I keep standard mom crap on my refrigerator. Art work, schedules, a calendar, a to-do list. But my favorite thing is a small list of single-sentence reminders that lead me into the kind of empathic and inspired parenting I (try try!) to practice. The first sentence is so elegant to me: Just for today, step up to the plate and be the parent.
It's easy for me to forget that one. It's easy for me to want to jump into the boxing ring with the five year old. It's easy for me to give up and yell and be five myself. It's easy for me to get carried away in an emotional tide when I spend all day with really small people that have really big emotions, and it's not so easy for me to remember that I can cast a wide and strong net of loving intention to counter that tide. So I cherish the reminder.
Every time I read it, I say under my breath: "and swing!". Because it's not enough for me to think like a big girl. This house needs action. We need an example. We need mama to show us how it's done.
And that is where I start to think of all the places in my life where things become infinitely better when I just step up to the plate (and swing). Food's a good place to start, but it's just one place.
I'll be honest, I want you to eat well. I want you to love your food, know where it came from, have a hand in preparing it, and enjoy the whole process. A friend once told me that her philosophy towards dinner was that not every night had to be a celebration - I think her point was that sometimes a simple dinner is all that's needed- but I bristled at the thought of not having a celebration each evening. Doesn't mean we clink the crystal and light candles every night at the Meaty house (though we probably do more than many), but we do have small threads of custom that bring us to the table and hold us there while we eat.That is celebration, in my book. I look forward to dinner every night, even on the nights when I don't feel much like cooking, or the nights when we totally ruin the food, or someone at the table is out of sorts, or wailing, or angry, or missing - because through all of this, we are still sitting at the table, we are still connecting. So yessirreebob, I want you to know what I know - that joy of connection. That means more to me than a tasty grass-fed rib eye. But it's all up to you. You are the one who must step up to the plate.
And that means you have to act. You have to decide how you want to feel, how you want to work. Health is our birthright. How different people experience health is up to them. It is not our birthright to gain two pounds a year for the rest of our lives, manage our stress and fatigue with caffeine and alcohol, and reach for a prescription when we experience discomfort or pain. But many of us have determined, to varying degrees, that that is our right. (I'm not exempt here. Did you see how big my coffee mug was this morning?). By virtue of failing to grasp our birthright, we have, in essence, stepped up to a plate where we are never asked to swing. When I am feeling less than vibrant in my health and life, it is ultimately because I am failing to take responsibility for some part of my life. I am choosing to squander sleep in favor of reading, or (fill in the blank.. drink too much, eat too much sugar, not watch my words with my children), you get the idea.
Of course our world makes it easy to deny our birthright, and of course you know this, too! Convenience is to be had if only you lose sight of your birthright. Radical thinking, making your family a place of peace and joy, building communities, and social justice - these things just can't take place if you are too sluggish, anxious, fat, zoned-out or depressed to take care of yourself and your own family. Before I throw myself over the conspiracy-theory ledge, let me just back up and say: it's hard to be connected to joy, and to each other, when we are mired in physical and emotional misery.
I don't much mind what you decide to eat. I think eating Paleo makes ecological and biological sense, but I am not about to begrudge you your sandwich. I don't think it's the only way to eat. I do think it's right for us, and we have been doing it for a long time now. I do think you should accept responsibility for what you decide to eat, and understand how what you are eating is affecting your body and your spirit.
I do think your choices - in food, in lifestyle, in parenting, in all things- should be mindful and intentional. I think you should step up to the plate, and then, oh yes, I think you should swing.
Because here's what's on the other side of the swing: another turn at bat. Eating well takes some work. Cooking your own food takes work, sourcing local meat and produce takes a little legwork. Getting to bed early enough to give yourself some deep, quality sleep takes some discipline. Sitting down to dinner as a family, or to breakfast, or even just for a snack together - like a fricking three-ring circus, sometimes. Turning off the computer and playing outside with your kids might take work. Stopping at one glass of wine might take work. Speaking kindly, or not at all: sometimes that requires a little effort. Here is what I know, and here is what I practice: Being a happy woman takes work. Swing!
When you step up to the plate, what do you whisper to yourself?