Becoming Buddhist

Attempting to Live a More Mindful Life


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Sick Kid

I feel sometimes when I visit Becoming Buddhist that I live a secret life. I log out of my other blog, and into this one, where I see all the posts from people I’m following in my life as a Buddhist–my secret life as a Buddhist–and I enter this space where I read about boredom on A Year of Meditating or enjoy one of bussokuseki’s gorgeous poems or appreciate the wisdom of Amanda Green, and I feel a little like I am not even at my own house anymore, where we have a sick kid and no one got up to meditate this morning because we were sleeping off two middle-of-the-night puking sessions.

Hmm.

This is something I think about a lot, this idea of trying on different costumes, different roles. It’s actually something I have felt my whole life. I was a pudgy kid, and when in my twenties I started dropping pounds upon pounds without really trying, until I became the objectively thin woman I am today, I felt for the first several years that I was faking thin. When I traveled around the world with Marc, it felt for a while like someone else was taking that trip. Someone bold, intrepid: not anxious, scared me.

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Me in Hawaii, 2012

Being Buddhist feels a little like that, like something I’m trying on. Maybe that’s why I feel the need for this secrecy.

But man this Buddhist stuff gets in your bones. I’ll admit: my practice has been crap lately. I’m tired, and getting up before Lex doesn’t always happen. A few mornings my “meditation” has looked like this: a sleepy me on the zafu, shushing the wiggly toddler in my lap, both of us ensconced in blankies since it’s so damn cold in Berkeley lately. I grab a nanosecond of mindful intention before the wiggles shake us towards breakfast and the start of the frantic day.

Nonetheless, I feel myself different than I was a year ago, slightly more able to pause in the moment as I just…exist. And, of course, struggling to practice mindfulness as I…exist.

Today I had a sick kid. I also had a boatload of work I wanted to do. The two were mutually exclusive. I stayed home with Lex and got no writing or professional development done; we watched a leopard documentary, read some books, went for a short walk, and later, miraculously, he let me do some sewing. He wouldn’t eat more than a couple pieces of toast all day, but his spirits were high. I felt sure he’d be back at school tomorrow and me, off to do the work I’d not done today. But at dinnertime he still hadn’t eaten more than that toast. And he had a fever. And was totally listless and couldn’t climb out of my lap. And I am seeing my work for tomorrow slipping away, too.

I long–or perhaps I should say, I strive, since that’s what this project is all about–to be someone who thinks, “Today I am home with my sick kid,” instead of “I will never finish my book at this rate!”

That will be my mantra for tomorrow:

I am home with my sick kid. I am home with my sick kid. I am home with my sick kid.

I am lucky to be able to spend the time with him, after all.

Maybe we’ll watch the polar bear documentary.

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Mindful Resolution #2: Enjoy My Kid

I’d be lying if I didn’t say this one is a little hard to write this morning, since yesterday goes down in the annals of bad days with toddler. I never thought I’d have a kid who would say things to me like, “You’re the worst Mumma I never wanted!” (the grammar and syntax are astoundingly difficult to figure out, when you get down to it). But there you have it. From the moment I picked him up from preschool to the moment I left for meditation, he acted like a drunk, abusive husband, berating me for my inadequacy (then begging my forgiveness) while I tried in vain to get him to stop bursting into tears in utter despair and, clearly, exhaustion.

Gretchen Rubin talks a lot about enjoying her kids. Like me, she knows that there is always one voice in your head reminding you, “they’re little for such a short time.” On the other hand, she knows that as the mother of a toddler, you experience a roller-coaster of emotions almost as up-and-down as theirs, which is to say, in one day you might feel joy, confusion, despair, boredom, happiness, nostalgia, longing, and sadness. They’re little for such a short time, you think. Then: Thank God.

“What’s the most difficult thing about parenting for you?” I asked an old friend, who had tried for over two years to get his wife pregnant before they went through a very intense and drawn-out adoption. “Probably the mind-numbing boredom,” he said without missing a beat.

Rubin says, the days are long, but the years are short.

(Modest Mouse said it slightly differently: “The years go fast but the days go so slow.”)

Maybe because I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever have another toddler, lately I’m bringing more loving-kindness to the days with Lex. (Okay, okay, I’m lying. My behavior turned distinctly un-Zen around 6:30 p.m. yesterday.) I’m trying to enjoy getting down on the floor and playing more. I’m trying to bring compassion to his very un-Zen moments. I’m trying to remember that an hour after I was the worst Mumma he never wanted, he kissed me and said, “I love you, Mom. You’re the best mom I ever wanted.” And that the night before, we’d had one of those ornate, chatty, sweet bedtime tuck-ins that was absolutely magical.

Resolved to to enjoy my kid.

Resolved to enjoy my kid when he’s like this…

…and like this.