Sleeping on Sandwiches - Days 10, 11, 12
The Posture Police Blotter was on hiatus for awhile and I've revived it with a daily blog that is running from June 20 through September 22. This daily edition has a different focus to it and the gem in all of this is that what I'm going to be writing and what I've written about posture and the Alexander Technique are all related. Follow along and learn how!
Weekend Excursion - Chaos is Presence
For the past three days, I've taken a break from the blog as my family and I have been getting up off of our sandwiches (so to speak), both successfully and not so successfully. I'm catching up with an extended entry on the topic of our eventful. weekend.
We used to be out and about with our kid and then kids more often than we stayed in, yet it's always been a challenging task to prepare ourselves and both children an finally cross the threshold and step out the door. When our oldest was a newborn, it seemed near impossible to get out. Now, with two small children, the idea of preparing an infant to go outside seems like a piece of cake. Maybe I'm forgetting the frequent diaper changes, feedings, and various ways that babies can mess themselves that would require a full change of clothing. Our challenge now is mostly with our three-year old who is so focused on what is in front of her that she doesn't quite grasp the "planning ahead" of getting ready to go somewhere. Things were similar with the five-year-old at that age, but what adds to the current chaos is the understandable frustration of the older sibling who clearly grasps the concept of planning and preparing, wants to do it, and tends to go bananas when her sister is slowing us down by pulling our attention every which way.
I say "chaos" because that's how it feels, but it's not really accurate. Whether or not something feels chaotic is relative to what we expect and how we react. Another way to describe my three-year-old daughter is "present". She's so present that she doesn't care about something that's going on later that day in another state that she would probably enjoy more than the thing she's doing at that moment. She's often happy as a clam, contented with whatever is in front of her and she wants to show and involve everyone else as well (aka "interrupting"). The chaos and interrupting that my partner and I are tripping over as we try to move in any direction is simply a child who is living in the moment. It's a wonderful thing. I am constantly working on living more in the moment and it's what I teach my Alexander Technique students. If you're off somewhere else, you're not present in your body. A way of describing what F.M. Alexander called "misuse" of the body is lack of presence, whether it's being hung up on something from the past or trying to get to/stressing out about the future before you are there. In terms of movement, people are often looking to rush ahead to the end of the movement, which distorts the steps taken to get there and leads to muscle strain. Most people flip-flop between being sort of checked out (mind-wandering or watching TV) and jolted into action (stressed out). The balance in-between is presence.
Going back to my daughter . . . my partner and I are in a constant struggle with ourselves as parents. We are endeavoring to find a balance. We'd like our children to maintain their natural ability to stay present, yet have a clear awareness of time, future goals, and planning. We are also looking to strike this balance in ourselves and feel that we are "growing up" with our kids along the way.
Last week, we had two goals ahead of us. The biggest one was traveling to New Jersey for the weekend to attend my cousin's wedding. The second one was equally significant, yet less involved and was for my partner and five-year-old to attend "As You Like It" at Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park. I was charged with obtaining the tickets to the performance. Tickets are free in that they don't cost any money, but are expensive in terms of time. Lines sometimes form the night prior to each performance. I had heard earlier in the month that this show wasn't as popular as other past performances and I was confident that arriving in line at 10am, which would involve waiting three hours, would be plenty of time. I was wrong. Upon arriving at the theatre, I spotted people camped out near the entrance. One family was sleeping on a full-size inflatable mattress. I meandered my way toward the back of the line, which was about a five-minute walk, and took a seat on the ground to "wait", or as my kids say "dance-a-dance". I was at the end of a very long line of people dancing dances for tickets. After dancing the dance for three hours and slowly moving up as tickets were handed out at 1pm, I was informed that no more tickets remained. I dreaded informing my partner and daughter that I had danced-a-dance to no avail. If only I had known how long the line would be, I would have arrived at 6am! Upon relaying the ticket story to one of my students and noting how painful I find it to dissapoint my children, he mused that adults become just as disappointed as kids. We just don't freak out (as much) (or quite so visibly). I was tempted to sink into disappointment about the tickets as was my partner, but we knew that there would be more disappointment if we didn't arrive at my cousin's wedding as planned.
We pushed through the potential inertia of disappointment and made it to the wedding on Saturday, not without some stress and last-minute scheduling adjustments. I ran out to buy a shirt and tie for my partner an hour before we left. We decided to take a later train, which we were certain we'd make, but missed by two minutes and ended up taking an even later one. We'd planned to change in our hotel room once we arrived, but we didn't have time, so my partner changed in the New Jersey transit bathroom aboard the train. I changed in the car from the train station to the ceremony. Luckily the kids were already wearing their party clothes.
I managed to keep my cool most of the time and avoided knee-jeck reactions, though I did encounter a few moments of frustration. Those moments were eclipse by the enjoyment of the weekend and of following through on something that we'd promised to our kids, especially our five-year-old who is becoming more and more interested in planning and creating future opportunities. As we entered the reception hall after the ceremony, I drew my five-year-old's attention to the dance floor as we walked over it (and later danced on). I was thrilled that the "wooden-square" that I had expected would be there was there and that we and the other attendees literally danced-a-dance on it, as I'd described to her. She had been looking forward to this event for two months and was counting the days. How can we guide her, her sister, and ourselves to living in the moment as much as possible, yet also preparing and planning efficiently so that getting ourselves to some of the opportunities that we really look forward to doesn't end up being so stressful. We're still very much learning!
How do you reconcile staying present and planning ahead without literally getting ahead of yourself?