Anyone who knows me well will tell you that it takes a lot to rattle me. I like to think it’s a personality trait I inherited from my parents, who always seem even-keeled in the face of what could be stressful. Even so, it’s virtually impossible to avoid or control all of the things that can influence our state of mind. Little by little, things eat away at our peace of mind and sense of balance.
Yoga has been one of the ways that I have tried to keep the little things from adding up to become bigger things. It has been my primary source of physical and mental fitness for the last several years, with the exception of kickboxing because every now and again it’s therapeutic just to hit something. More recently, I’ve become a little more aware – of my practice, of the teachers’ insights, and of what’s happening off the mat. One of my regular teachers, the pied piper of yoga in my mind and someone with an infectious way of having you reflect on your life and work your tail off at the same time, has been talking lately about authenticity. On the mat, it’s encouragement to be strong in the expressions and an invitation to explore sides of yourself that may otherwise be hidden. Off the mat, it has me looking more closely at my kids.
The moments that tip the scales more than anything when it comes to balance are the moments where, all of a sudden, everything with the kids is contrary. Most parents know those moments. Whatever someone else has leaves one wanting more. Trying to get out the door, even for a fun adventure, is delayed with meltdowns. Or they are simply taking too long to do something, anything, which we wanted done more quickly. When I step back from those moments and think about why they are stressful, what I see is authenticity – not in me, but in them.
At four and six, they are the epitome of authenticity. It may not always be pretty, but they are authentic. The older one is set in his ways. A true type-A personality, in his mind there’s a place for everything. If I’d like to remove the hundreds of Legos from the coffee table before he goes to bed, his resistance is not defiance. Putting things away messes with the order of his universe. On the flip side, there is no better audience for hearing his grandfather’s childhood stories. He listens intently and remembers every word, always making sure you tell it right the next time.
His younger brother is quite the opposite in some ways. The way he barrels through life, forging his own path, could be interpreted as inattentive or careless. It’s usually with him that I feel like I’m pushing to do things more quickly. When I take the time to step back, though, I realize that his authenticity lies in the wonder of discovery. Nearly everything he does is with a greater purpose of getting to know the world around him. When he seems to be taking his sweet time to get out of the car, he has often found something of interest (half-eaten pretzel, superhero figure appendage, you name it). He’s turning it into something far more creative or trying to figure out where it might belong. He follows it up with gems like, “Isn’t that so clever, mommy?”
If I look closely and listen more carefully, I see that the things that tend to add to the stress should really be peeling it away. It is, in fact, so clever that a 4-year-old sees unlimited possibilities in what I see as pieces of broken toys. While it might be nice to have a coffee table that I can see at the end of the day, there’s a perfectionist who put his heart and soul into getting things arranged just right. I see my job as a parent being to support them discovering who they are, sometimes at the expense of things going the way that I imagine.
Tomorrow is a big day – kinda huge, actually. Never has it been more important to feel balanced. Close to two years after I first explored surrogacy, I will take the most important step in the journey. Embryos will be transferred and my ability to stay stress-free becomes important for someone else’s family. Acupuncture – or punctuary, as my kids call it – before and after will set the stage. Just like that – after a short procedure and an hour of meditation with tiny, flexible needles coming out of all corners of my body, I will achieve perfect balance – maybe just for a minute. After that, it’s up to my kids.