November 19, 2017

The rhythms and rituals in our world

We’ve been going through what I will liken to a challenging time these past few months. With the transition of being more permanently rooted to the US, with finding out about this pregnancy and being so sick, with Agatha beginning a new morning program – I feel like I could keep listing things until it gets all the way down to the smaller things – transitioning to sleeping on my side, transitioning to a different kind of intimacy with Jeff, to reading more, to finding time where there might be a few things to do but where I genuinely just want to embrace the silence. A balance of good and hard transition.

A place where rhythm didn’t feel as though it existed, until it did. We’ve always had a flow to our day that ends with a warm bath, milk and songs for Agatha and some mix of tea, beer, movies, reading, fire, talking or early to bed for Jeff and I. As she gets older and as we prepare to welcome a new member to our family I’ve been thinking so much about how it can look to truly come together as a team – to allow each person to feel heard and loved and included. We all love our alone time but we also love our time together, each weekend here that we’re blessed with no plans is like a breath of fresh air. In Toronto we were constantly on the go so it kind of felt weird those first few weekends of no plans, and then somewhere along the way it just started to feel really really good. Like there is room to explore and feel out what we want to do versus what was planned to do a week or more in advance.

In all the books I’m reading these days there is so much about the importance of rhythm for toddlers – how that sense of how a day looks and flows grounds them in security and confidence. I want to say it’s just them, but it’s me too! Having a rhythm to start and end my day gives me a sense of calm and allows me to sink into what’s happening. It allows me to get vulnerable. I don’t know if that makes sense but somehow knowing that I’ve got a soft place to land, knowing that we’re going to make pizza together and gather at a candlelit table allows me to open up in a different way because I know I’ve got this safe haven to go home to. This routine to be a part of, this team that is there for me.

I found this article the other day that really made me think – the mother of a family of 3 talks about how disconnected she was feeling to her family. How the busyness of life got to them and how their daily rhythm actually didn’t have any rhythm to it at all anymore. The title kind of kills me mostly because of how it’s worded – a 5 minute daily routine that will make your family stronger. It immediately took me to a 5 minute beauty routine, a 5 minute bed time ritual, or 5 minutes to feel more grounded- there are just too many things that supposedly only take 5 minutes when in reality, the whole point of the rhythm or ritual is to actually take the time to do the thing – or just be, or embrace the space, or whatever it is, whether it takes 5 minutes or 50 minutes.

Other than the title, I loved the article – one day this mom just up and says “EVERYONE INTO OUR BED”. The entire family stopped what they were doing and crawled into the parents bed. She openly talks about the stages it took – a moment of awkward silence, space for a juicy deep breath, some giggling, and then finally release into the coziness of being next to one another. Of having room to share and talk and get vulnerable about what happened that day. It sounded like magic.How interesting for me then to read a great blog post tonight by a favourite human after seeing her post on Instagram about her own seasonal family rhythm. It just feels like the universe is trying to tell me something.

One of my favourite parts of our day are the early mornings – Jeff usually gets Agatha from her crib and brings her into bed – he always brings her onto his side of the bed but she somehow finds her way over to me, straddles her legs on either side of my torso, lays her head on my shoulder and wraps her arm around me to reach for this secret mole right at the base of my neck in the center of my spine. It’s this culmination of  snuggle, comfort and love all at the same time. We each greet each other by saying “good morning, I love you” ( this is something Jeff has been saying to me since I met him and we’ve extended into our mornings with Aggie, I love it so much ). We ask each other about our dreams (I am a crazy vivid dreamer), we talk about what our days will hold and then at some point hunger strikes and we get up and find our way into the kitchen. Jeff usually gets tea going for me, I light incense, slowly turn on lamps and light our breakfast table candles. Aggie and I get settled at the table while Jeff heads into our room to get changed into his biking gear to head into work.

Over breakfast (these days steel cut oats with cinnamon, soaked prunes and almond butter) we usually read the new-to-us books we’ve gathered from the library that week, I love this new routine so much. Each Thursday afternoon after her nap we walk to the library and get a stack of new books. Aggie loves the computers there so sits down to do some ‘work’ by hammering on the keyboard and I peruse the shelves. She helps me to check out all the books and then we slowly saunter home. We read and re-read the books over and over again and inevitably we start to miss a book that had become our favourite from the previous week so we take it out again.

Watching her get to know characters and dive into stories is such an incredible experience – her curiosity lights me up in a way I just can’t describe. It makes me want to be better. To get more vulnerable. To show myself in the most honest way and to genuinely hold space for her to feel and be whoever she is meant to be.

After reading what feels like maybe too many books I’m starting to turn back to my intuition – I’m starting to feel my gut as I’m starting to feel this baby moving inside. I’m reminding myself that the hard stuff isn’t going away, the transition in our adult lives, the making decisions and guiding my child isn’t ever going to end. It’s all part of the journey that we’re a part of and that we’re walking through. In a time and space where days can feel short and dark, where toddlers can feel a lot, where pregnancies can be scary because of how much is unknown, where fertility is just so crazy hard sometimes, I think it helps to have rituals to turn to. I’ve shared one of my favourite quotes below from Simplicity Parenting, a book I really really love.

“In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime, Saturday morning pancakes”

Those small, daily or weekly rituals are just so freaking grounding. And the way in which we implement them and use them really do allow tiny humans to sink into what’s happening ( for our family at least ).

During each seasonal shift I like to create a new guide that gives me simple thoughts and ideas that will help me to slow down. They are things that really resonate with me at that time – because let’s be honest, how we f e e l changes, and that’s totally fine. In fact, it’s awesome. Change is positive movement – it isn’t always easy but it’s something that stirs up energy within us and around us and we all need that to help move what’s stagnant.

This winter I’m embracing a few rituals to help me embrace the cold, the dry and the warmth that is Winter. Things that will help me to slow down but also to love myself just a little bit more.

1. SUNDOWN CANDLE LIGHT | with the sun setting at about 4:30pm here we like to turn on some of our favorite lamps and light candles around the house or light a big fire to sit in front of. I’m a big fan of beeswax candles – they come in all shapes and sizes so you can place them all over your house to create a cozy nest. Jeff and I usually reunite after Aggie goes down and just sit and catch up, it’s honestly one of my favourite things. Phones away, books out maybe, feet up and just talking about our days. I think in that first year after Aggie was born we just lost that sense of coming together because there was so many immediate needs to be taken care of. It’s felt so good to hear about his day at work, to hear about his thoughts on Agatha and how their bath time was, to give myself room to talk through how I’m feeling or what’s going on in my world and what we’re excited about coming up.

2. DELICIOUS EARLY MORNING GOODNESS | lately we’ve been making hot tea and slow cooked steel cut oats– whatever it is, make it consciously, eat it slowly and embrace the idea that your food actually is your energy source for that day.

3. CREATE A SELF LOVE RITUAL | [one thing once a day that you love, just for you] For me right now it’s usually a nightly shea butter belly rub with a little bit of essential oil. The winter has me feeling so incredibly dry so a few nights a week before bed, I warm some sesame oil on the stove and rub it all over my feet, legs, arms and hands. In Ayurvedic medicine, anointing ourselves with oil has a seriously amazing calming effect – and it also sends a message to our joints, our skin and our hearts that we’ve got enough time to slow down and really take care of ourselves.

4. REPETITION | this goes back to the idea of a weekly rhythm – like I said before I love going to the library once a week with Aggie – there’s something about doing something consistently that allows you to feel like you can count on it. Whether it’s going to same coffee shop each week for a delicious hot chocolate, a favourite weekly yoga class or reminding yourself to grab your book and read when you’ve got a spare moment instead of grabbing for your phone. When you start to get into the habit of doing something you’ll notice your body just craves it over time.

5. FAMILY DINNER | Most afternoons we start to prepare dinner after Aggie’s nap – last year we bought a learning tower from the nicest grandfather on Etsy and it’s been an amazing tool for us ever since. She can get up our level and help with chopping, grating, and garlic pressing or simply hang with us. When Jeff gets home we all sit down and eat – it doesn’t need to be long, it isn’t always the easiest adventure, but we’ve learned that it grounds all of us. It gives us all a moment to take a deep breath and like the idea of a pressure valve, we kind of notice that it symbolizes that the day is ending for Aggie. The past two nights she’s encouraged us to picnic on the floor in front of the fire place (which is amazing) but for her toddler body she’s up and running around and not eating anything. It becomes more energetic than calming. Fun to do every once in a while but having that table to gather at nightly is really special for us.

6. GIVE YOURSELF MORE SPACE SURROUNDING INTERACTIONS | I gave myself a bit of a trial run a couple weeks back where I allowed myself to take some space when it came to responding, replying both in person and digitally. It felt (and continue to feels) so good. I know I can’t be the only one who feels this way but sometimes there is this incredible silent pressure to write back. It’s like Gmail knows that I feel guilty about it so when they tell me in that top right corner that I received an email 9 hours ago, I feel like – 9 hours, oh god, I should totally have written back already. But I’m not a magician, and I don’t always have the capacity for writing back in an authentic way. I recently had an amazing conversation with another mama who I text a lot with – we live close by but don’t see each other a ton so we rely on writing to share thoughts. Right from the start I found these spaces in between our chats or messages that felt so refreshing – like there didn’t need to be an immediate response, like I could truly engage in my day and write back with a deep breath that night or the next day. Another example is a truly special friend I connected with through this space who lives in Scotland – she introduced me to an app where we can leave one another voice  messages / thoughts / ideas throughout the week in large chunks, or tiny snippets. It allows us both room to hear what’s going on in the other’s head but without being there to respond in real time, it offers this whole new sense of space to the conversation – I guess we could say this is why old fashion letter writing is so amazing. The days, weeks, months it used to take for one to receive a piece of mail created a sense of anticipation and appreciation for what you read and for what you wanted to share. That’s what this feels like, a huge juicy deep breath in the midst of a human interaction, where we can genuinely allow one another to feel out and talk through what’s going on. For someone like me who always wants to fix, heal, respond and show that I’m actively listening, this has been an incredible learning experience.

7. GET VULNERABLE AND FEEL WHOLE HEARTED | In the words of one of my favourite humans, Brene Brown, “I’m not a parenting expert. In fact, I’m not sure that I even believe in the idea of “parenting experts.” I’m an engaged, imperfect parent and a passionate researcher. I’m an experienced mapmaker and a stumbling traveler. Like many of you, parenting is by far my boldest and most daring adventure.” If you start feeling inadequate, lonely, “less than” or overwhelmed maybe go outside into the earth. Find a human. Connect – even if it’s scary. Cook a beautiful meal for yourself. Create something with your hands. Read an actual book. Slow yourself right down ( and read this manifesto will you? you got this mama).

The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto by Brene Brown 

Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions—the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I treat myself.

I want you to engage with the world from a place of worthiness. You will learn that you are worthy of love, belonging, and joy every time you see me practice self-compassion and embrace my own imperfections.

We will practice courage in our family by showing up, letting ourselves be seen, and honoring vulnerability. We will share our stories of struggle and strength. There will always be room in our home for both.

We will teach you compassion by practicing compassion with ourselves first; then with each other. We will set and respect boundaries; we will honor hard work, hope, and perseverance. Rest and play will be family values, as well as family practices.

You will learn accountability and respect by watching me make mistakes and make amends, and by watching how I ask for what I need and talk about how I feel.

I want you to know joy, so together we will practice gratitude.

I want you to feel joy, so together we will learn how to be vulnerable.

When uncertainty and scarcity visit, you will be able to draw from the spirit that is a part of our everyday life.

Together we will cry and face fear and grief. I will want to take away your pain, but instead I will sit with you and teach you how to feel it.

We will laugh and sing and dance and create. We will always have permission to be ourselves with each other. No matter what, you will always belong here.

As you begin your Wholehearted journey, the greatest gift that I can give to you is to live and love with my whole heart and to dare greatly.

I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly, deeply, seeing you.

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