I was the youngest in my family. On top of that, I didn’t grow up around many young children. I didn’t baby-sit much, and if I did, the kids were older. Unfortunately, as a naïve, very young adult, I was pretty critical toward other people and their kids. Why did they let them continually scream and cry in the grocery store? Why did they let them out of the house with weird or grossly mismatched clothing? These were just a couple questions that would fly through my mind. (I love that I thought I knew what was acceptable/expected, even though I’d never had children….)
Then I spent time with my sister’s family, including a precious niece and nephew. It didn’t take long for me to realize that sometimes just getting out of the house with a child FULLY dressed is a win. Seriously, who cares if the pants and shirt don’t match? And children misbehaving in the grocery store… Oh my. I realized quickly that parents and guardians probably wouldn’t get much done if they waited for their children to act perfectly before stepping out with them in public.
How judgmental could I be? Especially about something I knew so little about. Why in the world would I be like that?
I think it was easy for me because like all of us, I was learning and adulting and my pool of knowledge was expanding. I had within me the capacity to make sound judgments. But while I had learned so much, I had to also learn that I knew so little.
I definitely needed a slice of that humble pie. And I think, for the sake of all of us, we should keep that dessert close by. Because our knowledge will keep expanding. Daily. And it’s easy to be a little self-righteous and a tad judgmental: “Yeah, I know a thing or two. I’ve been around that metaphorical block.”
Instead, no matter our age and experience, we can take the healthier response and let more knowledge lead to more understanding. Gently reminding ourselves that there is typically so much more depth to what we see with our eyes and to any situation that we observe.
Learning MORE should be just a reminder that there is EVEN MORE to learn.
I see a therapist to help me cope with the anxiety that I face. And in a recent session, he recommended I read a book published by British author, Charlie Mackesy titled The Boy, the Mole, the Fox, and the Horse.
Hmmmmm. It looked like a children’s book, and honestly didn’t catch my eye. I felt I instead needed to spend more time diving into the latest publications by respected psychiatrists and other anxiety gurus. I needed coping strategies and powerful words of wisdom. Not cute kidlet stuff.
But I bought it, because during this quarantine time I’ve had some really hard moments, and I found myself more than willing to try something unusual. So, I sat down and read the book.
And I was HOOKED.
I read it again. Then I read it again. Then I sent a copy of it to my Mom.
I don’t know if it was the combination of the illustrations and simple truths, but that book was food for my soul. It's the little journey of three animals and a boy, and they discuss life. And they share very simple, encouraging truths that I really needed.
I honestly have no idea if this book will do for you what it did for me. Everyone is different. BUT I think the lesson I learned is for anyone. I know I’m not alone when I say I need coping strategies and powerful words of wisdom. And these can be found in unexpected places and in unexpected ways. We can study theories until our eyes are red, but maybe what we really need is to watch an inspirational movie or browse the children’s book section. Maybe a fun cartoon or a novel will speak to us.
As a child, I loved storytime, and as adults, I strongly believe we still need storytime. Because we still very much need stories.
One night, when my husband and I were visiting Munich, we decided to catch the metro back to our hotel. We didn’t realize it was the same time a huge football (soccer) game had just let out. The train was PACKED.
As we squished in with everyone else (standing room only of course), I found myself completely engulfed by ecstatic fans. Apparently, Munich had won the match. I told my husband, as I was smashed between football jersey clad bodies, I felt as if Germany was giving me a giant hug. And I honestly didn’t mind. The excitement and happiness was almost tangible in the air that night.
I started thinking then about how often we are hugged in life. And I’m not just talking the traditional, physical embrace. For example, I’ve often heard the phrase that tea is a “hug in a mug.” It makes sense to me! With the liquid warming up my body, it definitely feels like the tea is giving me a squeeze of affection.
Certain scents are like a giant hug to me. For example, cinnamon! The lovely smell wraps around my head as I breathe in, and I feel it’s a full-on cinnamon embrace. (I could also say the same for fresh baked bread and Mexican food!)
What else gives you a “hug”?
What about a beautiful song? Music can completely envelop my being.
What about a cozy blanket wrapped around your shoulders?
The bright sunshine warming up your skin during the summer season?
My cat cannot hug me, but when he happily curls up on my legs, it’s like a hug for my lap.
I think especially during our current time, it’s good to be reminded that not all hugs have to be conventional. When we can’t be held by our loved ones, we can STILL be encircled with something just as powerful.
I recently heard a podcast by The Minimalists. On this particular episode (#202), they interviewed Tara Button, founder of Buy Me Once website that from my understanding, promotes minimalism by encouraging people to carefully buy quality items so that they last a lifetime. A great concept. Anyway, on a slightly different note, during the podcast, she expressed how cleaning – even something simple, like our breakfast dishes – is a form of self-care.
I felt a little silly for not realizing such a fantastic truth sooner.
I never really thought of cleaning my home as an act of self-care, which then in turn helps me better combat anxiety or any difficulty I have in life. I think on some level, I felt this truth, but Ms. Button worded it perfectly. Just like eating a healthy meal, working out, or doing deep breathing, having my house clean helps me to relax and mentally feel more at ease. (I know some people don’t notice dirt and clutter. For better or for worse, I’m NOT one of those people.)
Ms. Button also points out, not only is cleaning self-care, it’s instant gratification. For example, when you clean off a cabinet, you see the fruits of your labor right away. And it’s satisfying.
Once again, I’m reminded that it pays to be more mindful and intentional. To focus on what’s in front of me. To soak in the fact that the sparkly cabinet is looking pretty good and take a moment to really realize it. Then I can use that moment to help propel me forward.
I think the hang-up comes when I realize that I STILL have so much more to clean. I live with a constant to-do list, and it can be overwhelming. BUT, while that may be the case, concentrating for a minute on what I’ve just done, how great it looks, and how I am physically changing the atmosphere around me, is a BIG help. Even when my actions don’t seem so big.
When I was little, my Mom told me that if anyone asked me to keep a secret, it never excluded my Mom. I could always tell her. It was our clandestine little pact. I could promise my friend not to “tell a soul”, and I could say it confidently, because my promise to my Mom far exceeded any other promise: a secret promise superior to all other secret promises (cue dramatic music).
I like to look back and acknowledge clever parenting techniques from my Mom and Dad. My Mom was able to have an eye on me and my friends’ dramas and give me advice to avoid trouble. Now, whether I took that advice was another story, but it was her way of keeping tabs on me and the happenings in my little world. And it worked. I confided a lot to my mother, and in turn, she was able to guide me.
If any of you know me at all, you’d know that I really wasn’t much of a troublemaker, so I didn’t give my Mom a ton of grief to begin with. But I have to ask myself, was it because I kept myself out of trouble, or was it the secret pact with my Mom that helped me to stay out of trouble? I like to think a little of both.
Thanks, Mom, for initiating that secret pact.
A lot of my friends are mothers, and I want to just encourage them that so many of their parenting techniques, no matter how amazing, just may not be appreciated by their chicklets. At least not yet. But I believe they will be.
Much love to my mama friends…
I stumbled on this fantastic quote someone had pinned on Pinterest:
I won’t let pain turn my heart into something ugly. I will show you that surviving can be beautiful. Christy Ann Martine
Which started me thinking. When I was young, “beautiful” meant everything perfect (my definition of perfect), lovely (my definition of lovely), and no pain (again, my definition of pain). Beautiful meant bordering on a fairy tale, but not quite, because I mean, life isn't perfect, right? I couldn't be too greedy.
Oh, Gina, Gina.
With adulting and aging, thankfully, I've learned that beauty can be those things, but it has so much more richness and depth and POWER which can spring from the difficulties. The unpleasant. The gut wrenching hurt. NOT the fairy tales.
Beauty doesn't always feel good to me. Beauty doesn't always look "pretty" and in style and all hair strands tucked in. Beauty can be pain, humility, and that miserable trio of blood, sweat and tears. But boy, is it worth it.
When life shatters superficial beauty, something much grander can emerge. Before I lose you with flowery descriptions, let me plainly ask: Do you know what I’m talking about? I meet these people. They aren't the most put together, with the perfect home and family. They aren’t the most stylish. Yet there is a beauty about them that comes from something deep. It can even be a little intimidating, yet it pulls me toward them.
Then I learn their beauty came the hard way. Through ugliness: depression, pain, horrible circumstances. And this is good news for those of us that face the hardships of life. Every. Day.
Because suddenly the past and the future seem more bearable. There is a greater purpose to my own hurt. Like that mythical phoenix rising from the ashes, we too can emerge and show others that “surviving can be beautiful.” Despite the unspeakable ache and unstoppable tears and deep, deep wounds. It just may not be instant. It takes time.
But that is such hope for all of us.
I really enjoy sending old-fashioned snail mail. I mean, let me be honest with you: I even just love the phrase “snail mail”.
Recently, a friend of mine discovered a box of letters that her grandmother, Mimi, (who has now passed) had sent to her throughout the years. She showed me a picture of the beautifully typed pages: it was line after line of carefully typed Hungarian, her native language. It went straight to my heart in an incredible way. (And not just because I’m smitten with old typewriters, and clearly, Mimi had used one.)
So yes, what an impact those letters made! I wasn’t even the recipient, and I felt a little misty-eyed. No doubt my friend was even more affected. More than just paper – those letters became memories, feelings, and love, carefully composed. I think each one was like a mental hug tucked into an envelope.
I want to be like my Mimi. No, I can’t speak Hungarian, but isn’t it neat how she created a piece of the future for her granddaughter? I wonder, did she realize she was initiating a wave of comfort for her granddaughter that would reach out far beyond her own life span? And it was at a time when my friend really needed it.
And it’s something all of us can do.
I want to keep alive Mimi’s same spirit. Little did she also know she would encourage me to continue to send postal mail and even give out handwritten notes, especially when expressing affection and encouragement to others. Because I believe those messages will then stand out among the various digital fonts and emojis that come streaming in at us throughout the day (and no doubt start to blur together.)
No, I’m not going on a digital strike or anything in that direction. The only “strike” I want to make is a difference in a typical day of someone I care about. Just as Mimi did. Will you consider joining me?
Creator of Love, Auntie.