Pursuing Peace - The Fine Art of Breathing

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Do you ever feel overwhelmed?

Like, this is too much. There's too much happening. I can't possibly do everything I need to do. I cant be everything I need to be. I can't cope with the bombardment of information and noise and ... stuff.

I get you. But before I start stripping back my own life, I thought it would be good to revisit the basic principle, of

stopping

and breathing.

***

Things aren't the way I want them to be in my house. There are a million jobs to be done. Upstairs usually looks like a bomb of stuff has gone off. The bedrooms need repainting. I keep tripping over things like the baby bath and piles of paperwork and toys. There's an inch-thick layer of dust on our bedroom windowsill and cobwebs on the ceiling. I can't remember the last time we actually made our bed in the mornings. We just kind of flop into it at the end of the day. I can never find things - like the nail clippers. Where the heck have they gone? Also I keep finding piles of random objects like coins and hair clips and play food in strange places (thanks, Jellybean).



The other night, it all got on top of me and I went to bed feeling defeated and exhausted.

***

I switch on my son's dream sheep (yes, that's a thing). A lullaby plays, along with the soft, muffled sound of a heartbeat. The baby feeds, eager from waiting a bit longer than he normally has to. The house has that quiet air of 'just before sleep' about it.


My daughter potters in holding a book entitled 'The Art of Hand Shadow Puppets.'

'Mum,' she says, 'Can I read you my exercise Bible?'

(Every book that contains information of some kind is, in Jellybean's mind, a Bible.)

(We'll get there.)

She clears her throat and makes a funny clicking noise with her tongue, as if she is about to impart Official Information. I think of what follows as her 'Hermione Granger' voice.

'Now, this book ...' (click) 'is about ... volcanoes. And Jesus.'

She takes me on a surreal and slightly disjointed journey through the properties of volcanoes.

The baby stops feeding, and pushes himself forward. I automatically stand him upright. (It's his favourite position. My arms hold him that way without thinking now. Is he going to become bow-legged? I hope not.) He looks around with such a wide-eyed look of happiness - and wakefulness - that I start laughing, and after a beat, he laughs as well.

I think, this is perfection. My messy room, my unmade bed, the piles of clothes on the floor waiting to be eBayed or donated, the dust settling on the surfaces. This is where perfection is. Our daughter with a smear of toothpaste on her cheek, wearing just her pyjama bottoms, book in hand. Our son in his babygrow, cackling with laughter, and Chris leaning against the wall looking at us, while I look back at him, and we communicate something without having to find words for it.

Sometimes the joy of it all takes us both by surprise.

Perfection in a messy bedroom in a terraced house on an ordinary street.

***

Bad times wait for all of us.

Bills will drop unexpectedly. Jobs might be lost. Our bodies start to break with time and circumstance and genetics. We hurt each other. We face grief in a multitude of ways. The world breaks around us. We continue the age-old struggle to relate to each other. We get tired. Life just ... piles up.

Everything in life tells us to protect ourselves. To hide ourselves in a bubble of possessions and insurance and image. To be distracted from injustice and the dark parts of the world. To stick our heads in the sand. 

And yet, bad things come. We cannot stop them.

The only thing we can do is use our lives wisely. To determine not to allow this overwhelming life noise to determine our choices. To stop and count our blessings. And love abundantly, not just people that look and behave like we do.

And once again, count our blessings. And breathe.



Print from the amazing Amanda Lewis aka Sketchy Muma. Go look at her beautiful work and have a little weep at the loveliness of it all.

***

I'll be talking a bit more practically next time about finding little moments of calm in a busy day ... and encouraging calm moments for children. Join me if you fancy the challenge!

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Dangerous excursions down the stairs

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

It is early evening, and I am pottering around upstairs before the bedtime rush, switching on lamps and removing some of the obstacles on the floor in the hallway. Jellybean is sitting at the top of the stairs humming to herself.

'I'm gonna go down on my bottom.'

'Okay, good.'

'I'm gonna go REALLY FAST.'

I stop with an armful of folded clothes. Jellybean has that look on her face that suggests she knows she's asked for something that she knows isn't allowed but she's pushing it regardless. She's ballsy that way.

'Er, no. Not really fast.'

She sighs. 'Okay.' She pauses. 'I just go a little bit fast-ish.'

As a parent I have certain pressure points. Things that make my heart skip a beat and make my feet feel a bit funny. Those things include, but are not limited, to:

  • Our stairs with the stupidly hard floor at the bottom
  • Small children eating whole grapes
  • A large dog running towards us at speed at the park
  • Monkey bars

It's not that I am totally against those things. I like grapes and stairs and dogs, and, well, I guess I'm not bothered either way about monkey bars. There's just something about those things and my kid that make me feel a little bit queasy. I can't hide it, either. As much as I'd like to be Laid Back Mum, I can't. I see a little kid running around with a grape in their mouth and inside my brain an alarm starts ringing and red lights start flashing. 'DANGER!'


Children need to take risks, otherwise they never learn to manage them. I get that. I read a good article recently about how we can inadvertently teach girls that it's cute to be scared. I vowed when I read it that I would bite back my 'be carefuls' more often. So when she makes an obstacle course and flings herself across it or leans right back on the big girl swing, I don't say 'be careful'. I just think it. I say 'wow, that looks like fun!' and hope for the best. The last thing I want is for my kids to feel too scared to attempt anything beyond their comfort zone, and the little things you reinforce time and time again, seemingly inconsequential, can add up to a message that I never intended to teach them. I never wanted to see myself in the role of 'Muu-uuum.' You know, the person that they roll their eyes at.

However. Some things are just out of bounds. I grew these people in my belly: I went through horrific pain to get them, and I spent (and am still spending!) their babyhoods trying to protect them, stopping them from sticking their fingers in the plug sockets and picking up chokeable objects, and so on.

The least they can do is allow me to be all paranoid about stairs and cut up their grapes for them. If necessary I will pull out the ultimate Mum card: 'Because I said so.'

They can consider it payment. ;)

Pursuing Peace

Thursday, 30 March 2017

I keep thinking about peace.

'Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.'


Even as a Christian, I find myself not feeling particularly peaceful. Don't get me wrong - there's a peace in me that doesn't fit with my anxious personality. When the bad things happen, there's part of me that knows that everything will be okay in the end. Not just okay, but good.

But the feeling of peace doesn't come easy. I keep wondering why.


I spent a lot of time last year getting angry over things I can't control. Over world events; over politics; over darkness and despair that seem to creep insidiously into our lives, dividing us where we were once united. I hate that. And I'm tired. I'm 28 and I'm tired, and not just because of the babies. I'm tired of getting sucked into this perpetual doom thing. I'm tired of that feeling of endless frustration where you see injustice happening and you just can't do anything about it.

I also notice around me that peaceful people are few and far between. We're all way more connected and open, but we're also immensely busy and stressed out. There must be a way to counter-balance this. It feels ridiculous - almost selfish. We have so much, and yet we spend so much time not appreciating it. (Or at least I do). Everything seems to be kind of fragmented and rushed. I get stressed, a lot. I seem unable at times to contemplate the bigger picture.

I keep wanting to just ... strip things back. I want to pause. I want to have less, and appreciate more. I want to have a peaceful family life. I want to have a peaceful home (not necessarily a tidy one - but one that feels like sanctuary, especially to my children, when they start venturing out into the world and need somewhere calm to come back to). I want to have a calmer state of mind. I want to figure out what it means to be a peacemaker - to bring peace where it lacks.

I want my children to see what it means to stop, to have gratitude, to take in a deep breath, to behold, to seek to bring calm, to be centred in the midst of a storm.

Maybe pursuing peace in whatever way that looks like in real life is the only thing you can do in the midst of turbulence. Maybe it's a small act of rebellion in a world that encourages us to freak out when we read the headlines every day, a world that tells us to consume more things and buy more stuff and hoard, a world that pushes us to distraction, to bounce from one thing to another before we have a moment to think.


So ... over the next few months, I'm going to be blogging about this. Some of the things I'll be looking into include:

  • Having a more peaceful home life (and being a less shouty stressy parent)
  • Finding moments of peace in stupidly busy day
  • Letting go of things we don't need anymore
  • Buying less stuff
  • Dealing with brain bombardment
  • Being an active peacemaker

There might even be a sneaky video or two along the way if I can pluck up the courage ;) I'll also be talking about it a bit more on my Facebook and Instagram accounts, so if you're interested, follow me there!

Until next time ... shalom.

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