Letters from the road

Posts tagged “mindfulness

I Stopped Praying & Saying Happy Birthday for the same Reason.

Originally featured on elephant journal June 10, 2017

I am a heathen—but that’s not why I stopped praying or posting Facebook birthday messages. 

We live in a time when there’s just so much to do, especially online. Most of us have a Facebook account—it’s almost criminal not to have one. It’s handy for staying connected to people who live far away, and let’s be honest, we use it to stalk each other.

We’ve passed that time, about seven years ago, when it was still awkward to pretend we didn’t know everything about someone’s engagement, divorce, weekend plans, or last night’s dinner when we bumped into them in person. That silly dance where we both feigned surprise when we heard the newsworthy details of each other’s lives.

“You’re in a relationship? That’s great!” What about the juicy details of your last messy breakup? I thought you were such a cute couple!

“I had no idea you were just in Hawaii!” It’s your third trip this year. How do you get all the vacation time?

I, for one, am happy to be past this juvenile denial. I often start sentences when I see friends in real life with, “Oh, I saw your post. Your new puppy is adorable!”

A few months ago, I made a new rule for myself: I wouldn’t post birthday greetings to friends on Facebook, unless I planned to call or spend the day with them. If they fell into that category, I usually called, texted, or visited them. Sometimes I still posted a birthday message—but not always.

Why would I make such an arbitrary distinction?

Guilt. The same guilt that convinced me to stop praying.

My parents chose to forgo any kind of Christian baptism for myself and my brothers. We didn’t attend church or adhere to any religious precepts, except the universal: Be kind and treat others with…

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One Simple Thing to Get Rid of Stress (& It’s Definitely Not Baking a Unicorn Sparkle Cake).

Originally featured on elephant journal June 10, 2017

Every yoga and meditation teacher worth their salt will remind us to breathe.

The good ones will also give specific body cues. The really astute ones will gently remind us to release our jaws.

Why?

Like most of us, I spend a lot of my day convinced that I’m busy. All day, every day, it’s something—and it’s exhausting.

We’ve convinced ourselves that we need to constantly be:

productive

successful

making something

buying something

learning something

doing something

busy

busy

busy…

I can’t be the only one who gets stressed seeing all of the short video clips of recipes, DIY projects, hairstyles, and children’s activities constantly cropping up in my social media news feed. Like angrily stressed.

Of course I should have the time to make a unicorn sparkle cake with five different colors and confetti that rains down over everything and is impossible to clean up, while teaching my baby to sing the ABCs in seven different languages after I put avocado on all the things.

Geesh. I’m exhausted just writing that all out.

I’m also guilty of losing sight of the present moment. While nursing my little one, I think about making breakfast. While in the shower, I wonder if I really want to go to law school. While getting dressed, I remember that I need to take out the recycling. While taking my little one for a walk, I try to avoid imagining the mountains of laundry spilling out of the dryer. While eating dinner, I calculate how much time I’ll need to attend my upcoming board meeting. While falling asleep, I worry about all the people I forgot to text back.

We’re all guilty of it. While it may look like multi-tasking, what we’re actually doing is deflecting and feeding the monkey mind—that little voice that distracts us…

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Why I’m Writing my own Obituary.

Originally featured on elephant journal April 1, 2017

I once read that big publications ask journalists to keep obituary drafts on celebrities so that they can quickly publish in the event that one of them meets their ultimate demise.

Although this seems morbid, it’s also practical. I was recently reading a 3,500 plus word obituary published within hours of the death of a public figure in Ireland, and I was struck by how deep and thorough it was. In comparison, the obituaries of beloved local members of my community—oft written by loved ones—were rather shallow and fleeting.

This bothered me.

We’re all a bit voyeuristic. I can’t be the only one who reads obituaries of people I don’t know and have never met. The obituaries that I find most touching are the ones that reveal the humanity and uniqueness of a person.

How did they live in ways like no one before them? What can I learn from their lives? What stories did they embody in flesh and bone that will live on in the memories and hearts of those still here?

I started considering my own life and what I want to be remembered by. There are the basic facts: name, date of birth, age, eventual death details. But aren’t we all more than just dates and numbers?

My brother and I have had a long-standing pact that we will write each other’s obituaries. He has the same infatuation with language that I have, and a keen ability to reveal truths.

But instead of leaving it all up to my brother (and to chance), I decided to draft my own obituary.

Let me be clear: I’m not doing this because I think we should live in a state of fear that death is around every corner; rather, we should live in the knowledge that life is full and…

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Mindfulness in the Pediatric Ward.

Originally featured on elephant journal Feb. 2, 2017

Being in the hospital gives me PTSD.

Like actual PTSD. My breathing is shallow and fast, I start feeling trapped and claustrophobic. I sweat. The really smelly kind of sweat. My mind fills with a torrent of fear that drowns out all other thoughts.

And to my horror, when I get angry at not being heard, I cry. When the tears burn down my face, I become even angrier that I’m crying and less able to speak up. 

This is why when I told my husband a year ago that we were going to have a baby, I also told him I’d like to have our baby at home. He was already familiar with most of my hospital traumas, including the discovery that I’m allergic to two common medications—after they were pumped into my IV. Twice.

I’ve been rushed into emergency surgery 3,000 miles away from home and I’ve spent a week as a medical test subject. I also have the type of veins phlebotomists dread. It takes three sticks on average for a needle to find a suitable spot. I once sprayed a two foot stream of blood across a wide-eyed nurse. 

After a month or so of petitioning for a home birth, he finally agreed and we found the most extraordinary midwife. We had a healthy pregnancy and a dream birth at home. Six hours of calm in a safe space with no medical intervention and full-on mindful breathing resulted in a healthy, happy, eight pound, 15 ounce bundle of joy.

All of our intentional avoidance of hospitals has now flown right out the window. 

Today is my second day in the pediatric ward hovering over my three month old son as he struggles to breathe. It’s taken me two days, two long exhausting days to wake up. Entering the hospital through the Emergency Room is like being placed on a…

Read the full article here.