Thoughtful Thursday: Reflections

I have been training to become a Birthing From Within mentor over the last two years. Along with that, I have also learned about Birth Story Listening – sitting with women who need to tell their story and helping them find new meaning to the One Moment they have a question/want more clarity about.

There are a couple of concepts from that learning that have come into play for me over the last two weeks:

Doing the Next Best Thing

Taking One Small Step


Doing The Next Best Thing

In birth, we want to plan and prepare and imagine that we can control every little aspect of how our story is going to play out. As a Birthing From Within mentor, one of my intentions for our students is to help our students identify what they control, what they can influence, and what their resources and allies are to help them do the Next Best Thing if and when the sh** hits the fan through their pregnancy and/or birth journey.

That is a concept that stretches out way beyond the birth journey. In life we have the same opportunity and ask the honest question: what is really in my control, what are the things I can influence, and when is it time to realize we have reached the moment of choosing the Next Best Thing?

We hit that moment on Christmas Eve.  Here I thought Puma and I had everything handled: we had done the majority of our gift shopping in November, all our DIY gifts were done and delivered, we just had to sit back, relax, enjoy the season, and remember to buy the ham for Christmas dinner.

I bought the ham.  And also forgot to check our pantry to see if we had everything else.  As it turns out, we were out of potatoes, we did not get our CSA bag the week before Christmas because the delivery was cancelled, and our usually endless reserve of butter in the freezer had been depleted. Coming home from the Christmas Eve service at 11:30 pm on 12/24 the full magnitude of this hit me…I needed to go grocery shopping!!

We tried every grocery store in our neighborhood to see if we could sneak in before midnight. Well, those stores had closed early (duh!) in order to allow their employees to spend time with their families – of course the right thing to do and completely inconvenient for me!

I posted a little blurb on social media to see if anyone had an idea of which stores might have limited hours on Christmas day…feeling like a slug because I was going to be the jerk that created a reason for stores to be open on a holiday…and proceeded to call those stores in the morning. No answer. I searched webpage after webpage looking to see if any of them had holiday hours posted. No help.

Here we were with eight people expecting Christmas dinner and nothing to prepare except the ham and the sweet potatoes. I don’t know about your family; mashed sweet potatoes were going to be a hard sell for the Sweet Pea Kids.

So instead of freaking out and crying about what a terrible person I am, and beating myself up for failing to plan appropriately, I took a deep breath and laughed. What a way to finish up this year of huge shift for our family.  The opportunity to explore a new experience.  We took my mom’s suggestion and decided to go out for Chinese food.

It worked out beautifully. We made the reservations when we called to confirm our favorite Chinese restaurant was open (Smart move, BTW. We are not the only people who enjoy Chinese food on Christmas Day. Unlike The Christmas Story, the restaurant was packed and the line was out the door.) We got to enjoy the morning without watching the clock and trying to time all our preparations throughout the day. We had time to enjoy our children’s gifts with them and play throughout the afternoon.  And then, all that was left to do was to get ready, get dressed, and hop in the car to go to dinner.

We did not have to sit around the house and mope around the dinner table as we pondered all the people who were not going to be with us on Christmas Day. The grandparents that we were not going to call. The sweet friend we were not going to visit. The families we know that were going through the day without their beloved mothers/wife.

So we had our Chinese dinner, brought home leftovers that would turn into Monday’s lunch, and then made our fancy dinner the next day, after we went grocery shopping.  It was delicious and a nice treat. Such a nice experience that we may try for a repeat next year.

One Small Step

This is a concept that I use in both our birth classes and the birth story listening work that I do.  The question is, “What’s one small step you could take?”  It refers to the idea that if we sit quietly and reflect, there is probably One Small Step we can take to affect a small change in the direction we want to go next. That small step helps us feel accomplishment because it’s action, as opposed to the continued depression or procrastination because the satisfaction of “doing it all” or “getting it right” is out of reach.

This year of loss has completely altered my perspective and brought into focus what is truly important to me: LIVING. Being in good relationships with people who inspire me to grow and do better daily. Going exploring while we can and enjoying those experiences with our children. Forgetting everything else and just letting it float away without attaching any meaning or giving it any more energy.

I use the One Small Step question to help me evaluate what it is that I really want to do in a day.  It helps me remember that I don’t have to do it all…I just need to take One Small Step. It has freed me in ways I wouldn’t have imagined.

The people and situations that lead to the emotions I don’t like to feel are being cut loose, or at least I am managing those interactions better than I used to because Life Is Literally Too Short. I have learned a huge lesson in letting go of the physical and metaphorical baggage that weighs me down. We have completed two home sales, and I am wanting to downsize again because we don’t need all the things. Really. Don’t. Need. Stuff. The things that bring us joy get to stay. Everything else is on the way to St. Vincent de Paul or into the homes of our students/friends/family who can put the stuff to good use.

So instead of being overwhelmed by the piles of things that I still must go through before we go exploring, I am taking One Small Step every day.  Accepting that I cannot attack the whole pile in one day or one session, and instead I can make an agreement with myself to do one or two boxes/piles a day.

Another Small Step is inviting our children to participate in this mission to minimize and live simply by addressing the messes that accumulate in the shared living areas. Applying the idea that if it doesn’t have a space, and we can’t find a space, then whatever it is needs to find a new home in the garbage, the recycling bin, or the giveaway box.

The hardest area for me in that respect is THE MAIL. Ugh. It’s the other never-ending story in my life…aside from the laundry.  That will be my area to address in 2017. I once heard about a person who had a one-touch rule when it came to the mail…I must consider that and see what that means and how it’s possible.  In our house, it shifts from one pile to another and then another.  We have taken one small step in minimizing it by having our children join in and help with the shredding…beyond that we have some work to do.

So there you have it – some reflections and an intention for 2017.  Wishing you all a blessed ending to 2016, and may 2017 be a year for you to grow, explore, and enjoy.