On Learning the Art of Change (or September in 5 Easy Steps)

Jenny Arndt Family

 

The unrestrained energy of summer

their world

 

In my home we are organizing the open and unrestrained energy of the summer.  It felt so good to be wild and free; no shoes, no schedule, no plans.  I like to keep summer as loose as possible, giving my family a chance to stretch and expand.  We ate watermelon, created imaginary kingdoms in our backyard, ran around naked (that was mostly Henry), stayed up late to stargaze … it was luxurious. Now life is asking us to make a shift. Our world moves to accommodate the change September brings. This month has always been one of death and new beginnings for me.  I have come to embrace change – for it is necessary in order to grow and evolve. Things are not meant to stay the same, but we have to let some things go in order to make room for the new and delicious stuff life is waiting to bring us… The trick is to trust that what is coming to us will be delicious.

away we go

away we go

This was the conversation I had with Felix three weeks ago when we were preparing for Grade One. He wanted to continue to ride his bike everyday and build lego and prolong the freedom of the summer.  He also did not want to leave the comfort of his Kindergarten classroom and teacher.  We talked about moving forward and the adventure that lies ahead of him and so he carefully took steps toward the newness of this school year. We all did.

Organizing unrestrained energy can be a bit of an interesting experience, especially when that energy belongs to little children. The past couple of weeks have been no short of challenging around our house.  We are wobbling a bit and feeling the weight of change.  There is a lot of discomfort and emotional intensity – Felix spent the first week of school full of anger and I was the safest place for it to land and Henry took up the charming habit of pooping on the floor instead of the potty.  We are all adjusting.  I am still getting used to letting go of my kids for 7 hours every day.  Growth is uncomfortable when we resist.

I don’t like to feel overwhelmed.  I don’t enjoy being frantic and stressed, in fact I downright refuse that state of mind.  But the other morning I caught myself – I could not find the patience to allow my 2 year old to put on his own shoes.  I was mad at my kids for not being fast enough and my neighbour for parking their car so stupidly. Why? Expectations, fear, but mostly a lack of trust.  And when things are in transition I usually feel unsafe and insecure – I think we all do.

So my solution this September is to create and nurture a feeling of security for myself and my family.  It is a basic human need to feel safe, especially when we are stepping of our comfort zone.  Stress does not come from outside experiences but rather from a lack of confidence in our ability to meet what life brings to us.  The thing is – life meets us where we are.

So where are we now? I have felt a persistent desire to pull things back and simplify. I don’t want anything extraneous, at least not until we move through this time of re-entry and change. I gave myself 5 things to focus on – sometimes creating a narrow path gets me where I want to go.

Here are my September 5:

1) Sleep as often as possible.

When I feel overwhelmed I have a habit of burning the candle and cramming as much into my day as I can.  I have found this to be extremely counterproductive. I just end up feeling like shit and anxious.  We have revised our night time routine. Early dinner, early bath and lots of quiet time in bed before we go to sleep.  I put the kids to bed at 7:30 and I pretty much go to bed when they do (I know it sounds extreme but I feel so good when I wake up in the morning) It isn’t realistic for me to do this all the time but for one month I am allowing this luxury.

2) Lots of Love.

We are a very physical family – everyone is very generous with hugs and snuggles.  In times of stress I tend to pull away from intimacy. I guess it is a protective mechanism.  While it is lovely to have physical autonomy sometimes, intimacy is nurturing and the body needs physical contact.  When we are busy we can neglect this part of ourselves, but intimacy is a real and valid need – for us and for our children.  It doesn’t take much, giving out a few extra hugs, remembering to kiss the ones we love, going for Shiatsu or a massage.

3) Bad news embargo.

While I have been criticized for putting my head in the sand – I do not watch the news or read the newspaper.  It does nothing for my spiritual and emotional health and more often than not – I can’t contribute positively to whatever is being discussed (especially if I am experiencing stress). This month there will be no sad songs, no scary movies, no Crime Scene Investigation bullshit. It’s all rainbows and unicorns and America’s Funniest Home Videos. The cornier the better. I just want to laugh and I want to hear my kids laughing too.

outside!

outside!

4) Get Outside.

The other day I picked Felix and Henry up from school and both kids were cranky and complicated. I was also feeling tired and kind of depressed so instead of going home and plopping in front of the tv, we went for a hike.  The moment we stepped into the forest all moodiness dissolved.  I firmly believe that nature has magic healing abilities and our bodies find balance when we spend enough time in the natural world.  It also helps maintain the feeling of freedom we love so much – running, jumping, leaping – it’s good for the soul.

5) Eat good food.

It doesn’t have to be complicated food – but simple, homemade, life-giving food is always a good idea. Because I am removing stress, attempting difficult recipes is off limits for me right now.  Just no crap. I always make sure there are fresh fruit and vegetables available, oatmeal for breakfast, chicken soup. The sloppy eating of the summer has been put to rest for now as our bodies need a bit more tender care as they adjust to the shift in temperature and seasons.

My plan seems to be working so far. Everyone is easing into their new adventures with less drama and tension. I don’t feel like the crazed mama I did a couple of weeks ago.  Felix is realizing that Grade One is pretty great – he gets to learn about Geology and how to read and he has more freedom than in Kindergarten.  Henry is no longer pooping on the floor and loves to go and play with his little friends every day.  We are only in our third week of re-entry but none of us miss the summer, we are looking ahead and happy with what we see.

I have realized that stopping and making small (but impactful) adjustments when things feel off center is smart and wise.  There have been times when I have jumped forward – spinning and twirling and moving madly along, but I find no joy in living life like that.

Beach lightAnd then there is the trick – to trust that the newness of life will be delicious.  It is a friendly universe if we go looking in the right places.

 

Jenny ArndtOn Learning the Art of Change (or September in 5 Easy Steps)