like an apple

Crackers, rice, lentils, meat, but I would rather eat, a poem, like an apple.

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Balance, my ass

I just spent twenty minutes looking for a "single mom" blog. That I like. I found this one, but that's about it. Sorry, I am sure there are lots I missed out there. But I want something honest, earnest, even, maybe, a bit painful. Like parenting. Like life.

I don't want to read another post that tells me it's all about balance. In one sense, sure, I have a therapist, I know this is true, deeply--I must "take care of me" or I can't take care of them well.

And yet. In another sense...life as a single parent, really, an only parent, is inherently unbalanced. Hell, life as a parent is, right? Taking on responsibility for the raising of a child? It's to give your devotion, your attention, your purpose, centering it, for that time at least, on those little bundles of joy. I mean, it HAS to be that way, you HAVE to care for them, using "have" in that very coercive way that refers to duties that one does but always, slightly, perhaps guiltily, but still, in some deep way, feels the constraint of. Parents don't get to run away from home. Or if they do, they aren't parents anymore, not in the way I mean.

As Christopher Hitchens said so beautifully, about being father to adolescent daughters, "it's a solid lesson in the limitations of self to realize that your heart is running around inside someone else's body." True of being a parent, in general. And not only biologically. Not even, primarily, biologically. It's...visceral, emotional. Absolute. Inescapable.

I guess that I just need to be present with that today. With that truth about myself. I love Gretchen Rubin, and was reading her post about New Year's resolutions today, which somehow through clicking led me to a post about her "splendid truths," the fifth of which is "I can build a happy life only on the foundation of my own nature." That fifth truth links to a wonderful short post on the challenge of being true to one's own nature, including this quote from Christopher Alexander:

Kitty Litter Zen Garden

On Kitty Litter Zen Garden

I'll start by saying that I have a lot of respect for Zen and mindfulness. I also have two cats and three litter boxes. So, how do these things fit together? I'm trying to infuse mindfulness into everyday events and I've noticed it's generally easier to feel peaceful and calm when I'm engaged in something I enjoy. The difficulty comes when I'm doing something less pleasant or even unpleasant. Cleaning the cats' litter box is one of those unpleasant tasks that needs to be done every day. If I skip a day it becomes even more unpleasant. I've worked on a way to make it feel less of a chore and more of something that when completed gives me a feeling of satisfaction and ease.

I use clumping litter and after I've scooped up all the mess into a plastic bag I use the little rake to smooth out the litter, kind of like a Zen garden. I try to do this with awareness and a sense of equanimity. When it's complete I can walk away knowing that it's done for today. It will be a mess again tomorrow but that's in the future.

It's a little like meditating itself. I don't always want to sit. Sometimes I make excuses or find myself so busy that I forget. If more than a day or two goes by I'll find my myself with a big mess. I get cranky and yell at my son. I'm more impatient in traffic. I don't follow through on other habits that help me stay mindful.When I finally do sit down to meditate I can't settle in easily. I have an itch that must be scratched. My mind wanders even farther than usual before I notice and bring it back to the present.

When I meditate every day the habit becomes easier. When it's done I can walk away with that same feeling of equanimity.

What helps you to be mindful every day?

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