Art Understanding

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Be brave and show your colors! Source:Ticktacktoeleb.com

Be brave and show your colors!
Source:Ticktacktoeleb.com

I started my second painting class last weekend. I have newly discovered the joy and release of painting using acrylic on canvas. Placing myself with paintbrush in hand in a completely new environment at the age of 36 has been so refreshing. It’s a new way to open up creatively, throw myself off balance and choose to become vulnerable thus learning more about myself in the process. Surprisingly, it has revealed a little more about my parenting style. Painting has shown me that one of the hardest things to achieve as a parent is to let your children experience the world in their own way without introducing any of our own biases or opinions. My work is my interpretation of the world. It can be judged but the critque will not change the facts and emotions behind my experiences. My children deserve the same from me. I should allow them the experience, encourage full artistic licence and make no apologies for what they create.

My class has about 6 participants of all ages and most of us are beginners. This means we are still finding our creative voice and feeling out of place. Still lacking confidence and quick to judge our own work, it is common to hear across the room at any point, “Ooops, I think I did it wrong!”. This statement made me think about how my children approach art. When my son was 2 or 3, he showed his own interpretation of the world in his visual art with no apologies made for colors, shapes or sizes used on his impressions. But once he began to join social groups and hear critiques of his work, he would also begin to judge his artwork. That head on the dinosaur is a bit small or the lake is not the right blue. Outside opinion became influential, so I became aware of my own judgements in this manner. I have to remind myself that art is interpretation and shows glimpses of how we see the world. There is no right or wrong. Expect variety and difference.

Being the recovering perfectionist that I am (see blog post here for details) , I had previously had moments of conflict while helping my children draw or color. I used to look over my children’s works of art and feel a compulsion to add or direct color use. I would even embellish pictures after they completed them! You may have experienced similar compulsions or you may think I am a complete control freak. Either way, we can learn from this ridiculous tendency.

I believe there is great value in teaching our children that their thoughts and impression are valid, regardless of popular opinion. Through art, we can teach that not everyone will agree with what they see and feel, but that does not make their experience any less significant or important. If, as parents, we embrace their works with empathy and share our past experiences of harsh judgement, we can create a strong bond of solidarity and teach shame resilience. We can teach strength, compassion and kindness.

So when someone in my painting class announces they have screwed up….I  like to grab these moments to shout out…. “Not wrong! Just different!”. We usually have a giggle, but it lessens the judgement. It opens up our ability to use different blends of color, paint a sky with a few extra clouds, or sketch a skyline with a few extra peaks. Creative freedom found in a world where we feel constrained and must ‘fit in’. This support of being different helps us to feel conviction in our work and confidence as we press on. Such feelings I would be thrilled to pass on to my own children.

CB

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Feeling Frozen? Just let it go…

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Finally freeing the light!
Source: Disney’s ‘Frozen’.

I believe that when you strip me down to the core of my being, there are light things and there are dark things. There are needs and there are wants. I need engagement, connection and to feel a sense of belonging. I need to be able to express how the world affects me, right or wrong, it is my own interpretation. Where the danger and the damage lie, is in the way other humans react and respond to my interpretation. This is where the world changes us. This is how we learn hurt, fear, rejection, and boundless shame. Is it avoidable? Not without massive culture shift. But there is always hope and it lies within, tucked up tight against the light, the dreams, the longing and the voice inside you that is straining to be freed.

When you were little, you heard things that changed you. If you were lucky, and I mean VERY lucky, the words molded you in a way that bound you stronger to your own foundation, working with your light. Shaping its intensity and radiance. If you were not so lucky, you heard words that dimmed your light, taking the surety and strength out of everything you said and did. These words cracked your foundation, crumbling it in a long trail behind you. Maybe the trail is so long that it looks like you could never trace it far back enough to get to the first piece. Your light waned, dimmed and cast shadows throughout you. I remember shadows being so terrifying as a child. They could have me believing in things that did not exist. Feeling terror for no reason. Believing in an untruth.

But I am a grown up now. I can more easily tell truth from lies, light from dark, good from evil. I am still the same child with the same basic needs but my defenses have grown with me whether I know it or not. The fear, rejection, and hurt will always surround me whirling like an invisible snowstorm. But the light inside us has heat. A warmth and a glow that can melt the most frigid of winters. We just can’t be afraid anymore. We need to believe that the light will guide us to the life that we have always longed for. We need to believe with everything that is within us. Our light is unique and beautiful and worthy. The world will know more color and beauty and joy just from witnessing our light.

So take those words that you heard as a child. If they were good, then nurture them, nudge them, and hold them towards your light to receive even more energy and love. If they were bad, gather them from every corner of your head where you can hear them, even the ones scrambling to desperately hide. Wrap them up in both hands. Squeeze them until they are tiny, forming a dark and heavy mass .  Hold them over the edge of a cliff that knows no bottom and just… let them go.

CB

Author’s addendum :February 3rd, 2016.

I revisited this post today after profound personal and professional experiences have forced me into reflection and self-exploration. I have become aware of what my ‘defences’ really looked like from the outside…throwing myself into my career, searching for validation in my work both from the satisfaction of helping others and furthering my profession. If I fed my ego, I would be nourished as well, right?

I have had two more years to witness how my own children have the potential of being so heavily influenced and changed forever by my words of judgement. I must be so much more careful with these beautiful, fragile, spirits. The worst thing I could do would be to dim their light. Because now I understand how hard it is to fight my way back through the dark to reach the light.

CB

 

 

“Goodbye Miss Universe”

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Small prizes for self-destruction. Source: http://capriciousd.hubpages.com/hub/7-Things-I-Wish-I-Understood-Sooner

Small prizes for self-destruction.
Source: Superstock.com

This past month I have thrown myself back into a previous work environment. I am back to work at a children’s hospital in the critical care programs. I have not worked there for over 4 years and the break has done me well, but I returned to keep up my neonatal and pediatric skills. While re-orientating in the unit with an old friend he mentioned in passing ” …I know that you are a bit of a perfectionist, but since you will only be working casually here, you will have to ask for help occasionally.”.  His next words became fuzzy as I processed that statement. Wow, he was right. I was a perfectionist. When he had worked with me I was endlessly fighting to prove myself every day and be flawless. No mistakes could be made. Good enough was just not in my vocabulary. I have, thank goodness, begun to evolve and grow in many ways this past year. I used to be a devout perfectionist, but now I am doing the work of recovering from this affliction and have great hope for myself in the future!

The thing that is really hard, and really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself. – Anna Quindlen

I can almost hear some of you contesting in the background. Shrugging shoulders and scoffing in disagreement. You are asking yourselves what is so very WRONG with perfectionism. Doesn’t it make you better? Motivate you? Keep you ahead of the pack at work? Some of this may be true, but what will happen if you make a mistake? If you are caught being imperfect, you will get an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. Dread and fear. You will feel a flush of heat up your neck and into your face. Shame and embarrassment. These are not pleasant feelings. You will then vow to be even more perfect, placing your nose to the proverbial grindstone and working even harder at your perfectionism. Running from shame and judgement, forever and always.

 perfectionism

Such weight of responsibility we feel from our perfect hair to our excellent, trendy choice in shoes! To look and act and live perfect lives is exhausting but you will only recognize this if you can step away. Like a long commute in for work every day of the week, you will only know the relief of the strain of perfectionism once you have stopped the daily habit. What if you could take this weight off your shoulders? What would that feel like? I know you’ve often wondered. When paired with the weight of the iron mask of my own projected self image, my attempts at perfectionism were like chains, anchoring me to a treadmill that never stopped moving. I could not step off, because if I did, I thought myself lazy, and not worthy of any positive thoughts or love. I would be judged, feel shame and there would be fear. The fear of the loss of attention for my huge efforts. I could not risk it. The consequences would be too great.

There must be some escape from this cycle of self-destruction. I can tell you that there is and I hope to show you a way. I view myself as having thrown off all but one or two small lengths of chain with both feet planted on the stationary sides of the treadmill. I hover above it, loathing the endlessly rotating belt. It stares me right in the face and I make no effort to look away. I shout out “I know you are there, and I WILL be rid of you soon.” But there is still much work to be done.

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in. – Leonard Cohen: Anthem

A huge step in my personal journey evolved when I discovered mindfulness. Becoming aware of your emotions and not over-identifying with them as defining who you are is very challenging and the concept needs to be adequately explained. Dr. Dan Siegel’s work on the Mindsight project is pivotal  in helping us navigate our identity : self, separate from emotion. Not ‘I am sad’ but ‘I feel sad’. Wading through a minefield of possible highs and lows every day and letting it flow. You, as a person and powerful being, afloat and in control of how much emotion you experience. The concept is life changing.

I have my children to thank for this personal evolution because becoming a new parent is one of the scariest, most vulnerable positions to ever find yourself in. Their entry into my life kick-started some amazing changes. No control, no study guide, no possible chance of perfection. I was wrong on many occasions, I needed to adapt and learn but I had no answers readily at hand. I can now very easily admit to my children that ‘Mommy should have done it differently’ and that I too, was learning.

I have historically been very hard on myself. I was never allowed mistakes and I still marvel to this day at people that can take a correction with no offense. Could I ever be that kind to myself? Could I ever love myself enough to say ‘It’s ok Christy, even with your flaws, you are good.’ ?

A moment of self-compassion can change your entire day. A string of such moments can change the course of your life. – Christopher K Germer

Great change and self development is always work, but it is my life’s work and it has become a new passion. I see now that perfectionism,  quite frankly, is boring and a dead end. Seeking a better motivator than temporary nods of approval, I am choosing a life free of chains, full of mistakes and laughter over my imperfection. Seeking a commonality with others on their own journey, I am learning to open up and share my ‘woops’ moments. Laughter and connection are becoming a new driving force. I am not alone anymore.

CB

Note: A good portion of my inspiration for this blog-post came from Brene Brown’s book – The Gifts of Imperfection. Reading her work can be transformational if the timing is right. Watch her first TEDx talk here.

…and I go to sleep counting my blessings.

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▶ White Christmas Count your Blessings – YouTube.

As I lay me down to sleep, I peep cautiously out of one eye to see if my son has his eyes closed yet. He used to be infamous for his poor sleep, but he is 5 and a half now. All grown up and a great sleeper. He has placed himself so that his head is on the same pillow as mine and his nose is only 2 inches away, his breath warm on my chin. His eyes are closed but I know his breathing patterns and he is not asleep yet, or at least not deep enough for me to sneak away.

I have time to let my mind wander and so it will. I think about this week of holidays, family time and celebration. I have nothing to complain about. I have no wants. No needs. My biggest problem this week is embarrassing at best: deciding whether to switch from an iphone to a Samsung. Seriously pathetic.

So I let my mind wander to gratitude, where I know I can always come away feeling refreshed and light. To reach out and embrace my children. To have them want to cuddle and play with me. To have a husband who is engaged, honest, and fun to be with. To have a home that is warm and safe. To go to work and use my skills to help others. These are my Christmas gifts. This is my joy. I allow the soft hush of this realization to resonate and bring a peace to my mind.

Christmas as we know it today has become a reminder of what I do not need. I give thanks for all the marketing and lights and bells and whistles as they blare out a message: “If you are not enough, then we can provide. We have everything you need!” And I laugh at the ridiculousness of the idea. Didn’t we grow up watching the Grinch learn this very lesson every single year, trying to stuff joy and love into bags and steal it? So then, even if we know it in our hearts to be true, we may not be ready to become it. To live it. To allow the message to seep in, take root and grow, changing us permanently as it thrives.

I remember the smile on the Grinch and his heart swelling in anticipation. I lay there and count my blessings as I count my son’s tiny breaths. One by one, smiling as they come.

CB

Filling the Void

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Today is Black Friday. A day of great deals. Fantastic shopping. A wonderfully cheap way to fill your life full of stuff. Stuff you likely don’t need. Stuff you would almost always be able to survive without. What I would really like to see is a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale for things that really mattered. 50% off a good hug! Save $30 on 30 minutes of meaningful conversation! B.O.G.O. pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks if you bring in a grandparent! A Half-price sleigh-ride up to visit my father before Christmas. Get today’s Groupon! – The chance to have all my immediately family in the same room for Christmas dinner with no arguments! (okay, that was pushing it). But seriously, this year I don’t want anymore stuff. I want people and talking and visits and joy.

This season has historically been consistent at making me nostalgic and this year is no exception. As I write out names on Christmas cards, I am remembering what has been lost and what has been gained. For the gains I am forever thankful. Yet, important people are missing and their vacancy leaves this void that I dance around every day. Like a dent in the Gyproc of the wall in the hallway. I know it is there. I see it very day and yet I look away to deal with other pressing matters.

So what can I fill this void with? Errands and tasks, work and more work. Stuff and more stuff. If I keep busy enough, any voids will recede and becomes less. But I don’t want to look away anymore. I want to see this year. I want to expose the flaws and examine them in full, blinding light. What needs to be done? What needs to be fixed? How do I make it whole? I believe I must fill this space with people. My people. The positive, bright twinkling lights of my friends and family. I know this is the truth but yet somehow I tend to get lost in the fray of everyday living. What are my excuses? I’ll show you mine if you show me yours!

Tasks, errands and work. Ah the almighty dollar! We work to make money to survive, right? For some this is absolutely true. Yet for others, work becomes a barrier to actually living the life they long for. Is there ever enough? Do we not just stretch that much further beyond our means once we obtain enough? I have blogged before about searching for years to find someone to share a life with and then spending every day separated from them while we are at work desperately trying to afford this ‘dream’ life together. Then we create little people and we end up scheduling their little lives until again we have lost each other. In a flash, my life is almost over and I can only ask for one thing. More time.

But how do we get time if it can’t be found on eBay or Amazon? Surely it is too difficult to obtain. A chunk of time for a steal of a deal! So let me tell you a secret I have learned about time this year. It can be shifted. A little to the left or a wee nudge to the right is all it takes. Make a window and emblazon it with a gold label bearing such authority that you cannot ignore its importance. ‘LIFE’ ‘TIME’ or ‘LOVE’ ! Take your pick of mine or choose your own, after all it is YOUR life. Shift your meetings and your readings and your shopping and your appointments until you have a void. And then fill that void with something big. Someone awesome. Fill it with memories that will always be with you. Because that big screen TV or that awesome pair of boots won’t be with you forever. Trust me, they are not there with when you go and even if they are, you will no longer care about them.

So I put it to you on this day ear-marked for great shopping. Write down your list before you get started. What do you really want this year for you? What do you need down to the core of your soul to survive? Who is missing that you can find? Take a few minutes and decide how you will fill the void. Happy shopping!

CB

 

Whispers of Sanity

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Silence is Golden
Photo source: http://www.influx.com.br

I woke up this morning in a coughing fit. It seems the little people of the house have infected me yet again. I painstakingly extracted myself from the cozy comforter on my daughter’s bed, writhing awkwardly so as not to wake her. My lungs wracking into spasm just as I closed the door behind me. I fell onto the couch and drifted in and out of sleep for another hour, thankful for more energy to get my small people through another day. I barely remember my husband kneeling next to me before he left for work. I think he apologized for his schedule. Sick or not, I was on my own. When my 5 year old woke and came to cuddle with me, I went to greet him quietly but my vocal cords were in full rebellion. Laryngitis. Oh crap.

I tried a few words but was rewarded with hoarse squeaking instead. For a moment I felt panicked. How was I supposed to parent with no voice? How do I compete for ‘air time’ with small, loud people all day? Can I just take a time-out for a day?

Taking a deep breath, I took stock of my tooIs. I thought about what I know of my children.

  1. They are capable of empathy
  2. They are reasonable (when not ruled by their over-dramatic brain regions)
  3. They love small changes in routine
  4. They are really just small adults

We can work this out, right?

So I started by whispering softly and then as the morning progressed, I just kept whispering. Eventually, they noticed the change and asked what was wrong. So I told them today my voice was sore and I needed their help to listen for my whispers.

As the morning progressed, I was thrilled that they quieted when I whispered. Their little heads would tip forward and lean in to hear me. Wow. Would you look at that! The change was sparking their interest.

Later, as we piled into the car, typical moments of tension evolved but I felt removed from them. Knowing that I could not interject, I felt like I was watching a scene unfold in front of me. I am certainly not a perfect parent and will admit to having to raise my voice on occasion but I still regret it every time I do. How unique to find the choice taken from me today. I have to be quiet, observe, connect and whisper today. I can listen in or offer a word or two of subtle advice, but otherwise, I must allow them to live the moment on their own.

Later still, as I carried my daughter off of the school playground against her will (how is it that even when their fingers are freezing off they still want to play?) I leaned in and whispered some words of comfort and distraction. She leaned her head back against mine and conceded. No big argument. Just quiet agreement. Yes!

This reminded me of something I had read once. A reminder that when we whisper or speak softly our hearts are more connected, somehow in tune with one another.

Below is the full excerpt from Paulo Coelho’s blog:

A master asked his disciples:

‘Why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they are upset?’

the disciples thought for a while, and one of them said
‘Because we lose our calm, we shout for that.’
‘But, why to shout when the other person is just next to you? ‘Isn’t it possible to speak to him or her with a soft voice? Why do you shout at a person when you’re angry?’
The disciples gave him some other answers but none satisfied the master.

Finally he explained:
‘When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other through that great distance.’

Then the master asked:
‘What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, why? Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is very small…’

And he concluded:
‘When they love each other even more, what happens?
‘They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love.

‘Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.’

 

For a day, I have no choice. No option but to submit to calm and cool parenting. But will I remember the lessons learned tomorrow when my voice returns? My children hope so. And so do I.

CB

Confessions of a Slasher – life choice or economical necessity?

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I keep hearing this great ‘new’ term: Slash Careers. You’ve heard of them before but probably labelled it offhand as a bizarre life choice for that eccentric fellow you met at your spouse’s Xmas party last year. You remember the lawyer/musician/life coach? Or your odd girlfriend from university, the hairdresser/lab tech? Who are these curious oddities? How can they be living a life with more than one primary occupation? I was confused. Until I became one of them.

I discovered firsthand… there is name for my incessant need to delve into new careers and explore my unique abilities. I belong to the odd. I belong to the undecided. I belong to the unique. Or at least I did, until slash careers started to became almost the norm after our most recent economic decline. The world is moving at a fast pace. So I figure, I’m going to grab on,dig my fingernails in and go for a good ride while I’m here!

My slashing began a few years ago when I started training to teach ballroom dancing. I had already established myself in a career as a Respiratory Therapist for 6 years, so when people asked me what I did for a living, I had always said I was an RT. After I began to teach dancing, I started to find it frustrating answering the dusty old question, “So what do you do?”. Do I answer them from a perspective of pride and accomplishment for my established health care career or do I speak of my passion for dance?

My slashes appear to follow a trend of left brain intellect vs. right brain creativity (Respiratory Therapist/dance teacher). Others follow a solid-income/life-passion pattern (engineer/activist). Some just do what they have to in order to survive (entrepreneur/medical office assistant/yoga instructor).

What a fantastic way to ensure that you have something to ‘fall back’ on if one career suddenly takes a nose-dive. This is the very best kind of insurance policy…one that you use and enjoy! If your teacher/musician/writer gig doesn’t offer enough security, you can always decide to take that amazing skill of rock-climbing and love of tourism off into a new direction with an adventure travel-guide business.

But here is the ultimate question: Are people that have slash careers happier? Is this some new methodology for self-expression? Is this a way for us to live our lives with more choices, feeling as though we can have a balance between what allows us to survive and what keeps us thriving?

For myself, I say: absolutely. All of the above. I keep adding to my slash titles every year or two, simultaneously expanding on my ability to cushion another economic downturn while experiencing great satisfaction in new-found talents.

RT week2

My happy place…critical care. Stressful but awesome.

My happy place. Photo credit: Christine Bacon 2010

My other happy place- on the dance floor. Dance is my biggest passion by far. Photo credit: Christine Bacon 2010

Some people will argue that by spreading your interests too widely, you remove your ability to become great and excel in your ‘field’ . I will argue that your renewed energy and vigour for life will keep you most able to rock out any chosen career. Shaking off the mundane daily grind with variety will give a unique perspective and likely make you better at all of your careers. My personal experience was that my public speaking ability in the critical care medicine world soared after teaching full classes in ballrooms. My confidence in my physical presence and my energy to attack and perfect my presentations were at all-time highs.

So whether you are feeling the urge to ‘Lean-out’ at your go-to workplace and try something new (part-time chef-school anyone?) or you already love doing what brings home the bacon, but cannot help but yearn for a creative outlet (sculpting class?), becoming a slasher may be just perfect for you. It’s not an odd occurrence anymore to interact with a construction worker/english tutor. In fact, it is steadily becoming the norm.

Related articles:

Marcy Alboher’s website – author of One Person/Multiple Careers

Blogpost on BreatheandSmile:  Unleashing Your Many Job Identities Through the Slash! One Person / Multiple Careers

Amy Gutman’s article: – Why Have One Career When You Can Have Three? Or Four? Or More?

CB

Mad Men

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Cast as one of my favorite fictional men: Sam Heughan. Source: Twitter.com

Cast as one of my favorite fictional men, Jamie Fraser in Outlander: Actor Sam Heughan. Source: Twitter.com

Men are awesome.

I mean that in the most literal sense. They invoke awe and feelings of fear and wonder to name a few. They can be formidable, dreadful or extremely good.  But what is it I love about them the most? Maybe their consistency?  Their forgiveness? Their cool under pressure demeanour? Maybe I am just describing my perfect version of a man. Perhaps what I love about them is that they are just so different from women. Thank God!

I love that men can be so direct, so simple. No games. Of course, this is not always the case. There are many exceptions. But let it stand that the men I love don’t play games or have an agenda. There are only a few things they really need in their lives. Give them basic things like food, love, laughs and good beer and they just keep coming back for more!

So today, I want to celebrate the best parts of men. Especially since Mo-vember is lurking around the corner (dreading it). One big positive moment before I want to look away from all their hairy faces for a whole month.

Here are some of my fav bits about men… online bits that is. 😉

The epic Man Cold video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbmbMSrsZVQ

46 reasons why Men are Amazing: http://suzie81.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/46-reasons-why-men-are-amazing/

One of the most endearing traits of men: http://davidkanigan.com/2013/10/16/yep-about-right-4/

Because they make amazing fathers: http://thebhj.com/

Blogs that can help ease my headache… teaching you how to rock your manliness.

I particularly love the dress and grooming section of this blog: http://www.artofmanliness.com/category/dress-grooming/

“Balance and fall prevention for Seniors”

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Any style, any time. Photo: artandsoulcanada.com

Any style, any time.
Photo: artandsoulcanada.com

I am back in the dance studio again. There are not many places in this world that I have this reaction to. When I walk into a dance studio, I feel alive. I feel nervous, light, eager, whole and centered. It doesn’t matter what kind of class it is. Dance is dance. The expression of what I feel through my body, be it celebratory, heart-breaking or passionate. It is life.

My return to the studio is taking place in an adult contemporary class. Our weekly class routine consists of an intense, mommy-chub-busting warm up followed by jumps and turns across the floor and then choreography. I couldn’t pick a favorite moment if I tried.

I am, however, experiencing the disappointment of a new inability to do endless amounts of turns across the floor. I used to be able to keep going forever. ‘Turn and turn and, turn-and-turn-and-turn and… you know the type. Spotting the wall. Crisp and perfect.

So imagine my great annoyance to find some bizarre spinning sensation at the end of the room to greet me. Holy crap! I have to fight to stay upright. Kind of like a good night out that was side-swiped by a wayward friend pushing the tequila shots. The happy moment is gone and WHAMO!  You’re left trying to keep it together and not embarrass yourself. The only saving grace in my situation was that I was apparently not alone. The other ‘adult’ dancers were feeling it too. Being all ladies and all mothers we pondered: Is this some cruel postpartum phenomenon or is it non-gender biased?

A detail from an anecdote of my husband’s glimmers in my mind. Something about a ride at the local fair that he took our 5-year-old on and almost tossed his lunch with all the spinning. So maybe this isn’t just a female affliction? 

I used our great accomplice Google to search this new, adult-onset dizziness and was greeted by a website with the heading “Balance and Fall Prevention for Seniors.” Oh nice. Right. Well I suppose that is the extreme case of what I am experiencing. Although I am far from a senior just yet.  But that heading does get me thinking about the mind and the body disconnection that begin as we age or are stricken with a disability.

I can’t help but think that if I were to practice enough, doing turns again and again, that this might improve. Isn’t there some inner-ear muscle that I can pump to give me super-spinning powers again? But that’s very unlikely. And so , I am left with an experience that is reminiscent of old days, yet subtly changed forever. But I am not swayed. Not even an inch. My physical being may not be as pristine, but my mental strength has never been so tenacious. In the realm of dance, particularly contemporary, emotional maturity can be fortifying. At age 14, my heart was relatively unclouded. It had not yet experienced great love and fear, disappointment and shame. I had not yet known immense joy or sadness.

How my heart feels when I dance Source: balletnews.co.uk Photo by Jason Trozer. Northern Ballet dancer Hannah Bateman

How my heart feels when I dance
Source: balletnews.co.uk
Photo by Jason Trozer. Northern Ballet dancer Hannah Bateman

So while I may battle with small challenges of the physical, my heart brings more power to the floor than ever before. A tiny fleck of gray on my canvas, hidden by otherwise radiant color. True art must come from the heart and as long as my body is willing I will write it a love letter every week to remind it… “Dear Body, Keep up! There is so much more to come”.

CB

Single parent for the weekend

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Parental escape…Go big or go home  always say! Photo credit:lasvegas360.com

Parental escape…Go big or go home is our motto!
Photo credit:lasvegas360.com

My little family keeps busy in a great way and we all work hard to get our breaks away. My breaks are usually for dancing  and my husband’s typically for business but occasionally for guy time. This time apart always refreshes our tolerance for the routine and the frustrating parts of parenting. We remember why we chose family. We remember how being alone was not a desired option in the long term. When we escape together, our romantic weekends away are fantastic even 6 years into our marriage but we cannot wait to get back for those little arms to wrap around our necks and squeeze. Those little faces lighting up on our return. What a powerful feeling. Love, full-throttle. No hesitation.

When we take separate time away though, the experience for one of us is very different. When I see the looming dates blocked out in green on my calendar, I get antsy. ‘Dave in Vegas’ scrawled across 4 full days. Anxiety creeps in so I shut down the app and try not to think about it.

When the day arrives, we are so swept up in the morning routine to get to school, we barely say goodbye. “Gotta run, have fun!” The rest of the day pans out as normal since Dad is always at work anyways. The hardest part of the day for me as a temporary single parent is late afternoon. Kids are tired, I am craving a moment to myself and dInner is yet to be served. Instead of thinking “How can I make this day special and have fun with the kids?” I am thinking “Please just let this day be over!”. It is a different kind of exhaustion than my regular work. More emotional and seemingly endless.

There is no competition between a 12 hr critical care shift full of resuscitation and transports. 12 hours with two small children is way more challenging. Even at work there are moments where I am only responsible for my own hunger, my own bathroom breaks. Childcare is relentless. I am needed non-stop.

Late day moments are the hardest. I have looming thoughts of the kids never ever getting to sleep or at least taking 2 hours to complete the process. Knowing it will all repeat the next day makes it worse. It becomes a challenge of just making it through the weekend, not enjoying the time together.

However, there are some truly unique things that occur when I am a single parent for the weekend. Situations that make the parenting just a little easier in a way. I never expect them and always forget they exist, hence the anxiety.

One benefit is that there are no conflicts in leadership. I am the boss. I make the plan (or so the kids have me fooled into thinking). I don’t have to think out loud or ask for help with the basic tasks. It is all me. No communication blunders here. It’s a one-woman show!

Another perk of the partner-less weekends are that family and friends are more willing to help you out. (I realize that I may be in a unique situation here as some families have no helpers around). Invitations for the three of us abound for dinner, visits and play dates. Have pity on the Mom at home while husband is off in Las Vegas. (More so pity the Dad left alone with kids because ‘What on earth will they eat all weekend?’). My husband once skirted out of every single meal when I was away for the weekend with takeout and family BBQ invites. He was quite proud he didn’t have to cook once. I was honestly relieved! We don’t have a fire-extinguisher in the house!

This is not my husband, but this IS the only cooking tool he knows how to use. Gotta love a stir-fry!  Photo credit:dadsthatcook.com

This is not my husband, but this IS the only cooking tool he knows how to use. Gotta love a stir-fry!
Photo credit:dadsthatcook.com

The last perk that I can find is that I get Me time at the end of the day. No discussion about whether to read or watch a show. The brain just winds down doing whatever I like. I often choose my solo pastimes here; painting, blogging, reading or catching a quick show on Netflix.

But that is where I run out of positives. I’ve stated before on my blog that I marvel at the sanity of full-time single parents. I cannot imagine not having backup. No respite for days on end. Wishing the days over instead of seeing them as opportunities for growth, fun and play. If I was a single Mom, I don’t know if I would be able to really slow down and practice gratitude. Those moments would be few and far between. I also marvel at multigenerational family living. Is this as easy as the families make it look? Having grandparents in the same home to engage in every day life. Having extra eyes and hands for the little ones. Do these benefits outweigh the lack of privacy?

I am grateful for what I have. Grateful for all the good moments and also the ones that drive me toward my favorite Riesling. The changes keep us thinking, learning and growing as parents, which is also what I ask of my children. Monkey see, monkey do. Or so I hope. The change and the time away gives us a Super-Mario style power-boost. If it wasn’t my turn this time to relinquish my parental duties, then the anticipation of planning the next trip is tantalizing enough. Heck, maybe next time, we’ll all just go to Disneyland!

CB