An exercise on mindful thinking at the close of the year

An exercise on #mindfulness - www.alliepottswrites.comI decided to go for a jog one morning after feeling a guilty over recent excesses. The air was cool, but not chilly enough to need a jacket or put on gloves. My dog, Her Royal Highness, was happy enough to trot along beside me. The sky was a clear, albeit pale blue and the neighborhood quiet. In short, it was a perfect morning to be outdoors.

Raleigh is home to a greenway system that stretches from one end of the city to another and it is quite easy to forget that you are in the state’s capital when you enter one of the many wooded paths. But that morning, I had a specific destination in mind. If I could jog to a certain point on the trail without stopping, I would consider the run a success.

A slight tension on the leash informed me that Her Royal Highness wouldn’t mind picking up the pace. I ignored her request as I remained focused on my feet. She should understand. A trip or stumble due to a slippery patch of leaves or fallen branch would at a minimum ruin my stride, but could also prevent me from taking her out again for a long, long while. We rounded a corner, passing a walker and another dog on the trail. Her Royal Highness tugged, urging me to stop and say hello. Once again I refused her request.

I am not the fastest on the trail. Nor were there any fans cheering me on from the side of the path. But slow, but steady, I eventually made it to my goal one step at a time. Her Royal Highness wagged her tail and sniffed around as I took in the view.

My muscles in my legs stiffened in the seconds it took me to turn around. That’s when it hit me – the rather large error in my plan. The goal I’d set in mind was the furthest point in my run. I’d forgotten to consider the distance it would take to run back. Dang it.

Her Royal Highness sprung into action, but unfortunately, now that I’d stopped once, keeping up our steady pace was no longer as easy to do. I found myself walking more along the return, but by doing so, I was also able to look around.

The sky had taken on a deeper, richer shade of blue and the sunlight now filtered quite nicely through red and golden leaves. I stopped again at a bridge near the greenway’s exit, only this time instead of focusing on my stiffening muscles, the aching reminder of how far I’d come, or the distance I still had yet to go, I let myself appreciate just being in the place I found myself in now.

I removed my ear buds, and the music that had boomed and pulsed, keeping me inspired to run, was replaced by the sound of a creek flowing over rocks under the bridge. Leaves tumbled down as the trees swayed in the morning’s breeze. I turned and took the scene in more fully.

I might have lingered there longer, but the sound of footfalls on the path of an approaching walker broke the moment and soon we were once again on our way, taking the memory of the moment with us.

At the close of the year, I like to reflect on my accomplishments, and while they aren’t always easy to identify, I know there are always a few. At the same time, I like to plan for the year ahead and set my goals and challenges, just as I suspect many others do too. But moments like this are a good reminder to also be mindful of the present, for there is beauty to be seen in the now if you only take the time to stop and look around.

Autumn creek and #mindfulness -

Monsoons, Moments, and Mars

It was just me and LT over the weekend. Lamont and Kiddo had embarked on a father-son overnight camping and fishing trip, a trip they go on at least once a year. While they had been gone, there had been heavy rain showers at the coast resulting in texts like “It was a monsoon” and “it turns out that our tent is only 95% waterproof,” messages that amuse me to no end, especially as I sip my wine, comfortably on my couch, while watching a chick flick, foreign film or similar typically vetoed movie selection.

kid's tea party
A four-year-old and a porcelain tea cup – also known as a terrified parent’s near heart attack with every sip.

I certainly felt that we’d gotten the better end of the deal as the weekend progressed. LT and I attended a tea party where he’d pulled on an over-sized straw hat, proclaimed himself a cowboy, and then shouted “Yee-Haw” to other guests (“use your inside voice, LT” x 100). LT had gone in search of waterfalls with his Nana and to a friend’s birthday party. I just knew Kiddo would envy the fun (and dry weather) we’d had.

I was wrong. When Kiddo and Lamont returned, I asked my boys if they would like to swap roles the next time. Did Kiddo want to stay with mom while LT went with dad? Kiddo looked at me like I was speaking another language. LT, misinterpreting the question and his brother’s answer into meaning that only one kid could go and Kiddo was it, practically threatened to secede from the family in protest. “Wait a minute, LT, didn’t you have fun?”

Even though I am happy enough to have some me time, the sound rejection stung and a little hurt must have shown in my face. “It’s not you. He is just afraid of missing out,” Lamont consoled me.

Later, after the kids were in bed, (or at least should have been bed – LT has been rather,… shall we say,… bedtime adverse over the last several days so it is hard to say for sure) Lamont stood outside waiting for Her Royal Highness to finish her evening’s business (by all means, Ms., please take your time). A bright, full moon shone overhead, illuminating exactly how little HRH cared about our impatience.

“We’re supposed to be able to see Mars,” I commented to Lamont as I joined him on the porch.

“Yeah, it’s by the moon.”

Mars Hubble
Image courtesy of the Hubble Telescope and Wikipedia Commons,  and not at all representative of what I could see from my porch.
I looked where he pointed. Sure enough, there was a large brilliant orange dot in the sky. I ran inside (I’m a bit of a space enthusiast) and collected Kiddo’s telescope, a basic children’s starter model. I was able to locate the spot in the telescope’s view finder, but no matter how much I adjusted dials or re-positioned the lens, I was never quite able to capture a clear shot of the planet in full with all its peaks and valleys. I would have to be content instead with what I could see with my naked eye.

“It was even brighter at the beach.” Lamont informed me as HRH finally deigned to make her way back inside.

As I returned the telescope to its regular resting place it occurred to me that if the sky cleared long enough for Lamont to get a clear view of Mars, the trip hadn’t been the total washout his early texts would lead one to believe. Those texts were only snap shots from their weekend together, mere grains in the hourglass of their time. I also knew I’d only miss more as there were more journeys away from mom.

And that’s okay.

I could insist on joining them at the beach, but instead, I am looking forward to the excitement in the air, second only to Christmas, prior to their trip and the joy on their sun-browned faces as they tumble out of the car on their way to greet me on their return. I am looking forward to hearing the stories they collectively are suitable for mom’s ears and confronting Lamont with a smile when one of the boys accidentally shares something mom doesn’t need to know. But, as much as I love and will miss them, I am also seriously looking forward to a few moments to myself (like the occasional bathroom break).

I don’t need to see all the moments to be content. I am not afraid of missing out. I just want a clear sight when it comes to the moments that matter.


We are in this together

One of the greatest benefits of entrepreneurship is the feeling of being completely in charge of your own destiny. You get to make the decisions. You are responsible for your business’ success. This feeling is great, as long as things go according to plan. But when have things ever gone according to plan? Employees might get stuck in traffic, or not show. Suppliers might go out of business leaving you scrambling to find an alternate. Customers might decide at the last minute that they would be better of going with the competition. Then, being in charge is stressful. It is up to you to make sure your company does what it promises it will do, delivers what and when it says it will.

Together we can do this
image from wikipedia

For that reason, I was okay when the hubby announced he was going to have to work late, hoping to close a deal more than two years in the making. We are a team. I would solo parent for the evening so that he could do what he had to do. It was no problem. Except for one thing. I had completely forgotten about it, and was then utterly mentally unprepared.

I collected the boys as I typically do. 6 has recently discovered Pixar’s Wall-E and decided that the balance of the car ride home was the perfect opportunity to hone his robot impression. He’s pretty good, but I feel he really nailed it on the second try. He certainly didn’t need the twenty something follow-up attempts. Why mess with perfection?

When I arrived at day care to pick up 3 (yes, 3 – we are finally out of the terrible twos!), I was informed that my son hadn’t been feeling like his chipper self that day. He was complaining of a tummy ache. My gut clenched up. I have a number of meetings with visitors in my office this week. Of course he would be coming down with something.

I saw the empty spot where my husband parks. Oh no. That was tonight?! Suddenly I felt very much alone.

6 decided he didn’t feel like bringing in his school things. 3 didn’t feel like eating. 6 insisted on playing with a loud helicopter toy next to the phone while I attempted to talk to their dad. 3 didn’t want to go upstairs for his bath, wear the pajamas I had picked out, or pretty much anything at all that he hadn’t first instigated (oh that’s right… we are in the trying threes).

The next morning, the hubby needed to sleep in. He hadn’t gotten home until well into the morning hours. I was going to be on my own… again. I rushed around the house trying to get both boys ready as quietly, but as quickly as possible. We are going to miss the bus! ¡Ándale! Mach Schnell! (English wasn’t getting through to my boys – I had to mix it up). Ugh, I thought, no time to pack a lunch for myself. I was going to be late. What a way to start my day…

As I frantically herded them through the door, 6 asked me, ‘Mom? Why are you so mad?’

The question stopped me in my tracks. Was I stressed? Absolutely. Did I need to be? Absolutely not. If I would have stopped focusing on all the reasons I should be stressed I might have noticed that 6 had helped pack his bag that morning. 3 had willingly worn everything I brought him and had tip-toed so as not to wake daddy. Both had helped put their dishes in the machine after breakfast. They were pitching in as they were able. They reminded me that while I might be the only parent awake, I wasn’t alone. We were in this together.

So what if I was a few minutes late, or didn’t have a packed lunch? We’d somehow survive, but I might never get this moment back.

The past and the future can be equally blinding. When you fixate on either, you risk failing to see what you need to do in the present. I stopped. I took a breath. I told my boys I wasn’t mad along with a thank you. They might think I was thanking them for their help, but I was really thanking them for the reminder to be mindful of the present. When I told them I loved them, they smiled and hugged me back. For that moment, it was enough.

image from flickr