Learning to Fly

Live life to its fullest

Lessons in expectation January 29, 2010

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 2:14 pm
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Parenthood is most definitely the hardest best thing I’ve ever done. While I have never doubted my decision to become a mother, I have doubted just about every other decision I’ve made, whether it’s about returning to work full-time, living in one of the most expensive places in the country, or even moving into a two-story townhouse. Wherever I am in time or place, I almost always can be thinking of at least one other thing that I’d either rather be doing or feel like I should be doing.

It’s enough to drive me over the edge — and it did this week. I completely lost it, sobbing hysterically for about twenty minutes and continuing to have bouts of weeping periodically throughout the day until the emotion had finished draining from my body. It was an incredibly freeing experience. I realized I had been carrying around with me all of these expectations — mostly of myself — and every time I didn’t live up to one (which was practically constantly), it was adding a small burden. Those small burdens had multiplied until I was nearly crippled beneath their weight. The release of emotion enabled me to drop that weight, and it was like I was suddenly filled with helium — I felt so light yesterday I was nearly giddy.

Nothing had changed in my external experience. If anything, yesterday was an even crazier day — not only did I have back-to-back meetings, I had overlapping meetings, and a doctor’s appointment that included my second blood-draw of the week. When I went to pick up a prescription last night, I found out I have a deductible on brand-name scrips, and I had to spend over $100 to get this one out of hock. My response? Laughter. I walked through the day so lightly that I actually enjoyed myself. I let go of my expectation that I would get anything done, and somehow found the time to be productive in the midst of all of the meetings.

I have to laugh at myself for how many times I’ve had to learn this lesson the hard way. But until I truly *get* it, I suspect it will continue to keep coming up. In the interim, I’m enjoying my newfound lightness, and the way it enables me to stay fully present in my time with my son. And nothing could be a greater gift than that.

Photo: “when expectations are reversed,” originally uploaded by psyberartist

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Waiting July 23, 2009

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 4:03 pm
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“I’m a lover of reality. When I argue with What Is, I lose, but only 100% of the time.”
~ Byron Katie

It’s less than a week until my due date. While it feels like I’ve been pregnant for years, if I went into labor today, the baby would still be early. Time is definitely an illusion here towards the end. The good news is, we’ve gotten quite a bit done in the past couple of weeks. The amazing thing is how much there is (and always will be) left to do. I am definitely reminded of Abraham: “We are all on a perpetual cycle of joyous becoming. We will never get it done, ever, ever, ever, ever.” So while we aren’t “done,” we are ready. The car seat installation has been inspected (and approved). The hospital bags are (mostly) packed. We’ve lined up a friend to take care of our cats for us while we’re at the hospital. My birthing bracelet is complete, and beautiful! We have diapers, a bassinet for the baby to sleep in, baby clothes laundered and ready. It is all coming together.

What is left is the intricate waiting game of pre-labor. Unfortunately, I’m not handling it as gracefully as I might have liked. I pulled a muscle in my side last week—in my sleep, no less. My feet and calves are so swollen it feels like I’m lugging watermelons around. Every day it seems like my body finds some new and interesting way of throwing me a curve ball. I’d love to say that I view each new thing as part of my practice—and sometimes I do, although usually it’s after the fact—but for the most part I’m falling into the dangerous practice of living in the future, wishing I were somewhere I’m not.

I know that my practice for labor will be surrendering to the moment, accepting whatever happens, truly living “it is what it is.” What I wasn’t expecting was how much that would need to be my practice heading up to labor. As usual, reality is different from my expectations, and I have a choice about how to handle that. Some moments I fall into a funk, upset that I’m unable to get very much done. Other moments, I recognize that I need to start where I am, and that may mean I spend the day with my feet up, or it may mean that I get to run some errands or unpack a box or two, or I may be able to do a little of both. But whatever it is, it is exactly that—no more, no less. Finding peace with that is my daily and indefinite challenge.

And so here I find myself, in the rhythm of the unknown, celebrating my practice. As John Lennon sings, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” So today I choose to focus on that life that I am living, what that life really is for me today, and allow everything else to fall into place in its own time. It’s all we can ever do, really, but there’s nothing quite like having it show up for you rather literally to make you realize what life really is all about. Enjoy the moment. Or not—it’s up to you. But this is the moment where your life is being lived. How does it feel? Namaste.

Photo: “It was summer she walked into…,” originally uploaded by Gordana Adamovic-Mladenovic

 

Steve Jobs quote March 13, 2009

Filed under: quote of the week — jennsheridan @ 7:00 pm
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For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something . . . almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

~ Steve Jobs

 

Releasing expectations

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 1:04 pm
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Expectations, small and large, have been rearing their ugly heads again for me lately. I’m discovering that pregnancy, especially when it isn’t theirs, seems to evoke a need in people to share their opinions and stereotypes with you. I’ve been bombarded with other people’s opinions, experiences, and beliefs about what happens while you’re pregnant, what happens during labor and delivery, and what happens once the baby is born. Generally speaking, I would say it is well meaning and comes from a desire to support you in what you’re going through, even when the content is on the negative end of the spectrum. Most of the time I see it that way and take what is said with a grain of salt. But every now and again, someone will say something it will just irk me to no end. When I stop and look at what is causing that reaction, I realize that if another person had said exactly the same thing it wouldn’t have bothered me so much, I would have been able slough it off. So what is the difference? Ah yes, expectations. Without fail, my reaction is caused by my having some expectation of that person, that they would think more like I do, that they would realize that what they’re saying is merely a perpetuation of stereotypes instead of being based in reality, or even that they would realize that every pregnancy, delivery, and baby is different and therefore every experience is unique.

In some respects, it is a welcome change for me to have this experience with other people instead of simply with myself. Most of the time, my expectations surround my own abilities, whether it’s about my productivity or being centered or showing up the way I choose to or, really, I could go on pretty much ad nauseam. But wherever those expectations are stemming from, whether it’s about expecting something of yourself or your situation or another person, expecting things to be better or different or any way at all, those expectations are getting in the way of living life fully. That may be a harsh way of looking at it, but the way I see it is that expectations may lead to many emotions — primarily disappointment, irritation, frustration, or even anger — but at the end of the day, they keep you from staying present, from experiencing the moment as it is happening. Expectations leave you in a state of comparison instead of enabling you to see the moment for what it is. Expectations leave you in judgment, allowing you to say that now you like the person or the situation or yourself more or less than you did before, instead of opening you up to see the divinity within.

The reminder in all this for me is that the path to freedom, the path to joy, is to see people for who they are in this moment, to accept the situation I find myself in for what it is, and to love myself unconditionally. I choose to set my intentions for my life, but allow the moments themselves to unfold in their own divine perfection, staying present to the experience and opening myself up to the opportunities each moment brings. This is my challenge to myself for this week, and I welcome you to join me. I would love to hear how it goes for you! Namaste.

Photo: “Bird’s Nest – Ptasie Gniazdo,” originally uploaded by Jarosław Pocztarski

 

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple May 22, 2008

Filed under: inspiration — jennsheridan @ 3:41 pm
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I was reminded of this wonderful poem this morning, one I had the pleasure of being introduced to as a teenager and, when I’ve remembered, one I’ve taken to heart.

Warning
by Jenny Joseph

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Photo: “embrace the purple,” originally uploaded by Claudia A. De La Garza

 

Underdog February 4, 2008

Filed under: notes — jennsheridan @ 5:38 am
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What an amazing game today. There is something affirming about rooting for the underdog and then seeing them win. The Giants were a wild card team — they were expected to lose every playoff game AND the Super Bowl, but they didn’t let other people’s expectations affect their vision of themselves. They just got out there and played like they deserved to be there, ultimately proving to everyone else that they did. It’s an inspirational concept we can all apply to some aspect of our lives. It’s kind of akin to “Act As If” — if you act as if you’ve already reached your goals, everything else will fall into place to actually make you reach those goals. Good stuff.

So, my back is still not 100%, but it is healing amazingly quickly. I’m going to do my part by going to bed now and getting a good night’s sleep. I don’t know what it is, but this week feels like it is going to be HUGE. Keep your eyes open and let me know what unfolds for you too. Namaste.

 

Room to change January 13, 2008

Filed under: practice — jennsheridan @ 5:50 pm
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It’s Sunday morning and I’m moving a little bit slowly. I’ve been sitting in bed with my laptop doing my morning pages, checking my email, fiddling around with the blog. Somewhere in the backdrop I was aware of my cat Morgan crying, but that isn’t unusual. Morgan is one of those cats who will leave the room that contains everyone else in the family and then cry as if to say, Where is everybody? So my thoughts are somewhere else completely and I hear this sort of funny scratching sound and I think she must have found a bug, which would account for the crying. I look up and instead see Morgan hanging out of the top of my chest of drawers. The front of one of the drawers fell off a while back, so I moved it to the top of the dresser and use it like a shelf for my t-shirts. Morgan had squeezed herself in amongst the piles of shirts, not very well mind you as she ended up falling right back out again. It was so startling I burst out laughing, which of course annoyed Morgan to no end. I tried to apologize to her saying it was just that I had never seen her do anything even remotely like that in all of her six years with us. She’s not a jumper, having difficulty even getting up on the couch with grace, and she’s not one of those cats who likes to crawl into anything and everything they can fit in. But my cats never cease to amaze me with the crazy new things they come up with, even in the midst of a life that appears to be all routine, and mostly sleep.

The truth is, however, that if we pay attention, the people in our lives can amaze us as well. The reason we don’t usually notice that, however, is that we expect them not to change. Have you ever had a full conversation in your head with someone and then you’re surprised later when you try to talk to them about it and they have no idea what you’re talking about? We think we know the people in our lives so well that we know what they’ll say or do around just about anything. The funny thing about that for me is that I am so invested in my own growth and work pretty hard to shift the way I interact with the people around me so that I am showing up more authentically — meaning, it would be challenging for someone to know how I was going to react at any given time because I’m not sure I would know that myself in advance. So why can’t I apply that concept to the other people in my life? Now, I’m not saying that we should expect people to change — that really never works and just leaves us disappointed. I guess all I’m saying is that we should leave them room to change. Don’t assume you know what your mother or your brother or your wife thinks about something — ask them. I suspect they’ll surprise you.