Have you ever looked in the mirror and not quite recognized the person staring back? You know, the one who has apparently been walking around with a HelloKitty sticker stuck in her hair for the past 8 hours? The one with the lines on her face that can’t possibly be mattress marks because it’s now 2pm and it’s not like that face spends all that much time on a mattress anyway? The one with the slightly really completely harried look in her eyes? Yeah, her.
I recently saw her and she scared the bejeezers out of me. She looked frazzled, frustrated, and out of focus, even after I put in my contact lenses. Sure, it’s natural to be tired when you have 3 kids ages 6 and under, a busy job, and a busy life. But the woman in the mirror didn’t just look tired. She looked somehow off-center.
Later that morning, I stopped at a local coffee shop known for posting inspirational and thought-provoking messages on the wall to pause for a few seconds in between dropping off 2 kids at 2 different schools, going to the grocery store, prepping for a conference call, scheduling interviews, writing up articles, and returning the 827 emails in my in-box while doing some online Christmasshopping, all before having to run the school shuttle in reverse. I looked up from my tall soymilk chai latte to see “Have You Found Your Center?”written in chalk next to the free-trade, organic, lovingly cultivated Sumatran fresh roast blend of the day.
Clearly, that sign was a sign, I thought. I decided it was time for a change. A perspective shift. A re-centering of my center. It was time to get my zen on. And so began a mission to find my focus, a Journey to the Center of… Me.
Church seemed like as logical a place as any to start. Sunday: the beginning of the week, so I’d begin there. We go to church every Sunday but this week I’d make a special effort to recommit myself to prayer. To focus on my faith. I’d remember the Sabbath and keep it holy… MOLY! How the *&^% (oops-tack one on to my list for confession) did I forget it was Sunday? I sprint back home from what I thought was going to be a leisurely Saturdaymorning jog (would the person who stole an entire day from my memory please kindly return it?), bolt through the shower, throw a dress in the general direction of my body (some people think I’m all fancy but really, who has time for separates?) and do the same for the kids. Oops, 2 are boys. OK, they can wear separates.
We somehow make it to church and take our seats in Spiritual Siberia, the section outside the actual sanctuary reserved for families with young children. Not unlike animals in a cage, we peer longingly at the parishioners and wonder what it’s like on the other side. Except some of it use it to play peekaboo with the ushers.
I bow my head and attempt to block it all out. And for a moment, it works- I feel myself re-centering, I hear a voice from within… it seemed to be calling me and tugging at my heart…
No, make that my eyelids.
“MAMA!!!! OPEN YOU EYES!!! WHAT YOU DOING???? MAMA!!!!” my two-year-old screams, his tiny hands planted on either side of my face. “We do ring-round-rosie?” he asks hopefully as the congregation joins hands.
The rest of mass passes in a blur of diversionary tactics/snacks/pleas/bribes to sit still, 5-10 laps around the building chasing a runaway toddler, and a long explanation in the hallway as to why the Sign of Peace should not involve ninja moves of any kind. We leave and I am worn out and out of breath, unsure if we went to mass or some new form of religious Zumba.
Later I decide to try meditation. Two kids were napping, one was playing outside. The house was, dare I say, silent and still. It was the perfect moment for ME to be silent and still and re-center myself. I headed up to my room, my safe zone, my sanctuary…my four loads of unfolded laundry.
So first I’ll just fold this laundry, put it away, and then I’ll meditate, I tell myself. But if I’m going to fold laundry, I’m going to need some music. So first I’ll just go grab the iPad so I can listen to Pandora, then I’ll fold the laundry, put it away, and then I’ll meditate. But now that I’ve got the iPad, I can’t help but give a little love (or at least a few “likes”) to my Facebook friends and maybe update my status (Mona is meditating. Namaste, peeps!), and then I’ll fold the laundry, put it away, and then I’ll meditate. Just as soon as I take this quiz about how many 80s movies I’ve seen, which reminds me that I need to find a good recipe for pecan pie for Thanksgiving dinner, because my favorite 80s movie is When Harry Met Sally and who doesn’t love the whole “Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash, but I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie”thing, which also reminds me that I need to register for the Turkey Trot, which makes me think of the picture my 1st grader drew of a turkey trying to run away from a hunter, which totally cracks me up…
Wait, what was I going to do? Oh yes, meditate. But now the kids are up from their naps and they are rolling around in the unfolded laundry and playing Row, Row, Row Your Brother with the laundry basket while I run to block access to the giant waterfall, aka the staircase.
Maybe something more active would work? Still zen and soothing and totally re-centering, but not so…still? I’m (clearly) not great with stillness. We move downstairs (on foot, not in basket) and I head to the entertainmentcenter to search for my favorite yoga DVD.
“Ooh, movie time!! Can you make popcorn? Can we watch the Muppets? Can I sit in your lap?” says the world’s sweetest 4-year-old as her big blue eyes glow with excitement. We grab a blanket and cuddle up on the couch. Yoga can wait.
Later that night, once all the bedtime stories have been read, after all the goodnight hugs and kisses (and the accompanying 8-10″Just one more?” hugs and kisses) have been distributed. I make one last re-centering attempt: a hot bath. I start to run the water in the beautiful jacuzzi tub that was such a draw when we bought the house, the one I envisioned using for nightly luxuriating soaks… the one we really only use to bathe the kids and that currently houses a tugboat, two plastic frogs, some squirt guns, and the lingering scent of “No More Tears” shampoo.
I catch a glimpse of myself as the tub fills and the bubbles part to the side, revealing the clear water in the center. And that’s when it hits me. Maybe I’m not off-center after all.
Because you see, I am AT the center- the center of a bubbly, chaotic, sticky, messy world. In my world, it is loud, it is crazy, it doesn’t sit still, and if you look closely you’ll probably find it is more than a little bit wrinkled, it is likely wearing two different socks, and it may have remnants of breakfast stuck to its sleeve. It’s full of crazy deadlines, school projects, dance class, soccer practice, birthday parties, late night work, and early morning workouts. When we go to church, we take the scripture literally and make a joyful noise unto the Lord. In my world there are epic battles over toys and who is looking out whose window and why is she breathing the air on my side of the car? But it’s also a place full of giggles and hugs and wonder and excitement and most of all, love.
And here I am, at the center.
Yes, I am tired, and yes, I am at times frazzled. I could certainly use more zen in my life, more yin in my yang (or is it yang in my yin?), more OM and less OMG. I should really strive to do more downward facing dog to balance out my upward facing temper. And one day I might even learn to be still and meditate.
But am I off-center? Not a chance.
I am right where I need to be. I am exactly who I need to be.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Mona Shand is a freelance journalist and writer. You can read more at www.monashand.blogspot.com.