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12 Ideas for Rebuilding Connection

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It happens every once in a while that I find myself at odds with my children after several months of getting on so well.  Somehow we lose our connection and end up trying to control each other in some way or another.  We fall into the trap of making our lack of connection about ourselves rather than recognizing it as relational.  When undesirable behaviours amplify and begin to take a front seat in our home, I know it’s time to take a step back and look for a way out.  It is in these times where we’re all feeling tight and frustrated that we need to revisit how we are exerting our power.  We need to refocus from ‘power over’ to ‘power with.’

Every time I find myself in one of these phases of disconnection, I try to think back to the previous time, thinking hard about how I managed to resolve it.  But I am never quite sure how it was that I got out of it the last time.  It seems that simply drawing attention to the problem as a lack of intimacy and placing some conscious effort on rebuilding it seems to do the trick…with slow but steady results.

I feel like restoring connection is rather like a slow cooking stew.  I know some good ingredients to put in the pot, but almost never follow a recipe.  Sometimes it turns out great while other times it ends up a mediocre meal.  But at the end of the day, no matter how stellar the meal turned out, we have all eaten.  Not only that, we can cook up a new stew the next day and hope for a winning combination.  Once we get the hang of it again, we seem to be able to knock out great tasting food day after day…that is until we’re missing some essential ingredients one day and find ourselves needing to revisit the recipe.

I find myself just on the far side of one of these disconnected states now…on the heels of birthday week – my three children were born on April 6, 8, and 9 – which throws us all for a loop.  So I have been reflecting on how it is that we are steadily climbing our way up out of the darkness.  After some reflection, I realized these strategies are great for parents, but can work for any relationship in need of more intimacy.

So here are some ideas I’ve thrown into my stewing pot of re-connection:

-spending lots of time outdoors together, especially in unstructured environments.  We took a lot of hikes in the woods this past week!

-spending a day (as often as possible) doing what they want to do.  If my children can’t agree, thy each get one choice.  Yesterday we baked muffins, made a huge outdoor fort, had a picnic and spent some time creating with Play Dough.

-giving more hugs, kisses and snuggles.

-going out of my way to notice and respond to positive interactions that are happening in our home.  For example, my sons were trying the comfort the baby while she was upset during dinner.  They came up with many creative ideas and games to help her through it.  They ended up calming her down and helping her through the meal.  I made a point of telling each one separately just how helpful that had been and how grateful I was for their creativity and compassion.

-looking forward to things yet to come by talking about them in advance.  For example, we have been making a plan for the coming day at bedtime, each telling something that we are looking forward to the next day.

-taking genuine interest in what they’re working on.  I get them to tell me about what’s interesting them, encouraging the conversation with probing questions to deepen it.  This includes making space for just that child, including eye contact and physical contact if possible.

-play with my children by joining into their games.  This week I’ve been building Lego creations alongside them on the floor.

-roughhousing.  This is more my husband’s forte, but I’m pretty good at instigating tickle fights!  A note on this – it is key that everyone involved is enjoying themselves.  Consent is a huge part of feeling connected.  We stop all roughhousing and tickles at the first ‘no.’  Teaching consent, even at a young age, is imperative learning for all relationships that happen outside of our home.

-being mindful of making connection a priority.  This commitment changes my body language, tone of voice and general response to my children.  It also reminds me to slow down and patiently wait for the storm to blow over.  We are not a family who uses computers/cell phones/etc. while the children are present, but during disconnected times I make extra effort to further reduce all use of technology.   For example, my blogging time during rest time is reduced to ensure the children do not see me using the computer at all.  This really brings the focus back to the people, and they can feel it.

-remembering it is more important to listen to understand than to respond.  Releasing my need to ‘fix it’ allows me to roll with the waves of emotion a lot easier.

-taking time for myself.  I let go of things I think I should do in order to pursue things that feed my soul and try reduce my own use of technology which I find allows me to ‘escape’ but doesn’t actually refuel myself.  If I can treat myself with compassion, I will have more of it to give my children.  In order to be mindful, I need to be connected to myself.  To make space for this, I re-prioritize how I use the times where I am not normally with my children, like rest time and after they’re in bed.

-lighten up!  I look for ways to focus on joy.  I look for ways to have fun, laugh and find opportunities to turn a situation around.  I share statements of gratitude, and encourage my children to do the same.  Life always offers more than one perspective.

 

What ideas do you use for re-connection?

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Needing a Break ≠ Failure

We had a crazy hour around lunchtime yesterday.  Over the summer we have fallen out of the rhythm of tidying up before lunch and dinner, which has put us right back into power struggles over the issue as we try to reestablish our routine.  The children did not want to begin tidy-up time, despite several warnings it was coming.  They began running around getting out more things and generally getting into mischief.  I cleaned for what would usually be our tidy-time then shifted to make the children’s lunches in order to get the baby eating (and stop getting more toys out!).  I returned to tidying up, encouraging the older children to help, as it would take much less time to get to eating our lunches should we all work together.  This was generally not accepted, although they did help with a few things.  As we finished, the final task was for my three year old to put away the costume he had just taken off that was now on the floor.  The request threw him into complete melt-down that ended in a fight with is brother and a broken bowl.  When I got that cleaned up (I would normally have them clean their own messes, but in the case of broken dishes, I will do it for them) and people settled, my five year old asked for some crackers.  I decided to oblige for fear of creating another eruption…the children were clearly very hungry!  I put the crackers on his plate, which threw him into meltdown.  He didn’t want them to be wet by touching his pickle, and proceeded to throw them all over the kitchen.  My response was to leave, saying, “I need to leave because I feel like I’m going to yell at my children, and I don’t want to.”  I went into the next room, sat down and took some deep breaths.  What I heard from the kitchen was a return to happy conversation and the noises of children enjoying their lunches.  I could have chosen to address the behaviours right then and there, enforcing their need to clean up after themselves, but I didn’t. I chose to leave the situation rather than escalating it.  When I went back into the kitchen, everyone was fine again.  The food was being eaten, including the crackers that had since been picked up.  It is really hard to leave conflict in the heat of the moment.  For some reason the fight instinct is much stronger than the one for flight.  I ask my children to do this all the time – in the middle of conflict, I suggest they leave before they get into a fight.  This time I was able to model it, and more importantly experience what it feels like to leave in the heat of the moment.

The past couple of months have been very stressful for me for a number of reasons.  There has been a lot going on.  As a result, I have been stretched, pushed, and generally stressed out.  There was not time or space to properly process all that was happening due to the pace of life with three littles and the circumstances of the situation.  I am finally feeling like I’m recovering from what has been a very dark period in my life.

In the middle of it all, I didn’t know what to do to help myself.  I felt lost, and frustrated.  I was not parenting the way I wanted to be, or how I knew I was capable of.  But I had no way to be any different.  There was not space to make it so.  But what I didn’t think of in the throes of the chaos was to ask for help.  What I really needed was an opportunity to walk away, to have a break from the conflict.  In retrospect, I now realize that if I had asked for a day off, there are many people in my life who would have stepped up to provide the relief I so desperately needed.  I am so blessed with loving family and friends!  But what held me back was an inability to care for myself, rooted in my pride.  I didn’t want to admit that I was finding it all to be too much.  Our culture has such disdain for people who ask for what they need.  We suffer silently, afraid to ask for help.  But a break, even if it were just for a few hours would have helped me to return home to myself!

This past weekend I had a full day away from the family.  The yield from being apart for even just a day has been amazing. The past three days have been much more enjoyable for everyone in the family.  I have been able to restore my inner calm so I no longer feel the need to nag the children.  I now have more capacity for patience and compassion for myself and my children.  Although I hate to admit it, my children have benefited from the break as well.  Since we spend all of our time together, it is helpful to clear the air every once in a while.  The result of taking time apart has been that this week we have been much more respectful, more loving, more cuddly, and generally it has been more enjoyable to be around each other.  Now that I’m beginning to see the light at the other side of the darkness.  I can honestly say that I have learned an insurmountable lesson from this journey.  I know now that what is best for everyone is for me to have self-compassion.  Allowing myself to recognize that the journey can be difficult sometimes is alright.

I have been learning in many ways that sometimes the best conflict resolution is to walk away.  A break can bring such clarity.  Time away offers the space to stop reacting to it.  Asking for help does not speak of failure, but in fact the opposite.  When I ask for the support I need, I have in fact succeeded.  Having the courage to take time for myself allowed me to gain perspective about the ways in which I was trying to grasp at the illusion of control.  Without that oppressive old paradigm thinking, I have been able to reacquaint myself with what’s really important to me…my family.

Manifesto of Possibility

Beneath the greatest of mountains there is the same structure of matter.  All matter being comprised of the same basic elements.  How amazing to be able to look around and witness the diversity and abundance made possible by the tiniest of particles.  What whispers of truth ride on a spark?  Or hints of purpose rest in the soil?  How does thought float in the breeze?  Or a glint of change caress a droplet of water?

By some miracle that which is beyond the realm of measurable science arrives on the wings of the elements.  How is it possible for consciousness to arise from Earth, Air, Fire, and Water?  Or is it perhaps that they embody their own version of consciousness?  How else could they arrange and rearrange form form to form, pushing into few forms, reforming and now deforming.

The elements have it figured out.  They respond to the state of our world as cancerous tumors.  They are delivered as warning signs and cries for help.  The element speak through their manifestations – and currently they’re retreating.  The wind gusts too strong and dusts our air.  The fires of the sun burn too hot wiping out once fertile land.  Our soils are depleted, mineral and nutrient deficient.  We have drought riddled lands, representing dehydration of more than just the soil.  The elements are mixed up – but with such determination that it seems it is the reader rather than the writer who is lost.  There are messages in their destruction.  The elements are speaking up in their form of language.  They are calling out to be heard.  Their cries for attention are getting louder and more intense the longer they are unmet.

The language of the elements is so very clear and succint.  We humans think we’ve got it all figured out because we’ve got our own secret languages and preoccupation with pursuit of knowledge.  But there really isn’t any room for improvement.  Our attempts to clarify and expand on what nature offers have only convoluted matters.  At the end of this long, mostly one sided conversation, the outcome is already clear.  The elements will remain elements.  Their manifestations will return to their original elemental forms when they no longer serve this planet.  Humans are also mere manifestations of Earth, Air, Water, and Fire.  Let us recognize ourselves as such in order to awaken to our own possibilities brought forth by the elements.  Let us awaken our potential – we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

A Message of Activism

“If we don’t change our direction, we’re going to wind up where we’re headed”

-Native American Saying

I had the extreme pleasure of attending a lecture given by Starhawk last week.  I decided that her message was too important to keep to myself, so here are the salient points that I came away with…

The decisions we make in the next ten years will determine the future of the human species and the earth.  Culture forgets that our resources are sacred.  We need to start caring about Earth’s resources more than our own comfort.  We need to care enough to refuse watching it be defiled.  We need to care enough that we will make sacrifices in order to maintain clean water.

It is a problem when power is in the hands of few people.  Centralized power likes centralized power.  Why does centralized power require enforcement?  Because in its very nature, it’s calling for rebellion.  We can’t ‘solve’ climate change because of the vested interest in oil.  The Tar Sands raise a deep moral question.  How do we take care of the earth?  A million Litres of water a polluted EVERY DAY in the extraction of oil from Tar Sands, 95% of which cannot be treated.  The first are showing signs of tumors and cancer.  What we need is a shift in consciousness, spirit and values in order to make change.  We need interdependence and cooperation.

“What would it be like if we replaced scarcity thinking with the goal of creating as much real abundance as possible?”

-Courney White, Grass, Soil, Hope

Abundance means sharing and everyone having enough.  Abundance is found through generosity.  We need to create safe, renewable power within ourselves to regenerate the land.  We need to rehydrate the earth – water brings life.  Slow it, spread it, sink it.  Drought represents many levels of difficult relationships.  Put humus (carbon) back in the soil to regain humility.  Heal the soil by using compost, compost tea, sheet mulching, worms, bio-char, fungi/mycellium, growing intentionally selected plants and working for survival.  Look to holistic management practices for grazing animals according to patterns of wild herds to regenerate soil quickly by restoring carbon.

We don’t need outer solutions, what we need to do is work in harmony.  Here she cited the example of a company looking to invent a device to take carbon dioxide out of the air, balking at this unnecessary business venture, since nature and plants have the best possible systems to serve this need, ones we couldn’t dream of replicating, let alone improve on.  What we need to do is stop taking resources out of our planet in order to preserve the pristine while doing all we can to put carbon back into the soil.  We are responsible for giving back, not just taking.

We need to be considering the destruction of our environment as a moral issue.  Then value moral issues above economic issues.  We need to take care of each other.  Our money should be going to support the elderly, educating the young and taking care of the sick.  Wealth distribution is not stable or sustainable.  Localize and regenerate the cities by growing food near them.  How many times the dollar changes hands before it leaves the community is the determining factor for how much buying local is actually supporting the local economy.  Shopping at your local chain store serves no inherit benefit.  We need to shift our view away from large systems.  The message isn’t less, it’s conservation. Save energy.

Let’s look at how to improve the quality of our lives so we require less quantity.  Transition towns.  Community gardens.  Community on every level is the antidote to climate change.  We need to organize in order to create change.  Lobby.  Campaign.  Use media.  Build coalitions.  Resist and protest.  Say no to policy, not to the people behind it.  It is for a noble cause that we separate the people from the choices they make.  Build leverage, but out of love rather than hatred.  Build our future for the land, nature, and our children.  We need to do all of this yesterday – but since we can’t, we need to do it today!

Stages of an activist campaign: research, educate (children and officials), negotiate (policies and legislation), mobilize, direct action, and transformation!  She left us to ponder the question,”What are you producing that feeds the land?”

Spinning and Whirring

On my recent photography foray, I drove out to the country to find some interesting subject material.  As I was taking photos, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the giant turbines dotting the industrial agricultural landscape.  The way they rise up from the barren land is quite something.  As I snapped unrelated photos, I was stricken by the whirring vortex of their blades, pulling me in.  Even with my back turned, they still had an impact as I could hear the noise of their spin even at a distance of a kilometer or so.  It was a strange grinding pulsation of sorts.  I got back in my car and headed for the next subject.  I passed a long plowed drive, leading to the base of a turbine.  I drove past.  Feeling compelled for some reason to investigate further, I pulled over to the side of the road, and turned the car around.

Heading down the narrow corridor of a driveway carved in the snow, I stopped at this puddle.  I had the feeling that I shouldn’t be there.  Not only that, but I surely did not want to get stuck out here by myself.  I got out of the car and took the above photograph.  The whir of curiosity was now beckoning stronger.  I stuck a toe in the puddle, and deemed it only a few inches deep, thereby passable by car.  I drove on, around a bend, and stopped where other vehicles had before, based on visible tire marks in the mud.

I grabbed my camera and stepped out of the car.  I looked up.  I gulped.  I really had not expected this.  The turbine TOWERED above my head.  I felt so very small.  The visceral power generated by this structure was intense.  The blades were pulsing down toward my car and I.  I was afraid.  Not that, ‘I think something bad might happen’ type of mental fear, but a guttural fear.  A feeling of ‘get me out of here, NOW!’  The whirring was intense, vibrating my innards.   I took a deep breath, put the camera to my eye and pointed it up.  I captured the following shot.

With my heart racing, and my hands shaking, I clambered back into my car.  I didn’t want to back up down the long driveway and through the puddle.  In my ‘fight or flight’ state, I didn’t take time to think before acting.  I pulled forward onto what looked like fresh dirt and gravel.  Being that we’re in the middle of a thaw, I thought all tire tracks had dissipated with the snow.  I pulled forward and to the right to turn the vehicle around.  As I wheeled it around, now quite close to the base of the turbine, I felt the tires relax against the gravel.  My panic started to thicken.  I reassured myself.  Thoughts of ‘I’m going to be stuck here, under this turbine’ still took hold.  My tires were spinning like the turbine blades.  I backed the car up slightly, turned the wheel hard left and gave a few good thrusts on the gas pedal, easing my car out of the deeper gravel.  With focused intensity I got myself heading in the direction of home.  I shook, inside and out the whole way.

Rob and the children were at the end of the driveway when I got home, having just picked up the mail.  Upon parking up the car, Rob asked what had happened to the car.  Thinking he was perhaps referring to the mud I had sprayed up the side in my efforts to free myself from the turbine’s grip, I claimed to know.  After getting out of the car, I realized I had dislodged part of the wheel well in my efforts to plow through the gravel pit.  In my effort to hurry home, I drove despite the grinding whir of my own vehicle.  The plastic wheel casing is now damaged, and will need to be replaced since Rob had to cut half of it off this morning in order to get himself to work.

I wanted to have shared the experience with someone, to have my experience fully understood by another, because I will never go back to the base of a turbine.  Human efforts to harness the power of nature are just plain scary.