe it, take note of it, and just move along. I’ve got my decluttering, which I think will help to relieve some of the pressure that builds up when I just need to pull out the stove and clean behind it at 11:30 at night. But I’m going to do my best to avoid going to extremes and focusing so much on cleaning or on scheduling or on finding the perfect spot for the coffee table that I ignore the underlying feelings and beliefs that are driving my need to change things.

Last night I had a dream that I was in charge of planning nine weddings that would take place over the course of three hours. And I still had my kids to take care of. I had all of these favors and table decorations to assemble and the kids kept walking off with things I needed. I would stare at these tables covered in supplies and try to reason through how to get everything put together before the weddings began. Two of the weddings were for people I knew and one was for myself (the other six were for people I didn’t know). I updated my Facebook status (in the dream) saying that I was getting help from my friend in fixing my hair for my wedding. I remarked that it was something of a lost cause. My friend was getting exasperated with me because I was so clueless about how to pretty up my hair for an important occasion and because I kept trying to do more prep work for the other weddings. Then, even though I’d not finished all of the things I’d planned for the first wedding before it began, I saw that everyone was having a great time and the bride looked gorgeous. I cautiously considered devoting the rest of my energies to preparations for my own wedding, which was the last of the nine.

I don’t know. I think this dream just reinforces the importance, for me, of paying better attention to my own needs and improving my skills at observing and caring for myself. Most everything else can pretty much take care of itself, or at the very least won’t fall apart if I’m not in complete control 100% of the time. Another bit of my own advice comes to mind: If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.

Like Alice, however, I always give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.

Keeping Routines: Worth Doing Poorly?

I don’t have a great track record keeping routines. I blame myself.

I’ve tried blaming the children, but it doesn’t seem to stick, perhaps because every time I do, this little nagging voice reminds me that I couldn’t keep a routine before I had kids, either. The kids certainly don’t help, but I don’t think they’re entirely at fault.

I think the biggest hindrance to my routine-keeping is my over-planning. I tend to try to schedule every moment, which is impractical but I try it anyway. And of course I fail because my daily life just doesn’t seem conducive to that level of choreography. I’ve found that the routines I keep best are the ones that I just kind of start doing and then suddenly realize I’ve been doing them routinely. So, I decided to build on that theme and try to sneak in a couple of new routines on the backs of existing routines.

Routine #1 is a morning routine. The one thing I’d been fairly consistent about doing is the bathroom “swish and swipe” as recommended by FlyLady. I re-instituted that routine this week, and have been doing fairly well keeping it, despite the help the baby gives me by playing in the toilet while I’m busy wiping down the sink. I make sure I swish the toilet before I swipe the sink. I’ve also started making myself tea and sitting outside to drink it if I wake up before the kids. I started this during September, but I’m making more of a point of letting the dishes sit and the granola wait to be baked and the tofu wait to be marinated until after I’ve had my tea. I don’t get to do it every morning, but it’s nice when I do get to do it.

Routine #2 is an evening routine. So far, this one isn’t working out ideally. The idea is to get the kids to bed by 8:30, then clean up the kitchen, do some quick straightening, journal, read, shower, brush teeth, blog, and go to bed by 10:30. It’s currently 10:15, and I’ve cleaned up the kitchen. Mostly. I’m either not going to finish my routine, or I’m not going to get to bed by 10:30. Or both. I can’t figure out if the problem is not getting the kids to bed on time or planning too many things to do, or something else I’ve not considered yet. I’ve decided to stick with trying to do the routine as I’ve laid it out and using it as an opportunity to let go of perfection when I’m not able to complete the routine as I’d like to. Which is just a long-winded way of saying, “Screw it.”

Routine #3 is a weekly routine. Sundays we hike, plan meals, and go grocery shopping. Mondays and Fridays I work out while the babysitter is here. Tuesdays we hang out with some homeschooling friends. Wednesdays I take out all of the garbages because Thursday is trash day. It’s also homeschool field trip day, and soccer practice day, during which I work out again. Thursdays we have flute lesson. Fridays I clear the trash and non-car items out of the car, I clean out the diaper bag and my wallet, and I vacuum the carpet and furniture and sweep and mop the floors. And we have gymnastics and have been going to the library that day.

I think Friday might be too full.

OK, now I’m overwhelmed just thinking about my routines. So here’s a picture of the granola I made this week when I discovered while decluttering the kitchen that I had all of the ingredients for it. It’s from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair again. Maple Butter Nut Granola. Totally awesome. I put currants in it, too. My husband says I should go into business making and selling granola. I said I’d work on that in my free time.

 

Maple Butter Nut Granola

Maple Butter Nut Granola from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

 

 

Autumnal Equinox and Apple Pie

Apple Pie

Apple Pie for the Autumnal Equinox

My daughter asked to make apple pie for the first day of autumn. She apparently got the idea from the book Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet Wong. As the title suggests, they bake an apple pie for Independence Day, but my daughter expanded upon the idea and made what I thought was a suggestion very appropriate to the season.

I don’t bake much pie. I make a squash pie a couple of times a year, but gluten-free pie crust is a real pain to work with, so I avoid it except on special occasions, like when I really want pie. And I don’t think I’ve ever made a double-crust pie as an adult. I used to help my mom bake apple and cherry pies, so I wasn’t flying totally blind, but I knew that I was running a risk by making a pie from scratch with my 5-year-old while my 13-month-old toddled about trying to climb up the stool and open the hot stove.

To lessen the chance of emotional explosion during pie prep, I peeled, cored, and chopped the apples last night. I was going to make the dough for the crust, but my husband suggested our daughter might be disappointed that she didn’t get to measure and pour the ingredients, so I waited. And went to bed early.

As luck would have it, I got about an hour of solitude before either child woke up for the morning, during which I sipped my tea and watched the clouds race across the sky (and then did dishes and checked e-mail). When my daughter awoke, we started on the pie immediately. When the baby woke up about 20 minutes later, I strapped him to my back, and we went back to work.

As predicted, the dough was temperamental and there was more filling than I’d counted on, but I managed to fit everything in and kind of tuck the crust around the edges. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.

We’re in that period full of possibility when we don’t know yet whether the pie will taste as good as we anticipate (or even if I cooked it long enough). For now, we’re just enjoying looking at the results of our work and enjoying the smell of apples and cinnamon. I might even make some vanilla ice cream to go with the pie tonight.

And I can say honestly that baking with my daughter was a thoroughly enjoyable experience this morning. Happy Autumn!

Why is Getting Happy so Darned Much WORK?

In July, before I embarked on Mindfulness Month, I considered rearranging the project because mindfulness seemed too easy. Then a couple of weeks into August, I looked forward to September and thought, “Ahhh…self care. A month of eating well and getting plenty of sleep and spending time outside. That’ll be such a nice break from all of this mindfulness.” Now halfway through Self Care Month, I find myself looking forward to tackling Order in October. Clearing clutter—that will be much more fun than trying to take care of myself.

It seems there are a lot of growing pains associated with personal growth, at least for me. Just when I think, “Wow! This really works! I’m happier!” I hit this wall and feel absolutely lost. Everything feels up in the air. I either can’t follow my resolutions, or I follow them and then get discouraged because, not only am I not feeling bowled over by bliss, sometimes I feel even worse than when I started. Where’s my beatific smile? Where’s my feeling of equanimity and peace? I want to feel happy, and I want to feel happy now, goshdarnit! What’s up with this painful “disequilibrium” crap?

Here’s where I need to remember to breathe. This isn’t a race. There’s no finish line and no “right” way to get there.

And it makes sense that it hurts sometimes.

Several years ago, my sister broke her arm. For weeks her arm was in a cast in a bent position while her bones healed. When it was time to take the cast off, the nurse said, “OK, I’m going to straighten your arm now.” The pain of just unbending her arm after it had been bent for so many weeks brought tears to my sister’s eyes. Knowing my sister, I’m fairly certain that the word that came to her lips began with “mother” but did not end with “Teresa.”

But it was something that had to be done if she was going to use her arm again. She could have, theoretically, opted to leave her arm in the cast or leave her arm bent for the rest of her life in order to avoid that pain, just reconciled herself to not using a healthy arm until it atrophied to the point that she couldn’t use it anymore. But how tragic and unnecessary would it have been for her to not use a part of herself just because she feared the pain she would need to experience in order to use it?

Maybe what I’m doing with this Happiness Project is healing that joyful piece of myself and doing the exercise necessary to make it functional and strong. I could go through my life just not using that piece of myself, but how tragic and unnecessary would it be to miss out on that whole area of my life because I’m scared to go through the hurt?

Maybe it’s better to go through the pain it takes to use what we have than to avoid the pain and live without that part of ourselves.

But man, it really hurts like heck sometimes.