February 26, 2015

When life Hands You Lemons, say, “No Thanks, I’ll Take the Creme Brûlée.”


carla poetner people jumping

I got at life hard. And sometimes life comes back at me the same way.

I’ve got three kids, so I’ve had to learn to master the art of turning a crappy day around fast. At any given time, there seems to be at least one of us who isn’t bouncing along blissfully. As mom I’m the crew member with the job of pick-up-the-pieces and turn-it-around.

And if you’re one of those who goes hard, who goes out there and really does stuff, who tries not to drop any one of those balls you’re juggling while you’re eating breakfast, running late for a meeting, and unicycling the kids out the door, (“And who took the dog out for a walk this morning?!”), you’ll know exactly how overwhelm can hit.

And when it hits, and decides to couch surf a while, it can turn into a feeling of heaviness that can start to sink us.

We may need to stop and pull our flashlight of awareness back to see the bigger picture, and why we’re so hell bent on piling ourselves under stacks of challenges.

But sometimes we can use a fast fix-up to shift gears and start heading towards more joy. Sometimes we just need to say, “Lemons? Nah. I’ll pass. Bring me the creme brûlée.”

Here are three strategies I use to have a creme brûlée day when life hands me lemons:

1. Watch how kids do things. And learn from them.

Kids are from another planet. They live in a world where being in the moment is what matters. Where maximizing the possible amount of fun one can have in the next hour takes precedence.

And a key: when they’re busy having fun, they have few worries about failure. In fact, they like to fail. They do it for the fun.

My kids have created a name for failing at things on purpose. They call it, “Mecca Dragon,” and it’s their word for “epic fail.” They do Mecca Dragons on double-black diamonds on the ski hill all the time.

Which actually isn’t very funny now that I think about it. It makes my heart race and my cortisol spike and then my stomach gets a terrible shooting pain from the stress. I am their mom, after all.

But I saw you on the ski hill laughing and hooting at them, “Yeah man, go!”

What adults spend their lives avoiding, kids are doing for sheer joy.

Remember before your brain’s executive functions kicked in and trapped you into the expectations of adulthood, you actually knew how to go out there and do fun stuff. Just because you wanted to.

And you didn’t care how much mud you got on you or if anyone laughed at you (in fact a good lot of you did it precisely so that people would laugh at you). You just lived for good times.

Kids are a gateway to the lost art of living for wild joy.

So get around some now and then. They will give you some perspective on being in this moment and not taking everything, including yourself, so seriously.

2. Listen to awesome music

Music has the power to turn a crappy day around quickly. Try it. Next time you’re a bit down, put on some real pumped up stuff.

I’ve done this my whole life as a quick pick me up.

And when I became a mom, I needed music more, in particular when my older kids hit adolescence.

I’m that mom who puts the music on so loud she drowns out unwanted noise. Like the other day when I was driving one to school and one of my favourite tunes from Elliphant, One More, started playing. Crank that.

“Mom!” That’s one of my adolescents.

I’ve rarely had a car ride with him in the past seven months that didn’t involve a litany of his complaints and end with a slam of the car door as he rolls his eyes and saunters into school.

So, I turn it louder. “Mom, I’m trying to talk!” Louder. “Mooooommm!”

No. I want to listen to this Swedish rapper and her resonant, pulsing beat. And avoid a fight with you.

But he doesn’t care.

“Mom! I want to tell you something!”

“I know,” I have to call above the music, “you want to talk, right? You want to tell me what I’m doing wrong! That you want new pants! That you hate school! That I’m so mean for making you do your homework! That you wish you had nicer mom that let you eat real food out of cans and boxes like the other kids! That you’re mad I don’t let you hang out at the skate park from three until nine at night with a bag of chips, a Red Bull and a cigarette like all the other kids! So you can end up in jail like all the other kids! No talking sweetie!”

And then I croon to my new favourite song, “I got money, I got money. I’ll pay for you, if you pray for me.”

See? No complaints. A hug goodbye. An excellent start to the day.

3. Deep breathing.

At risk that you will think I just avoid my own feelings with quick feel-good strategies, and that I’m an uncaring mom who won’t actually listen to her children, let me clarify that I do step into the hard stuff when necessary.

And as an aside, my kids do talk to me, and I listen, a lot, because they know I’m pretty effective with the important stuff even if I have a low tolerance for complaints.

When I need to deal with tough stuff, I use a tool as ancient as time, one that is vitally important to our health, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

And it’s breath.

I won’t elucidate on the many physiological benefits of deep breathing, but let me give you the quick version on the emotional.

Whenever I have a really difficult moment: fear, worry, anxiety or stress—to really process it, really deal with it and not just do some quick pick me up to shift the feeling I’m in, I stop and breathe into it.

This is vital when we are really dealing with deeper, repetitive or larger issues that disturb our peace and joy.

To breathe into it and transform it, I feel the feeling in its entirety, where it sits in my body, what the sensations are. And then I just allow it.

There is a reason that we use breath work in sacred practices and for healing.
It’s amazing, the transformation that happens by stopping to breathe and honour ourselves in that moment.

We interrupt unskillful patterns; and often, we pull ourselves out of the muck to instead step into the bring-it-on rhythm of what will be a very juicy and rich day indeed.





Shift Happens: Mindful Parenting.



Author: Carla Poertner

Editor: Travis May

Photo: via the author 

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