This time of year fills me with equal parts anticipation and dread. I look forward to seeing the expressions on my children’s faces when they open their gifts, but worry about buying the right presents, keeping it within budget, and keeping it fair. I enjoy our festive tradition of walking the brilliantly illuminated and decorated Eucalyptus Street in San Carlos but the kids wouldn’t get out of the car last year and we ended up driving up the block which didn't compare to seeing the homes up close, engaging in conversation with other families, and enjoying the sense of community. I love making memories that linger, like the fast-flying snowball fight that ensued around the dining room table on Christmas Eve after we opened an indoor snowball set from my brother and sister-in-law. But sometimes what I remember the most aren’t the good times but the stress that comes with the obligations and additional responsibilities, like staying up super late to assemble, wrap, and scramble to get everything ready by Christmas morning.
As I write this, it’s late October and I’m already feeling overwhelmed. I haven’t been sleeping well lately - staying up until the wee hours to design and sew my son’s Halloween costume (Link from Legends of Zelda), write the blog, and get the monthly newsletter finished and scheduled.
I keep wishing for more time. I find myself falling back into my old habit of believing that I should be able to do it all. I should be able to stay up until 1:00 in the morning, happily flit out of bed at 6:00, easily check off everything on the to do list each day, prepare home cooked meals, manage a well-organized and super clean house, engage my children in creative activities and patiently oversee their homework, be abundantly productive with my baby sign language projects and with coaching clients, work hard and then work harder, and get it all done.
In my BC (before children) life, this is how I rolled; I felt smart, busy, in charge, and in control.
I miss those feelings.
Right now, my life feels like it’s racing off ahead of me and I’m always playing a game of catch up. My life coach, the so very wise Christy Miller of Point Be Coaching, reminds me ever so gently that I can choose to a) stay in the present moment or b) create suffering by launching myself into the future by focusing on everything that needs to be done, isn’t getting done, and will maybe never ever get done.
Those are my only choices?
The answer is yes. Those are the only two choices for all of us, not just around the holidays, but every day. You can choose to be frustrated or you can choose to love what is present in your life right now in all of its imperfections, no matter how overwhelming and out of sync it is with how you imagined your life would be.
This is very simple and very difficult simultaneously. On the one hand, it’s very simple because you are always in the present moment - there’s nowhere else you can be unless you're lucky enough to be a time traveler or have a time turner like Hermione's. It’s only your thoughts that keep you mired in the past or propelled into the future.
On the other hand, it’s very difficult because our minds are always evaluating, thinking, planning, comparing, making up stories, and creating reasons for why things aren't right. How do you turn off your big beautiful brain in order to find peace in the here and now?
Here’s a very easy/very difficult three-step process called Stop, Drop & Roll.
Stop - The mental and physical racing around that you’re doing is changing your physiology by activating your fight, flight or freeze response - increasing your heart rate, shortening your breath, and tightening your muscles. At least once a day, give yourself permission to stop, rest, and calm your mind by taking deep breaths to move out of fight or flight and into peace. “For a minute or more, breathe in such a way that your inhalation and exhalation are equally long; count mentally up to five for each inhalation and each exhalation. This creates small but smooth changes in the interval between heartbeats … which is associated with relaxation and well-being,” suggests Rick Hanson, PhD, in Just One Thing: Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time.
It’s only by starting in a place of peace that we find our purpose and power.
Peace is the first step and the final lesson we all need to learn.
Only put enough on your plate that you can do your best at everything you do.
Your life will take on new meaning and happiness.
Brave Girls Club
Stop, Drop and Roll isn’t a one-shot deal, unfortunately. Your thoughts will continually get stuck and will need to be dislodged again and again. Luckily, we humans are creatures of habit; the more frequently we attend to the little stones of negative thoughts that create discomfort, the easier it will be to let go and love what is right here, right now.
If we take care of the moments, the years will take care of themselves.