Mombbatical Mindset: The Past

“Sometimes it’s best to leave some baggage at the baggage claim.”-Jim Phillips, my father.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Ah, the age old adage from writer and philosopher George Santayana. These words could not be more relevant than now as we watch the United States go up in flames from the coronavirus pandemic. The narrative is playing out exactly as it did during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. I watched a play-by-play analysis of the Spanish Flu response side-by-side against the current pandemic response and was struck by how the country learned nothing from this significant moment in history.

“It either haunts us with its traumas and mistakes or intoxicates us with its fanciful moments of nostalgia, trapping us in thoughts of what we believe was a better time.”

This should be of no surprise. When a culture prioritizes power, money, and dominance, its citizens will always be the collateral damage in that pursuit. Full stop.

For us as individuals, the past wears many different masks. It either haunts us with its traumas and mistakes or intoxicates us with its fanciful moments of nostalgia, trapping us in thoughts of what we believe was a better time. For my own father, thoughts of the past were something to avoid altogether as he had suffered great losses, including his mother when he was only 22. I remember asking him once why he seldom spoke of her or those experiences from his past and his response was both poignant and simple, “Sometimes it’s best to leave some baggage at the baggage claim.”

I never pushed for more as I didn’t want to open any wounds, but looking back on my father’s life, his temperament, and the ups and downs, I often wonder if he had engaged in a deeper examination of those pains, would he have made different choices, quelled certain impulses, or perhaps been more forgiving of his own failures?

While discussing the concept of resilience, a brilliant friend of mine, Rebecca, offered the idea that often when we are confronting difficult times, we prefer to frame our stories in either the past, the present, or the future. There is both power and safety in all of those frames, however, how do we use the past as a teacher and not as a captor, holding us back from living in the present moment? And how do we honor the possibility of the future without deferring our very present responsibilities towards our own growth? More specifically,

  1. How often do you live in the story of your past?
  2. How does the narrative of your past impact your relationships? Your accomplishments?
  3. How do examine the past without feeling like you are in full on therapy?
  4. Do you have a clear sense of who you were in the past relative to who you are now?
  5. How do you use that sense of identity to empower you in the present?

These are the things we will be discussing in the next Mombbatical Mindset conversation on Sunday, August 2nd at 11 am PST/2 pm EST/ 8 pm CET. For details on how to join the conversation, click here.

Mombbatical Mindset: Discomfort

“. . there is also an underlying discomfort that is lingering for all of us as we face our way of life and the toll it has taken on society, the environment, and our very souls.”

According to Vocabulary.com, discomfort is “the feeling of irritation, soreness, or pain that, although not severe, is annoying. The noun discomfort is good for describing situations when you aren’t quite in pain, but you don’t feel very good.”

I love this explanation as it so accurately defines the unending state of uncertainty that has overshadowed the joy of my mombbatical. I landed on discomfort as one of the emerging lessons of my mombbatical because it seemed as if everyday, I was summoned to step into moments of discomfort. Whether in the attempt to use my French language skills or in the literary leaps that I was making each time I penned a blog post, laying my thoughts and perspectives bare for others to see and judge. I was not in pain, but I was at times annoyed or stressed by the vulnerability from these moments. Would I make a mistake? Am I on the right path? Will anyone listen to what I have to say?

The moment we are facing as a global community has been riddled with discomfort. For some, there has been great pain from the loss of loved ones to COVID-19 or unjust violence. Financial and economical upheaval have also created stress for many. But, there is also an underlying discomfort that is lingering for all of us as we face our way of life and the toll it has taken on society, the environment, and our very souls.

“Ultimately, our discomfort is intended to challenge us to grow into more of who we are really meant to be.”

The pause of the lock down may have forced many to confront the discomfort of a long-standing relationship that has not been working or a job that has been unfulfilling. Discomforts that were not severe enough to facilitate change as it is easier to tolerate the status quo than invite complete upheaval, but annoying enough to leave one not feeling good most of the time. Perhaps the brutal killing of George Floyd has brought to life, particularly for white Americans, the discomfort of facing how their privilege and false sense of superiority has existed on the backs and lives of Black people for centuries. A discomfort that likely they always felt, but were never moved to address.

This week’s conversation is about the discomforts that we have been living with and how they have impacted our well-being. We will also focus on our ability to step into new discomforts as a way towards healing old wounds or expanding our perceptions of our own capacities. Ultimately, our discomfort is intended to challenge us to grow into more of who we are really meant to be.

Some questions that will drive the conversation:

  1. What discomforts have you been dealing with recently?
  2. In what ways have they challenged you? In what ways have they inspired you?
  3. What lessons did you learn during that process?
  4. Have the recent racial and social justice issues caused you any discomfort and if so, how has it inspired any action?
  5. How will you embrace or step into discomfort in the future?

For details on how to join this conversation on Sunday, July 26th at 11 am PST/2 pm EST/8 pm CET, click Mombbatical Mindset Conversations.

Mombbatical Mindset: Books

“How lucky are we to have books at our disposal to conjure up and tend to every possible emotion in our capacity?”

I honestly can’t remember in time in my life when books were not central to my existence. They have been an ever present friend, a reliable anchor in difficult times, a magical escape, and even a mischievous curiosity. They ground warm memories, like trips to the Brooklyn library with my mother as a little girl. Books were a source of father-daughter bonding when my Dad would take me to the Happy Booker at the local mall and buy me books and stickers. He wasn’t much of a reader himself, but he knew that good parenting meant acknowledging and supporting my adolescent passions.

The memories that books have provided me over the years stick so tangibly in my mind. I remember these Monster books that my brother and I would read about a really tall, yet gentle monster who was loved by everyone in his neighborhood. As I would periodically reminisce about these delightful books, no one I knew had ever seen or heard of them, to the point where I thought perhaps I had made them up. Then, while perusing a teacher colleague’s first grade classroom library, I was reunited with Monster tucked away in the stacks. My colleague could see my six-year old self emerge in that moment and gave me the book, handing me a treasure from my childhood.

Allistair Cooke’s America gave me my first look at the brutality of lynching in the South. I would return again and again to that black and white image on the glossy pages, struck by the smiling white faces looking back at me. Judy Blume provided hours of relief from rainy day boredom. Alice Walker’s Temple of My Familiar ignited my soul. The suspense and shifting perspectives in Dean Koontz’s Intensity gripped me from night until the early morning hours as I bypassed sleep turning page after page. Oh the Places You’ll Go was the first day of school routine that I shared with Emmanuel from Kindergarten until 7th grade when he lovingly told me, “Mom, I’m good.” as I reached for the book on the shelf.

Albus Dumbledore tells us through JK Rowling’s pen that, “Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. . .” More truer words could not be spoken, in my not so humble opinion. How lucky are we to have books at our disposal to conjure up and tend to every possible emotion in our capacity? I am a firm believer that if we stay open, the right book will find us at the very moment that we need it. They impart that lesson or provide comfort or shake us to our core, sometimes propelling us towards new adventures.

This week’s Mombbatical Mindset conversation is a celebration of the books in our lives, with a special focus on those books that have found us, delivered to us by the Universe as a synchronistic gift on our journeys. The guiding questions will be simple.

  1. Share with us a book that found you at the exact right moment.
  2. How did it find you and what was happening in your life at the time?
  3. Share some of your favorite quotations.
  4. Have you ever had the opportunity to pay this book forward to someone else and if so, who and why?

If you’d like to join this Sunday, July 19th conversation, click Mombbatical Mindset Conversations. The time is 11 am PST/2 pm EST/8 pm CET. Hope to see you there.

Mombbatical Mindset: Rest

“Now, with the weight of the pandemic, social unrest, and economic upheaval, I am longing for the type of restorative slumber that feels elusive, even non-existent.”

For the past nine months, I have adopted a bizarre sleeping pattern. I seldom drift into slumber before about 1 o’clock am, only to be awakened by a very hungry and persistent cat at 6 o’clock am for her morning feeding. Half-awake, I stumble back into bed rebelliously fighting any attempt to actually get up and be productive at such an early hour, especially as the night sky still looms. Eventually, by 8ish, I fall back asleep and sheepishly rise between 10 and 11 am under the bright Parisian sun.

Shrouded in the shame of passing half the day away, I tell myself it will be different the next morning—that I will wake up at a respectable hour and get cracking on whatever beckons me. But, alas, the vicious cycle simply repeats itself, piling on more shame with each passing day as I can’t seem to get my life together before 9 am.

“I have been hoping that a balanced cocktail of eating properly, exercising, and taking in the fresh air would lull my body to a state of sustained rest, but the burdens of the mind seem to triumph instead.”

This routine is a sharp contrast to my life pre-mombbatical. Every morning, I was up at 6:00 am with Ruby, the cat, ready to get myself and a groggy adolescent on with our day. By 6:15, I was doing deadlifts and burpees at the Crossfit box down the street. Smoothie in hand, I made my brisk walk to the office by 7:45 and was writing and responding to emails by 8. Nowadays, I could not imagine trying to take on that degree of rigor. Emmanuel’s needs and the workings of a 400 student charter school were definitely significant motivators. I had to get my child to school and do my job. But as he got older and more independent, I could rely on him to handle his business while I handled mine.

Perhaps if I had more structured professional demands, I would find the thrust to get my day going earlier, but truth be told, I’m just tired. My body and mind just want to sleep. Now, with the weight of the pandemic, social unrest, and economic upheaval, I am longing for the type of restorative slumber that feels elusive, even non-existent. I have been hoping that a balanced cocktail of eating properly, exercising, and taking in the fresh air would lull my body to a state of sustained rest, but the burdens of the mind seem to triumph instead.

So, let’s talk about rest and sleep. . .and peace.

This Sunday’s mombbatical mindset conversation will focus on the idea of rest. Below are some questions that we will consider.

  1. How’s sleep going for you these days? Share your stories.
  2. Night owl? Early bird? Medications? Alcohol?
  3. For you, does getting enough sleep translate into feeling rested?
  4. In the fortunate event that you are well rested, what is your secret?
  5. How do we move from rest to peace, individually and collectively?

If you’d like to join the conversation on Sunday, July 12th, click here. Look forward to hearing your insights!

Mombbatical Mindset: Intention

“Intention is powerful and we must treat it as such.”

I find intention to be one of those fuzzy concepts that we all think we understand, but don’t quite really. It should be simple. We set about wanting to do something or wanting something to happen and yet, the result and reaction fall short of our expectations. But why, especially when we devote so much energy or hard work towards something?

Reflecting on my own past travails, I had to question the deeper egoic intentions behind my own actions. Was I doing certain things in order to be liked? To be the center of attention? To appear to be the smartest person in the room? These were difficult questions to confront, but they led me to the same place of living in a mindset where I was seeking external validation.

We are all conditioned to do it. I was so struck by the “I Take Responsibility” video that was released by a number of white actors in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. Watching it made me terribly uncomfortable because it felt inauthentic. These are people who work in an industry that has woefully underrepresented the voices and stories of people of color. They have undoubtedly benefited from that omission and yet now, here they were with this overly produced performative public service announcement proclaiming they finally noticed something that has been in existence for centuries.

Their surface intention was obviously to show solidarity with a movement whose momentum was growing exponentially. In reality, it felt like nothing more than them trying to fulfill a need to center themselves in the space and gain approval–a pat on the back. In the end, it was deemed a cringe-worthy endeavor and appeared to quickly vanish into the ether where other bad ideas go to die.

“I genuinely had no idea what I was in for. Looking back at the unpredictable and often aimless journey that was my year, I realize only now that those words set my intention. They declared the openness and surrender that I had felt as I walked into this phase of my life.”

Intention setting does not always have to have a shadow side. In the context of my mombbatical, I suffered from a lack of a clear intention as opposed to attempting to set some noble cause. I remember when I was setting up my blog and the best that I could come up with for a tagline was, “What happens on the journey from Mom to me. . .” I genuinely had no idea what I was in for. Looking back at the unpredictable and often aimless journey that was my year, I realize only now that those words set my intention. They declared the openness and surrender that I had felt as I walked into this phase of my life.

Intention is powerful and we must treat it as such. So whether you are staking your claim to an afternoon off from the kids and partner or facing an empty nest or simply taking a moment to meditate on your day, be unafraid of examining and setting your intentions for your emotional and spiritual well-being.

In this week’s mombattical mindset conversation, we will reflect on the following questions:

  1. What is your understanding of the word intention?
  2. Where in your life do you feel as though you have set powerful intentions and seen impact?
  3. Can you think of a time when you realized that your true intention differed from your surface intention?
  4. Reflecting on what we have been through as a global community–a pandemic, social unrest–how have these things inspired new intentions in you regarding your own emotional and spiritual well-being?
  5. With these new intentions in mind, what do you want to feel more of in your daily life?
  6. What healing or impact can you have on the world to facilitate that feeling?

If you’d like to join the conversation, we’ll be meeting on Sunday, June 28th at 2pm EST/11am PST/8 pm CET. For details to sign up, just click here.