Forever emptiness/wonderful moment

Like most of adult America, when I saw this Louie CK video on Facebook last week, it struck a nerve.

My kids aren't old enough to own cell phones (YET) so the power of this for me isn't about parenting, it's about my own practice of living. The nerve it struck resides close to that deep dark "forever empty" place inside me.

I've long struggled with using my phone in moderation around other people, and have drawn lines about when and how I use it in front of my children and with my husband and friends. But after watching this video, I was struck with sickening regret by how, when any quiet, private moment appears, I instinctively reach for my phone. Did anyone text, are there any new emails, what's going on on Twitter, who's updated Facebook, and on and on until it's been half an hour and this happens multiple times a day. So on Friday I thought, okay, anytime I sit down and have a moment to myself I'll leave my phone in my pocket and just sit there and feel it. Whatever "it" is at that moment.

Exhaustion, frustration, resignation, boredom are all fine, manageable. Forever emptiness, less so.

And you know what? Forever emptiness feels like CRAP.

I don't want to feel the forever emptiness because it sometimes feels like it's more powerful than me, like it might swallow me whole. Honestly, I let it take over too often; it's a fun bonus feature of my porous, depressive personality. So perhaps I am hard wired to look for distractions, like reading novels, like fiddling with my phone, to fill quiet moments with something, ANYTHING.

When does something stop being a balm and start being a crutch?


On Sunday, I went to my groovy little church. The sermon centered on Thich Nhat Hanh's mindfulness teachings, on finding the calm center within us, not only in quiet peaceful moments but in the dark treacherous ones as well.

Of his many meditation practices, the minister highlighted this one:

Breathe in, present moment.
Breathe out, wonderful moment.

As tears rolled down my face, I knew I had something to focus my still moments. I have a well of strength inside of me to combat the forever empty. I can feel the sadness, but I can also press past it with the strength of my own positive intention.

Perhaps the quiet moments don't have to be filled with a phone, but they also don't have to be given over to sorrow.


I can't find my phone at the moment. It's somewhere in the house, I'm sure. Maybe in the laundry pile or wedged in the couch cushions or tucked in a sweatshirt pocket. It feels odd not to have it beside me. I rarely lose it these days because I am rarely far from it.

But I'm not rushing around trying to find my phone right now. It's okay. It'll turn up.

I relish the connection to friends and family and the thrumming pulse of the internet my phone gives me. I embrace the easy distraction, which at times can be a gift and a balm and, okay fine, sometimes a crutch.

A crutch can help us lurch through our days when we need it. Perhaps that is not such a bad thing after all. Keep moving forward, even if it's lurching, even if it's leaning on a crutch a little too heavily some days.

Moderation in anything isn't easy. But I don't think we need to throw away our smart phones any more than we need to stay glued to them at every possible moment. Nurturing our connection to the world is wonderful. Nurturing our connection to the strong peaceful part inside of us is also wonderful.

Present moment, wonderful moment.


Like me

She sits on the couch after school, feet tucked under her, staring intently at the book on her lap.  It's one of the many American Girl books that rest in teetering stacks on her bedside table.

I tell her it's time for snack and she ignores me. I say it again, this time touching her shoulder and she startles, blinking at me like I just appeared in this room we've been sharing for half an hour.

"Sorry Mom," she says, turning back to her book, "I just really need to finish this chapter."

I smile inwardly. Outwardly, too.

You love to read. I think to myself with satisfaction and pride.

We will share this love of books. We will pass books back and forth and reminisce about favorite characters and grieve together over especially sad plot points. We will argue about writers and eagerly await new publications and squeal like Taylor Swift fans if we ever meet a favorite author.

Be like me.


She can't find something she NEEDS.

(She often can't find something she "needs".)

It's imperative she finds it, the end of the world if it's gone forever, she can't possibly do anything else until it's back in her hands.

I encourage deep breaths, reminding her that being upset makes finding things more difficult.

When we find it, someplace she didn't remember ever putting it, I sigh with relief but we aren't done.

Now she's down on herself.

"I'm so stupid. A stupid, stupid girl. A stupid girl who always loses things. No one likes me because I'm so stupid...."

It pours out of her in a torrent.

As it washes over me, I struggle to breathe against its powerful, deeply familiar current.

"Z!" I finally break in, "Z, don't talk to yourself like that. Words are powerful and I don't want you to talk about yourself that way. Let's find another way to let out angry, yucky feelings."

Don't be like me.  Please, not in this way.



Life with a Capital L

It always surprises me when writing something down helps create change in my life. The process doesn't always feel dynamic in that way. Sometimes, it feels like I beep-beep-beep back my brain up to the computer, dump whatever's in there and drive away.

My last post not only cleared something out, but it left me clearer.

I didn't take the girls on adventures this summer, like I wanted to, like I intended to, not because Z is particularly challenging, but because I was scared. I was scared it would be emotionally messy. I was scared I couldn't handle it. I was scared my expectations for Fun with a Capital F wouldn't be met due to Emotions with a capital E.

After I wrote that post, I looked at our last week before school, our wide open, NO PLANS WHATSOEVER week, and made some plans. Because I can handle it. Or, even if I can't, I want to chose to muddle through in the spirit of adventure.

We went floating down the Shenandoah River on a perfect, gorgeous day and stopped for ice cream on the way home.

We had one last trip to the local outdoor water park where CG met us with pizza for dinner.

We spent the day at a lake in Maryland with some friends to picnic and swim and build a "dam".

I even took the girls, their dolls and a friend on their first trip to the American Girl Doll Store for lunch, hair styling and allowance spending. (And I only thought seriously about what my medal for that one would look like ONCE.)

The week was full of bumps. There were emotional melt-downs. There were many, many forcibly deep breaths.

But that's life, right? Bumps and deep breaths and even emotional meltdowns are to be expected, whether we are at home or off to a new place. So why not try the new places?

Because there was also fun. So much fun.

And I'm pretty sure the fun is what we'll remember most.

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