And a Happy New Year

And a Happy New Year

As I sit to write to you this morning, it might in fact be the first time I’ve sat in a week. Well, sat without the echo of “Mom!!!” ringing in my ears or sat without shuffling to the next holiday activity. Like many of you, I’m coming off a week of Christmas, a family birthday, and a happy new year. I’m just going to say it, that shit was intense. On my drive home last night I called my sister, “Who decided this?” I whined, “Who decided that we’re supposed to spend an entire month planning for Christmas, spend an ungodly amount of money, eat more sugar than our bodies can hold, and keep a LIVE tree alive? Anyways, I’m pretty sure I’m Buddhist.” My sister laughed, followed by the validation of, “Rough week?” It was joyfully packed with gifts, family, parties, food, squealing children, and yes, exhaustion.

Tradition vs Reality

I’m going to be honest with you, I thought I had set better boundaries with myself around the holiday. I might have been boastful, “I only send Christmas cards if it feels right!” You know little comments like that make me feel as though I was choosing how to celebrate the holiday. I thought I was doing a standup job at this until one of the highlights of my week was realizing my closet has a pocket door. You heard me right, a pocket door! When needed I could slip inside for quiet, breath, and let the busyness melt off of me until I heard the ringing of, “Mom!!” This holiday season, for me, didn’t bring peace on earth, it brought life at its fullest and emotions at their highest.

Anyone else? Surely I’m not alone in trying to make our holiday special only to be left lying next to our partner with a fist bump of, “We did it” then crawling into a cocoon of sleep. Yes, my holiday was filled with Gingerbread houses, cookies, lights, presents (the everloving candles in the window that take battery), Santa, Christmas cards, cheese balls, ham, and sure, a little whiskey in the eggnog. Those tiny moments and activities did bring tradition and family together. Yet those tiny moments collectively stole me (and my children) from our presence. I planned for the holiday only to be whisked away in a flurry of my plans. It went well enough; tantrums came as well as laughter. But in my lifetime I’m not looking for, “well enough,” I’m looking for “rooted.”

What can be done in reflection? Of this, I’m not certain of the right answer. The truth is some of my favorite childhood memories come from Christmas. Not the gifts (ask my mama, I was not a gracious receiver), but the traditions and time together with family. I want to recreate this for my children and actually like doing the Christmas traditions. You can bet I still hide a pickle on my tree. You can also take a bet if, after a second morning of stealing Christmas candy before breakfast, I threw it all away. Any takers, do you think I did? It was like $50 worth of candy, and that my friends is the price of a cute crop sweater thrown away.

This little dichotomy is everything; tradition versus daily reality. I tried to build Gingerbread houses that had expired unbeknownst to me, we had tears. I tried to put ornaments on the tree after a Christmas parade, there was hitting over whose ornaments were whose. I tried to ice cookies at 8:00 pm, but there was a full-blown tantrum because I wouldn’t let my son mix the red one (Jesus help me, it stains!). I tried to buy what they wanted from Santa, but it was found during hide and seek becoming a gift from Mommy. This was then followed by the days of, “Why didn’t Santa get me…” and mentally screaming “Because Mommy is Santa and you still got the toy!!” This list goes on exhaustively of planning traditions and navigating life. The little mantra that got me through was “Maybe Christmas perhaps doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” The Grinch and my pocket door; saviors of Christmas.

The Bustle of “Should”

Has this happened to you, darling? Did you plan for a beautiful holiday season only to be knocked down by parenting through the holiday season? As you sip your coffee of the new year, are you also calling your sister exclaiming, “WTF was that?” I’m guessing to some extent all of us are because the hamster wheel of the American holiday is exhausting and children are tiring all on their own. Together, of course, they make the perfect storm for moms and dads alike. That alongside a healthy dose of wanting to make traditions perfect. I suppose darling, I got lost in the bustle of should.

I do not have a proposed solution from grappling with tradition and reality. The only thing I know to be true is that when I find myself lost in should, I have to shift and actively choose what my soul needs to thrive. If I want to be rooted, I have to choose to plant myself in stillness. Stillness is what I could not find this holiday. I am still determining what we’ll put down next Christmas (it will be something..). But I do know what I need to pick up today and through my next busy season is air. Air that is breathed in against the dashing stillness of life.

Intentional pausing, stillness, and breath are always a path back to my roots. My darlings, what were you doing because you should and what must you choose for yourselves to come back home?

I’m breathing in, holding my breath for a count of 10, and exhaling you all A Happy New Year.

Jessie Cooper

An Offering of Love

An Offering of Love

The last several blogs I have written to you have been about lighting up your life and world by letting go of everything that separates you from your love. In these blogs, I implore you to look inward to find where you have separated from love, your true source. Then, through your love, I have asked you to change not only your world but ours. Have you tried it, darling? Have you looked inward (or outward) to see what surrounds you that is rooted in hate? Have you then placed your fingers against the match of love to pave a new way? I hope you have darling, our world needs you and your love.

As I write these words to you, I know that this way of life is a challenge initially. Our world, and nervous system, are conditioned to look for threats to keep us safe. Biologically, our brains are made up of evolutionary parts, one of which is our reptilian brain. This part of our brain looks for danger beneath our consciousness so if a threat were to arrive we could protect ourselves instinctively. You heard me right, even after you make a conscious decision to reconnect to your love (and away from fear), your subconscious brain is on autopilot searching and scanning for threats. How then could we ever make all of our decisions from love with our brain working against us? Slowly my darling, slowing and exquisitely intentional.

Bringing Our Subconscious Into The Forefront

I’ve written to you before about Tara Brach’s teaching. Dr. Brach is a gifted psychologist and thought leader in the Buddhist community. In her work, Dr. Brach teaches us how to navigate our lived experience and biology to live in harmony with our spirit. Her work is the perfect combination of explaining what is out of our control and what we can bring into our control. Dr. Brach teaches extensively about bringing our subconscious fears and beliefs into our consciousness.

You see, thousands of years ago housing our fears in our subconscious was a smart evolutionary choice. The dangers around us were real (hostile tribes, predators, poisonous food, you get me…) and we needed our brains to remain on protective autopilot to keep us safe. Yet today, while there are some environmental fears, the majority of the fears we house in our subconscious are social. We aren’t thinking about poisonous berries, we’re thinking about the poisonous message to stay small as a woman (as an example). These fears build a reality around us of what we need to stay protected from based on what & who we have experienced as a threat.

How exhausting, right? Our brain is keeping grudges just like your bitter aunt at Christmas! Inside of each of those grudges is the same message, “I’m not safe when.” In response to not feeling safe, how might you suppose our behavior looks? Have you ever seen the Boom Booms in Mario? These little characters with huge spinning arms ready to protect themselves from Mario? In my imagination, it looks like that.

You move to protect yourself when you experience something you perceive as a threat. And, darling when you move to protect yourself without thinking you are operating in fear. This is something that all of us struggle with. As a woman living with PTSD, I can experience this on hyperdrive. If a perceived threat comes into my world and I am not connected to my love it’s like Hulk meets the Boom Booms and responds. It’s not a look I wear well and why staying connected to my love is so incredibly important. When I am disconnected from my love I am giving my power away to fear, just as we all do.

Love is There, You Just Have to Look

But here is the beautiful thing about love and life. The love you have inside of yourself is always there and waiting for you. And, darling, you are never walking alone when you are rooted in your fear. We are all imperfect beings who have baggage (okay, subconscious fears) that affect our day-to-day lives. With the power of our love, should we choose, we can begin to unpack our baggage so that we can understand it, and then release it. If you were to continue to open the bags with judgment, “Ugh why in the world would I have screamed at the dog?” you would stay stuck in fear. Maybe it’s not the dog next time, maybe it’s that jerk that cut you off in traffic but either way something or someone is wrong; often that someone is you. As you judge yourself, so will you judge the world. That, my love, is a miserable way to live.

Do not worry my darling, there is a different way to live as your fears bubble over the surface of your life. Try again, opening the baggage with love. “Ugh, I yelled at my dog, I must have felt incredibly low to do that,” No, the behavior isn’t okay, but acknowledging this, and then offering love will begin to unpack your subconscious, bring it to the light, and begin to pave a new way of life. A way of life in which you are divinely human and accept your shortcomings but can love yourself through it anyways. This offering of love, in time, will repair what lives beneath the line, and bring you closer to peace. As you live a life that snuggles closer to peace, the fears of the world lessen. Sure, things still go wrong, but you will have a new way to navigate through what life throws at you. And, when you mess up (or the world does), you’ll know how to walk home to your love.

This process isn’t perfect, because none of us are darling. However, it is the most powerful walk you will ever take. Release your judgment sweetheart, lean in, come home.

Jessie Cooper