Who Am I?

I became a mom. And then – somehow, somewhere – I lost my mojo. Yup – this was my Austin Powers moment – like waking up in a new decade to new music and not knowing any of the moves on this dance floor.  But, of course, the beat goes on. The story does not end there. This is where it begins: the journey back to me, to the real deal, to my authentic Self. The upper case ‘s’, Self. Not that little ego-reflection of my-self, the one that is consumed with the roles that it plays, with this being a mom deal. Sure, I embrace being a parent. I feel pretty jazzed about all of the roles that I play – most days anyways. But, there came a moment after having kids – or rather a number of little moments that make up THE moment – when simply playing a part just stopped cutting it. I was losing myself in this drama. It occurred to me, if these roles that I play were to disappear then who would be left? Who really is this person that I am? Who am I?

Who. Am. I. Three little words loaded with bang when you ask them together. And I started asking them. Who am I? And, in the asking, I have embarked on a journey back to myself. Along the way I’m reclaiming my mojo – my personal power, my charisma, my influence over the circumstances of my life, the kind of magic that motivates us to leap our asses out of bed in the morning.

Who am I? Who AM I? Some moments I’ve hardly recognized the voice I hear speaking. That nastiness, nagging, whining – is that really me? I hear the words that have worked their way through my vocal chords, yet I don’t recognize myself in them. And I wonder, when did I disappear?

Who am I? There have been days when, going through the motions, I feel a smile on my face. I’m laughing at a joke my kid made. But, my laughter sounds hollow to me – like an echo of some distant joy. But, it’s laughter: check. Pleasant tone of voice: check. Successful multi-tasking of dinner on the stovetop, returning voicemails, helping with homework, wiping up another toddler accident: check. Going through the motions: check.

Check. Who AM I? There was a time when I avoided glancing towards the mirror as I passed it in the foyer on my way out the door. I told myself this was because I’m not that shallow. C’mon – there are bigger things to preoccupy myself with than my looks. I reasoned, “life is busy and I’m busy with important ‘busy-ness’ and I’m taking it all very seriously, so there is no time to waste with vanity.“ I almost had myself convinced. But, truth is a relentless nag: I avoided the reflection because I didn’t recognize it and that scared the hell out of me.

Who am I? Where did “I” go? At times I have felt desperate: desperate to reclaim my joy. Painfully aware that there was more to me beyond these roles I play. I knew this because I asked the question. And something deep within me whispered a reply. A glimpse, that’s all it takes to inspire change, a glimpse of a deeper aspect of our selves.

So, I made a new choice. I made the choice to sit every day – not just some days but every day – to connect with that aspect of myself that is beyond the roles that I play. I sit in silence. It’s a rare moment in my day, silence. I’ve had to get up before the kids and before the sun in order to find this space. But, surprisingly, it was easy to do because I have ached for this. Breathing in this silence, I simply sit. I follow my breath effortlessly, my attention on the rhythm of each inhale and exhale, lingering on each pause between one breath and the next, savoring those briefest of moments when all that exists is the silence and the potential for my next breath. And I know – the way that sometimes you just know – that it is this potential that is the source of all that I am, all that I ever have been, all that I ever will be.

This stills me. My thoughts come and go; I see them, release them gently, and return to my breath. The tightness in my chest begins to ease, and I am reminded of my grandmother’s 1970s window sheers that hung in every room of her home – flimsy, synthetic sheers. It is as though my heart has been shrouded in layer upon layer of these tacky accessories – cocooned, encapsulated. But, each time, as I sit with this stillness, my breath loosens a layer of this suffocation and one of those filmy, synthetic layers just up and floats off and is carried away… and, I feel myself again.

Who am I? I am many. I am mother. I am wife. I am daughter. I am sister. I am friend. I am teacher. I am student. I am lover. I am writer. I am creator. I am believer. I am artist. I am seeker. I am meditator. I am all of these, yes, but so much more. Giving myself this space to be, accessing this silence within me, the pause between my breaths, between my moments, I am pregnant with possibility. I am pure potential.

When I do this day after day, accessing the deepest aspects of my Self, glimpsing my soul, I begin to see with greater clarity. My reflection is transformed, the picture before me whole.  I am whole. I am complete.

I remember me. I remember Who I Am.

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Miriam Desjardins is a Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor and the creator of Mindful Mamas, a series of mindfulness and meditation workshops. Coming from a background of graduate work in International Conflict Management, she is committed to bringing peace to the global community by promoting a shift in consciousness; a shift that she believes must begin at the level of the individual with the world’s moms, dads, and children.

Follow on twitter @mojo_mamas

When stepping up means stepping back.

Last weekend being a conscious parent meant practicing defenselessness, stepping back and allowing another to love and nurture and hear my child in a way that just wasn’t happening for me in that moment. It just wasn’t. I thought I had given it my best go, really. But, my daughter was having none of what I was putting out.

It’s the familiar adage: it takes a village to raise a child. Parenting does not have to be my solo act. But there is that inclination in me to want, or think that I need, to do it all, to be the ultimate source of growth and enlightenment and education and nurturing and love for my kids. I’m their mom! I’m the primary caregiver of mom-type-stuff. And, I’ve got this. I’m all over it. Or at least I thought I was. I was neglecting the Superbowl last Sunday to properly ruminate over this, when my co-parent who had been patiently listening finally put it to me simply. “As a mom you are like the quarter-back for this team. You touch the ball in every play. But, you don’t always have to be the one to make the touch down.” Bam. There it was. And dang – if it wasn’t all neatly packaged in a football metaphor… This idea, this self-applied pressure not to drop the ball, thinking this could really screw up the whole endgame, what is this? My need to be the one to do it all, it serves no one. It dawned on me that clearly there had been some important pages that had been overlooked in my parenting playbook.

It’s been my experience that we always get from life what we ask for, and in this case for me this was another opportunity to open my heart – lean in a bit more towards that lovin’ feelin’ that sometimes I work really, really hard to resist; and expand my consciousness maybe an inch or two. The practice of doing this, of shifting our internal dialogue, of dropping our defenses long enough to open our hearts and minds a crack, is always a bit tougher when it hits, literally and figuratively, close to home. Our kids, how we parent them, what they need and how we believe we can best meet these needs – we parents can become acutely sensitive and resistant to anything that diverges from our course, of anyone who suggests a diversion from our course. And yet our fiercest challenges and challengers can present our greatest opportunities for growth. Look – I like to control stuff. I like being in control. I’ve had to learn to chill out and go with the flow. I’m learning to become comfortable with, and even excited by, uncertainty. I’ve made a practice of detaching from the outcome – about many things in my life. But, my kids and my role as a parent, this is one area where the reins have been the hardest for me to loosen. My children, they are like these incredible little vessels of pure potential and I don’t want anyone or anything to mess that up. But I risk doing just that by restricting too severely who has access to their malleable little minds, by limiting the diversity of their upbringing to primarily my influence.

And so I came to this conclusion, during my own little super-soul Sunday, that sometimes taking a step back is the best way to step up as a parent. This doesn’t mean doing ****-all. It’s an emotionally intelligent appraisal of what is best for your kid in that moment. And sometimes what is best for them is to acknowledge that someone else can serve them in a way that you just cannot. It’s not always easy to decipher. Back in the ‘olden days’, as my daughter refers to them, the days before I was a parent, my thoughts about raising children were definitely colored in some stark black and whites. Now, for the most part, I am parenting in a penumbra. And by embracing all these hues of grey, by getting a bit more comfortable with some uncertainty, the ups and the downs, a bit more creativity and a lot more love have had some room to show up.

I’m realizing now that it takes a team. And that it is important to remind myself of this by occasionally giving a shout out to my team: to my co-parent, to the mothers and mothers-in-law, the grandparents, the teachers, the babysitters, the friends, the aunts and uncles, the neighbors, the customers behind us in the grocery store line, the baristas, the flight attendants, the other passengers… To the endless number of people who are part of my children’s extended community and who, whether consciously or not, are helping to mold who these little people are today and who they will become tomorrow. Thank you for being a part of my team. I trust you are doing the best you all can from the level of awareness you each have, and I am fortunate for the diversity that you bring to my family.

Thank you for covering me. And, the thing is, I’m in position. I’m ready, when anyone of you fumbles the ball, to pick it up and run. Game on.

Learning to rock and roll, taking ownership.

There are moments when I really impress myself. Times as a parent when I get a pride glow-on, where I feel like the million dollar mom and I can look at my mirror-image straight in the eye and shamelessly give myself kudos for a job well done, a tricky question maneuvered on the spot, a successful diversion from a tantrum, a progressive approach to parenting. There are moments when, if I do say so myself, I kick some serious ass as a mom.

And then there are others when I suck. Truly, at times, I’m a sh*tty sh*tstorm of a parent, showcasing episodes of irrational impatience with my stress hormones all fired up, that in retrospect will surely have me feeling mortified by the tantrum I have just thrown, when my 38 year old ego is dueling with one a fraction of its age, and any outside observer would insist that I am in need of a parental time-out.

In the absence of any professional referees, my kids have become quite proficient in calling me out. One night sitting with my daughter at bedtime, doing what we do and recapitulating the day, I acknowledged to her, pragmatically I thought, that I was sorry she and I had been disagreeing so much that day. Really, I was trying to gently remind her that maybe tomorrow she could be more intentional about turning her attitude around. She calmly smiled at me and said, “It’s ok mom – I know you just weren’t being yourself.”

Yes, my daughter, who was 5 years old at the time, had just volleyed back to me the gentle reprimand I had served to her. I smiled and swallowed my pride; and acknowledged that she was right. I wasn’t being my best self and tomorrow I’d pay more attention to that.

These little tête-à-têtes, and heart-to-hearts, they are typical. I am humbled, daily. This ‘conscious parenting’ thing, being mindfully aware of each action we are choosing as we engage and influence and co-create our lives with our kids, it’s intense. I used to be very much ashamed of losing my patience, of feeling irritable, of being short with my kids. But, what is it to screw up? My failure to meet some arbitrary measure of what it is to be ‘the perfect mom’? When I lose my patience, have I screwed up? When I raise my voice? When I’m distracted and not 100% tuned into my kids, is that screwing up? It’s true, these moments clearly don’t represent my best, but they still represent moments of me. And if I am to be authentic and real with my kids then they are going to know that sometimes their mom isn’t at her best. So rather than deny it or feel crappy about it I own it and I name it. I put the screws to the screwing up. I do for myself what I also am trying to teach my kids to do for themselves. When my toddler is crying and grumpy after a nap I name for him that he is still feeling tired and that maybe he needs a cuddle. When my daughter is throwing a fit and stomping her feet because she fell before reaching the last rung of the monkey bar, I name for her that she is feeling frustrated and impatient with her arms for losing their energy and with herself for not growing up as fast as she wishes. These are real moments with feelings that are as real as any others we experience throughout the day. We nurture our children’s emotional intelligence when we give them space to own these. We nurture our own and our kids’ emotional intelligence when we give them the opportunity to witness us naming our drama. Owning our sh*t is like a two-fer, big bang for our parenting buck: emotional intelligence quotients trending upwards all over the place.

In our home these days, we have a regular practice of calling each other out. Yes, at times the ego takes a beating. It’s not easy when you are in the midst of defending your point of view to have your child turn on the red light, remind you to take a deep breath, and reclaim your centre. This parenting thing, it is soul work. Sometimes we rock it, and sometimes we need to just roll – turning over a screwy moment a few times until we can see it for what it is: an opportunity. Indeed, “screwing up,” my little brother and parent of a precocious 4 year old has reminded me, “just means greater opportunity to approach any relationship with greater self-awareness.”  A moment in the here and now to connect, an opportunity to get real with each other, a chance to remember, yet again, that we always have a choice, we can always choose differently – a different point of view, a different approach, a different definition, a different tone of voice, a different comeback, a different gesture. And, it begins with taking ownership.

Traditionally, as a new year is rung in, we do this – we take some ownership of where we are at and we make conscious choices, ‘resolutions’ if you will. We save it all up for January 1 and go hard for a few weeks, or maybe even a few months, and then, often, we fall off of whatever wagon we’ve been cruising. But being a conscious choice-maker, taking ownership of the moments in our lives, is so forgiving. Each moment can be its own soft landing, as we choose again and again to be present amidst all of our ‘stuff’. Each falling-off only creates more opportunity for correction, to reaffirm our choices, and maybe redefine them a bit to better suit whomever we now know ourselves to be. We can just go with it, fine-tuning at every turn, rockin’ and rollin’, welcoming the bumps along the way, knowing that all of it is getting us to where we are going. And in the meantime confident that here is the perfect place to be.

Healing

As a parent, I ache to protect my children. It pains me to imagine their distress, to see them in fear, or to wonder what harsh realities have yet to rock their worlds. I would do anything to shield them from the horrible disconnect of fear. Naturally, I want them to be safe and happy, to be fulfilled and inspired. And yet…

Life happens. Sometimes, in the face of tragedy and unspeakable horror, I wonder, as we all must, just what is this game we are playing at of being human? In the shadows of pain and suffering, what is the point of this all? What does our human consciousness mean in this time and space, as we hang out precariously on planet Earth? I am no quantum physicist, nor do I hold any impressive knowledge of astronomy or a doctorate of philosophy… but it is pretty clear to me that the odds seem stacked against us being here at all. Yet here we are. And it does not matter what letters precede or succeed your name, or what angle you approach this life from – as a dear friend of mine recently pointed out, “something very special and unique is happening here on Earth, and that’s cool!!”

We can teach our children that when words elude us, and our hearts are breaking, this is our moment of salvation – if only we can recognize it as such. It is the paradox to which these words of the beloved Sufi poet, Rumi, speak: “the wound,” they remind us, “is the place where the Light enters you.”

The horrible, senseless acts that break our hearts apart, unite us in our mourning, bring us together through our compassion, and enliven us as a community as we seek answers and attempt to move through. We embrace our children tightly and are reminded to cherish every moment. We pause in our comings and goings to take notice of the abundance of blessings we enjoy. We get clear; we get intentional on what it is we do not want. And we turn towards that which we do.

When this occurs, indeed, something very special and unique is happening here on Earth. If in our pain, we can embrace the paradox, then maybe we open up space for our grievance to be replaced with a miracle. Our constricted hearts expand just a little; and a shift takes place in our consciousness. Where there was darkness, the light shines. And we look to our present as an opportunity to make new choices, refined by our shared experience.

God only knows what this life means. Together we can teach our children to embrace the uncertainty. We can get comfortable with being at a loss for words, and allowing every moment to surprise us with new perspective. We can urge our children to participate fearlessly in making new choices for this planet. And we can remind them to pay attention as something very special and unique happens here on Earth.

And that – that is profoundly cool.