Do You Still Sing in the Shower?

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I had a flashback a few weeks ago about singing in the shower when I was much younger. I used to spend close to 30 minutes in the shower, belting out tunes and secretly thinking (and hoping) that I would be the next superstar. I would waiver between wanting to be the next Madonna, Cindy Lauper or Whitney Houston, Indian-style. After my shower shows, I would secretly re-enact being discovered, my hidden talent finally revealed to the world. Much to my chagrin and unfortunately for my teenage self, this was never my reality. But I started thinking about these small moments of solitude that I used to enjoy and how these moments are now stolen by none other than my smartphone.

I know, it’s sad, but it’s the truth. Not that I take the phone in the shower with me, but I’m finding that my mind doesn’t wonder anymore the way it used to. Any free moment these days is taken up by my phone, especially social media. It’s like a nervous tick! Being alone with my thoughts and feelings is slowly becoming a rare commodity.

I recall sitting in class, looking out the window, lost in thought. I honestly can’t remember the last time I did that. I remember sitting in the back of the car, listening to old Telugu songs, tuning out to my own thoughts as I looked out the window. Now, on long car journeys, my kids are watching movies or shows on their iPads.

So this past weekend, with dear friends, I tried to stay present. That meant that I didn’t reach for my phone during lulls in conversation. That meant that as I spent yesterday at the Head of the Charles, I walked and biked, absorbed the sunshine on my skin and got lost in my thoughts. Last night, I played with my kids and engaged in some fun dinner conversation. And this morning, as I got in the shower, an old favorite came to mind and I slowly hummed the tune, returning to my younger self.

How do you stay present in the ever-increasing world of distraction?

Our favorite family pastime

Last night, my children, husband and I cuddled on our sofa and watched old videos. My kids are 6 and 9 so it’s not that they are SO old, but this has become a favorite family pastime of ours. We all have our favorites, and for different reasons. The kids delight in seeing themselves when they were younger and my husband and I love seeing how much the kids have grown and how far we have come as a family.

While nostalgia fills the air, this tradition of ours also reminds us just how precious life is and what really matters. This is especially true as we have lost my husband’s mother last year. The first few times we engaged in this pastime, we had to skip over those videos that featured my mother-in-law. The pain was too raw and the feelings were a bit too much and too soon for my husband. There is one particular video that has us in stitches every single time we watch it, and in that video, my mother-in-law features prominently. Last night, while I gave my husband a gentle squeeze, we watched this video in its entirety. We laughed and rejoiced at the memory, at her memory, and were ever-grateful that we had captured such a precious moment on film.

And I needed this reminder. I find this pastime especially helpful during emotional or difficult times. When I’m caught up in the trivial, seeing my children delight in their younger selves grounds me and centers me in a way that few other things can. Experiencing our past together as a family is especially rewarding and reminds me of who I was as a person and who I am now. I especially love hearing my daughter squeal “look what she is doing!” about her younger self and my son basking in the love and adoration that can be felt from the plethora of videos we took of him before his little sister came along. For each of us, we are reminded of some very important and fundamental truths of ourselves and it is these reminders that will help sustain this tradition for years to come.

What pastimes have you developed as a family? Are there any rituals that you perform that center and ground you? Please share!

"Toot-er"

Last night, as I looked across the dining table, both kids doubled over in fits of laughter, I couldn’t help but relish the moment. Normally I would have been less than enthused that we were wasting time. We were behind schedule; dinner was later which would mean that baths would be delayed with bedtime pushed deeper into the night. But the laughter was that infectious one, the kind that overtakes your whole body, and one that, despite your mind trying to take over, just brings the biggest smile to your face. We laughed and rejoiced. And I couldn’t help but join them.

What was so funny you may ask? I told the kids how finally I was going to meet the first-grade student that I had been tutoring for the past year in his classroom. I was excited to put a face with a name and voice that I had talked to every Friday morning for months now. I told them how we were hosting a year-end celebration with his class and that I was bringing snacks. Then I said, “you know, because I’m his tutor.” The kids lost it then. What they heard was that I was a “toot-er”. Or as my son explained, one who “toots”.

As I sat there watching them in their happiness, laughing along with them, and recounting it later with them while putting them to bed, I couldn’t help but think that this is what life is about. Life doesn’t get much better than this. I was thankful that I was present enough to not only accept this moment for what it was, but also, to enjoy it with my two favorite little humans.

A Rat Race That Cannot Be Won

“I’m ready to lean OUT.”

Sarah Buckley Friedberg

A Facebook rant by a Needham, MA mother of three ends with this: “I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to lean OUT.” Since writing her viral post, Sarah Buckley Friedberg garnered over 79,000 likes, 18,000 comments and 72,000 shares. She certainly has hit a cord, mostly among similarly situated, privileged (I’d argue, predominantly white) women and mothers.

What is it about her post that resonates with so many people? I’m exhausted reading the post, let alone being a working mother of two trying to achieve all that she talks about. Society’s expectation that we must be put together, skinny and fit, well-rested, well-adjusted, well-groomed, ambitious, financially contributing members of our families coupled with raising kids who are well-fed, well-balanced and well-rounded (be proficient in at least one sport, instrument and other activity), curious, high-achieving explorers is simply impossible and unfair. It is an unspoken truth that the same is not, and will never be, expected of the opposite sex.

I love this part of Ms. Buckley’s post:

"Recycle. Be Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the birthday planner, the poop doula (seriously when will this end), the finder of lost things, the moderator of fights. Be fun. Be firm. Read books. Have dance parties."

I’ve written a lot about this but my solution to these ridiculous, untenable societal expectations is to ignore them as much as possible. Of course, I’m susceptible to them as much as the next woman is but the more we try to achieve these unrealistic, soul-crushing, goals, the more will be expected of us. It’s a rat race that cannot be won.

One of the reasons I started Messy Bliss a few years ago was to encourage us to question these notions, to embrace the messy imperfections and to find joy and happiness in all of it. Let’s cultivate a counterculture of being who we are, strong women who strengthen, support and promote one another and delight in and celebrate each other’s messiness unapologetically. The more that we can do that, the less these expectations will matter to us all and the less pressure we will all feel. So let’s do more of the leaning out and just being instead.

Turning 40

I lay in bed on the last day of my 30s suffering from insomnia. I listened to my family as they slept. I walked around our apartment in Rome. The minutes crept on and there was no denying it anymore that I was going to be 40 come the new day. This day had arrived a lot sooner than I expected. I had built up this day in my head for a while now, mostly looking at this age with dread and lamenting. In my head, my thoughts went like this, “I can’t believe you are so old,” “How did 40 arrive this quickly?”. “Wait, I haven’t reached my goal weight yet,” “This is not where I thought I’d be in my career,” and so on and so forth. You get the point. I was approaching 40 with feelings of mourning (mostly of my youth), foreboding and unease.

As the sun started to rise, my eyes slowly drifted asleep, I realized that I had been approaching this day wrong. I should have listened to my husband who always seems to be so sensible and mature given these situations. I alone define myself. I alone have the power to make of the moment and feel of the moment what I want. While my age and the lapse of time are simply out of my control, what I think about it, what I feel about it, are solely within my wheelhouse.

So as I woke up, I was greeted with the delightful songs of my kids singing me happy birthday, kisses from my husband, messages from my parents and brother and the sun shining into our beautiful apartment. I was blessed and felt beyond grateful. As I read the beautiful cards my family wrote and sat watching dear friends from around the world sharing beautiful moments of my life, I was reminded of all that I had experienced, all that I had lived, and all that I am.

The expectations I had had for this day slowly released their grasp on me and instead, feelings of acceptance and love embraced me. It turns out that 40 is not that bad afterall. And there’s some relief in knowing that.