Category Archives: Comfort

Comfort of mother and son

My boys are growing up. And no matter how often I remind myself, slow down, remember to pay attention, I know this will all be over too soon. I often feel I’m being swept away by life. It’s hard work  to pay attention. It’s even harder to remember to pay attention. I’m delighted by them, by our family, and this precious gift called motherhood. It sounds quaint I know, but the truth is, I’m in awe of it. They are people. People I made. And now, as their arms and legs stretch the limits of boyhood, as their minds expand to explore thoughts unknown to me, I sometimes forget that I made them. They are me. But now, they are no longer me. They are them. It’s kind of a mind twist isn’t it?

But when I do look at them and see them for who they are, my heart literally bursts with pride. Wow. They are something.

I just wish they would slow down.

I want to inhale one more deep breath of their baby softness. I want to feel their round thighs and stroke the baby softness of their chubby little fingers. I want to hear the squeals and delight in the joy they feel when they seem after even a short separation. I want to be their centre.

They say this is what we are meant to do, that our job is to help them learn to fly free. And I want what that for them, of course. But I find it hard knowing that they are living lives without me, that things happen to them every day, at school and even under my own roof, to which I am not privy. How can that be? How can I not be part of it all? It’s not fair. I struggle with this. And sometimes the depth of the struggle surprises me. They’ll talk about things I know nothing about and I’ll feel jealous and hurt. It’s silly really, but it’s the honest truth.

I’ll never hold them accountable for this. It’s my pain, the pain of motherhood. But, it’s also the joy. The joy of knowing that they are stretching their wings and learning it’s safe to fly free.

Right now my oldest and I are sitting together companionably. He’s reading. I’m taking a taste of my writing again for the first time in a while and I feel the contentment surrounding us. I feel sure that this will always be available to me. This companionship and deep comfort that is mother and son just being, together.

I think they take me for granted. I hope that they do.

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Idling

There isn’t much going on around these parts these days. That is to say not much beyond my hectic life as a full-time working mom with two busy boys. So, of course, I’m busy. But I’m also idling with the familiar rumble of routine filling may day.

I’ve settled comfortably into the depths of January, a favourite month of mine because it holds so few obligations. The weekends are long, filled with only the menial tasks of groceries, laundry, and vacuuming. We’re getting out to enjoy the winter weather when we can, and I’m enchanted to watch my boys’ joy over the time-honoured Canadian tradition of backyard skating rinks.

I’m reading voraciously and recently lost myself completely in State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. It’s weird, wonderful and full of life. I’ve just cracked the cover on Learning to Breathe: My year-long quest to bring calm to my life by Priscilla Warner. I’ll write about this one soon.

I’m busy, oh so busy at work. I arrive at my office at 6:30 a.m. each morning and feel as though I don’t come up for air again until I leave at 2:30. And this is just how I like it.

I’ve registered for a year-long professional certificate program that I expect will be invigorating and stimulating, but that will surely put added pressure on a schedule already bursting at the seems.

I’m organizing and planning for a winter weekend scrapbooking retreat that I’ll be hosting for some of my closest friends. I’m so eager to lose myself in the creativity and good company.

I’m enjoying a return to the kitchen and feeling a renewed sense of interest in good, healthy food prepared from scratch and with love for my family’s table.

I’ve committed to a Yin Yoga class one night a week. It’s all I can fit right now, but I’m so glad I’ve made it a priority. When things feel like they are slipping just a bit out of control, I can look forward to the moment when I’ll force my mind to stop and focus on resetting my energy.

At night, I’ve been addicted to Lie to Me on Netflix. It stars Tim Roth. Have you seen it? Gosh, he is hot isn’t he? My husband and I have been ploughing through the 48 episodes. I’ve loved every one.

In short, I’m busy. But that’s nothing new. More importantly, I’m content, settled and moving through each day with a sense a calm in spite of it all.

 

Comforting thoughts

As I lay in bed wide awake last night, tossing and turning and wishing for sleep, I tried to reign in my busy mind by thinking comforting thoughts. As I took deep breaths, inhaling deeply and then exhaling to release pent up stress, my mind naturally wandered to images from my youth, and memories of things that offered peace when I still lived at home.

  • Sunday dinners with family, when the dark of night had descended and encircled us in a cocoon of our happy home. Even better, Sunday dinners eaten in comfortable flannel pyjamas, an indulgence I enjoy to this day.
  • The sound of the television, buzzing quietly in the background as my parents watched, and I settled snugly into my bed for the night.
  • Sharing a room with my sister, knowing she was in the bed right next to mine on those nights when the darkness was more than I could bear.
  • A roaring fire, spreading warmth throughout the house, inviting us to relax and laze together as a family.
  • My father’s homemade tourtière coupled with the fluffy bounty of creamy mashed potatoes.
  • Afternoon’s lounging on my bed, headphones in, the full length version of the Phantom of the Opera playing loudly, lifting me me from my worries, indulging my senses.
  • My dad perched on a stool at the breakfast counter, with notepad and coffee next to him, greeting me every morning as I came down to start my day.
  • The camaraderie of cleaning up after a family meal, chatting and lauging in the kitchen as we washed and dried the dishes.

What comforting thoughts come to mind when you think of your youth? Do you try to replicate them for your own family?

A million tiny butterflies

My husband and I bought our first home a few months before we were married. I was 23, he was 25. At the time it seemed like a huge leap, even at only $89,000. But we were ready, and it was the perfect fit.

It was a charming, doll-like Victorian, very small, with only two tiny bedrooms at the top of a narrow, but steep staircase. There was one bathroom, and a country kitchen, that was a later addition to the original brick structure and that moonlighted as our mudroom. Completely renovated inside, I feel in love with its potential from  the moment I saw it.  

It sat quietly on a corner lot in the town I was raised in, the front entrance flanked by several massive, and elegant maple trees. I would relax in our bedroom, listening to the gently waving branches of those maple trees tickling the window, with leaves fluttering and chattering in the wind. Because the trees were so huge, they didn’t let in much light during the summer months, so our room was a cool, quiet oasis.

Soon after we bought it, we punched out a wall in the kitchen and added a patio, where we later spent many summer nights lounging idly in each other’s company, watching the comings and goings of the neighbourhood, worrying about nothing other than the next cool drink.

I often think of that house with such fondness. It was an easy, happy time in our lives.

After we sold it, and built our second and then third house, a sadness settled inside. I’ve missed it, and the feelings I remember from that time. For four years our lives held such promise, and for a very long time after I couldn’t recreate that happiness.

—————–

We were all home yesterday. The day quickly shaped up to hold nothing at all, just idle inactivity.

I settled onto the sofa in our family rec room, and turned up my iPod on a new surround system my husband had just hooked up. As I lay relaxing and listening to some of my favourite music, my mind wandered comfortably from thought to thought. I don’t do that very often anymore, just sit and think whatever comes to mind.

As I did, I gazed out the window at the trees blowing gently in the wind. Though I couldn’t hear the rustle of leaves over the drumming beat, I could imagine it. As I did, I felt my heart explode into a million tiny butterflies, releasing a sense of well-being and utter calm.

 

This country life

My children have collapsed, exhausted and spent into their beds. A weekend that began with a grim forecast, calling for rain and thunderstorms, surprised us with sunshine, gentle breezes and warm, summer-like temperatures.

The lawn was mowed, its edges trimmed. The children played in the dirt, tossed the basketball, climbed up and then down the slide, and gathered sticks for a daylong bonfire that was enjoyed by all. We ate our lunch outside, and indulged in popsicles. The screen door banged and squeaked over and over with someone running in or out, gathering snacks, cold drinks or to use the washroom. For the first time in ages more time was spent outdoors than indoors, and I feel the soothing fatigue that comes from hours of fresh air and sunshine.

Weekends like this remind me why we’ve chosen a country life. The crisp green trees that surround us, their leaves chitter chattering in the wind, the street largely free of traffic, and a sprawling yard full of activity and exploration for my young boys, all make our commute worth it.

The evening sun is slowly drifting toward its own rest. I’m writing this on my front porch, sitting in a comfortable chair with my legs crossed. The air is fresh and cool, and I’m soaking up my contentment. Even the mosquitoes can’t dampen my spirits. This is my favourite part of the house. As the summer months extend and swell with heat, it’s where I can most often be found— in the morning with my coffee, in the evening with a glass of velvety Shiraz.

This is the life I cherish. This is the life that makes me happy, surrounded by my husband children, with nowhere to be.

Feels like home

The sun is finally shining and the forecast is promising a full week of it. If it holds, this will be a welcome reprieve from a soggy, damp spring. I’m aching to get out and enjoy the splendour of the season now that the trees are finally resplendent in a variety of greens and the flowers are blooming in abundant colour. I’m sitting happily in my living room, gazing out to my backyard, thoughtfully watching the line of clothes blowing softly in the breeze.

We live on five acres of property that is mostly treed, and very private. I feel very at ease in this space. The comforts of a simpler lifestyle, away from the hustle and bustle of city life are very important to me. But we struggle living here, so far from our respective work places. Both my husband and I spend two hours each day in the back and forth motion of our commutes. Many, many times we’ve talked of moving closer, of giving this up for a house in the city, closer to work, and parks and so many interesting activities for our children.

And then summer comes, and the birds begin to chatter their daily greetings, and once again I’m reminded of how peaceful and soothing the pace of life is here, in our little piece of the country. This just feels like home.

I’ve written about my husband I building our own homes. People often assume that we hired people to do it for us, but we didn’t. We built our first home almost entirely on our own, with the help of my contractor father. We bought and cleared the land. We measured and placed footings for the foundation, and lugged the hundreds of cinder blocks that would form the foundation. We nailed, and cut and erected stud, after stud, after stud, as our home slowly emerged in front of us. We closed it in with sheets of plywood, and the welcome dryness of shingles. Each and every window was lovingly place in it’s rightful space, then levelled and secured. Paint colours were carefully selected in each room, warm colours chosen to complement the outdoors and comfort its occupants. We brushed on coat after coat of white on endless lengths of trim; first primer, than a first coat and finally a second. Each floor board was meticulously set into place, the location of every electrical outlet discussed and chosen for optimal location, the boxes nailed and  then the covers screwed into place. It began with a heavily wooded lot, with barely space to move, and ended wit the two of us laughingly running up freshly delivered topsoil, spreading the little, bitty seeds that would sow the front lawn.

In short, it was a labour of love, and a dream come true.

But in our haste to make it happen, we overlooked some vital logistics. Namely, location. We wanted a country home, and we got it. But we were much to far in the country, with more than a 20 minute drive to closest town. If we needed milk, it was a journey to get it. Our commute at the time was well over an hour long, and in the winter, the driving was dangerous, dark and overwhelming. After the birth of our first son,  we realized we couldn’t keep it up. Less than three years after moving in, the dream turned sour. We had put all of our heart, and soul, and a good deal of sweat and tears into this home. How in the world could we even entertain the idea of leaving it.

It was an emotional time. I was terribly lonely, at home on maternity leave with our first son. We had neighbours, but they were all older, their children mostly grown and gone.  My husband was away for long days because of the commute, leaving before the baby and I would wake, and then coming home more than 12 hours later. I began to resent the location, and the restrictions it placed on our lives.

After the dust had settled on parenthood, and the realities of our lives as a family of three began to sink in, we began to joke about how great it would be if we could only move our house.

And then an opportunity came a long. A rural sub-division we had long coveted was expanding, adding 30 new estate lots. It was located only five minutes out of my hometown, and literally two minutes from my parents lakeside property. It seemed impossible, we didn’t think we had the energetic ambition we needed to entertain the idea of building another house. But we opened ourselves up to the possibility, did a little research, and lo and behold, within the month we had bought a parcel of land. Things were looking up as we started to dream again. It didn’t take us long to decide we’d just build our house again, hoping that the second time would be the charm. We figured, if you couldn’t move it, the next best thing was to build it again!

That’s what we did. We quickly sold our first house, and less than five months after buying the new lot we had broken ground. This time we did less, we hired more tradespeople and managed the project quite differently than the first. But we both had our hands in it. We helped it grow, nourishing it with all the love we had the first time, only this time with a little more experience and a lot more patience.

It’s been three and a half years since we moved in. It’s almost exactly the same house, with a few minor changes here and there. The colours are the same, the kitchen’s and bathrooms all have the same the fixtures. Just as the first we are flanked by two long porches, and it’s wrapped in the red we so loved the first time. But at the same time, along with the view, our perspective is so very different. From the moment we moved in, I knew this one was really home. This was where we were meant to be. And today, as I sit here, listening to the whisper of the leaves on the trees just outside my door, and feel the caress of the wind blowing in from the windows that  surround us, I breathe a huge sigh and think of all the hope, happiness and love that is wrapped up in the places we call home.

Imbalance

Over the last year I’ve changed dramatically. I’m am not overstating when I say I am not the woman I used to be, in good ways and bad ways.

I know I’ve changed, I feel it whispering in every part of my body, struggling to break free, yearning to just unfold and be. There is a sensation of longing balling up deep in my heart, growing stronger and more vibrant every day.

But I still don’t know who I am. This unravelling, it takes work. And it is such hard work. Important work, yes, but achingly difficult. Because the change is so extraordinary.

Frankly, I’m still pretty lost. I often feel like I don’t fit in my own skin. 

Mostly, though, I can find comfort from appreciating the journey. I’m beginning to love myself.

I’m also learning to look to the universe, to recognize the guideposts that show me the way. Bit by little bit, I’m moving in the right direction.

It’s a wondrous thing to just trust and really accept that things are the way they are supposed to be. It’s incredibly invigorating to let your life unfold according to a greater plan. If  you only open your mind to the idea of it, it becomes abundantly clear. You begin to notice the signs all around you. They are so obvious, they almost knock you off your feet.

But they almost knock you off your feet. And it takes time to get used to that sense of imbalance, to appreciate it for what it is.

Hard work. Soul work.

Floating

Some things take a delicate touchI just finished a guided-meditation. I’m sitting here now, typing  with my eyes closed, trying to find the words to fully express how incredible it was.

It was a powerful meditation on slow motion movement and energy. I visualized warmth and energy flowing from the core of my body, up through my chest and down through my arms and into my hands. The idea was to focus on moving my hands so slow that they would begin to feel like they were moving on their own. Using my mind as the vehicle from which to recognize the flow of sensation, I fixed my thoughts completely on the energy that was coursing between my hands.

As I sat comfortably in my quiet, darkened room and I listened to the intense, soulful music that accompanied the meditation, I unmistakably felt the energy ball up between my hands.  The moment I felt it, I jerked a bit in shock.

It felt soft, round and radiant. A magnetic force pushed gently pushed my hands apart and then slowly gave way in bits and pieces so that I could move them closer together. The break in the energy was small— just a blip—but it weakened bit by wondrous bit. The more I focused on the sensation, the lighter my body felt. I lost myself completely in this small space of energy that was vital and powerful.

There is this moment in a meditation when you feel weightless, physically and intellectually. A flash that, for me, is still quite fleeting. Almost as soon as I recognize it, it is gone. But for that brief snapshot in time, I feel like my entire being is aligned impeccably with all that is now. The feeling is so vital, it is almost overwhelming. It exists in every part of my body. It feels as though I’m floating on a balloon.

When the balloon pops, it’s not a loud, messy burst, but rather a soft, transcendent fall into a place of complete comfort and peace. And I feel total relaxation and comfort, with myself and with my life.

I do not yet know all the benefits of meditation—but I do know that the more I meditate and allow myself the full embrace of quiet mind, the less of a skeptic I become. This is an important anchor from which to release the constant mental chatter.

Incredible.

Image: ‘Some things take a delicate touch‘ by J. Starr via a Creative Commons license.

Odds and ends

We have a lazy weekend routine in our house that started many years before we had children. My husband and I like to loll around in bed, taking our time to wake up. Our weekdays start very early; my husband leaves for work by 5:00 and me by 6:00. By the time Saturday rolls around,  we need a break from our morning madness. Since the birth of our sons, we’ve held on to this tradition as best we could though with a few adjustments. We no longer doze and linger in bed reading, drinking coffee for hours; now we snuggle, cuddle and tickle little boys for as long as they stay agreeable. Our oldest pads in every weekend morning on his own. The youngest calls from his crib across the hall. We take turns braving the early morning cold to fetch him.

It’s my favourite part of the week—I focus on nothing but the three men in my life, wrapped warmly in the cocoon of our bed.

This weekend something extra special happened. My oldest and I were quietly cuddled together when he said:

Mommy, I hit my head on the firetruck at school this week. It hurt mommy, and I was crying for you.

I responded: Oh honey, I’m so sorry that happened and that I wasn’t there.

I was really missing you mommy.

My heart split open wide. I’ve never felt more intensely like a mother than at that moment.

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I’ve always considered myself to be an outgoing person. I enjoy getting out and engaging in the company of different social groups. I’m comfortable in a crowd, and I happily attend events filled with strangers. I’m not shy and small talk comes naturally.

But in these last few months as I’ve focused on changing bits and pieces of my life, I’ve realized how intensely I need the quiet of my home (I say this quite loosely considering I have two boys under 5) and the comfort and routine of predictability. Dani Shapiro wrote this week about being self-protective. She wrote that “we must protect ourselves from that which throws us off course.” When I read that, it’s like a part of myself clicked into place. A piece of my own puzzle that had been elusive and indistinct.

You may remember when I wrote about my plans for 2011 that I talked about Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project where wrote extensively about of Being Gretchen saying that the idea of the person she wishes she were obscures her understanding of who she actually is. What I describe here is a classic example of me learning what it means to Be Christine. I like to be at home, I like quiet nights and weekends free of obligation. I long to live life simply, but have felt guilt because of it. I didn’t believe that that was the person I should be, what a successful person was.

While seemingly a simply realization, it’s a vital connection to my recovery.

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While we’re on the subject of my plans for 2011, we’ve reached the end of January. How is that possible? More importantly, how is it possible that it’s time for a new theme? In January, I focused on meditation. Toward the end of the month, because of a persistent cold and other challenges, I lost my focus a bit. Ironic actually. I’m in no way done with my meditation practice, I think it’s here to stay. I’m certain I’ll revisit my progress with it often.

In February, I plan to explore food in honour of reading Women Food and God by Geneen Roth for The Maladjusted Book Club. Strictly speaking, I wouldn’t say I have food issues. However this book made me really consider how my life is influenced by food. I’ll be writing about it all through the month.

Mantra

Autumn Tornado

I am here.  I am now.  I am enough.

This is what I silently chant to myself when I meditate, particularly when I’m having trouble quieting my mind. As I work to lengthen my breath and feel my lungs filling and emptying, these simple words help me push past the buzz of thoughts and anchor me to the moment. They offer clarity, which in turn, leads to focus and perspective. They are a lifeline at the moment.

Several people commented on my meditation posts about how hard they find it to sit still and empty their mind. I struggle with this too, but I find when I repeat this mantra to myself and focus on believing the words and feelings that go with it, then I come closer to that place of replenishment.

At its root mantra is the repetition of sound. Think of a bubbling creek, or the soft rustle of leaves in the summer. Consider how they soothe and calm. It is it’s own form of meditation. A natural mantra reaching into our soul, enticing and casting a spell once we allow ourselves to really stop and listen. Mantra in your mind acts the very same way. It lulls you, settling and offer respite. Just as nature is powerful, so is the simple repetition of words.

According to Wildmind, a website on meditation that I recently found and enjoy:

The word mantra is said to come from a root meaning “that which protects the mind.” In Buddhist meditation, many things can be used as objects of concentration — as “mind protectors.”

I have never been the kind of person who “tells myself things” so that I can believe them. I don’t make a habit of looking myself in the mirror and peppering compliments that seem false and cheap. When it comes to mind associations I am a bit of skeptic. Admittedly I never really tried until I started using this personal mantra. What works for me is the power it has to quiet the mental chatter. In repeating the same nine words, gradually with more confidence, I physically force all other thoughts from my mind.

Whatever the reason, it works. And the message I’m reinforcing is important. So overall a win-win.

I’m curious. If you were to be honest with yourself, what do you think you would recite in your mind? If you really think about it, what would help you to focus and leave all other thoughts behind?

This post is part of my ongoing series for 2011 to pick a new area each month to fully immerse myself for personal growth of understanding.  January is mediation.

Image: ‘Autumn Tornado‘ via a Creative Commons license.