Finding Balance on Love Day

There’s a running tally of blog post ideas in the notes section of my iphone. I find weird inspiration all over the place and I never trust myself to remember any of it because as time passes I become more easily distracted by anything and everything. Age - yes, is a factor - as is children, work, and all the intentions of balancing the demands of daily life. Not to be a spoiler but some of my future blog topics might include: The importance of boredom, Being meaningful rather than being more, The multi-tasking trap, and the sad old topic of Balancing (always, always, always on the balancing).

Balance… What does it mean NOW? Does that mean we spend equal parts each day on the things that are most important to us?  Does that mean we spend equal parts each day on the things that SHOULD BE most important to us? Is it a way to keep us sane or a way to keep us good?  Is the term Balance the en vogue quintessential devil and angel on our shoulder?

Maybe it’s the expectation of the day (Valentine’s) or the weather (crap rain) or the fact that balance is something so far in my distant memory that I’ve forgotten how to embrace it… Whatever it is I sometimes feel a bit miffed by the concept of it.  Is balance a feeling?  Is balance a state of mind?  A way of being? An even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady?

I know how important balance is and I feel that just as other terms (authenticity, presence, being) have become so over-used in our vernacular, our little friend balance has lost some of her true purpose.  So here goes…

Balance to me means being able to say no to the shit that takes you away from the important things in your life.  Balance is working hard while maintaining connection to what makes you feel alive in the world.  Balance can feel like a push/pull until you find that sweet spot in the middle but I think of it as a continuum that we are all striving for so the push and pull are part of the journey.

Balance changes over time just as we as humans change in our relationships and in our stages of life.  What I am balancing today is different from what I was balancing ten years ago, twenty years ago and so the definition continues to change.  I think that balance for me is keeping up with what is truly important in my world - not holding tight to some dogma that I created for myself too many moons ago -  but rather being okay with the ebb and flow of life’s expectations.  Most of all, I think balance is loving yourself enough to know when to give yourself a break and when to kick yourself in the ass.  Honesty is the key and the only way to keep that litmus test real and true is to keep checking in with YOU and those close to you regarding what your goals, values, and mission are in this big crazy world.  Surround yourself with people that have your best interests in mind and do the same for them.  That’s true love at its core.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

This is 40

Birthday Party Pool Time with Hubby 

Birthday Party Pool Time with Hubby 

I am just on the heels of an incredible 40th birthday celebration and feeling blessed and reminiscent.  I had so many impactful moments in my 39th year; treasured time with family and friends, hilarious conversations with my four-year-old son, some awesome wins and some ego-blowing failures.  The two happenings that struck me the most were the birth of my baby girl, and my contraction of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.  They feel like terribly paired book-ends, one so beautiful and joyous and the other utterly terrifying.

 

Even now as I write this, my gorgeous little nugget daughter is crawling around the feet of my chair talking and giggling and trying to destroy my office.  “Da!” she screams looking up to me as she tugs on the power cord to everything important in this work space (computer, scanner, internet, etc.).  Da is what she calls her Daddy and her expression for all things she wants which pleases Dad beyond words and makes me only slightly unnerved.

 

Having this angel girl is easy for me to write about and celebrate.  Like most moms I am infatuated with my little human and awed and inspired by her every accomplishment.  She can hug better than anyone I have ever known.  She throws herself fully into the love she wants in return.   She laughs and smiles when pleased as easily as she screams and complains if something is not to her liking - giving her the nick name, “The Great Communicator”.  Reagan would be proud.

 

As easy as it is for me to gush about my children, I find the opposite true about telling my story of contracting Stevens-Johnsons Syndrome.  I tried documenting the experience by time-line, giving every remembered detail and associated emotion but that came out too sterile.  I tried throwing humor in and playing up the sunny side to a terrible incident but that felt hallow and insincere.  My husband had asked me why I wanted to tell the story and who was my audience.  I finally sat back and asked myself, what was so impactful about this experience?  I have come closer to death than this.  I have experienced many childhood and adult traumas.  Why did this experience hit me so much harder?  And it is even as I write this that the realization is coming to me…

 

It is the book ends of joy and sadness, the balance to life that we all must experience to fully respect each side.   The joy of new life and the possibility of death.  I held them both close in my 39th year and that was terrifying.  So, I am realizing that I don’t need to tell the gory and menacing details of my week in the ICU and my months of recovery.  Perhaps when I am a better story teller I can make that a separate piece.   For now, I am tremendously grateful to the staff at Scripps Encinitas and to my amazing dermatologist.  Most of all I am so thankful to my family and friends that surrounded me with physical and emotional strength and support.  I cannot tell you how lucky you all helped me realize I am.  Especially my 6’5” husband who crawled into my hospital bed every morning and evening to hold me close.

 

It is easy to see the joy in the gift of a child but that comes with the struggles of sleepless nights and juggling time.  Likewise, it is easy to see the pain in disease but even that can come with rewards in the showing-up of true love and friendship.  Three months later, I am still healing but I am solid in the knowing that I am always in good company and stronger than I thought I was. 

The McNeill Fam

The McNeill Fam

Love it or Leave it...

February is shrouded in the colors and sentiments of love.  For some of us that shroud may feel like a blanket of warmth, comforting and sweet.  Others may feel passion and excitement, while still others may have sensations closer to desire or even indignation.  Regardless of how soft or scratchy your blanket feels, this time of year is packed with emotion. 

I was at a bakery yesterday marveling at the gorgeous and gaudy Valentine’s Day themed sweets.  There were the standard hearts and cupids but also more romantic symbols of love like diamond rings and kissing lips.  I found myself suddenly wondering about love and the different representations of it.  What are the different types of love? 

The ancient Greeks believed there were eight different varieties:

  • Philia: Affectionate love, like that between friends.
  • Ludus: Playful love, the early stages of falling in love.  Think fluttering heartbeat and shameless flirting.
  • Eros: Erotic love.  Nuff said.
  • Storge: Familiar love, like that between parent and child.
  • Mania: Obsessive love, mad and jealous love.  The kind that can be crazy-making and cause one to doubt their own worth.
  • Pragma: Enduring love, often found in married couples or in friendships that have endured many, many years.  This love is seeded in compromise and patience.  Not nearly as exciting as Eros or Ludus so not nearly as common (unfortunately).
  • Philautia: Self-love, you have to love yourself first before you are able to truly love others.  Or as Aristotle put it: “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.”
  • Agape: Selfless love, unconditional and free of desire or expectations.

I can relate to and have experienced many of these “love types” some with the same person over time, my husband.  What I so appreciate about this list is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all mentality to it.  Love is ever-changing and can show up in many different forms.  I have always been a huge romantic and I’ve been known to absolutely gush over love songs.  Something funny that I have noticed in recent years is that where in the past I would inject my current love interest into the focal point of the song, I now often inject my son!  Not in a romantic way of course but in that all-encompassing, you stole my heart kind of way.  Same song, different type of love.

There is a fair amount of negative connotation around Valentine’s day: Hallmark holiday, commercialized opportunity for jacked up pre-fix menus, yada, yada, yada…  I challenge you however, to consider this day as an opportunity to honor whatever type of love you are blessed with in this moment.  Love doesn’t have to be all Ludus and Eros.  Why not focus on a little Philia and Storge?  And above all, do not forget the Philautia.  Love on folks!

 

New Year, Old You?

It’s a new year and many of us have incredible intentions to do all sorts of self-improvement; hit the gym, eat better, work smarter, get organized, read more, travel!  Unfortunately, by about this time to the first week of February many resolutions start to fall flat.  We inadvertently slip into old habits.  Responsibilities pull us out of our fresh new outlook and pressing commitments force us to react to the immediate and forget the proactive nature that self-improvement demands.

 

If this isn’t your experience, yay you!  Get after it! Keep up the good work! And please, tell us all your secret!!

 

If this is you, let’s talk…

 

First, slipping isn’t failing.  Throwing in the towel entirely without reflecting on why your intentions couldn’t be realized?  That’s a bit closer to the failure department.  Hence, I challenge you to take a moment and consider why your resolutions fell flat. 

 

·      Was the resolution too aggressive? Be honest!

·      Was it not the right time for this growth-goal?  If not, why not?

·      What got in the way?

 

Now I challenge you one step further, how can you readjust your intention to make the resolution more meaningful for yourself now?  How can you tweak it to get you to that place of excitement and inspiration?  Maybe you need an accountability partner?  Maybe you need to be more forceful with yourself or perhaps you need to soften your expectations and be more gentle with yourself?  Maybe this isn’t the right resolution at all anymore and you need to completely shift gears and decide what IS?!

 

This self-reflection can bring so much clarity if you allow it.  Please, share with me what comes up for you!  Where are you NOW with your intentions for 2017 and how do you intend to stay on track?

The Tiny Dictator Down the Hall

I visited the aquarium today with my three-year-old and for the first time had zero gear. No stroller, diaper bag, change of clothes.  I didn't even pack a lunch! It felt strange and awesome all at once, especially considering that in four-months-time I'll be embarking on babyhood all over again with the little girl growing inside of me.  It will be chaotic, messy, sleepless, amazing AND all so brief.  

 

Parenthood reminds me that the ebbs and flows of life are in so many ways out of our control.  We can plan to have a baby, get the best gear, books, medical care, etc. but ultimately, we are at the whims of a tiny dictator, ruling the home both day and night. 

 

Like parenthood, we can prepare for life; find a good job, a life partner, exercise, eat well. Position ourselves for success in many ways, yet even then we can get some astonishing curve balls thrown our way.  We do what we think is our best and can still get side-swiped for better or worse.  In the end, it is how we respond to the unexpected, the perspective that we hold that can make or break us. 

 

I don't mean to sound like Pollyanna - it's unrealistic to expect to always see the bright side.  What I mean is, there is tremendous value in getting shaken-up and letting yourself be a bit unbalanced.  To try to be okay in the uncertainty and discomfort, just for a little while, because at the end of the day we don't have all the control, it's in the hands of the (metaphorical or actual) tiny dictator down the hall. 

 

Let yourself ride the wave of the unknown. Send the "Need to Control" segment of your mind on vacation for a minute and just go with it. Then pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get life managed with just a little more patience and ability to compromise.