Spilled Milk and Stormy Weather: Control and Reaction

One week from tonight will be my first “school night” in about two months.  Going back to work will be difficult for a multitude of reasons, but one of them will definitely be the constant exposure to other people’s energy – both positive and negative.  My time at home with Moira has been richer than I ever would have imagined, full of family and friends in the house and on the computer screen.  I will admit, this selected circle, all full of love for me and my growing family has been like fishing in a stocked pond.  These friendships enable me to grow and evolve, certainly, and there are challenges even in these close relationships, but it’s nothing like facing the challenging personalities that one encounters at work.  With all of these week’s distance from my work life I do have enough perspective to understand that I have grown tremendously when I have learned how to accept and deal with difficult people.

Soon, I am going to be assaulted by other people’s “stuff.”  Wait, let me correct that – I will be assaulted by whatever “stuff” I permit to get to me.

One thing I am going to have to learn to just let pass through me?  Hearing other people take the weather personally.  Yep, we live in the northeast where it is cold and dark in January, but no matter how unlucky you are or how much the gods seem to want to toy with you THE WEATHER IS NEVER ABOUT YOU.

But, I am not trying to preempt office whining with blog whining, promise.  I just mention it as an example that I thought of when I was considering the twisty conundrums of control and reaction.

I think many of us are really confused about what we can and cannot control in our lives.  We so often mix up what we should and should not react to.

Last week I talked about how much changing my diet has changed my daughter’s mood and physical well-being.  Cutting out a few foods (a few dietary staples, frankly) has made her into an even more amazing, happy baby.  Something that is so often whispered about like the worst possible fate, the dreaded colic, was pretty much eliminated overnight by cooking something else for dinner.  I have complete control over what I eat and I was able to exercise that control to conquer something that could have victimized us for as long as I was breastfeeding (and perhaps beyond, since we now know her first solid food will decidedly NOT be potatoes!).

The weather and one baby’s crying fits – I realize these are only two handpicked examples, but I wonder if they could help me assemble a theory that could be tested on other things…

We take the weather personally and can be convinced that the clouds have conspired to congregate just because we have a day at the beach planned.  And yet, it is not made immediately clear to all nursing moms that eating foods that have never bothered them might actually be the cause of their babies’ hardened bellies and plaintive cries.

Is it possible that we choose to react to exactly the things we CANNOT control?  We are safe if we bitch about the weather since we know the only action we can take is to wear a raincoat.  But when it comes to something we can control, like eliminating such ubiquitous foodstuffs as corn and wheat and potatoes, why is it that we step back and hide behind the blanket death sentence of “colic”?  (Again, I understand that I am basing all of this on one baby’s belly, but bear with me on this one… I think there may be something to this idea if you insert your own examples).

It’s damn hard to be the primary agent of change in your own life and it certainly isn’t easy to effectively evaluate each situation to determine if it falls within your control and if it necessitates a reaction.  I am going to start small – I won’t react to people who let the sleet ruin their day and I will continue to control what foods land on my plate.

You?

Precious Cargo

Those pink fuzzies? The best booties ever. May Moira never grow out of her "Muppet Feet"!

A sure sign that it’s coming on Christmas that I never noticed before?  The cars you pass, even just on the way to town, are filled with more people.

Beat up sedans full of girls who must be together for the first time since getting back from college.  SUVs that gleam despite the salty roads driven by manicured women who are accompanied by a tiny woman who must be grandma, out on a rare adventure for the holidays.  For a few days at least, our little isolation booths, our tons of steel and glass that hurtle down the roads delivering us from one mission to the next, are not just vehicles for one.  We have the chance to break the routines and take routes we’d never get to travel in the middle of any other week in the year and share the journey with those who gather because it is nearly December 25th.

Who are these other people, untethered by the 9-5 work day? What are their stories on this Christmas Eve Eve and what will they be on any other day in January when the lights have all been removed and we are resigned to the typical gray of winter?

These last two months at home, especially the last few weeks when I actually venture out with Moira secure in her carseat behind me, have really made me appreciate uncharted days, a bundle of hours that are not structured by anyone else’s schedule.  It still feels oddly reckless to make a chiropractor appointment for noontime.  For all that I have been begging the gods to get me out of my day job, I still feel like somebody must be wondering why that thirty year old woman is not at work.

As much as I always though they were ridiculous, I suddenly am starting to understand why people hang those silly little “Baby On Board” signs in their car windows.  When you walk down the street or through the supermarket with a stroller, everyone knows to hold the door for you.  You come to expect a little more patience from people and you may be slightly offended when they don’t look at the angel who happens to be sleeping in your grocery cart.  A baby is a good luck charm and a guarantee of others’ good behavior.  As permeable as one feels as a new mother out in the world with an infant, you need what little protection and consideration can offer.

My story as I drive around town in these last moments before the world takes a collective Christmas breath is that my heart, my mind, the entire focus of my being is tucked into the back seat.  I am not traveling solo anymore, and though she will grow more and more independent and allow me some breathing room when the time is right so I can get my wits about me and remember what it is just to be Marisa, right now, I cannot imagine us existing without each other.

I don’t want to hang one of those yellow signs in the window so that I can have an excuse to drive like a madwoman, I just want the world to know that my PT Cruiser carries a new life and a new mama and that is something pretty special.

Because I want to find the river that takes me to an unending number of days when Moira and I can craft our own schedule and gad about town any old time, I give you Joni Mitchell…

Food and Sacrifice and Getting Tangled Between the Two

I am out of practice here in the blog world, unable to distill my thoughts into the 500 word limit I try to impose upon myself.  As you can tell, I am so immersed in mommyhood that all of my messages are filtered through the all encompassing experience of being with my baby 24-7.  This is supposed to be a post on sacrifice, about how complicated  a relationship we have with giving up what we want to believe is comforting and nourishing, even when we have definitive evidence that it is causing us or someone we love a great deal of harm.  I intended to draw parallels between my diet’s effect on Moira and a conversation that I had with my husband about how lousy we are at really cutting back on anything even when we know our lifestyle is often enjoyed at the expense of our alleged dedication to preserving the planet for our daughter.  Instead, it’s a little rant about the power of food.  I think there are some good ideas in there somewhere…

The healing work that I do incorporates aspects of kinesiology, or muscle testing, a technique by which you can ask the body about the effect of anything from pollutants to emotions to foods.  It is amazing all of the secrets one can uncover by checking on whether someone’s muscle is strong when confronted by a substance or an idea.  It makes one into a detective, unearthing emotional issues and troublesome allergens, but sometimes you get more information than you may have ever wanted.

A full belly...

When my own energy healer worked on both the baby and me we discovered that the main culprits to be blamed for Moira’s digestive distress were corn and nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants).  These are in addition to the foods that I already have to avoid for my own health and sanity.  Now, when I need hundreds of extra calories per day to keep producing good milk for my baby, I find that my diet must be even more limited.  Goodbye moussaka and tortilla chips, hello rice cakes and almond butter… Thing is, I see a hugely positive change in her already so I have a source of constant encouragement helping me to change my habits.  If only we could see the results of every sacrifice so quickly.

If I were not so immersed in healing work and dedicated to being a detective intent on following whatever clues the body and soul have to offer, would I have just sighed at the terrible luck of having a colicky baby?  How is it that we are programmed to be resigned to something like a screaming , hurting child, calling it a phase that she will grow out of?

We are so disconnected from our bodies and so oblivious to our intimate, vital relationship with everything we eat that we so often ignore food’s obvious connection with our well-being at every level.  I will certainly admit that I’m no expert on anything other than how to be Moira’s mummy (and I only have nine inner months and two outer months experience at that!), but, in my brief experience, when it comes to infants, food is mood.  And this is just as true in adult tummies too.

For years now I have been aware that certain foods wreak havoc on my system.  I’ve behaved, I’ve cheated, I’ve gone on benders and consumed sugar and gluten and wine with wild abandon.  Much of the time, I have acted like a recalcitrant child sneaking food or whining (at least internally) about all that I cannot eat.  Of course, it was a foolish, misguided rebellion since the only one who suffered when I raided the Halloween candy stash was me.  Until motherhood, that is – it can take as few as two hours for the food a mother eats to show up in breast milk and then affect a baby’s digestion and, by extension, her entire being.

I know I am not alone in this battle between what my mind know and what my belly craves.  When nearly all of the major illnesses in affecting people in Western culture are linked to poor diet and excessive consumption it seems obvious that food wields infinite amounts of power.

This being Christmas Eve Eve, I realize this is the anti-holiday post in so many ways.  But at least when you gather with your families for the holidays you can see the positive power of food as the table fills with the feast that represents all of the sentiments of the season: gratitude, love, celebration.  Food is tradition and care and seems a more benign force than the other altars that pull us together – the piles gifts or hours of football.

Make the choices that best serve you, body and soul.  No regrets, no looking back and souring a sweet meal with what you shouldn’t have placed on your plate.  Love yourself as you nourish yourself this Christmas.

How to Build a Mantra

Ok, so yesterday’s post wasn’t the traditional “How to…” sort of piece, even if the title might have said something about how to have a prayer answered.  Through writing that entry I realized how it’s ridiculous it is to obsess about how to formulate the perfect request for God.  We are so much more likely to connect with our dreams when we actively work to convince the Universe to conspire on our behalf.

But, if it is impossible to develop a plan to get the Powers-That-Be to give you exactly what you want, it may at least be possible to devise a mantra that will help to shift your consciousness and get you out of your own way.

Forgive me if I use “mantra” too loosely.  I suppose I am really talking about affirmations, but even if Stuart Smalley has moved on to the Senate floor, I cannot use that word without thinking “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”  Whatever you call  it, I have learned that there is better way to construct that little phrase that you invite to rattle about in your brain dozens of times per day.

In my training as an energy healer, we talk a lot about stresses on the system. Body, mind, and spirit are constantly assaulted by our environment, our diet, our social interactions, and even the words that we use.

The affirmations that people choose are often spiked with stress.  “I am thin” is a pretty painful sentiment when you feel anything but.

So, the key is to try to include the word “becoming.”

To say “I am healthy” when you are struggling with a diagnosis that you know is as dire as it is correct is a stressor – lies always are.  Do not pretend that you have already arrived in your ideal state.  Instead, allow yourself to be in the midst of an evolutionary process, moving incrementally toward your goal.  “Becoming” is a delicious, dynamic state.  And it should be forgiving word since you are the only one who has to measure your progress.

My newest mantra? Offered to me by my teacher at class last weekend: Every day, in every way I am becoming patient and in control.

In the middle of the night when I am beside myself because I cannot figure out why Moira is crying or convince her to stop, I can’t be fooled into thinking I’ve got it all together.  I am willing to believe that I am on a journey, however.  A journey furthered by each deep, peaceful breath.  A journey toward being a patient mother who may not be able to control the world but who can at least be in control of her reactions to all of the challenges that an infant can conjure at 1:30 a.m.

It’s getting time for resolutions and all of those words of the year.  If brevity is not on your side and you feel you need a whole sentence maybe there is some bliss to be found in becoming?

How To Have a Prayer Answered

Prayer is a word I have and flirted with and danced around and fled from.  I used to worry about the term’s religious baggage.  Also, I have worried that I did not know how to do it properly.

Now, I know that no tradition has a monopoly on prayer and I am aligning myself with God, not with a specific tradition when I talk about the practice.  As for concerns about whether I am doing it right, well, I want to say I really don’t have time for that stuff any more.

Motherhood makes you appreciate each activity a little more because you have less time to spend on everything. Every breath in downward dog is deeper because you don’t know when a wail from the next room will pull you from the mat.  Every chance you get to type with two hands because baby is sweetly sleeping in her sling is to be treasured and exploited fully.  Even though a huge part of me is dedicated to simply experiencing Moira each day, the other side of that equation means that efficiency is more important than ever.  This applies even to talking Goddess or God, or whatever I am calling the Divine on a given day.

Like I said, I do not have time to worry about whether I am crafting perfect prayers, I just have to unleash my soul’s dialog and hope the ideas organize themselves.

And yet, I am left to wonder, how literal is Spirit?  What matters more, the intention of one’s petition or the way one words the prayer, the way one might craft them into mantra?

My deepest prayers as I look into my baby girl’s great blue eyes are that we may find a way for me to stay home with her full time. I always knew I didn’t want to be a working mom, but I thought that was because it would be too draining to do both and because I never liked my job that much.  Never could I have imagined the all consuming love that would make being with my daughter a need not a simple desire.

And so I have found my days and nights filled with a constant refrain: “Please, please, please let me stay home with my baby.”

But then I wonder about how true “be careful what you wish for” really is.  What if the Universe decides to answer my most fervent prayers through a lay off?  You see, it’s economics that is keeping me at home, so not only do I need the courage to leave the security of my job, but I also need to find another source of income to make staying home the idyllic portrait of mother and child that I dream of.

In our media soaked age in which we are barraged by perfectly honed messages intended to convince us to buy something or vote for somebody, is God looking for us to be slick ad-men when we try to present our own petitions?  Do I have to research the attitudes of the trget demographic in order to be understood? Do I have to add words about manifesting abundance and continued health to garnish my plea so that the Powers-That-Be get it right?

In writing this I am realizing how all of this heaven-bound wordsmithing may just be a way to distract myself from getting down to the business putting myself out there as a healer and a writer and an editor and a graphic designer.  Maybe the desire to perfect my prayer presentation is more of an earthly imperative than anything else. If I can sell the divine on my plan to stay home, maybe I can convince a few mere mortals to help me achieve my goal.  God/dess works in mysterious ways, no?

How much time do we waste obsessing over how we might bargain our way into an answered prayer when we’d be so much better off using that energy in active pursuit of our dreams and needs?

P.S.  I do realize that pretending I know better than God about what is best or thinking the Goddess isn’t clever enough to figure out a way to keep mama and baby together smacks of foolishness and hubris, but these were just some thoughts along the way to remembering that to believe in a higher power is to allow Her to do her magic!

The Christians and the Pagans Sit Together Round the Cradle

Moira’s christening is set for next June.

Just three years ago, one of the many reasons we refused to marry in the Church was the requirement that we at least promise to raise our children in “the one true faith,” but those concerns faded last month when I took pleasure in asking my grandfather if we could have the baptism at his church.

Boughs of our Christmas tree are bending under the weight of a choir and a half of angels.  Our living room is decorated with not one, but two nativity scenes.

The trappings of the season, just to be expected in the homes of even casual believers to be sure.  But for me, the angels are there to represent the little girl who has been deemed our “Angel Baby.”  The figurines of the Holy Family are representative as much of the Christmas story as they are our new little family.  Images that are incontrovertibly Christian have essentially been co-opted to fit the shape of our family and our lives.

Do we all do this to a degree?  Finding our home in a religion, in a set of beliefs, in a path of any sort because they add depth or help to make sense of our experiences?

A year ago when I wrote in this space nearly every day, I often sounded like a lapsed Catholic working her way back to the fold.  After attending a nightmarish Easter mass celebrated by a priest who used the pulpit to wag a sanctimoniously admonishing finger at the unusually full pews, that crest of interest in my childhood religion receded once again.  I resumed my safe distance from the religion I have ignored or actively renounced for nearly half my life.

During my pregnancy, I had a few isolated pockets of spiritual lucidity (the rest was a bit of a fog in which I felt completely unable to organize my closet enough to get dressed, never mind my thoughts enough to write coherently) and in that time I felt much more drawn to the powers of a universal Mother than the specifics of Christianity.

Moira will be counted amongst the Catholic branch of flock to please our families and to mark her arrival with a ritual, even if it is not exactly the ritual I believe best marks initiation into this life.  Because I intend to raise her with a respect for all faiths and the curiosity to find whatever path to Spirit calls her by name, I have a couple of options.  I could leave her to be a religious tabula rasa with no ties to a specific faith and let her make all of the decisions when she is ready.  Or, I could  give her the same start that her father and I had and allow that to be one step along a journey that could bring her closer to the teachings of Rome or just be one ceremony among many in a seeker’s life.

Like superimposing the trinity of my own little family onto the family in that manger 2000 years ago, I am sculpting the Catholic traditions to suit my own needs.  I am Catholic enough to feel a little bit guilty about bringing Moira to an altar to have promises of single minded devotion to one version of God made upon her behalf.  I am still a little sad that a tradition as rich as this one is still not “enough” to satisfy my spiritual inclinations, but I think teaching her to find the Divine in all beings and help cultivate in her a true sense of compassion for all the world with counterbalance these little transgressions against a creed that is not my own.

My first departure from Catholicism was through paganism, which was the most rebellious, individualistic path I could imagine.  Now, I know that the two are far from antithetical and that both paths inform who I am now though neither shall ever define me.  Still, adherents to both views think they are forever living at opposite ends of the spectrum so much of the time, unless you are having a Christmas-Solstice dinner with Dar Williams…

Epiphany’s Mama

Baby kiss
Moira giving her Mama some loving at about 12 hours old

Moira Jacqueline

Born at home

5:20 a.m., Saturday, October 24, 2009

I am pleased to introduce you to our new angel in the house.   Motherhood is an odyssey I never imagined could be so complete or so profound, physically, mentally, spiritually.  From the moment I learned I was pregnant (just about the same day that I stopped writing in this space!) everything changed utterly; I know that I am just beginning to understand the magnitude of these changes.  Certain things just fell away as a new aspect of life came into focus.

At this point, I have no idea whether I will resume blogging with any regularity, but if I do, I am pretty certain that The Girl Who Cried Epiphany will have to admit that she has finally settled on a single epiphany and her name is Moira.  Perhaps Epiphany’s Mama has been born?

And thanks to Carl for calling me back to this world so unexpectedly.  He tagged me in a meme, “The Bible in Five Statements.” Both because mommy duty calls and because my relationship with the Bible has shifted over the last year and I am not sure what form my response to his call might yet take.  Stay tuned…