Perfectly Imperfect

Perfectly Imperfect

There we were, all 25 of us, standing in my friend’s driveway, shivering in the cold November air, waiting for the firetrucks to arrive as acrid smoke billowed out of her basement furnace.  The crowd–consisting of kids, adults and two dogs–amicably talked and joked while eating cheese cubes and crackers out of the hatchback of someone’s car. Meanwhile, the hostess was expertly navigating the art of throwing a massive Friendsgiving event while evacuating all her guests during a moment of unexpected surprise.  And to top it all of, her husband had raced off earlier to be with a loved one who had a medical emergency, leaving her to handle this “minor snafu” alone.  This wasn’t what she bargained for.

I watched in admiration as she marched up the driveway in her apron and down coat to meet the firefighters and take charge of the situation.  She never lost her cool or showed any sign of despair.  She problem-solved and shut down the furnace, called the repair man, and aired out the house.  After the firefighters cleared us to go back in, she never missed a beat in heating all the food and continuing the festivities as we sat around the kitchen table with parkas on and the heat off (awaiting repair) and the doors flung wide open for maximum ventilation.

The party continued until late in the evening.  The repair man eventually showed up and the heat was restored.  The jackets were shed and the post-dinner games ensued.  Her husband returned and fun was had by all.  In fact, the Friendsgiving dinner that seemed so doomed turned out to be the most unforgettable and festive one in history.  In the heat of the moment, my friend might have crumbled, but instead, she let go of perfection and embraced the moment that was.  Bravo, mama.  I bow down to you.

This whole scenario was so incredibly fitting because I had just taught a mindfulness class earlier that day with the theme “perfectly imperfect”.  This small group of women, who I have become so incredibly fond of, sat around a table sharing stories of our life events that didn’t quite turn out as expected.  We all agreed that those disastrous moments were the ones that were the most memorable.  We exchanged stories of birds pooping on a wedding dress, of being proposed to in a parking lot, of cooking Thanksgiving dinner in a microwave and toaster oven, and of professional photos being enlivened by screaming, crying, hysterical babies.

I shared with them a quote from my favorite mindfulness book, Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist:

It’s about learning to show up and let ourselves be seen just as we are, massively imperfect and weak and wild and flawed in a thousand ways, but still worth loving.  It’s about realizing that what makes our lives meaningful is not what we accomplish, but how deeply and honestly we connect with the people in our lives, how wholly we give ourselves to the making of a better world, through kindness and courage.

Let’s face it, life is messy.  It throws you curve balls when you’re least expecting it.  It gives you chapters and moments in your journey that you never thought you’d experience.  But I still subscribe to that old adage:  When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  We can choose to be a victim in our lives, or we can ask ourselves, “what is this moment trying to teach me?  What is the lesson here?”  and if all else fails and you feel like crying ….. throw your hands up in the air and ask, “What’s funny about this?”

I have endless stories about how life turned out WAY different than I expected.  I love looking back on those memorable times of trial, tribulation, and challenge and see how I handled it and modeled lessons for my kids. I hope that in most cases it was similar to the way my friend handled her furnace failure:  with shrug, a smile and a resignation that life is not perfect. And if you muddle through the mess, you see the beauty of it on the other side.

As an example, I submit to you the above series of photos that we chose to place on our 2005 Christmas card, highlighting the difficulty of taking a “perfect” family photo with 18 month old triplets.  It was our most beloved and well-received card ever.  What could we say?  Life was hard raising three toddlers at once.  This is us.  Beautiful and disorganized, frazzled and sleep deprived.  But I wouldn’t change it for a second.

In closing, I leave you with one final quote from Shauna’s aforementioned book:

Sink deeply into the world as it stands…This world, just as it is.  This is the good stuff.  This is the best stuff there is.  Perfect has nothing on truly, completely, wide-opened, open-souled present.

So as we head into the future moments of our lives, I ask you: how can you embrace the perfect imperfections in your life?  Can you find the beauty in the present moment, no matter how messy, scary or ugly as it may seem?  Look for connection and meaning instead, as that is where value and love resides.

 

* If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog and want to hear more about the various mindful coaching groups I have ongoing, then join my Facebook group, Intentional Living https://www.facebook.com/groups/458760348205548/?ref=bookmarks

and like my business page: Live Your Best Life  https://www.facebook.com/JennyLaBonteMD/

 

 

Staying out of Overwhelm

Staying out of Overwhelm

Feeling overwhelmed by the demands of life is a very common experience for busy moms these days.

 

I get it.  I’ve been there.  In fact, if I look back 10 years ago when my triplets were just little ones, I think I think I could have written the Bible of Multitasking!

 

I know how it can feel to be totally entrenched in a stressful or high performing job, trying to do your best to raise well-adjusted children, maintain a good relationship with your spouse or significant other, pay attention to your health, and find time to connect with other women.

 

It often can feel like there are not enough hours in the day to do it all?  Am I Right?

 

Sometimes it can all just feel like too much.  A lot of busy moms feel anxious, unsettled and frenzied.  I can’t tell you how many women I’ve worked with who say they just want to experience a feeling of inner peace….

 

Let me tell you a little secret:

 

Inner Peace is there for the taking.  You don’t have to quit your job, win the lottery, move to Tahiti, or take a class with the Dali Lama.

 

Inner peace is always there, waiting for you.  I liken it to being on an airplane on a cloudy day.  When you’re on the ground, all you can see is gray.  Maybe even a little rain.  But the sunshine and blue sky is always there, above the clouds, just waiting for you to break through.  Once the airplane lifts off and you bust through that ceiling of clouds, you are reminded of what a beautiful day it is.

 

The key to accessing that inner peace is to practice finding that space of calm, clear, blue sky that we all have inside of us.

 

This isn’t a skill that happens overnight.  It comes with practice, mindfulness  and INTENTION.  But once you learn it and practice it, you can’t unlearn it.  It’s in your toolbox for life.  And you know what?  Life starts to become more…..Peaceful.

 

I have seen mindfulness make a HUGE difference in all areas of my life: parenting, spouse relationships, family relationships, and interactions with patients and colleagues.  Where I used to feel stress and conflict, I now feel more ease and grace, less REACTIVITY.  That’s huge.  That is a GAME CHANGER.  People around me notice the difference.  They can’t put a finger on it, but they’re like: “Waiter!  I’ll have what she’s having, thank you”.

 

So what exactly is mindfulness?  Think of it as NOTICING your behaviors in any given situation and being able to pullback (becoming less reactive) and going to a calmer internal place.  It’s INTENTIONALLY taking yourself off autopilot and changing the way you respond to situations.

 

If you’re experiencing “Busy Mom Overwhelm” I’d like to give you 5 tips to begin your journey of self care and mindfulness.

  1.  Get to bed on time.  How many of you find yourselves intending to get more sleep, but when it gets down to it, you’re watching TV way too late at night, or scrolling through your social media and before you know it, hours of precious potential sleep time have slipped through your fingers?  In order for you to build resilience, and be your best, your brain needs sleep.  5-6 hours is not enough!  Set up the conditions so you are consistently getting seven hours a night or more.
  2. Take a few minutes to meditate.  Nowadays, there are so many free resources to guide you on how to meditate.  All it takes is 5 or 10 minutes a day to begin reaping the benefits.  If you’ve never done it before, check out the Calm app or Headspace app on your phone.
  3. Turn off the radio during your commute in the car and just practice breathing.  Breathe in to the count of 5, hold for the count of 5, breathe out to the count of 7.  Continue breathing and relaxing while driving.
  4. Do something nice for yourself.  What makes you feel good?  A hot bath?  Some good smelling body lotion?  Curling up on the couch and reading a book?  Petting your cat?  It doesn’t have to be a fancy or expensive endeavor.  It might be as simple as cutting some flowers and putting them in a vase where you’ll see them.
  5. Use your senses to enhance relaxation.  Everyone has a primary sense that they connect with.  Some people are visual people.  Some tune in through their sense of smell or feel.  Whatever yours is, use it to your advantage.  If you are an auditory person, then put on some music that helps you relax.  If you like aromatherapy, then check out some essential oils and diffuse them in the air and set the mood.  If you like the sense of touch, then try tapping (EFT, or Emotional Freedom Technique) to help you get in the mindset.

 

Getting out of overwhelm starts with a series of little steps that set you up to find that place of inner calm.  Remember:  sunshine and clear, blue skies are always there, you just have to bust through the clouds to see them.

 

If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness, consider signing up for my upcoming class:  Mindfulness for Busy Moms.  http://JennyLaBonteMD.com/mindfulness