Thursday, August 29, 2013

Expanding our worlds...

Internet is a most fascinating thing.
Like in real life, the web is full of vanity; like in real life, it is full of beauty.
When I first started looking into the blogging world more particularly, I was searching for precise information. I was in a phase of intense learning on how to cook better, how to organize my home more efficiently. And I googled some key words.
And I stumbled/came across a few blogs, and I started reading instead of only collecting information.
And I started enjoying some of these blogs as much as I loved consulting web sites.
I started visiting a few of them, regularly.
And I became fond of them.
And I became fond of blogging people.
And I became friends with Sachi. 
Our true friendship expanded into another blog, Beautify Pacify.
I discovered different people, different lives, different countries. So different, yet so alike.
There are a few blogs I check on regularly, and Kristel's is one of them. 
She is so talented and does all sorts of beautiful things, I love her blog.
Recently we did a swap, and this swap lead to our daughters corresponding together.
And oh this morning, my daughter received a letter from Kristel's sweet daughter, with the most beautiful little gift inside: Kristel has already used a fabric I sent her, and as I knew she would, she came up with an exquisite creation and even sent a part of it back!

This piece of fabric came from my ancestors. I don't like keeping objects for the sake of keeping them, when I know these things can be better off somewhere else, in someone else's hands. Kristel has proved me right on that point!

There are so many ways the blogging world, like the real world, can enrich and expand our lives.
This is something I didn't know a few years back.
I am glad I know it now.

Friday, August 23, 2013

How many heartaches?

How many heartaches in their life, I wonder?
Feed and educate them, I can; clean their clothes, encourage them, teach and pamper, I can.
Protect, I can only a little. And as they grow older, spread their wings and fly away, it will only get more difficult, let alone impossible.
And I wonder, how many heartaches? How many falls, blows and injuries, tears and disappointments?
I can do so much in their young lives, and yet, I cannot stop them from being hurt by the insensitive, the manipulative, the gross and the selfish.
It took me ages, as a truly candid and confident individual, ages to realize how some people think and behave along particular lines of interest. How some people can act in the name of love or friendship in order to achieve their goals. How some people can therefore use the good in you and then ditch you, how insensitive and opportunist some of them can be.
I have had a few friends who turned out to be interested in me only for the help or connection or support I could give them. For a long time I gave unconditional affection and faith to people who didn't deserve that. Only to feel the pain of being left alone, only to feel the nastiness generated by jealousy or greed or selfishness. Was I innocent? I slowly recovered from heartless friends and made fewer but better connections. I chose not to close my heart, but surely I became more cautious and less spontaneously trusting.
Now, I've had the opportunity to see the friendly connections my kids make, and how, in their turn, they so genuinely and spontaneously love their friends. And how the love and affection we give sends us over the moon and makes us fragile at the same time.
And I watch...and see the cuteness, the innocence, the beauty. Alas from the grown-ups who try to control their kids' lives, I also see manipulation and opportunism, competition and jealousy. In older kids I sometimes see the seeds of rivalry and aggressiveness.
And I am left with the helpless knowledge that my beautiful children will also come across those heartaches.
Not only any mother, but any woman with motherly feelings will know how it feels. The fear and the anger beginning to groan and moan deep inside, when our sweet beloved little one is faced with darkness. When we see them starting to doubt, hoping in vain, being disappointed, or sometimes worse, being hit or insulted or harassed. Or when we see them ignorant of the manipulation or arrogance around them.
A mother's life is made of these fears too. I want to use my past experiences, good and bad, to become a better person. All those heartaches in a lifetime must mean something. Maybe simply the assurance that worthless people make good people even better. That building a beautiful life for my family and me, means loving every minute of it and acknowledging every minute of it. Including the ones that hurt. Because if you survive them while keeping a good heart, you'll only get stronger and wiser and happier. You'll be a free individual. Because you've got to accept the bad as well as the good, and draw your own conclusions and walk your own path.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Centering myself

I am glad to say that I was lucky enough to have met Val in this blog world.
Reading her previous two posts, I feel that it is getting stronger.
I have the same view as her.  Comparing ourselves with others and feeling bad boesn't achieve anything.
The same can be said of our children; comparing them to other children and pushing them will not accomplish anything.  The important thing is accepting ourselves for what we are or accepting them for what they are and also loving ourselves and loving them. That brings us confidence and peace.  If you accept them, they will accept you.  If you love them, they will love you.

There is something I do regularly these days.  That's "centering myself"; it's like a kind of meditation.
First, I focus on the center of my heart.  Next, I imagine letting my mind empty as much as possible, and imagine filling my center with something that makes me feel happiness, peace and love (such as nature, sunlight, animals, birds, etc.), for about five minutes in the morning.  Then, it's funny, I find myself filled with love, and I can handle anyone or anything, with a smile and without any negative feelings.  If possible, I do this in the afternoon and also before going to bed, focusing on feeling love at the center of my heart.

"Walden; Or, Life in the Woods" by Henry David Thoreau is a book I read when I was young and I loved it.  I would like to share the following quotes from this book, because whenever I read this book, I deeply feel centering myself is important:

Let us spend one day in the same slow way that nature spends it. Let us rise early without hurry or rush.
Let us not get excited over the small things that lie in our way. Let company come, let company go.
Let children cry, let bells ring.  But we will still have our day.

Let us be steady and stable. Let us plant our feet on the hard rock of the earth. Let us not get caught up in the mud and mess of opinion and prejudice and tradition and delusion and appearance, wherever we find it.Whether it is religion or politics or poetry or philosophy, let us find the place we can call reality, where we can simply say, This is.

If you stand in front of a fact, face to face, you will see it shining with the light of the sun.  You will see it shining with the light of the sun.  You will feel it in your heart of hearts, and you will then be happy to end your time on this earth.  Whether in life or in death, what we want is reality.  If we are dying, then let us face that fact.  If we are alive, let us go about our business.

Time is a stream I fish in.  I drink its waters.  As I watch the thin current flow by, I see how shallow it is.  Only never-ending time remains.  I would like to drink deeper.  I would like to be as wise as the day I was born.

My deepest feeling tells me that my mind is a tool for digging into the heart of things.  It digs deep until it gets to the secret center.  I do not wish to use my hands.  My mind is my hands and my feet.  My mind wants to dig its way through these hills.  Gold is to be found there, and Walden is where I will begin my search.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What competition?

Do you sometimes feel it, I wonder? Do you sometimes feel
The competition? The race? The urge? It comes in a sly package,
Wrapped with pretence and excuses, it comes also
With temptation, stress, it is never far.
As a mother, it hurts far more than it did before,
Before being a mum. I've known competition
For my work, my studies, I've known it also
In more personal domains, disguised as rivalry,
Lack of self-confidence, hesitation, fear. But it never
Was a big deal. I sometimes joined in, when I had to,
And that's that. But as a mother, it raises new questions
About my children, myself, and the world.
This world I live in, where cherished creatures make their 
First steps, stumble, and soar and dance again. And I see it,
At school, at riding lessons... whenever kids innocently
Engage in a new activity, learn and have fun, I happen to hear it:
Comparing, pushing up the limits, encouraging the fight, asking
Only for the very best. But is being the best at anything
An aim in itself? Don't get me wrong, I love a healthy competition
Where the adrenaline never wipes out friendship and pure enjoyment.
But I believe the only competition that's worth is the competition
With oneself...

One of my kids is learning how to swim these days, and I see it again,
Those parents pushing, asking their kid to be the first, throwing babies into the race.
But is life a race against others? That is of course not how
I see it myself. I do not care whether my little child will be 
The best of her swimming class, what I do care about is
Whether she enjoys it, whether she learns and makes progress.
I do not want her to focus on what others do or don't do, I love to see her
Participate, improve, be brave and laugh, and that's how every day, like my other kids,
She grows a little more independent, that's how I hope she and I
Remember that we are all different, that all accomplishments are fine and complementary,
That it doesn't take us very far to compare with others or try to be someone else,
Because really, improving and getting better is nothing without true enjoyment,
And the only competition there might be, is taking place within our bodies and minds.


Monday, August 5, 2013

I am enough

I have enjoyed Sachi's last posts so much, and there is a lot I want to write about my own country's traditions too. Yet today I want to share this bold statement above: I am enough.
There couldn't be a bolder statement for a person like me, and maybe for a person like you, too?
Yet this is something that has grown on me over the last few months, and something that has taken a more precise, definite shape, tone and meaning since I've started reading Brené Brown's book The Gifts of Imperfection.
The subtitle in itself will tell you a lot: 'Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are'. That says it all (almost!), folks!
 These last months, what with health worries, personal challenges to face, and beloved ones to take care of,  I've had to slow down temporarily my pace, I've had to accept the reality of time that passes, the necessity of simplifying daily routines. I've found out that sometimes one trying moment paves the way to an energizing one, that troubled times can lead to another era, a better one. I've had to admit that I had to take care of myself too, if not for me, for my family's sake. And then I started reading Brené Brown's book and I thought, 'oh my God, she is right!'
It all boils down, really, to the simple fact that we are enouh, no matter how much we accomplish. It is not about giving up and becoming slothful creatures; it is about acknowledging our worth. For me it spells out what I've been discovering on my own: I don't need to overdo it or be a super mom/wife/friend to be worth something. I don't have to earn the love I can receive.
The way we are brought up, the pressure society puts on us, all this leads us to fight for worth. Plus, I've been a perfectionist for so long. Now I realize perfectionism can stem from an unfocused vision of our objectives. As the author points out, perfectionism often isn't self-focused (how can I improve?), it is other-focused (what will they think?). It usually lies on the belief that if we are perfect, we will minimize the pain of being criticized or judged. As she points out too, this is a lost battle. You are never going to be totally perfect or avoid all negative comments. And you won't avoid the pain of being judged either. Approval, recognition, acceptance, those are not to be looked for in the first place.
Brené Brown also insists that 'we are a nation of exhausted adults raising overscheduled children'. We forget our natural, biological rhythms. At the end of her work she explains how she and her husband made a practical 'joy and meaning' list (the things that made them happy, basically) and a 'dream list' (things to accomplish). Here is what she says, when they compared both lists: 'we realized that by merely letting go of the list of things we want to accomplish, we would actually be living our dream - not striving to make it happen in the future, but living it right now'. As she says, this is rather counterculture. We produce, we consume, we accomplish, we race, we compare, we aim at perfection and achievement. She and her husband decided to cut down on extracurricular activities for their daughter, to work less (and earn less, but gain time as a consequence). 
This makes my heart full because this is how I and my husband have chosen to live. I have made the unpopular decision to allow my kids to have only one activity outside school. At home, we sleep late when we can. We linger, we play, we talk, any time we can. We cook. We read. We take care of our garden.
I don't want to rush my kids from school to class, from here to there. I don't want to rush myself. I don't want to earn money at the expense of the time spent with my children. I can't be bothered with having the coolest clothes and acitivities. As Brené Brown writes: 'What if we're normal and quiet and happy? Does that count?'
No judgement here. Some families might have the logistics to do otherwise. Or some may be happier otherwise. But normal people should be valued too. People who take time, don't exhaust themselves, don't earn tons of money, don't learn 6 languages and get the highest scores at whatever they do.
I love to read that what matters in our lives is not what other people think or say or value.
It might sound simple, but it isn't that simple, both as a concept and as a reality.
I have often exhausted myself, I realize that now more clearly than ever, to gain acceptance or approval or affection or consideration. Yet, I am enough.
Most of the things I've done, I'd do again. But for many of them, I'd change one thing: I'd leave other people's comments and criticism out of the picture. And of course there are a few things I'd skip altogether. This makes choices and connections much easier. This helps acknowledging and accepting other people's opinions. This helps trusting oneself.
The beauty of this is that it works both ways.
Everyone else is enough, too. Any kid, any adult, however cool or uncool they are.
Any dude, with or without cool accessories or great achievements, is equally enough.
This leaves mighty room for simple enjoyment.