During his documentary series The Brain with David Eagleman, David mentions a Ulysses Contract:
“A Ulysses pact or Ulysses contract is a freely made decision that is designed and intended to bind oneself in the future. The term is used in medicine, especially in reference to advance directives (also known as living wills), where there is some controversy over whether a decision made by a person in one state of health should be considered binding upon that person when they are in a markedly different, usually worse, state of health.
The term refers to the pact that Ulysses (Greek name Ὀδυσσεύς, Odysseus) made with his men as they approached the Sirens. Ulysses wanted to hear the Sirens’ song although he knew that doing so would render him incapable of rational thought. He put wax in his men’s ears so that they could not hear and had them tie him to the mast so that he could not jump into the sea. He ordered them not to change course under any circumstances and to keep their swords upon him and to attack him if he should break free of his bonds.
Upon hearing the Sirens’ song, Ulysses was driven temporarily insane and struggled with all of his might to break free so that he might join the Sirens, which would have meant his death.” *
It got me interested in trying it, I tend to hesitate towards my dreams in life. For example I have wanted to have a farm, never a nursery, then I half heatedly attempted a nursery when what I really wanted was a farm. I’m not an expert in business, nor gardening, so the way forward would probably be just getting more gardening experience in general. I love gardening, but I tend to hesitate because I feel guilty leaving the kids in the house while I garden, but if I were going to martial arts or the gym or college or work, I wouldn’t feel guilty, so maybe I should consider it my work?
Last year was my husband’s first year investing, he didn’t think to himself “I am an investor” on day 1, but he did surprisingly well over a year. I hope it’s like that for me, I hope in a year I seem like a farmer.
One thing I have is the right hat. Another thing is some land. It’s part of half an acre, I think that is fine, but I noticed cheap farm land for rent nearby as well, but to rent it I would need money, so I would at least need a business plan. Right now I have no idea if I would go for something high profit like vanilla bean, macadamia nut or coffee, or something I like like lychee or avocado, or a variety of low cost items with perhaps some kind of educational grant and some sort of community teaching or outreach or something… I really don’t know.
I have dabbled with gardening as an adult, as a child I never had the opportunity, so in general I know very little about what farming would be like. Since I know I don’t know I don’t want to box myself in, but at the same time I know I want to do more gardening no matter what.
Seeds were a good price at Home Depot when my dad stopped for something else, so we got some flowers to liven up the patio and some seeds for myself and both my kids.
My daughter was interested in corn, which is sweet, because we use the corn silk to make tea when I get a mystery side pain.
In the past I saved my seeds waiting for the perfect time, the perfect soil, and often they just were wasted. Each year they germinate at a worse rate…
Also my climate is weird to most the plants, so that if my plants do survive the seeds I can save are better for my particular climate than the old seeds would be, so there is no reason to hold back saving half a bag of $2 seeds for the next few years.
Yesterday I cut open the seed bags, which were aluminum, and filled them with water to soak, this meant I would “have to” plant them all within the next day or two. It may not sound like a big commitment to you, but it was a big deal to me.
I was potty training my son the past few weeks and that temporarily bound me to his every move and expression, since he can’t talk clearly I have to watch for little signs like his feet or his gaze or tiny things, (my son kind of whines and pulls at me when he needs to go potty).
So in committing to planting, it is committing to self care and a break, and committing to be at peace if there is an accident, and committing to stepping away from the kids, which is my parental Achilles heel.
I was committing to trying to be the architect of my own life, committing to hope that things will go well, that we either will keep the property or will learn skills and have fun landscaping it or both.
I was a small commitment, but it feels very good to be hopeful.
Today I planted the seeds, not in rows in the garden, but in pots in the greenhouse, which I think is better in general. The greenhouse I have was only about $65 which is very affordable and I’ve liked it enough to re-buy it when we moved.
I planted in mostly peat moss, which I have a bag of left over to finish, I may move away from peat moss, it seems to clump together into really dense clumps which is the opposite of what I want. Then when it gets wet the clumps stay dry on the inside… I loved the Square Foot Garden book, so I went with peat moss, but I think the peat moss you buy today isn’t the same as the older one. The depth of the bog it was harvested from can make a difference. I don’t know yet, but I think this may be the last peat moss I buy.
So even though the planting media isn’t perfect it’s what I had on hand at the right time.
For me it’s worth celebrating my own mental flexibility.
I do have some room in the garden, a movable raised bed, some space in the veggie beds, two small but empty green houses, and plenty of space to start new beds, but if all the seeds sprout I will probably need more growing space.
But it’s kind of up to me, I have a lot of small pots from the last time I was gardening papaya trees and they all died, but that failure gave me the pots for today.
I have about three failed gardens and zero successful ones, but maybe four is the charm?
Last time I had papaya and tomato and bamboo, the papaya died (about 200 little trees), the tomato looked dead, but it wasn’t, it was more overgrown, I split the best plant into three plants and all three are growing well right now, I’m interested to get the seeds and start that one again (since our place gets a bit cold for tomatoes) and the bamboo does okay, but doesn’t grow fast at all, just a bit at a time.
I also had morning glories, they sprouted well and hard, but then I was too slow to pot up and give them more room…
So I learned a few lessons, that I have to nurture the small trees personally for longer, that I can’t wait too long to pot up, that I should get rid of excess if I can’t keep up rather than loose everything because I’m so overwhelmed I don’t water.
The tomato is a positive lesson, that sometimes what I do is enough, even if it seems like it wasn’t.
I don’t know in my own mind the difference between a farmer, a gardener and a normal person who gardens or farms. I guess I won’t have a farm until I understand what that means for me.
I guess it has a lot to do with sustainability, I would like to be close to self sufficient. Even though I won’t have cows, I would like to have chickens for eggs, chickens for meat, most of the produce we eat, I would love that. And if not that, I would love to have at least enough for the kids to know about many plants, vines and trees and root veggies.
I often read all the parental burnout Google results on the first page, and often find none of them helpful. A few pages in, typically it gets better, and sometimes I find information that helps me. I don’t usually share it, because I don’t love writing about parenting (I don’t want to end up as the Dave Ramsey of Parenting), but in the interest of sorting out my own mind, and sharing something helpful I’ll try today.
Robyn Koslowitz wrote about the research that parental burnout has serious consequences. Before I was a parent I had no sympathy for parents, they chose to have kids, they had kids, so why complain? Perhaps because you have almost no idea what it will really be like before doing it, so it is very difficult to know if it is a good or a bad idea. Like marriage, you start out assuming it’s a good idea and sometimes afterwards it no longer seems that way, no one really tells a beaten wife, “well, it was your choice to get married so why are you complaining now?” but I tell myself when I feel beaten down by parenting, “well, it was your choice to have kids.” That is an ANT by the way, an automatic negative thought which has been shown to be detrimental to brain health, in a round about way they cause inflammation and thus the mental has a path towards becoming physically damaging. Dive deeper with Daniel Amen’s TED Talk Change Your Brain Change Your Life.
I did chose to have kids, I was 30, I was married, so I didn’t expect to struggle like a one legged, drug addict, teen mom would. Then when I started to burn out, it wasn’t okay with me. Sure my husband shamed me, my family expected me to do better, but the worse critic was myself.
So I needed Robyn Koslowitz’s article “The Burnout We Can’t Talk About: Parent Burnout” to give me permission to allow myself to admit that I was burnt out. I think it was obvious to most people around me, but especially right now during the pandemic, everyone is tired of bailing out everyone else emotionally, and it’s really a take care of your own mental health world right now, more than before.
Which is horrible for parents who do so much, and for kids who then rely more on the parents, who are then burnt out even more.
People who know me may already be tired of hearing me say the pandemic was the worst thing for parenting and I wish my kids were born far before or after, but I’ll say it again, for all the parents who are smiling through gritted teeth, trying to support seniors afraid of dying while almost wishing it was them dying instead so they wouldn’t have to do one more day of hearing increased whining and going through the “I don’t know when X will open again, sorry it’s closed” conversation one more time… The pandemic wasn’t movies with popcorn and chalk sidewalk drawings, it was getting bitten and kicked by big kids who were going crazy behind closed doors, and trying to pretend it wasn’t happening, and going into survival mode, sometimes regrouping, feeling better about life, then being unable to control the kids having panic attacks and regressions in just about every area of life.
Things were horrible, but denial was my go to coping mechanism, so it took a long time to even wonder if I was burnt out.
I was wondering what is the difference between being a mom, who semi or completely hates being a mom (depending on the day) and a burnt out mom?
The difference is wanting to escape. Fantasizing about leaving, which both my mother and my husband’s father actually did do. So it isn’t something I would want myself to want, it’s something I look down on. Yet I found myself unable to stop fantasizing about living a life in a quiet place, a place without the laundry, dishes, messes, emotional problems, medical and educational logistical decisions and other demands of children. I didn’t enjoy it, but I was compelled to keep fantasizing. Like cookie monster eating a cookie that was supposed to be an educational prop, I told myself to stop, but didn’t.
At first I dreamed of leaving the special needs child and taking the baby, then I dreamed of leaving them both, in an imaginary world where they would be cared for by someone great. I imagined a new start somewhere else, with no family, no husband, no kids, no room mate, no lover, no pet, just silence. Delicious silence, and sleep. More sleep that 8 hours, maybe 8.5 hours, or even 9 hours! It feels good just typing that. The good life, 9 hours of sleep if I wanted it, it’s been about six years since I’ve had that.
Burnout was coined by Freudenberger in 1974 and parental burnout has been studied independently, but the concept is more taboo.
In America the gender norm used to be, men work, women take care of babies, cook and clean. I think it is now, men work and help with kids, women work shittier jobs for less (on average, not everyone) and take care of babies, help turn on the kid’s tablets, buy take out, and clean. So the idea of parents, especially women, not loving the drudgery of child care, is kind of offensive to the gender norms, and if women don’t love taking care of babies what even defines a women then? So to avoid that can of existential worms, women kind of have to enjoy taking care of babies, and to make it fair men can have to enjoy it too, but woman can’t not enjoy it, or shame!
It wouldn’t make sense for parents to have kids if they hated taking care of kids would it? It wouldn’t make sense for men to get married if they enjoyed free choice of sexual partners either, would it? It wouldn’t make sense to sit kids down for school since they learn better while moving, would it? It wouldn’t make sense to elect presidents that already have dementia, would it?
The parenting relationship is crucial to children’s psychological development. Attachment, or the lack thereof, can be damaging. That’s why it’s so threatening to even consider the possibility that parents can burn out. But if we can’t think about it, we can’t do anything to address it.
– Robyn Koslowitz
Burn out is an ugly thing for kids, but it’s really ugly for the parents as well, but since it’s bad for both parties I guess it’s more important to find a way out than to find fault with society or the parents or the kids.
The world misunderstands challenging children, and it’s up to us to explain them to everyone. Simple tasks, like getting our kids on the school-bus, to brush their teeth, or to eat dinner become massive jobs requiring Herculean effort. Homework time with kids isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. Try doing homework with a child who erases every letter that isn’t shaped perfectly, or who can’t stick to a task for more than three minutes straight. Then multiply a few siblings, who just have the neurotypical struggles and life demands. Add in some soccer practice, maybe a boss asking for some at-home work and throw in a toothache for good measure. For some people, this would be a nightmare. For others, it’s just called “Tuesday.”
– Robyn Koslowitz
Robyn’s article really resonated with me, because I have a special needs child, and I would never have understood how much it’s annoying when they rewrites their letters and can’t get through a three minute task at age five. It’s not cute in real life, it’s not a wonderful opportunity to learn about my child and myself and cultivate patience, but rather a drain on my will power that I get through, and then have less energy than I would if I didn’t have to deal with it.
In essence, burnout prevents parents from being present emotionally with children, its ugly, but it’s true.
I think in the past there wasn’t an expectation a factory working parent would come home and then teach meditation to their kids, and “just be there” to hear about how hard it is that they don’t have an iphone and “everyone else” does… but there sure is that expectation now, that parents are there to feed the emotional needs of the kids. Before becoming a parent I thought kids would just kind of handle that sh*t themselves, like my sister and I did, but if I tell that to just about anyone, they will think I’m a monster. I have a burden of needing to co-regulate sometimes (though I do let the kids soothe themselves often), being expected to soothe an unsoothable child, being their advocate, noticing the different temperaments of my shy and diva kids, trying to help both to learn stress coping mechanisms that suit them… modern society expects parents to be psychologists with pretty much no training, and in my case, no desire to be a psychologist.
In real life, I am constantly cleaning mold, doing laundry, just started potty training my younger, weaning my younger of milk at night, doing dishes, meeting with the doctor of my older, giving treatments to the older one, and today I noticed my older child is depressed, and needs MORE comfort, attention, intervention… and I in all honesty HATE that right now.
When your children cry out for help, and you hate it, that’s a sign of burnout.
So, I noticed I was burnt out eventually, and all the articles suggest self care, which often on paper is basically more stress to do more stuff like exercise, when you are already over burdened.
Life is already too hard, so what you are suggesting to fix it is do a lot more hard stuff then?
I talked to my dad about being burnt out, as he was a single father of two, I thought he might have ideas, but I felt really disappointed when he recommended exercise. I had been exercising while I was burnt out, it’s good for a number of reasons, but it wasn’t fixing the burn out, also my father didn’t exercise when we were kids so he wasn’t speaking from experience but rather from the collective trends of today.
I think what it comes down to for now, is starting family therapy. My husband refused to go on Zoom, or at all until things are all the way back to normal (it will be over a year for our family), but my daughter is depressed TODAY.
I wanted to all be on the same page, if I saw improvement with my daughter’s mental health I wasn’t going to push for therapy that my husband is against doing or paying for… but although the anxiety has improved, the depression is worse, so I’ll fight for getting a real therapist to be my daughter’s therapist (instead of me trying to be a therapist, since I hate that stuff on a good day and can’t even try on a bad day).
Marilyn Wedge wrote an article that gave me hope, 4 Misconceptions About Family Therapy, spoiler alert, it says family therapy is a whole different thing than normal therapy, that it usually does help, and in 7 sessions. Perhaps she is biased since she makes money selling that stuff? But I trust her.
So, even though it will be a pain to get it set up, and do it, I will start seeking professional help again. I’ve tried in the past, and had so many rejections for our insurance, on paper my insurance has “so many providers standing by to help,” on paper “there are so many options for people who need mental health care,” but in real life money changes hands and therefore it’s very bureaucratic how, when, and who, has what options, and when.
So basically I’m burnt out trying to council my child, maybe because I never should have had to? Or maybe because I am not a good person since I don’t love child care and I am a woman? But bottom line I can’t solve my child’s mental health issues by singing Daniel Tiger songs at the right time, I’m going to get help from someone who probably can help, and my husband will pay for it more than he emotionally supports me to set it up.
He was stressed at work because a necessary team member transferred out, and they lost one person they needed to complete all the work of the shop. Management will either have trouble getting someone for awhile, or intentionally milk the situation to over work the remaining employees, who just won’t be able to get the same amount of their work done while covering the other workers thus not really saving much for the company in the long run.
In a way, I am both the management and the workers, I’m being cheap to get the help I really need, and also working myself to hard, and missing activities that did benefit the kids and me, while trying and failing to do the work the psychologist could be doing much better and faster than I could.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
– Abraham Lincoln
So, shot an email to my child’s neurologist hoping for a recommendation and here’s to finding a solution that way or in another way. It’s a tentative process for me because of the logistics of mental health care not being as streamlined as advertised and the loss bias of not wanting to invest time and money with absolutely no guarantee therapy will really help at all, but if my kids couldn’t speak, we would go to speech therapy, if they couldn’t walk, we would go to physical therapy, so if they cant’ cope I guess family therapy it is. What actually held me back the last time was a six month wait caused by the pandemic, that was December, so we would still be waiting even if I had already “got in line” as a new patient… Real life, slower progress than preferred.
Been entertaining the past two weeks and the morning after I couldn’t find the new instruments for music time, didn’t have a good charge on my daughter’s school computer and in general noticed there are tons of toys everywhere, built up to discard bags in the closet and built up garden supplies waiting to be used. In essence it was time to declutter and clean again.
The main focus was the playroom, which smelled moldy. Behind the bed debris and toys had molded, I had to rotate the bed frame, which I realized was in a bad place as far as accessibility and traffic flow. It’s been a wet winter in our especially wet area, so therefore, mold has to be constantly addressed. I love the mold prevention spray we use now, I notice the places I do spray need to be cleaned a lot less or not for mold. The window sills were molding each week before, my daughter’s wooden desk hasn’t molded after it was applied, the back of the bed frame and the bottom of the mattresses were molding before and aren’t anymore.
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We finally got life vests for everyone and want to try kayaking with the kids, that is exactly the kind of stuff I want to do more in life and I want to be cleaning less (but still have a clean house) so I turn to minimalism where perhaps others would delegate, get help from family or pay someone.
Less stuff > Less cleaning > More Ocean Adventures (Hopefully)
I reread the first of my Konmari Monday articles today, I moved out of my old home of about 6 years since writing it. So much has changed in regards to what I keep and let go of…
Now I have a garden so there is that clutter magnet, now I am not by relatives that would need anything my kids used, now I live somewhere everything you own has to be cleaned because there is no way to store it in good condition otherwise.
It seems I always interpret circumstances as driving me further and further towards minimalism, but again I feel that way. Less stuff around makes cleaning easier, makes mold easier to keep at bay.
In my quanta system:
Level 1 would be hoarding,
Level 2 would be “collecting” that is semi-hording and semi-normal,
Level 3 would be the imaginary normal life with a box in the attic, but clear rooms,
Level 4 would be minimalism,
Level 5 would be the Konmari “Mythical Legendary Master Status.
My home got to a level 2 in just two weeks of ignoring it…
But just about a day of cleaning got me back to level 3, mostly.
The room I cleaned has a better layout now, the organization of toys, books, clothes and the Google Home Screen has changed. I took one video call, it was an easier angle. The kids seemed more happy to play there again. The mold smell is gone. It makes me feel hopeful that I’m going to be able to use it well for a school room and play room.
I blocked the gaps next to the bed with reused foam so no more toys or weird things fall through the cracks where it’s hard to clean, that should help keep the room more fresh than before.
All the stuffed toys got washed and dried, the bedding is drying right now, so once I finish cleaning the window sill and the last 1.5 boxes of clutter, plus the top of the closet shelf, the room should be nice and fresh.
The books all got moved, but it feels like the wrong place still, as does the stuffed animal herd.
So unlike Konmari I did focus on location, but I did check all my daughter’s clothes at the same time, a kind of hybrid approach. As far as my clothes I don’t think I have much extra, maybe some underwear that is too tight and can go (which is the same size as ones that do fit weirdly, poor manufacturing perhaps). My son’s diapers, we are done with them, but I don’t know off hand if anyone will take used cloth diapers in real life… they are cute, but they have elastic that needs to be replaced as it ages and that doesn’t seem worth the effort. Eventually I’ll have to research it… but perhaps I should just let it go.
My old schedule was:
8 Breakfast, 9 Teach School, 10 Exercise, 11 Lunch, 12 Freeplay/Writing, 1 Teach Music, 2 Mum and Me with Daughter, 3 Outside Play Mum and me with Son, 4 Dinner, 5 Video Call with my Sister to Tutor Daughter so I can do ASL with Son, 6 Kids play together I relax, 7 Kids play with dad.
My new one will be:
7 Breakfast, 8 School, 9 Cooking, 10 Exercise, 11 Lunch, 12 Freeplay/Writing, 1 Music, 2 Outside or Building Blocks, 3 Reading or Signing or Language, 4 Dinner, 5 Video Call with Dad for Kids, 6 EQ Journal and Tidy Up, 7 Settle Down.
Schedules and cleaning always seem to go hand and hand, in physics time and space are actually one force like electricity is magnetism, and for me I need less physical clutter to have mental space to be brave enough to make a new schedule.
I have a coffee cart, I think I want to move the books and papers there, and hopefully go through my clothes. I feel like I don’t have an clutter that is clothes or books or paper, but if I actually count everything maybe I will find out I did. Either way I want to approach all those three categories together since I don’t have much of any of them.
I feel better about the future this year than last year, last year there were too many unknowns to really thrive for me, I did my best, but it was just too chaotic to really fully relax.
Reading the past five Konmari sessions I realize I took so many steps backwards last year that I’ve only gotten to the place I was last August, in terms of organizing, in terms of routines, in therms of living my best life, but maybe that’s enough, maybe everything is fine.
Chapter 1: A New Hope; I soaked the seeds in regular room temperature water for about a day and some started germinating in that after that first day (with a tiny light yellow root poking through the pointed end).
Chapter 2: The Nursery; I moved them to the saucer filled with peat moss.
THE NEXT DAY
Chapter 3: A Dangerous World; Slug scare, but as a result took iron poison bait more seriously and started more proactively protecting the garden and weeding to keep the garden more accessible with less refuge for slugs. I realized that although unnecessary, gardening is really enriching and important to me, and I am willing to work through my fears of slugs or in general of loosing the garden to change or nature’s whims to try my hand at a new garden.
TEN DAYS LATER
Chapter 4: Moving Out; It’s February 25th, the morning glories (two at least) got moved out of the “green house” (broken so it doesn’t hold heat, but still has the bones of a green house) and are hopefully going to start vining up our trees in the front garden my kids play near.
Chapter 5: Cold Winter Rain; So, two morning glories are outside, but it’s been really hard rain lately, so they look a bit under the weather… not dead, many are still in the green house, one of which had a slug removed from it. I planted some clover with the morning glories and noticed something had eaten the clover, thus found the baby slug. Looked up slug mating season so I would know when to expect the babies, it’s January, February, March, April, May, June, July (break for August and September) again in October and November (break for December) so… pretty damn often. The iron bait has seemed to work well, but still finding a slug here and there. Today I found a snow white cuban slug… since the poison went out in early February it would need more time to work and then extra time for newly hatched babies.
Hoping to see the flowers this year, but I noticed the last time I planted in summer seemed much easier on the plants.
The first year, I grappled with learning serenity and it led me to focus inward and live a better, more intentional life.
Entry 1; August of 2017,
I have recently begun to find serenity in not worrying about what I cannot change, but to this I would take it further and let me release the burden of judging others at all.
Today I didn’t meet all my personal goals, but I met 5 of them and did the laundry, exercised, cleaned the house and was more patient than ever before with my child… still not a perfect day, but I’m glad I can accept that it was still a great day overall including a nice family walk to the fountain and a delicious protein burger that doesn’t seem to get old.
When I wanted everything perfect, it was nearly impossible to appreciate the good I already had.
A few days later: I designated a Zelda shield to represent quote 9. 🛡️
Entry 2; October of 2017,
I fall into a bad habit of being judgmental. I waste my energy thinking about other people, it may be wrong to judge other’s mistakes or maybe the truth is the truth, but either way focusing on other people means I overlooked myself or didn’t put focus into my goals.
When I focused on others be, it right or wrong, I lost focus on my own life and growth, too much of that was a waste of my life, perspective, and talents.
⚔️ TINY ACTIVITY ⚔️ Try to ask what about me? when I think of things I think other people are doing wrong. Ex, that person’s space is a mess, what about me is my space in order? That person could be doing more with their kids, what about me, am I making time for my kids?
Entry 3; December of 2017,
I stopped judging others when I’m not asked about it, I became focused on judging myself, introspectively (not harshly). Instead thinking about why I’m not able to work on my goals, the things that have been in the way, and what I want to do when I do begin work, and how I’m going to break down the tasks.
When I don’t work on my goals, because I have been sleeping in lately the question is, “it that ok with me right now?” And I guess it is. I feel like it’s natural to get a little extra rest during this part of the winter, if I was in the middle of a big project it may be different, but I am between important projects, and I don’t need to rush myself into the next one without having some time to brainstorm first.
I am starting to learn to feel my limits. For most of my life, I have toggled between working like a dog, than burnt-out procrastinating. It’s not what I want to continue, instead I want to learn to feel when I am worn down and take a break. I don’t want to avoid all work, but I don’t want to run headfirst into projects that aren’t right for me. I want to stop and take a minute and decide what I want to do before I start a project (live intentionally). That’s not the same as doing nothing, it’s doing something that is pretty important, yet hard to show progress in, or say hard to say to someone else exactly what percent is done, or what the time line is…My martial art’s instructor once told me a story about a young bull, who wanted to run down a hill and procreate with a cow, but an older bull told him, “no, let’s walk down the hill and procreate with all the cows.” Still looking for a more PC quote that makes the same point…
⚔️ TINY ACTIVITY ⚔️ Divide my life into two categories: 1. My externals are – my body, my family, my country, my overall wealth, my day job, where I live, and 2. My choices are my self care, my way of speaking to others, my vote, my personal spending, my attitude in my family and at work, my gratitude about the comfort and joy of what I have right now, and what I want to do with my art and writing projects.
Celebrating Growth: I’m glad that I did that, I didn’t do that the first two times around. I find most of the shame I have is already about things I choose, which is good, at least I don’t worry about what I can’t choose, but I struggle to not be ashamed I haven’t done more writing and art this year. I suppose I can celebrate that shame as a compass in my heart trying to steer me away from not writing and drawing. 🎉
I really worry about doing anything without knowing if it was what I was meant to do with my life, but I also don’t care to be idle waiting for a time to come that I am sure, and also I’ve searched as far as I can in books to find out how to find out what I am meant to do… I know I can draw and write, I know not doing those things makes me feel really bad and doing them makes me feels good, so it seems like a good place to start learning how to do mental work, yet I really wish that it felt like it was clearly “my purpose.” It doesn’t. I thought people were born with purpose, but maybe not, maybe they just pick them, the people who live with passion are the ones I thought lived with purpose, but maybe it’s something within your power. Maybe God leaves it to you to decide your purpose. Maybe you can change it to whatever you want and some people never change it. I remember the first thing I really really wanted to do with my life was fight monsters (like Link in Zelda games). I made a card board sword and shield so I would be able to pursue my life’s purpose of being a monster killer. As an adult, I don’t want to be an outlaw hunting criminals, nor do I want to be a parole officer, nor do I want to be a judge, nor do I want to be a lawyer… but if I could hunt monsters. I guess it feels like what I do isn’t enough. I think I have to face the feeling that no matter what I do it won’t be enough and it would be nice to separate that from my productivity and address that separately. Divide and conquer.
When I noticed how I did feel (worried about not knowing my purpose) I felt scared it would never change, but feelings can and do change, sometimes in response to something I intended to change them, sometimes in response to something else, they migrate slowly at times, but they do migrate.
The second year, I examined if I could teach serenity to others (so far no).
Entry 4; December of 2018,
This quote defines serenity for me, and it’s given me a lot of inner peace to practice this mental separation process, but I wonder if it can be taught to children without accidentally teaching them learned helplessness? I worry teaching them some things are out of their control may give them too much a sense of helplessness. (So much is outside of their control for children, I was worried if my daughter listed the extent it would make her feel helpless)
I’m going to try to think of ways to teach this to my three year old, because she seems to get really upset every time something is not her choice, and more than it bothering me I think it would help her have more peace in her mind. (That didn’t happen, my daughter was upset because she had Sensory Processing Disorder and needed treatment for that to be in a normal state of mind to even begin to be able to understand complex mental processes)
I’m celebrating that I have one thing to teach my daughter that my parents didn’t teach me that I believe will help her a lot in enjoying life. 🎉 (It didn’t help her at that time, but I don’t think it hurt her and I enjoyed trying)
I learned that surrendering control of what you never did control is a major, if not the major, component of inner peace.
The third year, I examined the larger context of this quote as a basis of support for other ideas and how it affected my habits of decision making and taking responsibility for my behavior.
Entry 5; March 2019,
I started thinking this quote in a larger context, relating to the one by Marcus Aurelius, where he says of others, “there but for the grace of God go I.” It helps me be less judgmental of other people to know their capacities aren’t mine, just as mine are limited so is everyone else.
Trying to be proactive to find the ways it’s possible to choose a response to situations that can’t be chosen.
Celebrating that I’ve started having an easier time making choices, it’s still not easy, but it’s easier than it once was. I don’t think my parents let me make any small choices, maybe they didn’t know they should, but I have the hardest time with small insignificant choices and I feel like I’m a little child struggling to learn how. 🎉 I thought about it because I was always informed to let my child practice making choices (like blue or red toothbrush?) and she is very strong in making choices, it’s not meant as a complaint, but parents who never give children choices (which does take a bit more time and energy) can expect to have children who struggle to make choices, it’s a skill that gets stronger with exercise. It took me a year or two of practice to get better at making common choices, for awhile I didn’t even want to browse at stores because I found making choices with many options overwhelming.
I’m learning to look at my failures and weaknesses with more kindness, not making excuses, but not shaming myself either.
When I let go of the weight of things that weren’t my responsibility is the first time I had the strength to be responsible for the things that really were my responsibility.
Entry 6; August 2019,
Each time I do the stoic meditations, I divide life into serenity and proactivity.
It takes serenity to accept this truth, and then proactivity to face every choice from then on… but sometimes I slide back into reactivity, and then accept that with serenity, and resume living proactively as best I can.
I’m celebrating that it gets easier and easier to stop living reactively. 🎉
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about proactivity existing in “a space between events and reactions,” I’ve also heard of it described as “the inner citadel,” either way, I’ve gotten better at extending the moment a lot more than when I first started.
Entry 7; November 2019,
This quote is still very helpful at reducing my feeling of needing to react to other people’s negativity and conflict, if I don’t choose to do so.
Still building serenity, there was a small incident of someone being rude to me in front of my kids in public, I got agitated and am still trying to forget what happened, I can see that it was my response that stays with me (it was not a bad response, just not really heroic or anything). I stood my ground in an angry way, but not a strong or elegant way, not with poise or bravery. Still working on letting things go that don’t matter.
I’m celebrating that I understand the truth of this quote more and more over time, that what is beyond our control is beyond our fault and responsibility as well. 🎉
I’m learning that everything I suffered with my abusive mother bothered me more when I chose to allow the situation to continue. I felt so trapped, was trapped for some time, then one day my mother called and I politely spoke my mind to her about how she abused my sister and I, and she instead of apologizing, said she would never talk to me again, and hung up on me, if I had been anything except sincerely civil, I may have regretted our last conversation the rest of my life. But when my response is in the right (to me at least), it’s amazing how fast I can let go of what happens.
After two years of trying to live intentionally, I started being able to do it without being super drained, the first two years I was more thoughtless than thoughtful, but I still tried and now I still have reactive moments, but they are now the exception, instead of the normal modus operandi.
The fourth year, I started understanding the idea of personal power (what is in my control) and serenity to what isn’t in my control at a deeper level, examining the space between my choices and the world.
Entry 8; February of 2020,
It’s interesting how long it took me to understand the deeper nuance of this concept, for a long time I thought events were either or, either inside or outside of our hands, but there is a tiny bit of big events in our hands. Example, the totality of the great ocean garbage patch is not my fault, but it is partially my fault when I throw away 1-use bags, right now I use a backpack at the store, and don’t need more 1-use bags, but every once in awhile we get more, then I save them and at least use them again as trash bags. Using all 1 use plastic bags at least twice, would reduce the trash in the world by 50%, that’s not perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. Using a bag for shopping 80% of the time is better than 0%, even 1% is better than 0%. We can’t do what we can, when we get to emotionally burdened by wanting to solve more than what we are capable of doing, what we are not capable of doing is outside of our hands.
What can I do to make a better world? Write. I’m trying to start writing books, if I do that I will build skills and confidence, I can either keep doing that or transfer the skills into a different path, as long as I’m doing something towards a better future, I can trust other people to do other things, and hope that the net is enough to handle huge issues, like adapting to the hotter world, which is a reality for our decedents. We survived both ice ages and global warming before with less technology, perhaps it won’t be easy, but I refuse to believe things are hopeless, as long as there is life, there is hope to find balance in life, and nature is more resilient than people imply.
I’m celebrating that we have been able to use less chemicals, eliminate paper such as napkins, use far less plastic, even though my husband doesn’t care, I’m sure my kids will use less of those things, simply from seeing it is possible. It doesn’t have to be 100% of people, nor 100% conversion, simply by making eco friendly choices that do work for us, we have done our small part, and perhaps someone brilliant will start finding new ways to make eco friendly alternatives more cost effective, once they are cheaper they will be the popular option. 🎉
I’m learning as much as I can about finance, it’s obviously not the only thing that matters, but I’m inspired by Elevate Orphan. For a long time I made a lot more money and didn’t have any passion projects to sponsor, now I don’t have much extra, but finding things I care about means that I can either contribute at a later time, or contribute in a different way, money can be helpful, but so can awareness, information, ideas, encouragement, love. Sometimes you are able to fight in the front lines, sometimes you support the fighters, sometimes you make a change in legislation that ends the fighting, there are many ways to help.
This is the fifth year, I’m back to square one of trying to put events into one or the other categories (external or choice).
Today I’m considering this quote vs procrastination. Often there are things I get excited about doing, like writing a book, or something else, then I don’t follow through. So either I don’t really want to, I feel obligated to pretend I want to perhaps, or I can’t. Maybe it’s outside of my control to just finish a big project without having worked on small ones before. Each November other people “just write” with NaNoWriMo but I haven’t. So perhaps I don’t really want to right now that I’m a bit overworked, or perhaps ever, or perhaps I can’t because I’m missing some key ingredient that others may not need or may already have, but either way it brings me all the way back to the beginning of practicing trying to discern when something (in this case being able to write a book) is either within my control or out of my hands and reminds me I’m still a beginner in the arena of self awareness and serenity.
Tiny Plan: Rebuilding the daily activity schedule 8 AM Music, 9 AM Engineering, 10 AM Outside, 11 Martial Arts.
🗹 Connect with Other Humans – Email works, writing works, family doesn’t fill my cup so I have to be mindful of my limits.
🗹 Take Breaks – Mostly the garden, but whatever works, I need to…
🗹 Seek and Discuss Healing – We are talking about starting family counseling, we really should at least try it.
🚧 Take More Consistent Breaks
🚧 Let the New Schedule Sink in Without Adding too Much
💡 Life Time Goal:Live intentionally so the things that matter are the ones that don’t fall through the cracks.
🛠️ Tools: Gratitude, Self Leadership.
Tiny Plan: Take a bit more time to think, I feel like I’m living behind rather than ahead of life.
🗹 Radical Acceptance – Going well, kind of detaching from “everything” that needs to be done and doing some stuff that is possible.
“In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.”
🗹 Create your own reality consciously. – Going surprisingly well, gardening helps, it helps to see something I can physically see changing, martial arts is fun too I can see the kids improving vs academics take longer and are less noticeable.
🗹 Clarify my Dreams, Intentions, Goals, and Plans Here – I still have trouble feeling that it’s important, justifying taking the time, but yet I know it helps so I don’t understand the disconnect, though I feel it.
🗹 Cleaning – It’s getting easier and easier, it’s still not detail cleaned, but it’s sanitary and better organized than before and I’m not hating life. I only clean an amount I can tolerate on a given day if that means the bathrooms or the fridge isn’t cleaned, then they aren’t. But always the kitchen, the trash, the laundry, the bedrooms, the kid’s toys and equipment. Sometimes the patio or garden is a mess, but the more I get a routine the faster the routine stuff gets and they I could theoretically tackle something extra on the weekend.
🚧 Make More Time to Think
🌱 Life Time Goal: Leave my kids a beautiful garden or at least gardening skills or at least fond memories of outside.
🛠️ Tools: Permaculture Gardening.
Tiny Plan: Work towards tiny pockets of usable garden, for music, for produce we eat, for beautiful flowers by watering and checking what there already is growing.
🗹 Malama Pono – Be forthright and proactive in your life – Going well.
🗹 Aloha ʻĀina – Going well, connecting with the garden, sourced cheap and high quality local steer manure compost and organic worm casting compost, that makes me feel like larger scale projects are within my reach. Finding scrubby pads to keep slugs off makes me feel like gardening is a bit safer with the Rat Lung infection of the slugs so prevalent in my area, I have baited with iron slug poison (that doesn’t affect other wildlife) and it seems to have finally worked because I was a lot smarter about baiting in dry areas and many areas instead of only a few that got wet and therefore didn’t work as intended. Not sure if it’s the cold weather, but it’s been the least slugs in the garden ever, still jarring about 1-3 a day, but there were days I jarred over 100 in the same day (over 200 was the record day).
🪓 Life Time Goal: Become mindful and bold about maintaining myself preventatively with respect towards myself and excitement towards what it allows me to do in my life.
🛠️ Tools: Stoic Living, Kaizen
Tiny Plan: Try to find more time for fun things during the average day.
🚧 Let yourself play games sometimes or otherwise enjoy life a bit.
9 Points of 13 Points = 69% this week real life responsibilities really presented challenges to taking breaks that were above my pay grade to deal with, for now. Sometimes defeats are really insightful though, I can see that I really must find a new way of making time for myself and that it really is a need to take care of myself before burnout rather than after when it’s harder, uglier, and costlier.
Thank you, reader, for joining me today, it seems a bit redundant to be burnt out of child care starting a new garden, it must have been at least the third time if not the fourth, but each time I learn a lot about gardening and how to stop making the same mistakes in general, I’m a slow learner…
Preface: I’m continuing a thread from before the pandemic, from a year and three months ago… it seems like I’ve taken enough steps back in life that I can retrace my old advice, perhaps that was the reason I was motivated to write it back then? I always was writing to be helpful to just one person, perhaps that person was always meant to be myself?
Mission: restore harmony to my mind/myself /my life by breaking modern life down into the three arenas of 1. Connection – how I treat and enjoy people, 2. Acceptance – how I treat and enjoy myself, clearing my mind and accepting my emotions “as is” with no justification, 3. Action – my service to the world, currently tutoring my kids, cleaning my physical home ext, and 4. Harmony – the balance between the three areas of life and how to spend limited energy, time, and money with mindful intention.
Arena 1: Connection – Life Time Goal: Don’t be a complete jerk. Tools: Assertive Communication, Tactical Empathy, Observation, Sports Casting, Look Up, Look In.
Tiny Plan: Try to take the high road once a day (I used to have higher expectations but I’m a little pandemic fatigued still).
🗹 Connect with Other Humans – Saw a friend in person, it was amazing, very much worth it after so long, so deeply wish the pandemic had been managed in a different more targeted way so unaffected areas or people who had tested already could have lived with less isolation. It’s really invaluable to be with other people, I would almost trade 5 years of pandemic life for 1 year of regular life, life is really much richer with friends (in person friends).
🗹 Read books or Articles – Online friends or colleges, they are a welcome addition to life, they just kind of fill a different cup than in person support, they inspire me, they do uplift me as well, it’s just somehow not a substitute for in person support in the same way. Doctor’s visits have been okay online, music lessons are great, martial art’s lessons are okay, preschool hasn’t been as rewarding or easy, somethings translate very well, other things don’t.
🗹 Seek and Discuss Healing – I am doing my best to try to help my sister as just a sounding board for her own ideas to get out of her depression a little bit, I think it helps a lot that I’m not rushing her out or giving many suggestions, counter-intuitively wanting someone to get better or giving ideas can slow down their healing.
Arena 2: Acceptance – Life Time Goal: Live intentionally so the things that matter are the ones that don’t fall through the cracks. Tools: Gratitude, Kaizen.
Tiny Plan: Stop being over critical and don’t beat myself up for small mistakes or other people’s mistakes.
🗹 Radical Acceptance – Still a work in progress, but going well especially with cleaning and cooking, I clean and never finish the whole house, but I am keeping the basic health hazards completely under control and making more progress with the gross looking stuff and even slow progress towards making things look “elegant”. Cooking is going well too, we eat mostly healthy, mostly tasty stuff, it’s a bit redundant, but I was never a cook so it’s pretty decent from where I started.
“In life our first job is this, to divide and distinguish things into two categories: externals I cannot control, but the choices I make with regard to them I do control. Where will I find good and bad? In me, in my choices.”
🗹 See problems as opportunities. – I don’t do this 100% but I do look for at least one thing each week to work smarter at… so I did do this for Japanese language learning and restarted my journey with Kanjidamage which is an awesome funny, but really explicit website to learn Japanese easily in a fun way.
🗹 Create your own reality consciously. – I know it’s possible, I do it a little, but I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it, definitely baby steps, like drinking tea instead of coffee in 2021 to prove to myself I can make life less redundant in the 2021 pandemic than the 2020 pandemic was by being a different person myself.
🗹 Clarify my Dreams, Intentions, Goals, and Plans Here – It’s been a large break, but it feels grounding to be back after about a year off.
Arena 3: Action – Life Time Goal: Do the right thing. Tools: Permaculture Gardening, Martial Arts, Stoic Living, Self Leadership, KonMari, Minimalism.
Tiny Plan: Teach martial arts weekdays 3 PM.
🗹 Malama Pono – Be forthright and proactive in your life. – I’ve feel like that honest part of me I had as a child has synced up with the adult me to produce and overly honest adult, but I’m good with that, that’s how I feel well.
🗹 Aloha ʻĀina, Teaching Martial Arts – Going okay, second class post pandemic, it’s just my kids, but they are still kids and they are having fun so perhaps that’s enough.
🗹 Cleaning – Starting to know how to clean and have good (but not necessarily expensive) tools (such as a steam mop, enough towels, not broken spray bottles, vinegar, blue dawn soap). Cleaning gets easier when you know how to do it and can do it in the same flow as normal, easier and faster and less draining.
Balance Between Arenas: Harmony – Life Time Goal: Allow myself to guard and restore my own well being for no other reason than it’s the right way to live. #mumlivesmatter
Tiny Plan: Try to find more time for fun things during the average day.
🗹 Money: Be reasonable, but joyful about using what we have wisely. – Read “Happy Money” and I’ll hopefully never go back to the old way of thinking about money as a limited resource that runs out, money is more like renewable energy than oil, people can always make more money with service, with policy, with savings, in so many ways.
🗹 Creative Endeavors: Brainstorming, Drawing, Painting, Sculpting, Writing, Architecture. – I would want to do a bit more, but did do a pretty reasonable amount, did write and publish instead of just keeping another draft, did draw recently, not a ton, but a little, did a lot of garden design choices hanging the strawberries ext, doing a lot of brainstorming with curriculum and parenting choices, never thought about how much that drains my mental energy until now, but it really does. Designed and printed a math lesson “recognition” chart and a martial arts chart, little things like that aren’t so easy, to go from the idea to hanging the finished product in the same hour is a record turn around for me. Did a bit of ocarina sheet music in Inkscape too and learned a new song on ocarina.
12 Points of 12 Points = 100% this week though real life is never perfect I did have a medium amount of energy to bring to the table and that helped me restart martial arts, the only exercise I’ve done this year (rare for me) as well as doing a bit better at making music time fun, reading story books instead of showing movies at night and being calmer for language and math lessons.
Thank you readers for joining me today, it’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these weekly reviews, but it feels good to be back because it’s interesting to see how much has changed. Notably lowered expectations of myself and more patience with my family, especially my daughter who I didn’t always know was a special needs child. I didn’t expect it to happen so fast, but I’ve made peace with being a special needs mum, it’s been about two months since she got her diagnosis and at first I was very resistant to identifying that way, to owning the amount of effort and patience I would need to put forth to be able to thrive as an individual in that situation or to help her in her situation, but I’m starting to be at peace with it, since it’s always been there whether I resist it or embrace it.
January 31st I spent about $10 on morning glory seeds, I had started to grow them once before, sprouted a ton of them (like 40-100) and then they all died… I want to vine up our thin ‘Ohi’a trees with a little bit of color. It took me a long time observing the garden and neighborhood to decide if I think the flowers will become invasive in this climate, I doubt it due to the overgrown ginger and groundcover types already here… also I wanted to think about if they are harmonious with the landscape, I think they are, also I wanted to think about if they make a part of my ideal life, I also think they are.
Some people may find morning glories old fashioned or ramshackle, but I like that, very much. I’ve grown white before, and LOVED them, but since we have slugs (huge brain eating parasite carrying ones) here, I don’t imagine frolicking under the moonlight where white really looks amazing, so no moon garden plans right now.
If you want to join me morning glories can be indoor kitchen plants and are a great beginner plant because they are very strong to start.
Here are what the seeds look like, they are hard, dark black, shiny, pointy, they feel strong.
I soaked the seeds in regular water (our home filtered rainwater) I used to use chamomile tea, but didn’t have any on hand.
After a day indoors the seeds had opened (I started 11) with a tiny light yellow root poking through the pointed end.
I moved them to the trey that goes under the pots we got for strawberries.
I’m hoping that I can get the morning glories to vine up our trees, including the dead ones that I leave because dead trees are supposed to be very good for garden microbe and animal diversity.
Sometimes I think I want to be a farmer and I’m in a location where a few special things can grow, but I don’t have any background in gardening or farming and thus growing a few simple plants seems like the next step towards either taking it to the next level or just enjoying the garden again.
Morning glories remind me of Marcus Aurelius since he wrote about the struggle to get out of bed in his book Meditations, and especially of the quote which is not verified to be him…
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive-to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.
– Marcus Aurelius (Probably not verbatim though… but Meditations did say a lot like that)
THE NEXT DAY
I was preparing a kind of flat area around a fern to start having strawberries once the cuttings I recently got (Seascape) are ready to move out of the green house, when my daughter told me she may have a slug on her foot.
She did, it was super gross, she moved it off her foot onto her hand and it was actually two slugs, mating by both putting their penises into the other’s vaginas… slugs are like that… so it was very gross.
But also stressful, because they carry a lethal parasite, rat lung (Angiostrongylus cantonensis)… which only got 1 person in 2020, but I don’t want that one person to be my daughter… so we put three slugs into the slug jar which has salt (squishing them would just cause the parasite to leave their body and find a new host…).
Anyways… that’s something we have to deal with in our district, the worst in the country as far as high infected slug population.
Why weed out brain eating slugs to garden? Because I want to play the ocarina, and of course I don’t want to play the ocarina inside, I want to play outdoors in a beautiful forest garden.
I’ve always wanted to play specifically on a log chair thing in the woods, now I live in the forest, but still want a log chair and still want to make the garden the kind of place that would resonate with the music.
The garden is pretty much weeds with some good “bones”, since the lot is on the edge of the forest preserve it comes with some trees, high ferns and moss, but also dead ferns, over grown ginger and parasite hosting ridiculously large slugs of many types.
I sometimes prefer a break from gardening, or feel like I have to take one because I’m pregnant and it’s not good to be too involved in soils at times like during miscarriage risk – though sometimes and for some people it would be fine. But now that I’ve been back gardening it’s been great.
One thing that kept me not gardening is that I take care of my two kids mostly alone, so that I have to let go of the guilt of letting the younger one watch math videos “all alone” while I garden and I do need to check in with the older child about slug safety, pretty much on an ongoing basis. Then the slug anxiety that I have pretty much got over much to my surprise.
If we didn’t have slugs I would want to grow all our own produce, which financially we don’t need to do. But since we do have a ton of slugs I don’t know if I will eat our produce more than a token amount or not, because I don’t know if I will get the slug population down, deal with the slugs crawling over my stuff at night (which they do) and still be able to eat it after washing it in the day (harder after actually seeing them on it), or perhaps I will get rid of the slugs mostly and still not really eat my own produce, but no matter what I do enjoy the process of gardening and I don’t want to stop that.
In a lot of building games houses don’t “evolve” until they are beautiful and gardens are the usual way of making the houses beautiful, I would put a garden in our house in a game, so why not in real life?
Gardening does a lot for me, I socialize with the plants, weird or not I enjoy it, the book Square Foot Garden got me started, it said ask the plants if they are thirsty and listen and it has become fun, even though I still can’t tell if yellow leaves are too much or not enough water… gardening is a bit of activity during times I’m on an exercise break, gardening is a fun way to get some sun which in small amounts is really healthy.
Gardening gets me out of the house and helps give me small things to look forward to, something sprouting or blooming or fruiting or just staying alive is usually exciting.
Gardening is fun with or without a good produce yield and I like to imagine that getting more skilled in it will let me start a farm someday, maybe on another property, or maybe indoors in a vertical aeroponic kind of set up… I like hydroponic a lot, but my dad kind of took over that set up and I like to do my own thing more than working with two chefs in the kitchen…
One thing I don’t love about gardening is that everyone in my family loves and hates different plants, so one person’s win isn’t a win win. My sister likes lantana, I find it very over used and uninspiring, I love moss, my dad prefers grass to moss, unfortunately we don’t have similar tastes, one person’s favorite is someone else’s least favorite seemingly without exception… if my sister gardened alone it would be very European, if I did it would be more Japanese and my father would have orchids. But right now I’m not even thinking about the landscaping or overall garden just a tiny pocket of it to put the strawberries I just started into.
So as of now I’m gardening more as a therapy, more as a way to go forest bathing and less as a way to become self sufficient, though that always seems like a spiritually cool thing to do I don’t think its logistically or economically the best thing. Because of climate type, I live in a pretty cold place that does get nicely warm, but not hot. So, many things won’t thrive and I don’t think I want to go without them just to reach a point of being self sustaining. Papaya will probably never thrive, but berries seem like they will. But do I want to eat slug berries? I’m not sure. It’s quite rambling, as usual right? But I do kind of need to know internally, why am I putting my kids at risk to take them into the garden, why am I spending my small amount of free energy there, why am I spending my husband’s money there? For what? For joy? Or for relaxation? So the kids will understand we eat from the Earth beyond the economic system? Or to heal my own soul? To fill a silly aspiration to taste the seascape strawberry I was growing before I left on vacation and the plant died? To connect to my ancestors? To connect to nature, something larger than myself and all life? To have something to do that I can succeed at for pride? I’m not 100% sure yet, it’s a journey I can feel myself drawn to without a complete explanation about why I do it.
More Reading: Scientific Study of Slugs and Rat Lung Parasite: “Control Measures for Slug and Snail Hosts of Angiostrongylus cantonensis, with Special Reference to the Semi-slug Parmarion martensi” by Robert G Hollingsworth, PhD, Kathleen Howe, BA, and Susan I Jarvi, PhD
Stop Reading if You Don’t Want to See a Slug
A Five Minute Video about the Rat Lung Parasite and Gardening Interventions:
I’m looking at all the posts from January, and just musing about January in particular. A long time ago March started the year, it still feels that way somewhat… January is like the alarm that is intended to be snoozed (a bad habit), February is the years get up and get ready alarm and March is like the alarm that says actually leave the house to be on time.
I want to look at problems I used to have that I resolved and other changes:
In the past: Wanted to feel like a writer (Tried Grammarly Premium, it did not help, followed a casual better writing course with the Writing Under the Olive Tree blog, it did help, Did a lot of writing, it did help).
In the past: Poverty Mentality (Video by David Lee helped, Book “Happy Money” by Ken Honda helped).
In the past: I felt bad for not helping out every charity or good cause, but now I’ve come to find one that resonates with my heart. (Found Elevate Orphan charity, it does help cheer me up to help them, and read “Fu*k No” by Sarah Knight, it did help me set better boundaries in many aspects of life).
Reflections from last year: One we humans are all a family regardless of having different preferences or appearances; two what matters more than avoiding failure, is striving to stand for what is right to the best of our abilities as common people; and three, though we can’t do everything about everything, we can make some difference in some way.
In the past: My resolution was to never yell at my kids, now I don’t think it has to be never, if someone is throwing a rock or if they are just repeatedly throwing fits and I yell, I no longer think any yelling = verbal abuse and I’m no longer going to beat myself up for occasional yelling. It may not be the most effective communication, but I’m human and it’s not fair to expect me to constantly forgive my kids and others their human error and deny myself the same courtesy, I’m not going to hold that double standard against myself anymore.
In the past: I was really inspired by Lokahi, the Hawaiian concept of restoring something broken to wholeness and life balance, since last year I’ve learned that it is a concept the ancient Egyptians lived by as well, and is the top value of both China and Japan (under the name harmony or wa). I’m still striving for life balance using Russ Harris’s free worksheets right now to work on aligning my values and life balance and in the past used Michael Sheridan’s dream interpretation from his book and also from taking his amazing class in Seattle.
In the past: I wanted to find a way to help charity more, and I did that’s to Fun Raising, I’m still at the beginning of that journey, but taking a few first steps is the right direction.
In the past: I really hated not knowing my purpose in life, now I still don’t know, but it isn’t bothering me as much. I’m doing good things for others and I’m doing things I enjoy that are just simple things like playing music, having tea, playing building games, both those things make it seem like I’m living a pretty good life even without knowing my purpose. I also am taking a purpose workshop this Thursday, so hopefully that will help.
In the past: I felt like I was not really living at all, just doing mindless chores and childcare, I don’t feel that way anymore (as much), playing music helped, getting CES treatment helped a lot, taking more time to look at chicken artwork helped a lot, basically the antidote to feeling not alive was doing fun things even if they didn’t seem important to other people in my life. It was really hard to make it happen, no one took care of my kids more, I just let them play independently and was much more flexible about taking breaks that were at weird times and not caring as much that their dad thought they could be doing more (going out, doing class with me) and turning down people who wanted support from video chat or who wanted me to go on errands with them so they would avoid feelings of loneliness. Not only did I have to step back from my kids, but I had to tenaciously defend my break time and emotionally deal with the fact other people (in my family) look down on my very reasonable amount of break taking when it doesn’t suit their agenda.
In the past: I struggled really, really hard to adapt from 1 child to 2. Dishes, trash, laundry, putting most things away, school, family dynamics, discipline ext. I was ill for a time, that meant doing much more, on much less energy. When I could exercise I did, but that didn’t help me on the front of taking back my life, focusing on expecting nothing at all and than adding back in what I could in a prioritized way was more important than eating well or exercise to a sense of control over my life. Making a schedule was really hard, so I just wrote down what really happened as a back dated schedule and that helped me trick my mind to believing I could follow a schedule and than I really made one, things got shifted, skipped and adapted, but having a schedule gave me some torque to take back the day out of chaos… into semi-order.
Last January it was hard to answer the “who are you, are you really who you say you are, are you doing all that you can for humanity?” questions that are part of Kwanzaa’s January 1st reflections. This year it wasn’t as hard:
I live by my values, upholding them matters to me, it somehow gets me through the day inspired instead of worn down. I keep my eyes open to the truth. I am make mistakes, but I believe in trying anyways. I am surrender my children’s learning goals and results to them, but I still try to create a learning environment.
I am as far as I know who I say I am and in general I am doing all I can, I donated the cost of some sneakers for orphans and that’s about right for the mental and emotional reserves I currently have, not because it sounds like a lot or not because I’m tooting my own horn, but because this time I could feel it, it felt right and it made me happy, but I also left a pair of shoes in Cuba once and it was symbolic to donate one pair to Africa as well… I hope it helps the person who gets them, but it also helps me be happy and I’m okay with both sides of that.
There are some parts of me I still don’t understand, like the intersection of who I am as a parent and an individual, but I do notice the childcare workload is getting more manageable as my son approaches 2, (my daughter is 5 going on crazy), they are both learning coping skills regarding the pandemic stress (which I never wanted them to have to deal with at those ages…) and as they calm down and play independently I can breathe and clean (which are related when you have allergies to pets, and also pets).
I had heard of Edison testing thousands of light bulb materials that didn’t work, his friend Walter S. Mallory asked ” ‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’ Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results! Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work!'”
In the past: I needed new coping mechanisms ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy), radical acceptance, mindfulness and stoicism to deal with the transition to motherhood which was unspeakably difficult and unnatural for me. Gratitude also helped a ton, much more than I expected before practicing it. Stoic philosophy, and values based living also helped me feel like I had the power to make my life matter and decide if I had a positive impact on the world or not based on my actions in my small (but real) realm of control (my mind, my choices).
In the past: I had trouble getting out of bed, not because I was a late riser, but because I was scared of another day of dealing with my daughter, screaming, crying, yelling, kicking, asking, demanding, refusing, questioning me non-stop (only much later found out she was not normal). Marcus Aurelius really helped me shift my mindset about getting out of bed:
“At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm?”
So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?
You don’t love yourself enough. Or you’d love your nature too, and what it demands of you.”
– Marcus Aurelius
In the past: Marcus Aurelius wasn’t enough to give me hope on the darker days, but Stephen Hawking was, because of who he was. Marcus Aurelius was the Emperor of Rome, he was wealthy, well educated, had family, had helpers, but Stephen Hawking had been through divorce, the debilitating physical conditions of advancing multiple sclerosis, and problems at work, so for him to keep getting up and working on his projects and motoring his electric chair out of bed everyday instead of telling the nurses just leave me alone, that made me feel like I could do it too.
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the Universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”
– Stephen Hawking
Old Me > Current Me
Felt desperately wanted to feel like a writer > Am a writer, but noticed it’s not all leather jackets and book signings, it’s mostly writing.
Felt so guilty over not being able to help all good causes and not being able to be nice to my kids 24/7 > Am doing the best I can in real ways, but have let the pressure to be perfect leave and told it not to let the door hit it on the way out…
Felt guilty about my student loan > Am not guilty, paying interest on the loan when I can pay for it should be punishment enough without me beating myself up over it and if I can never pay it, then I don’t need to be guilty for what I can’t even do.
Was desperately seeking life balance > Am interested in increasing balance, but I’ve been able to do noticeably better and seeing results helps me keep moving forward.
Was desperately seeking impact > Am really satisfied with the few people who reached out to thank me for some of the work I’ve already done that had a positive impact on them, one chalk drawing in particular and a comment on Coach.Me for some reason were enough for me. I wanted to know I was making a difference “at all” more than I wanted to know I was or could make a “big” difference. So two small moments, two individuals taking the time to say thank you, really made a huge difference to me, made me feel like I can check the “do something good in life” box.
Felt like a failure because I don’t know my life purpose > Am okay with knowing or not knowing what my life purpose is, but I’m not desperate to find out, because I’m okay with just doing my best to live in harmony with myself and help others when I have a pretty good opportunity to do so.
Felt like the day was going to be horrible before it even started > Am waking up happy and then sometimes get annoyed that my kids woke up at 6:30 and I don’t get alone time, yet at least I let bad things happen before getting annoyed instead of just assuming each day will be horrible.
Felt like a failure because I struggled immensely to parent my daughter and I hated myself for struggling with it when it seemed like everyone around me could do better than I could > Am okay with knowing I did my best, especially because my daughter has always had Sensory Processing Disorder and I never knew, I’ve been struggling with something that was hard the whole time and I never gave up, I never hit my daughter and I did the best I could even though most people would have medicated someone like my daughter, I kept trying “normal parenting” tips and classes and seeing them fail and fail and fail and I found “several thousand things that won’t work!” Sometimes it’s me not you, but this time it really is her and not me, and I won’t lie that’s nicer than feeling like I’m inherently dysfunctional as a parent.
My mantra for this year is: “If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.” – Seneca
I look back and see that I’ve already taken many steps forward, but I can feel that my life isn’t in balance as much as I would like it to be still, so it will be a work in progress, but each day that I notice more about what I really, silently want in life, not exactly what I say out loud, or even what I can put words to, but what is silently in my heart, after that recognition, it doesn’t take longer than a week to start discussing it, start finding ways to make preliminary steps happen, ways to push past the seemingly inevitable first failure. Between the dream and the blue print is the longer wait, between the blue print and the building is surprisingly doable, maybe not easy, but doable.
The journey of 1000 steps begins with 1 realization:
There is a book about our emotional world called “Permission to Feel,” it uses RULER (Recognize, Understand, Label, Express and Regulate) to teach people how to cope with emotions in a healthy way. Long before I read that I was looking for a way to increase my EQ, which I was pretty detached from in a repressive, PTSD-ish kind of way.
Recognizing my feelings was almost impossible for me, even still after a few years of practice it takes me the longest to express how I feel in my family. I encourage my daughter to look for her feelings and save a “captain’s log” Google Keep note with how she felt that day, sometimes my sister or husband join in. I seem to always need the longest, but it’s gotten easier over time. I started in a place where weeks would go by and I couldn’t notice anything expect apathy, my emotions would surface in my dreams and I would analyze my dreams to know how I felt rather than to learn what they were guiding me towards.
It was at first hard to know how I felt in the moment, than after a long time I knew in a given moment, but to decide what the dominant feeling of the day seemed impossible. It was hard to see the forest for the trees… but over time that got easier. It helped knowing it was okay if I made a mistake, no one was grading me, no one really cared (in a good way though). It felt silly and it was hard to justify to myself why I was taking the little time I had after work, cleaning ext to capture a little slice of each day.
But it gave me a sense that I owned at least a small sliver of my day, every day, even on work days.
I noticed I was getting better and that made me feel good about myself, a tiny bit, but sometimes a tiny bit helps a lot.
Sometimes I went a long time without making time for it, or I lost my phone or my computer broke ext.
I use Bitmoji, it’s a free app, you sent it up on a cell phone with the Google Play App, then it’s able to be used on a computer with Google Chrome as an extension.
This is the first year I haven’t missed a day so far… which is kind of cool, a small amount of consistency.
When I pick my meta feeling for the day that’s Recognizing how I feel and Expressing it, somewhere along the line I also validate myself that it was fine to feel however I felt, but I haven’t been Labeling or Understanding on an average day, a few days ago I decided to try to work on that also.
So working labeling for this week, starting with the basic 4 from Yale’s Mood Meter App:
I had thought I was sad Tuesday, but the scale says mad, which makes sense since I was pretty high energy. I had thought I was happy Thursday, but the scale says calm, which seems like it could be right.
I haven’t often used this scale, but it’s the one my daughter uses so I feel like it’s good to know some of the same vocabulary to help us be on the same page.
I kind of know how I feel, but on most of these days if I had to say how I felt in 3 seconds, I wouldn’t be able to say correctly… my labeling skills haven’t caught up with my recognition yet. I’m surprised at how much the lag between them is.
I think only on Monday would I have been able to say Tranquil, the rain was really soothing that day and I felt really deeply tranquil, which was nice after many stressful days lately.
My quote of 2021 is:
“If you really want to escape the things that harass you, what you’re needing is not to be in a different place but to be a different person.”
That was happening to me Tuesday, it’s also called “metanoia” in Greek, a journey of the mind, soul and heart turning away from darkness. In a game I didn’t play, but my daughter did, Paper Mario (the Origami version) the princess has become an origami, she asks “Will you crease yourself and be reborn, like me?” Despite what you answer she puts you in prison, it’s a bit scary for a Mario game.
The stoic quote of this week was:
“Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.”
So immediately I thought of meditation (which I don’t really enjoy), but I read a great article, by Neriman K from Reading Under the Olive Tree about creative introspection specifically from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.
You ask whether your verses are good. You ask me. You have asked others before. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are disturbed when certain editors reject your efforts. Now (since you have allowed me to advise you) I beg you to give up all that.
You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody.
There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all-ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple “I must,” then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and a testimony to it.
– A letter from Rainer Maria Rilke to a friend.
Meditation can be so many things, sometimes I use ACT meditation or mindfulness meditation, but it seems to take the time and energy I would have much much rather used to have a tea, or play cello, or look out at the rain without in a casual way. Often I find it more draining or frustrating to do meditation than to do something else that is more joyful or more of a flow activity for me. I also don’t like yoga… but I can sit with myself with writing or doodling or music or questioning my mind in a way that I have never equated with meditation… Meditation is at the moment muddy puddle for me with a lot of different kinds of things going on, why I have always preferred something quite clear and simple.
For me questioning, is not meditation, questioning is a very energetic and active process and meditation is more subtle and calm.
I think we all want to live with balance, and I’m already usually fairly calm, but almost too much, almost stagnant, such that questioning brings me in touch with myself and lets me sort out my cognitive dissonance with a certain vigor and excitement that brings me towards a lively normal that I’m usually out of sync with…
Meditation may be what some people need to slow down, but sometimes I need questioning to speed up.
I re-evaluated my values for the year using Russ Harris worksheets, but I decided to work on all 83 pages instead of just the 2 pages of values I usually work with (23 and 24). One thing I found interesting that I had never noticed is that both Chinese and Japanese values are not there in a list of 58 values. How different Western and Eastern values are for the Eastern values to not even rank 58th… also the Latin value of Family is not there as a value, but as a section of life.
I still find it is a good system to work with, but the traditional African values that match well with Hawaiian values as well as Asian or Latin values have to be added by the individual as needed.
My top 7 for this year are:
Harmony Self Awareness Gratitude Humor Persistence Sincerity Joy
I was very proud of my daughter, she struggles with some things, but one thing she doesn’t struggle with is knowing her own mind and opinion, she ranked what was not important, quite important, very important and of the top importance very quickly and accurately and when something had changed she told me why and it made sense to me.
Her values for this year are:
Creativity Honesty Love Respect Fun Patience Assertiveness
Two were the same as last year, fun and assertiveness, but many are different. One interesting thing is that she had been lied to and now she values honesty, so that in bad experiences, wisdom develops… I had always been honest with her and she lied to me and didn’t think it mattered, but when she was hurt by dishonesty, honesty became important to her for the first time.
Perhaps values are like college classes, you can only study a few at a time and really learn well.
I can understand some of what drives her choices, being loved and loving is a major focus behind the scenes until a certain security forms and it takes a back seat without being absent. She is just beginning to have a lot of control over her hands (she is 5) with a brush and a computer so creativity is ever more interesting, because it’s less frustrating, honesty and respect and patience are good values that for her grew from bad experiences in 2020. Assertiveness is interesting because she both values it and also struggles with it, she told me so, and I also see it… she yells for something rather than say please, doesn’t get it and then is frustrated by the whole situation.
It’s harder for me to see myself from the outside in, but a lot of this year is based on the feeling of struggling too hard last year, the gratitude, humor, persistence and joy help me make it through tough moments of parenting through parental burn out, self awareness is hopefully going to let me take enough breaks to climb out of burn out and harmony is both what I need now, but also feels like a deep value that I want to learn more about anyways.
Sun: I was thoughtful because I was able to resume my “stoic meditation” (which doesn’t feel like meditation, it feels like a quandary) of reviewing the quote of the week.
Mon: I was tranquil because I was deeply at one with the rain and nature in a way that pluviophiles would understand.
Tue: I was uneasy because I recognized that I kept participating in little habits that made my life horrible for me that I was in charge of and yet repeating and I wanted to somehow make a new life.
Wed: I was frustrated because even though I wanted to make good habits my brain was quite fuzzy and it wasn’t working well.
Thr: I felt really good and balanced not because I fixed my problems, but because I accepted that I couldn’t make life not how it was in the moment nor could I have what I wanted that I didn’t have.
Fri: I felt inspired because I did 30 pages of self work from Russ Harris’ worksheets, something I didn’t think I would have been able to do and many of the ideas about trying new solutions and expansion rather than avoiding negative feelings seemed like it could change some of the issues that led to my burnout as a parent.
Sat: I feel hopeful (it’s today) because I am writing my first article about this years values, something that almost always feels good. I guess it’s not the most sexy, but I really find values enjoyable. They do get stale when they aren’t the ones that resonate with me in the moment, but when they match me where I am in life, they energize me and what I’m doing with them, writing or drawing ext, becomes a passion project.
I’ve been going through a lot of negativity lately, not sure if it comes through or not in writing, but at least every other day I’ve been going through hating the kids when they yell, or feeling guilty about something or angry about something that usually wouldn’t get me angry. But I think it’s because I feel better, that some of the things I was afraid to feel before, when I was already overwhelmed are venting.
It’s supposed to be my lucky year this year coming up (Feb 12th), sometimes I mark people based on their Chinese Zodiac animal, Marcus Aurelius was a rooster, Seneca a snake, Epictetus a dog and I am a cow. I know people are all different, but I always found the animal zodiac fun, and even had my two kids based on their zodiacs, I had a sheep and a pig to try to promote harmony between them (and they do get along amazingly).
So, I’ll conclude the first of the “Self Awareness Saturdays” Series, but what I will say is that it’s a decent mental exercise to go through the day and at least once try to know how you feel (whether it’s bitter or frustrated or tired or happy ext) because it’s not only going to help you live a more balanced life, but it’s something that helps you notice when your loved ones are repressing their emotions or when they could really use a helping hand, or you could teach someone who doesn’t know where to start (by example), mindsight and EQ start with you, but they don’t end there, it’s a small way towards a better world.