Friday, May 25, 2012

Relax into Love

I have one hour to rest.  So what am I doing on the internet? I don't know... Sometimes I think I get more from writing out my thoughts than from sleeping.  No.  I love sleeping.  But by the time I settle in and start drifting off, one of my kids will wake up.  It's one of Murphy's laws. 

So while I have you, I thought I would tell you a little bit about what it's been like at Farm Shmarm.  It's beautiful. Lonely. Scary. Serene. Boring. Exciting. Intense.  And at times, a bit dull.  Yep. It is beautiful.  Unbelievably beautiful.  The sky stretches out so far and fills with popcorn clouds and passing storms.  It doesn't just go gray during a storm.  It gets dark.  Then a bright patch of blue appears. Then a downpour.  Followed by the most refreshing mist.  It's intoxicating.  The air, oh you get drunk on the air.  Fresh and crisp.  Then warm and full of spring and distant cows.  There is a never ending chorus of birds serenading us.  So many different sounds.  Bull frogs and chirping bugs. Wind.  Wind blowing grass.  Wind blowing trees. Moos.  Whinnies. I love it!

And there is so much to discover.  Birds with babies hatching from their eggs.  Tadpoles bobbing for bugs.  Fish that are easy to catch and yummy to eat.  Wild flowers... So many different flowers.  Spit bugs.  Crazy dragonflies.

But I'm pretty sure you guys don't read my blog to fulfill your nature quota.  No, this is about my experience of life.  So here's the rest.  My baby still doesn't sleep through the night and I am EXHAUSTED!  We have no routine, so we end up spending much of our days in pajamas and eating breakfast like foods four or five times a day.  My oldest son is still pushing all my buttons.  When he isn't fishing, he wants me to entertain him.  When I want a little help trying to set up our house, I get a firm, NO. Between six, when my kids wake up, and around nine, when I finally get the last one to bed, I am on.  Always on.  If I'm not changing a diaper, nursing, or pulling the next choking hazard out of my baby's mouth, I am trying to get my oldest to stop climbing on the unpacked boxes and crushing the contents inside.  Meanwhile, my toddler daughter is getting ignored and into all kinds of trouble.

Did I mention that I don't really get cellular service? I can't call anyone when I just need an adult to talk to.  But more importantly, I can't call the poison control center when she eats I don't know how much fluoride toothpaste.  Since there is a quite a lot smeared in hair, and more in the bathtub with the fish my son caught and didn't throw back, I can only hope it wasn't too much.  In moment of panic, I ran into my room to get a head covering so I could throw all my kids in the car (sleeping baby included) and drive to a place with a signal.  G-d really took care of me in that moment, because when I grabbed my phone, a signal appeared and held just long enough for me to call my father, the M.D., and learn that a glass of milk will work.  Thank you G-d, (and Dad) for sparing the pain of driving to the hospital and insisting they pump my two-year-old's stomach!

I'm starting to get used to the bugs.  Okay, no I'm not.  I look down before I sit, and every time I feel a little tickle on my leg, I jump.  I don't actually mind bugs.  Or to be more specific, I don't mind insects.  But arachnids creep the hell out of me, and they are plentiful!

Out there by myself, I feel how vulnerable I am.  I have been with my husband since I was 16.  In fact, here's a little back story for you...
I went to an alternative hippie democratic school called Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, MA.  One day my husband shows up to check the school out.  He steps out of his yellow VW bus, wearing light blue cords, a baseball cap, with beautiful brown curls, down to his shoulders, bouncing behind him.  I took one look at him and said, "I want to marry that guy." And so I did.

Anyway, though I give him a hard time for many things, not romancing me, not getting my ridiculously funny sense of humor, never learning to cook anything besides scrambled eggs... I don't give him enough credit for how amazingly safe I feel with him.  Always have.  And out on the farm, without phone service, or a neighbor to run to, I feel so vulnerable.

One night, after the kids went to bed, I sat on the back porch and looked out over the cow ranch next door.  It's a hundred acres, and the house is too far away to see the people living in it.  But since it was dark I could make out a fire and something putting out a lot of sparks.  They either had sparklers going or were welding something.  At first I just enjoy the sight.  And then irrational fear creeps over me and I start imagining that they discovered a family of Jews moved next door and they are building a furnace to continue the Final Solution.

So I start making escape plans, wondering how, if my children are all asleep, I am going to carry them away to safety before the mob with pitchforks breaks through our crappy windows.  Yes, I know that this is not going to happen.  And I am telling myself that there are probably little innocent children dancing on a warm spring night, with sparklers.  And yet the anxiety won't disappear.  I am an inadequate mother.  I cannot protect my children.

Which leads me to my children, my faith, myself.  Because I often feel I am an inadequate mother in so many ways, and because my faith in G-d is not nearly as strong as I wish, and because my faith in my children is shamefully low, I worry.  I worry that I will make a fatal mistake, turn around for too long, and find one dead, G-d forbid.  I worry that if I don't give them good middot now (attributes) they will grow up to be sociopaths.  I worry that if they don't turn out perfect, everyone will point at me and say, "This was all your fault.  You really should have..."

And so instead of leaving them in the hands of a community, school, family and friends, I bring them up to a farm, in the middle of nowhere, and try desperately to give them a good life.  Am I swimming against the tide? If I doubt what I'm doing, and don't walk around with all the conviction in the world that what I am doing is absolutely right, will everyone stop having faith in me? Will I stop having faith in me?

Tomorrow night is Shavout.  Lately I have felt that I don't relate to the Torah as handed to me by the OU.  I don't connect with the outer expression of halacha, when I feel the inner is oft overlooked and ignored. I want to receive the Torah as Hashem is giving it to me.  I want to let go of my preconceived ideas of what Torah is, and experience it anew.  While I will still hold to halacha, I let go of the premise that a good Jew dresses modestly and raises her children to be talmedei chachmim.  No, There is not one definition of a good Jew.  Because Hashem wants something very specific from me.  And I am going to try and silence all the judgment voices in my head, so I can actually hear what that is.

Starting today, I am going to try to reach out to Hashem.  I want to talk to Him more often.  I want to hand my worries and anxieties to Him, and relax in the safety of being a child of G-d.  I want to use my energy to love with joy, not fear.  It takes so much energy to be afraid all the time.  And one thing G-d didn't give me was a lot of energy.  So my new mantra will now be, Relax into Love.  Relax into Love.  Relax into Love.
Chag Sameach!

1. No spiders near my bed tonight
2. Going to see my husband tonight!
3. This beautiful Pittsburgh community
4. Torah
5. Going back to the farm relaxed in Love  

Monday, May 14, 2012


Shame. It fills you. Eats you. Sucks the life force out of you. Leaves you wallowing in so much disgust and self loathing you are powerless to break free. I rarely talk in 'you' terms, but that's how you know how hard this is for me.

I feel so much shame right now. All this traveling and transition has stirred a lot of dirt from the bottom of my pot. Ugly dirt. Dirt I never had the courage to acknowledge. But now it has been rubbed in my face and the consequences of not looking at it are worse than the fear.

My six year old son is hurting. He is in an unstable, insecure environment. He doesn't have his father around. His mother is struggling hard to keep it together. So he's doing what he does best. He's acting out. Really acting out. Throwing the kind of fits you can't walk away from, because he follows you from room to room. Yelling. Poking. Kicking. Throwing. Threatening. Saying the things he knows will hurt me most. And he does this because he knows what will happen. If I can't walk away, I can't compose myself, step back, breathe. I can't control myself. He knows this. He knows my breaking point. I can't even lock myself in a room because there are no locks on the doors here. He knows this. And so he pushes and pushes until I break. And when I do, he can finally relax.

I'm not the bad one, he can now say. She is.

Yes. I am. In those moments, I am the bad one. The out of control one. The child. I am the one deserving of all the punishment he's been giving me. So it all works out.

It is a sick, terrible cycle. It is a cycle that can only be broken with a slow and massive effort. It can only be broken with a force of love so strong it breaks us both.

So here comes my shame.
Do I love him enough? A parent is not supposed to ask this question. I am supposed to love my child so fiercely. I am supposed to see in him what no one else sees. When the world judges him, I am supposed to stand up and say, no, you just don't know him like I do.

And yet, the words that come to mind are, if you only knew...

As a young teenager I remember my mother and sisters talking about motherhood. They were discussing how inherently maternal they all were. 'But not Tovah. She's just not the mommy type.'

This little comment, forgotten by all present, except me, planted a deep seed of doubt. Is it true? Am I not going to be a good mother? Should I not have kids? Is there something about me that me makes me incapable of that kind of love?

Years later, I am the first one in the family to get married. I am the youngest of three sisters. I am the first to have children. And I have three. They tell me what a great job I'm doing. They tell me that they now look up to me. They even ask me parenting advice from time to time. But underneath it all is a doubt that I am the real deal. That I'm actually capable of doing any of this. That it's not all just a show, and no one has peeked behind my curtain yet and revealed me for the fraud I am.

I can wave the fact that I'm disorganized. Plenty of 'real' mothers are. And sure, I kind of suck as a housekeeper. But I mean, we can't all get our thrills from the perfect platter and ironed sheets. And I'm not even formally educated. But really, educated mothers are fairly recent in the history of mankind.

But the one thing I am supposed to be able to boast, as all mothers before me, is how much I love my children. And yet I find myself constantly wishing he were just a little different. A little less... Him. And the good things about him are so amazing. I do see that. His stubbornness is such a strong show of his perseverance. His enthusiasm is infectious. His inner glow, is brighter than any child I have ever seen.

And yet. I keep trying to change him. I don't trust him to turn out ok. I feel like if I don't intervene at every possible opportunity, he will become unlikable. That's so awful. First, why do I care who likes him? And second, even if no one else does, I should. And often I do. But sometimes I don't. And lately that sometimes is happening more frequently than the often. And that is not ok.

So here's where I try to take positive action through perspective. If I can't accept him for who he is, chances are I'm not accepting myself. And the more self acceptance I can embrace, the more I can let him be him, and embrace the fullnes of who he is. And chances are, if I can accept myself, he'll have a much easier time accepting himself. And the more I accept him for who he is, the more I will be able to appreciate and love all that makes him, him.

And my first step towards self acceptance is airing my shame. Not many things exist in a vacuum. Shame thrives on it. So I am stepping out. Reaching out to you, my readers. Not looking for your acceptance, just your presence. Be a witness to my shame and help me transform it into a chance to experience humility, growth, and a place of connection to any who have ever experienced anything similar. Many times I have experienced the pain of feeling I am not enough. Not beautiful enough. Sexy enough. Smart enough. Experienced enough. Wise enough. Funny enough. Talented enough. Calm enough. Patient enough. It goes on. But never has the pain been so acute as to when I feel I can't love enough.

This weekend I turned thirty. I'm ready to enter this fourth decade as a time of acceptance. I am what I am and what that is, is forever changing. I await with a broken, and therefore open, heart.

1. Breathing
2. Reflection
3. The hospitality of family (so amazing!)
4. The sun rising again tomorrow.
5. The yellow lillies on the table
6. My daughter's accident free day
7. A forum to share myself

Friday, May 11, 2012

Holy Sh*t...What a Ride!

Hello all.  It's been a little while since I have been here.  It's nice to be back.  As you know I am basically couch surfing with my three kiddos while my husband fixes our house.  For a few days I am back in Pittsburgh, and it is so overwhelming to be here.  Visiting my husband, but not really having him as my husband, sucks.  I could be more poetic, but I think this more clearly expresses my thoughts.  Seeing everybody, that is also hard.  I want time with each person, but time is my most valuable commodity right now.  Everyone asks me how it's going, and it's all I can do to not cry and fall apart.  I am tired.  Spread thin.  Ungrounded.  Overwhelmed.  My children, even more so.  And I'm supposed to be the one to hold it together for them.  They need some stability, and right now I'm the only constant in their lives.

Of course, when I share this I get mixed results.  "Oh hon, I'm so sorry." "Are you sure this is what you really want to do?" "Well, you knew it would be hard." Labor is hard, but no one ever says to the pushing mama, well, you knew it would be hard.  Because in that moment she just needs support.  "You're almost there!" "You're doing great!" "Soon you will have your child (dream) and it will all be worth it!" "You are so brave." These are the things that feel supportive to me.  Also, my wonderful aunt, with whom I'm currently staying, just brought me a steaming plate of rice and lentil loaf with steamed veggies.  That's about as supportive as they come!

I've spent more time in the car these past weeks, than I have in a really long time.  Turns out me and the kids are pretty good travelers together.  Once we get where we're going things tend to fall apart.  But on the road things flow.  On the last long drive we listened to a book on CD called something like "The Twenty Nine days of Giving." It's a beautiful memoir by a woman who, two months after her wedding, was diagnosed with MS at the young age of 32.  Her life quickly unraveled and her health plummeted.  When things were particularly bad, she called one of her spiritual healer friends and was given advice to give 29 gifts in 29 days.  Sometimes it was money, but more often than not, it was a tissue to a crying friend, a flower to a stranger on the street.  A phone call to someone who needed it.  By learning to give consciously, she opened her heart to the vast abundance in her life, lived in gratitude, and received more than she could imagine.

Very moving.  And inspiring.  I wanted to take on the 29 day giving challenge.  There is a whole website dedicated to it now.  Because right now in my life I feel I am living in a place of scarcity.  No money, no stability, no time, no energy.  I want to live in abundance.  But I wasn't quite sure how I could start giving gifts, when I haven't had much contact with people.  Especially if I bite the bullet and move to the farm with the kids.  No husband, no friends, and really nobody, because I don't plan on going anywhere besides the supermarket. 

Then I gave my first conscious gift.  I stayed at my Mother-in-laws last week and was giving my kids a bath.  Absentmindedly I began tickling my sons back with my fingertips.  "Ooh mama, that feels good." He loves having his back tickled or scratched.  I stop and say to myself, 'This is my gift to him.' And suddenly I am not just a mom doing what a mom is supposed to do.  I am someone who is giving.  I am a giver.  And all the anger that had accumulated between us that day starts to dissolve.  Because you can't consciously give to someone while you are mad at them.  I love him a little more now, not from what he could do for me, but for what I could do for him.  And in all my depletion, I still have something to give.  I feel gratitude. 

Life is constantly giving me opportunities to give.  I just need to open my eyes and give from my heart.  Give without grudge.  Without resentment.  Without expectation.  It always bothered me that in my family, there was this code about giving.  It was: If I give to you, I want to be acknowledged.  And if you don't then I don't want to give to you in the future.  If there was no thank you card, there were bad feelings.  And though I see nothing wrong with a thank card or call, I do resent the expectation.  It means that I can't thank with my heart.  It takes away my chance to give. 

So this is my new task, to begin consciously giving.  As a mother I am giving all the time.  But doing it with an open heart, without expectation, without duty or resentment, brings so much more joy to the task.  Perhaps, when I know I will have 29 days of internet service, I will sign up for the giving challenge.  But, for now, you will all be my witnesses as I look for opportunities to give. 

By the way, Shabbos is my 30th birthday.  Yep, I have a few more hours to proclaim loudly that I AM STILL IN MY TWENTIES DAMMIT! And even though life is almost unbearable, not to mention scary, full of unknowns and completely deprived of a good night's rest, I have a lot to be grateful for.  Before I  turned thirty I have met and married my husband, birthed and raised three unbelievable children, withstood and made it through enormous challenges, found a dream, went for it.  Not bad, eh? 

I saw this quote and loved it:
Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting "Holy Shit...What a ride!"

1. An hours break to write this
2. Shabbos is almost here
3. I'm going to see my hubby
4. The support of family and friends
5. Lentil and rice loaf
6. G-d