These lessons that we learn again

 

He’s seven now, my eldest. It seems a lifetime from my age and yet I remember it like the toys I held close and the certainty that I could fly if I just wished hard enough.

He’s at the age now where it’s all coming together. Not always well, not always easily, but reality is creeping in in a way that it hasn’t for him before. Things are becoming more gloriously complicated. The shades of grey are there more than they were and we question together.

This age is full of lessons that life imparts and that I try to help him put into words. He learns them for the first time of many, and I remember them, knowing that I will again.

There are many different ways to learn

One is not better or more worthy than another. Faster is not better than slower. What you’re learning matters less than the fact that you are. Discover the way that clicks for you. If you do nothing else, do this. Find the way of learning that makes you hungry to keep doing it. No matter how hard you try you will never know everything, isn’t that exciting? But try. Try fiercely. Because if you try you are already winning.

 

Time management is important

We all have the same amount of time in a given day and all of it is precious. It’s up to you how you use it. Learn this now while you’re young. Be prepared to relearn it as you get busier and older. 

 

People want to feel good

Most things they do are round about ways to get to this end. If you’re enjoyable to be around people will want to be around you. If you’re kind people will admire you. If you see the good in people it will lift them up, and everyone needs lifting up from time to time. The world will forgive naivety, awkwardness and uncertainty. It will forgive most anything if there is a spark in you that makes others remember their own. 

 

The villain and the hero are in you

Not just in the story books and movies. They’re archetypes of parts of yourself and they battle in you quietly. The bully is not a cruel child without light, and the good samaritan is not an angel without darkness, they’re people who make choices when they feel too much. The small choices win the battle.

 

Don’t underestimate the power of walking away

It gets to be a lot sometimes. A lot of noise or a lot of closeness or a lot of emotion. Anger burns, sadness twists your heart and overwhelm makes you panic. Take a minute. Walk away. Breathe. Nothing is too big or little for this. Space, even for a moment, makes you remember who you were before ‘a lot’ got in your way. Space lets you choose wisely.

 

Life is both

Life is hard: it always will be. Life is beautiful: it always will be. It will exhaust you to your very soul and make you fly with joy. I hope you have enough of both so that you can experience their richness.

 

Remember the gates when you speak

Is it true?

Is it kind?

Is it necessary?

You will forget these a million times over when ‘a lot’ gets in your way, but try to come back to them. These gates will define how others see you. And they will define how you see yourself.

 

Gifts are often disguised as challenges

Everyone has something that feels hard. Everyone has something that feels easy. Your hard things aren’t in your way; they’re gifts. They’re opportunities to be brave. You don’t know all the people you’ll meet in your life just yet, but that bravery will help them. There are so many different kinds of courage in the world and your special brand of it is perfect.

 

You don’t have to be good at everything, you just need to feel good doing what makes you happy

Don’t give in to the pressure of the world that’s always waiting with a never-ending to do list. You don’t need to be good at sports and music and art and cooking and acting and dance. You can be. You can put your mind to any of it and make it beautiful. But no ‘shoulds’ apply here. The world is full of people trying to do everything and not feeling any of it deeply. You might go through life with a hundred passions or a handful. They are your loves, no one can choose them for you. Fall into them joyfully and trust your heart.

 

There will always be have to’s

That’s okay. They make the want to’s so much sweeter.

 

Always question

Question your parents and society and the rules. Follow them, by all means, but question, because anything or anyone worth following will welcome your questions and get stronger with the answers. 

 

You can’t control the things outside yourself

Isn’t it scary? Isn’t it wonderful? 

 

Take holidays in your imagination

No matter how old or young you are. There are worlds waiting for you there. Beautiful and terrible and exciting and calm. You can control them… but you may choose to let them take you on a journey from time to time.

 

Motherhood is a strange creature, both tiring and wonderful. And a perfect time to dig your toes in to the present and let the lessons you’ve forgotten to wash over you. I’m grateful to learn and learn again.

 

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2015

Toddler Tips to keep your parents on their toes

 (Inspired by my beloved almost two year old)

  • Any reason is a valid reason to be picked up. If you don’t feel like walking any more burst into tears and scream “Can’t walk!!! TOO LAZZZYYYY!!!!”
  • Parents can become complacent while driving if silence prevails for more than thirty seconds. Use a mixture of techniques to keep them on their toes. This week mine are:
  1. “Watch out!!! On the road!!!!!” “What’s on the road?” “HUGE CROCODILE!!! QUICK!!! BIG SHARP TEETH COMING TO EAT YOUR HEAD!!!” *pause for thirty seconds then repeat with another fierce beast of your choice*
  2. “Happy!” *insert maniacal laugh with head thrown back and mad flailing of arms then return to complete neutral* “Sad!!!” *drop lip and say, not cry “Wahhhh!” a few dozen times before reverting to happy*
  3. If anyone in the car looks too relaxed try accusing them of something. It doesn’t have to make sense. “No cows in there!! Just a man and pretty grass BODHI!” *glare fiercely at brother and shake head while jabbing a finger in his direction* Bodhi – “I’m not exactly sure what I did…”
  •  Singing is fun, but songs can get boring. To make them more interesting try replacing random words with “Poo”.
  • Your mother wants you to grow into a free spirited individual who thinks for himself. Remind her of this daily by ignoring her completely when she calls out to you.

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  • Diversion is the best form of defence. If you’re being naughty and your Mummy lovingly accuses you of being a troublemaker immediately accuse her of being a “chickenmaker”.  Her momentary pause will allow you to escape and wreak further havoc.
  • Parents love imagination. Show them that you have one by sharing stories with them. They also love adventure so make sure your stories feature volcanoes, lava raining from the sky, and fierce dinosaurs who like to eat Mummies and Daddies.
  • Love can be gentle and love can be fierce. Remind your Mummy of this while she’s putting you to bed by alternating between soft kisses and body slams to her face.
  • That is not breakfast, that is a physics experiment. Now see if you can make that sucker fly.Toddler 1
  • If your Mummy says anything you don’t like, such as come here, don’t touch that, listen etc just scream “Ow!!! Ow!!! Help!!” This is more effective if in public. Don’t let the fact that she hasn’t touched you put you off. For extra points smirk at her while you do it.
  • “Don’t do THAT!!!!” can, and should, be screamed at regular intervals regardless if anyone is doing anything or not.
  • That is not a Christmas tree, that’s a personal challenge. Aim for the glass baubles, the ones that bounce are boring.
  • Mummies like ladybugs so call everything you give her a ladybug, even if it’s actually a live roach. Her scream just means she’s excited.
  • Honesty is the best policy. If Mummy says “You’ve been a bit naughty this morning, are you going to be a good boy now?” say “No, but will be very cute.”
  • In tender moments stroke Mummy’s face gently and murmur “Aw, so old.” 
  • Ask for Daddy, then scream for Mummy when you get to him… then scream for Daddy when you get to her. It makes them both feel loved.
  • Everyone must be standing in your presence at all times. If Mummy offers you a hug while she’s sitting on the floor it is perfectly acceptable to throw back your head and wail in anguish while stamping your feet.Toddler 4
  • Flinging your arms around someone’s neck and saying “Love you SO MUCH!” makes them happy. Mix this in with the naughtiness to keep them on side.
  • If you’re feeling shy pretend you’re a statue. This works better if you’re in an odd posture at the time.
  • If Mummy tries to play peek a boo with you while you’re nude pretend that you heard poo instead and do one immediately. It will make the game memorable.
  • Snot is exciting and must be presented for inspection to everyone in the room.
  • Spontaneity is good. Having just done a pee in the potty is no reason not to pee on the floor 30 seconds later.
  • It’s good to appear in the know. If people are having an intelligent conversation interrupt frequently to say “Yeah of COURSE.”
  • Enthusiasm is everything. Soften the blow of waking Mummy up at 4am by leaping on her shouting “Hoorrrraaayyyy! Is morning!!!”
  • Last but not least, if you’re really cranky, just make this face….

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

The gift of misplaced words

To my Son,

You gave me a gift today, little one, and I almost didn’t notice.

We had been grocery shopping, a necessity despite you not being yourself due to a headcold… or the wind… or your teeth coming through… or maybe just getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

And I asked you to be good and to focus at a time when those ideas made as much sense to you as saving fish from drowning. So you tried, with your mind elsewhere and your hands all over your brother who was NOT in the mood to be your human stress ball. I asked you calmly to give him space, once, twice, probably five or six times before I announced the loss of a privilege for not listening. I’d handled all this pretty well so far, I was calm and in control and explained things peacefully enough for you to completely ignore.

Then you lost it, and so did I.

We all have challenges, and one of yours is magnifying life’s stresses when you’re not at your best. So this loss of privilege, which really wasn’t so bad, seemed ENORMOUS to you in that moment. You melted down, and as you did you said some really awful things.

I should be used to your use of words as weapons, and remember how quickly they fall when the moment passes. I should remember that your attempts to hurt with them just mean that you’re hurting and you need to get it outside of you as quickly as you can to lessen the burn.

But we all have challenges, and one of mine is taking what is said at face value. So I got hurt along with you. I got loud along with you. And as you fought to get all your anger out I fought right on back. Not in the same way, of course, and to an outsider I probably handled it just fine… but the truth was I lost myself in those words of yours, and that wasn’t fine at all.

We drove home with both of us fuming and not much talking going on. After a while calm returned and we talked about the reasons why what you said wasn’t ok. That was true, it wasn’t, but neither was my response.

Most of us go around as adults thinking we’re doing pretty alright. We learn to play to our strengths and push our weaknesses aside or justify them. We make beautiful masks to wear for the world and they hide a myriad of faults.

And you, little boy, are particularly skilled at making my mask slip.

Taking words at face value is fine, it’s not a fault as such, but it misses a LOT. A lot that you deserve and that I do too. It reaches to other relationships and to my marriage. Responding to someone losing their cool and over reacting by losing my cool and over reacting… well, that doesn’t work.

Your gift to me today was reminding me of something I could do better. Reminding me that sad doesn’t always have tears, and hurt doesn’t always shrink back. Reminding me that small things to me can be huge things to someone else, and that grown up concepts and instructions sometimes don’t fit little people whose minds are in the clouds that day. You showed me that anger is not always about the one who receives it, but sometimes about just getting something out before it hurts you more, and that a moment and a deep breath can change everything.

I snuggled you in bed shortly before you went to sleep tonight and we talked about today. I reminded you that just as Dad and I talk to you about things you could do better you have every right to do the same to us, because we’re all learning no matter how old we are. I acknowledged your feelings from earlier than you’d hidden behind your anger, and asked you how I could have handled it better. I reminded you that just as you owe others respect they absolutely owe it right back. Your lip trembled as you told me how I could have handled it better, and I promised you I would try my hardest next time.

Growing up isn’t easy, and the truth is we never really stop. We will get it right together so much of the time and we will get it wrong an awful lot too. It’s all part of pulling off the mask I guess. And each time we’ll get to know ourselves a little more, become more patient, more kind, more humbled by this huge life thing we’re doing together. It’s just about being honest, really, and the trust that goes with it.

So thank you for your gift of misplaced words today little one, they made my mask slip perfectly.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Treasure hunting

These past couple of weeks have been a blur of sick kids, sick parents and the general chaos that goes with it. A teething toddler squealing if he wasn’t velcro attached to a hip at all times and mess, so spectacularly much of it, breeding like the germs we have been trying to fight.

In amongst it all there has been a lot of tiredness, frustration, and, well… sneezing. There haven’t been a lot of ‘wow’ moments.

Or at least that’s what I thought. It occurred to me today in the midst of a pile of laundry that I had forgotten about the game in this. That every day, be it filled with snot and old cartoons or beaches and laughter – they’re all treasure hunts.

In this day there was gratitude to be found. There were so very many things to be thankful for. So I started being aware of the treasure hunt. I started looking a little harder….

I found a beautiful home behind the newly applied pencil marks on the walls (thanks little one). I found the unmistakable smell of ‘baby’ still clinging to the toddler than clung to me. I found new angles to my five year olds face – just a little – the sign of a growth spurt in progress and the proud squeals when he marked his new height on the wall by the fridge. I realized that my enormous laundry pile meant abundance – so many clothes. So many beautiful colours, fabrics and styles all ours. I found options in the ‘I don’t know what to cook’… healthy ones, lots of them, with fresh broccoli and silverbeet and basil from the garden – scents that I could still smell through my blocked nose. I even found appreciation in my tiredness, and realized how deliciously good sitting down felt today in those moments when I had the chance.

We get so caught up in the tired or the busy or the stressed or the sick that we miss all the wonderful holding it together. There is always gratitude to be found in the day you have… sometimes, you just need to take a little more notice.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

The things you teach me

My babies,

Before me you are growing every day. Now and again I go a week or so without noticing just how much, then I stroke your head or hold your hand and the weight of it is different in mine, your hair wilder, your fingers stronger as they entwine with my own, your sigh deeper as you lean in for a hug. I wish I could take a snapshot in those times, photos I could feel back to, to remember your scent, your lopsided grin or the oh too many kisses you assault me with while the housework mounts just outside of our moment.

I am struck by so much about this time, and even with this I know there is more I’ll find later, like a treasure hunt you set up every day without me knowing. There is wisdom and laughter in this and it’s right there for years to come when the deepening of my perspective makes it obvious to look back on.

There are many things I’m learning from you now, from both of you. I’m learning that you are my mirrors – much kinder, wiser and more honest than the ones under harsh lighting in the bathroom. I am learning to accept the flowers and sticky fingered cuddles and whispers of “you’re my princess” like gifts, and to cherish that view of myself through your wide eyes. I am humbled by that love, and try to tell you the same every day with actions and laughter as much as the words I whisper into your soft hair.

I am learning that your bad moments are just as much of a gift to me as your good ones. That the hard is just as good as the easy, even if it doesn’t feel as smooth at the time. As I teach you about life you teach me right back. You teach me not to lose myself in overwhelm if you scream in a tantrum, you teach me to be aware of each moment so I can piece your preferences together like a jigsaw, and that more often than not, your state is a reflection of my own. Even when it isn’t, me being in a place of ease and happiness relaxes you like a hug you probably wouldn’t want me to give you at the time.

I have learned that minds are naturally hungry, but are picky as the eaters they are attached to, and that information, properly prepared can be just as sweet as your favourite dish. You teach me that mischief is actually curiosity, ‘getting into things’ is actually exploration, and that looking me in the eye while you do what you shouldn’t is actually learning the arts of persuasion.

You teach me to be patient, even when I’m not.

I see every day from you that we learn what we love, so love is the thing most worth fostering because learning follows impossibly close behind without fail.

I am discovering that the magic I find in words may be hidden for you in patterns of lego or the great outdoors, so not to try to force my own magic on you, but rather follow, heart in my throat, hoping to catch a glimpse of what I can learn of yours.

I am discovering that good and bad, tired and relaxed, stressed and happy can and often do coexist in the same moment, but that we choose which one we see. This is such an important lesson that we’re teaching each other a little of it each day.

I am learning to stretch, with you, because of you and for you. And I am better for it.

That the best example I can give you is to be the best of who I am, which doesn’t mean being perfect, it means being wildly curious, joyful, playful and kind.

You show me the absurd in the world around us, and the fierceness in myself as I rise to protect you from anything less than you deserve. All the while we find the good together in places we often didn’t expect.

You are both so whole and fascinating before me, and I am relaxing into seeing you with the richness of now, rather than the hopes, pressures and fears of the future. I do not need to see the men in you in right now, that’s not my role, my role is to see the spark in you right now and let it light something of your future each day.

So thank you, little boys, for the muchness of all that you are.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Wanderers of Mind

Before us, we have this day. This moment. And we are told, over and over, that it is in this precious moment that we find joy. We battle, most of us, with distraction, procrastination, daydreaming and, well… facebook, that keep us from the fullness of the present.

What we’re told is true – this now is what memories are made of, it is fleeting and beautiful and the only thing that is ever really our own. Its flavour is worth savouring.

But a lot of us find that difficult sometimes. We vow to try harder, do better…. to be here more.

The thing is, we are natural wanderers of mind.

Today my toddler tripped – running in circles with both hands down his pants threw him a little off balance – and despite landing somewhere soft he screamed as teething toddlers do, with rage at the insult of it. All the while my five year old HAD to tell me, right at that very moment, a remarkably long Lego related tale. The frustration of being talked over sparked a tantrum mid screaming fit – much flailing ensued – which my Lego enthused boy responded to by talking all the louder. Apparently as a parent you’re not supposed to hide in the cupboard at these times. Nor in the moments when you’re cleaning out the pantry with the kids and turn around to find said kids feeding each other between their mouths like birds do.

Life has moments of exquisite muchness and it also has moments when it’s a bit much. The scrubbing toilet moments, the kitchen dirty again moments, the folding laundry moments, the moments when you’re tired but there’s no time to be.

And it’s normal to want to wander when those things happen. Presence is effortless in the joyful times, the easy ones. The sound of laughter is grounding, a hug from someone you love holds you where you want to be… but other times, you drift a little.

Maybe we need to be more at ease with ourselves. Maybe we need to aim for presence, but acknowledge the preciousness of escape. Maybe the impossible standards we set for ourselves cause more problems for us than our wandering minds.

Perhaps we can acknowledge that life in all its beauty and madness doesn’t captivate us sometimes, and be ok with that. There is so much richness to be found in the moment – whatever that moment is – but there is richness to daydreams as well. There is connection in social media, ideas on the internet, other worlds in books.

Without the “should be’s”, we can venture there for a moment or two, then come back with a new perspective. One of gratitude for our kids or our work, our partners or homes. We might find new ideas, or the urge to question.

Wandering is inevitable, it is part of our journey, but we come back to the present so much easier if we don’t make baggage part of it.

Perhaps, instead of aiming for total presence, we should aim to create more moments that keep us here effortlessly. To infuse our days with more silliness, sing to the radio more, dance in the kitchen, add a little fun to the work we do.

I wish you a beautiful day today – a beautiful now. One that captures you easily and allows you to marvel in all that makes up your present moment… but I also wish you beautiful daydreams and escapes that bring laughter where you wouldn’t have otherwise found it.

Enjoy the journey, wanderer.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Growing Something Good

“The garden teaches us there is something we are all capable of doing. Only with something so small that can be in everyones hand can we challenge the empire.”  Vandana Shiva

We are currently building a house, a process that involves watching a drawing come to life before your eyes, to the heartbeat of nail guns and tradie’s radios.

We are intensely excited about the garage door, the floor, the windows, even the linen cupboard. Of course not all of it is there yet, but it will be, and we look forward to it like a child looks forward to the end of a story, because no matter how we think it will look or feel, we know it will surprise us in some joyful way.

But around the house is something really special – a blank slate. A yard that has not been landscaped or planted, no garden beds or trees or overgrown pathways. It just is. And I can’t wait to start helping it grow.

I’m really noticing lately how reliant on the grid we all are. For our power, water, entertainment and most of all – food. Few of us want to live a fully self sufficient life, but as evidence continues to show sprayed fruit and vegetables to be toxic, and organic food prices soar while genetically modified ingredients creep into our food supply… maybe it’s time to do something, a little something.

Our little something is going to be an edible garden. Not a veggie garden, but rather an entire yard where everything, bar the grass, either is food, or helps to grow it.

There is an online campaign called “Grow Food Not Lawns” (find them on facebook) and though I love soft green grass beneath my feet, it does make a good point. What if we got used to seeing a front garden filled with vegetables? What if we dug up just a little of our grass and planted something we could eat? What if we turned our ornamental gardens into practical ones? The easy care trees into fruit trees? What if we planted potatoes in the corner of the yard we never use, and turned our kitchen scraps into compost? What if our salad greens thrived amongst edible flowers?

What if even a quarter of us converted even a quarter of our yards into urban farms?

What if all of us grew something?

Can you imagine what it would do for our budgets, our health and our communities? We’d have enough to share, even with that. We would connect with our neighbors more, and ‘fast food’ could be a salad thrown together in minutes from the garden.

We are blessed where we live, but for a lot of people even here affording as many quality fresh fruit and vegetables as they should be eating is difficult (let alone the range they should be eating, or organic). In America someone living on foodstamps has around $30 a week to feed themselves. In other parts of the world people have even less.

We all carry with us a wealth of practical life skills to pass on to our children. They are an inheritance of sorts – a precious one. Maybe this inheritance can help them along the way or even save them revisiting some of our own mistakes. But how many of us have this skill to pass on – how to grow a high yield, thriving, organic vegetable garden. The skill of feeding yourself.

I don’t. I don’t learn gardening from books, for me it’s like trying to learn dance from print. It brings out my clumsy side.

I have planted gardens before, plenty of them, but my system involved putting things in the ground and hoping. In the end the cherry tomatoes and sweet potatoes were victorious (and ones the size of footballs continued to be dug up MONTHS later), while most other things either became insect entrées or just didn’t do anything at all. Seriously, I had a cabbage stay an inch high for months – I had too much sympathy for the poor runt to pull it out.

So I’m hiring someone better versed in permaculture to help create something on that beautiful blank slate of ours. To show me where things should go to help them thrive, how to feed them and nourish them so that they can do the same for us.

Children often learn best by doing, so that garden of mine can plant seeds of knowledge and inspiration for my kids. They might love it and munch on fresh snowpeas and cucumbers they harvest themselves, or they might ignore it in favour of Lego. But I want it to become normal for them, habit, to think of food as coming from the earth rather than a supermarket.

Considering that what we eat and how we eat can affect our health, the planet and even our ethics, I’m realizing that no matter what else I teach my children this lesson should be right up there in “Life 101”.

We look around at what’s wrong in the world and we get a lot of fight in us. Our inner activist looks at all this before us and either attacks what they can or has the breath knocked out of their fight because there’s SO MUCH to be done, and there are SO MANY bigger, stronger warriors on the other team.

But real change doesn’t need the force of a tidal wave, it needs the reach of a ripple. It starts small and spreads, and slowly, it can make a new normal. Because that’s what we have to do to make real change. It has to stop feeling like change at all. If we can get used to seeing lettuce in place of mondo grass, spinach in place of gerbras, potatoes in place of ferns – we can change the world.

Our power doesn’t lay in a fight, but in ceasing to be passive. It lays in planting that seed. That’s what starts the ripple, because we vote most powerfully with our forks – with how we eat. We show how we will accept our animals to be treated, we take the power back in our health, and we help the environment as we do it.

Our garden might make up the knowledge we pass onto our children, parents or friends. It might build a bridge between neighbors or inspire a passer by. It might ease the strain on our budget, or it might just make for fresher herbs and salads. But if we can plant that seed – plant something – the future we grow can surprise us.

Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2012