Thursday, July 3, 2014

Some People Don't

Ila turned 4 on Saturday.  Happy birthday, Ila!  For the last several weeks, because of her impending birthday, we have been counting.  How many days until her birthday.  How many years old she is.  And, the other night, how many years until she could drive.  She and I were running an errand when she announced that she would not be able to drive when she was 5 but maybe when she was 20.  We discussed 16 as the legal driving age and counted from 4 to 16 to see how long it would be.  She told me that 12 years was a long time.  Then, after thinking quietly for a few minutes, she said, "What if we lived 20 years?!" as if this were an astoundingly long time to live.

I said, "Well, I hope we live a lot longer than 20 years.  Some people live to 100!"

Then, very pensively, earnestly, with a note of regret in her voice like she was informing me of something true but difficult, she said, "Some people don't."

All I could do was agree with her.  Some people don't.  I know I am not alone, in the land of parents, with my feelings of abject horror at the thought of my children dying.  It's a thought I can't even look at squarely, in the eyes.  It darts in, and I avert my eyes quickly, but I can still see the looming shape, the indistinct figure of fear in my periphery.  I suffer from intrusive thoughts about death in general, and I really hope my children are more like Kiyomi in this way.  She just doesn't think about death.  Her death.  Our children's deaths.  I worry that Ila will be more like me.  And, I worry that she is going to ask me about death before I have a good answer figured out.  My bar for "good answer" is pretty low.  I'm not talking about some kind of philosophically thoughtful, open, considered answer.  I'm talking about an answer that doesn't simply broadcast my complete panic.  I'd like to be coherent and not sniveling.  That'd be a good answer.

So, I listen to her thoughts circle around time, aging, mortality.  She is defintiley trying to figure some of these things out.  We were eating a snack the other day and talking about her being a kid and me being a grown up.  I said, "Maybe I'm a little kid too."

Ila dismissed this immediately.  "No, you're a grown up."

"What makes me a grown up?"

Without missing a beat, as if this was the universal bar, she said, "You drive a car."

"What if I was a kid who drove a car?" 

She thought for maybe one second.  "No.  You use sharp knives.  And scissors."

Now we have delineated maturity.  Driving and successfully using cutting implements.  (By the way, I'm killing it as a grown up.  You should see me with some scissors.)  Never mind all that other stuff - supporting yourself, caring for your family, taking emotional responsibility for yourself, making decisions, doing lots of household chores.  If fact, that's kind of what being a grown up means for me right now.  Doing chores.  I don't mind really.  It's one of the easier items on the list.  Fortunately, being in my home most of the time also includes cute little kids.  They are so cute.  I know that I will get more rest when the two little ones are older...but I will miss this toddler adorableness.

Pippa is the adventurer of the family.  Fortunately, this includes being bold, quick, smart, perceptive, strong, persistent, and tough.  Unfortunately, this also includes being incautious, fearless, stubborn, and not the least bit sensible to danger.  She is amazing to watch.  When she learns to do something, she does it like 50 times in a row to really get it down.  She is not thrown off by failure or mistakes.  She loves climbing and anything new or forbidden.  That's pretty typical for a toddler, though.  Still, she exemplifies these toddler traits.  She is also a bit of a brute.  She will pull, yank, ram or in any other way try to force objects and people to do her bidding.   Ila has never been physically aggressive with the babies but they are with her, especially Pippa,.  They will pull her hair or hit her on occasion.  Sometimes they seem frustrated.  Sometimes they just seem curious.

Pippa is also so determined to communicate.  She has a number of words she says all the time: tickle, up, nur (nurse), hi, bye, no, more, nose, hat, ball, this and Pippa.  She says "mama" sometimes but she doesn't really use it as a name.  She sort of issues it as a command to anyone fitting the description, as in, "Get a mama in here now!" or "I want the other mama, not this one!"  She looks at you like she is willing you to understand her.  She also takes your hand and makes it do what she wants.  Sometimes this includes manipulating it, like making it into a cup to hold something or taking one finger to push a button.  She is going to be a powerhouse when she gets all her words.  Watch out!

Forrest is our little Puck, our tiny mischievous elf.   He pays close attention to what he's not supposed to do and does it, preferably for laughs because he is also a ham.  He has one dimple and a very playful little smile.  He loves, loves, loves to laugh with you.  In fact, when anyone is laughing, even if he doesn't know why, he is prone to laughing himself.  He just wants to join the party.  Plus, he is tiny.  He's so cute.  His little hands, his little face, his little body.  He's just so little.  Sweet and cute and cuddly and devilish.

He is also the resident pointer.  He babbles and points, very emphatic babbling, but mostly babbling.  He does do a few signs, and he's maybe said a few words: here, this, raisin, ball, more.  But the one word I know he's trying to consistently say is "nurse."  Like Pippa, he says something like "nur."  He's also a biter, though fortunately not when he nurses.  The two rounds of teething have including many little nips on my leg.  He just leans over and takes a chomp, mid activity.  Then, after all the teeth are in, he stops.  I guess my body parts are the most enticing teethers.

Together the babies are like puppies - egging each other on, getting into everything they shouldn't, climbing all over each other, stealing each other's toys, and howling in agony if the other one is unhappy.  Throw Ila into the mix and the house looks like a tornado hit.  It is exhausting, I'll grant you, but, when I have all three of them on my lap (they all miraculously fit), it is also pretty sweet and wonderful.

NOTE: So, I actually wrote this the first week of June (right after Ila's birthday), but it has taken me a month to post it!  I just reread this and, in the intervening weeks, both the babies have started saying so many more words...Pippa says a mean "Ila" now...and Forrest's current favorite is the word "more," which he pronounces "moah moah moah moah."  And says it like a baby bird hollering for, well, more.  It's amazing to see how much changes in a few weeks at this point in a child's life. 

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Look what I can do!


Hip hip hooray!  Forrest and Pippa are one!!!

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Birthday suit; birthday balloon.
It is hard to believe that they have been around for a whole year...and that we survived having two infants at the same time.  Seriously.  I actually frequently think, "Well, this isn't sooo bad...it'd be really crazy if we had three!"  I guess you acclimate to whatever ridiculous number of babies you have.  Though, part of me also always minimizes difficulties.  It IS crazy having two infants at once.  It is soooooo much easier than it was at the start, but, when they both are wailing in anguish, pulling at my pants (as they were this morning) while I try to get a glass of water or make myself some food or answer the phone, the challenge of the situation is fresh in my mind.

You adapt, certainly.  But you also make compromises about quality.  The babies get significantly less one-on-one attention than Ila did - something all second children probably experience, but it's even worse as a multiple.  I still approach every situation as if the perfect ideal version of the scenario is possible with enough work.  I can be the best, more present, mature, patient, evolved, kind, loving person...all the time.  Lately, I've been trying to remind myself that I am human and that being grumpy or having too much to do are human realities.  Perfection isn't always a possibility.  (Yeah, I heard it.  I know you want me to say perfection isn't ever a possibility, that it shouldn't be the goal.  Baby steps, okay?  I'll let go of doing everything exactly right one little bit at a time.)  I mean, sometimes you can plan and rest and be ready to have a wonderful family day at the zoo.  Sometimes it can be pretty great, and you remain positive and patient and present through all the unexpected little upsets inherent to any outing with a three year old and two one year olds.  But, sometimes all your maturity leaves you and you snap at your partner, harshly shush your three year old and grumble at the babies.  That's when I have to remind myself that I too am human and not always capable of calm and reason.  I am starting to realize I have some insanely unrealistic goals for myself.  (I guess I'm a slow learner.)   

In the toy box!
Maybe this will be my motto for the year: embrace imperfection.  There's a great Tara Brach (awesome psychologist and meditation teacher) talk where she quotes some old, renowned zen master who says that true freedom is being "without anxiety about imperfection."  I have a LONG way to go to true freedom.  And, just to be perverse, I put pressure on myself to embrace imperfection.  I want to do it perfectly.  Some part of me knows that it is better for my children to see me deal with the difficulties of being human - including being grumpy and distracted at moments - in a functional, flexible, forgiving way, to truly exhibit self-compassion, to give up striving for perfection.  Some part of me knows that, just not the part that's in charge a lot of the time.    

Well, hopefully I can help my children be flexible, curious, kind little people who embrace mess and mistakes.  The hard thing about parenting (one of them) is that it is most important to let go of those things that are hardest for you to let go of.  My kids will certainly be MOST aware of my drive for perfection in those areas that I have the hardest time being kind toward myself, being flexible.  These will, then, be the most charged, the most important areas for me to work on.  Argh!  Why does everything have to be modeled?  Why can't I simply tell them beautiful stories about being flexible and kind toward yourself?  Why do I actually have to do it?!

Fortunately, babies are amazing distractions from all this ridiculousness in my head.  Look at them walking!  They are so cute.  Forrest loves anything that is loosely shaped like a comb because he loves having his hair combed.  He likes to put little toy spoons, spatulas, a little wooden fake knife we have to his head and try to comb his hair.  Here he's licking his comb-surrogate instead of combing with it, which is almost as good, I guess. 

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These are actually early walking videos.  I wanted to capture Pippa's funny little monkey crawl here for posterity.  Forrest started walking on Jan 1 and never really looked back.  Pippa still crawled for a week or so, interspersed with little moments of walking.   

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Forrest is about moving.  He's also a bit of a ham.  He's learned this one foot stomp that makes everyone laugh...so, obviously, he keeps doing it.

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Pippa also likes to move...and she loves music and dancing.  Also, I think she might be a budding drummer.  She drums on EVERYTHING.  She has gotten encouragement but, again, this started with her.  She's also the biggest mimic we've ever had around here.  She babbles and chirps and tries to copy every sound.  Very cute.  She actually said her first words, "Tickle, tickle," about a month ago.  We thought at first she was just copying the sound, but she says it all the time at the right moment - when we're going to tickle her.  She also closes and opens her little hands repeatedly in the tickling gesture while she says it.  It's very cute.  And, she started signing last week - "all done," "more," "eat," and "up" so far.

It is amazing how different hanging out with a one year old and a three year old is...because, time-wise, they really are so close in age.  In some ways, the babies are so exhausting...but, weirdly, they are also much easier than a three year old.  The babies are physically demanding at times, but it is so easy to get them to laugh, to distract them, to comfort them, to toss them on your hip and do whatever.  Ila is more of a little person, with more opinions and ideas about how things should happen.  It is exciting and amazing to see her turn into her...but it takes a little more discussion and compromise than with the babies.  At least there's variety around here, I suppose.

Ila is so sweet with them...and generally very tolerant and patient.  However, when I get out the camera to record something (like here: I wanted to catch Pippa drumming), she really wants me to focus on her and only her.  I can record five minutes of Ila before trying to get 20 seconds of a baby, but she still wants to be part of the show for those 20 seconds.  This is totally understandable, but it does sometimes make us laugh a little.  

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

These Babes were Made for Walking

One of my New Year's resolutions is to write a blog post today.  That's it, just today.  What I like about this resolution is that it's very immediate, seemingly achievable.  What I don't like is that it is actually not that achievable.  Seriously!  ONE post may not happen.  (Note: I didn't finish the blog post that day.  It's three days later.)  Let's recap 2013 in order to help you understand why I may not be able to get one post done: having twins is very, very, very time consuming.  It's actually embarrassing how long it takes me to do one thing, like respond to a short email.  Sometimes it takes a month.  So that was my year.  Busy but not seemingly productive. .

The babies have certainly been busy.  They've grown from the little tadpoles I wrote about last (in July!) into actual crawling, walking, hopping little newts.  (Okay, what's a baby newt called?  A newtlet?  Certainly not a tadpole.  My herpetology-loving friends are, undoubtedly, offended by my metaphor.)  Forrest started crawling at the start of October and Pippa joined him a month later.  Pippa's crawl is one of those drag-one-leg, monkey-scoot kind of crawling styles.  But they both really move, particularly Pippa. 

Forrest is kinesthetically precocious, I think.  Shortly after mastering his traditional little cross-crawl, he started standing.  He rises up from the floor, unaided, then beats his arms in the air...sort of like Tarzan or King Kong.  I really had misgivings about this description when I first used it.  I mean, it's so overly masculinized.  But, really, he looks sort of...cave man like, that's just what comes to mind when I see him do it.  He gets down into this little squat and jumps and grunts and chirps.  Then he rises up out of the squat and hollers and flaps his arm exuberantly.  I guess it sort of looks like he's having some weird episode...or he looks like he's doing a cross fit exercise, maybe.  You know, something that is really going to make your quads sore the next day. 

While Forrest spent his time standing and announcing to the world he'd done so, Pippa mastered cruising around the furniture.  She could even walk with just one hand aiding her.  I think she could actually walk on her own pretty early on, it just hasn't dawned on her yet...unlike Forrest who, when given two hands to help him walk, he'd shuffle in this jerky, puppet sort of way.

The jury was out on who would walk first since they both attacked he problem with very different strategies.  However New Year's day, Forrest started walking.  They both have, in the last couple days, taken some negligible mini steps on their own, but yesterday Forrest really struck out into the real world of walking.  He likes to carry this pooh bear stuffed animal that is almost as big as him while he hobbles around.  It's pretty ridiculously cute.  Have I mentioned that he's in the second percentile for height?  He's a very short little honey.  The lack of height is great for cuteness but not great for carrying giant stuffed animals.

After seeing her brother shuffle around like a little unstable T-Rex (those little arms out front to balance), Pippa, on January 2nd, decided to join the ranks of the walking.  Without months of standing and hollering about it, she has simply started to stand on her own and walk.  Just like that.  They do appear to motivate each other.  When he could push himself into sitting and crawl and she couldn't, she seemed very frustrated.  Having a big sister runnig around certainly spurs them on, but they also appear to really push each other. 

Pippa, who is, incidentally, the opposite in size (97th percentile for weight!), started clapping and saying, "Yaaaay!" a couple weeks ago.  Every time she does it, we all stop - everyone in the house - and clap and say, "Yaaaaay!"  She loves this, obviously.  The night after she really got it, really understood she had this power over us, she woke me up in the middle of the night.  I rolled over to her and she looked up at me with a big grin, clapped and said, "Yaaaay!"  I wanted to holler.  But, also, it was pretty adorable.  Forrest, after watching these demonstrations, has started clapping himself.  They clearly are aware of what the other is learning and doing.  They also often have little giggle fits together.  They crawl through this little tunnel we have and laugh and squawk at each other.  It's very sweet and funny.  Of course, they stop as soon as I try to get video of it.  Grrrr.

So, Pippa outweighs Forrest by 4 pounds. She is a big sweet potato while Forrest is an itty bitty potato.  He is in a much greater pencentile for weight than height, so he still seems like a dumpling, just a short a one.  Everything about him is little, except his belly.  I cannot get over his hands, in particular.  They are so little and sweet.  I can be exhausted and grumpy and he'll wave one wee mit in my face while nursing, and I just feel all ooey gooey love.  That's oxytocin for you. 

Pippa is a cute little monkey, too.  She's so big and strong (her grip is ferociously and disturbingly strong) and, like her big sister, super keyed-in to what's going on around her.  Oh, and she can holler so loud that you can hear it in orbit.  Even when she wakes at night, she just does it loudly.  Eyes closed, still sleeping, she goes immediately to this grunty, yelling complaint.  It's super inconvenient as it wakes other sleepers.  She is a force to be reckoned with. 

They're both so sweet and active and adorable.  I find myself feeling bad that I have less energy to take them places (the logistics alone are exhausting).  They're like little shut-ins.  Cute, sweet little shut-ins.  It's hard to take them to non-baby proofed areas as they both like to put EVERYTHING in their mouths.  I realize most babies are not like Ila was - she never put anything in her mouth.  Really.  It was weird.  Pippa and Forrest crawl and wobble around the room, mouthing everything in their path.  They leave little slime trails.  Like slugs.  "How did the toe of my shoe get wet?  Oh, Pippa just crawled by."  It's crazy and gross and totally...normal, I guess.  This particular trait doesn't seem evolutionarily adaptive to me, especially if you're a twin and your parents have less ability to watch every move you make...or carry you all the time so you don't choke or ingest poison.  But, what do I know?

Ila has also been busy.  She was in a production of the Nutcracker this past month.  She was a mouse and a snow flake.  Dancing, actual ballet, is not exactly how I would describe the movement in the two scenes with her and the other 3 year olds.  Not that that matters, of course, because it was sweet and hilarious.  I felt so happy for her up on the stage, doing this thing without us.  It's sort of amazing to see her becoming her own, independent person.  She (and the other little kids) seemed to have no stage fright, and Ila has been so enamored with this whole experience, she wants to be called Clara (the little girl in the Nutcracker).  "Ila," she informs me, "is never coming back."  Oh, boy.  She's been going by "Clara" for about two months now, so who knows how long this will last.  It's hard to determine whether she simply loves dancing or if she is more in love with acting out the story of the Nutcracker over and over in our living room.

She's also really hit her stride as a talker.  In the last six months she's added lots of face and hand gestures.  She's so expressive.  She says, "We should eat some ice cream later...maybe?" with this little eye-brow raised, quizzical and conversational little look, accompanied by a casual shrug.  Like this is the way to get ice cream - act nonchalant.  It's so funny.  It's like she's pantomiming us and all our expression, trying them on and picking the ones that feel right.  Not to mention her fabulous 3 year old logic.  When Kiyomi was chopping onions recently, she mentioned that the vapors from this onion were going to make her cry . Ila informed her that this was because Kiyomi has "thin eyes" while Ila has "thick eyes," so the onions weren't going to bother her.  It's very hard for me to believe she is only 3, that she was a goofy little baby like her sister and brother only two years ago!  What did we do before we had her?  Stare at the wall?  I know some of those things were important, engrossing, time consuming...but I've totally forgotten what any of it was (maybe cleaning my house?).  This is just as well, since I won't be able to do that adult-focused living for a long, long time.















Sunday, July 28, 2013

Acceptance


One year ago, I found out that I was having twins.  I was in shock that day…actually, kind of horrified and scared, to be perfectly honest.  Even after I accepted that I was carrying two babies, was actually excited about it, it was so unreal.  Carrying twins – let alone higher order multiples – isn’t particularly fun.  I was extremely sick, yet I had to eat so much food; I had to visit the doctor every two weeks until the last trimester when I got to see her every week.  I had about a hundred ultrasounds.  Three visits to the labor and delivery emergency triage.  Two admissions for preterm labor with resulting unpleasant medication and hospital stays.  Fun.

My homage to matching outfits.  Probably the only time.
Now, it’s hard to remember having only one child.  The babies are only five months old, but the logistics of everyday life have so changed that I can’t really remember what it was like when all we had to juggle were the demands of our single little one.  Ila has been off from school this last month, and I’ve learned a lot.  Actually, I’ve learned one main thing a lot of times.  It is HARD having a three year old and two babies without any preschool or live-in nanny type support.  I think most people would put money on that being the case, but let me just say it again: it’s hard.  It’s hard to keep everyone entertained, to exercise and engage the three year old, to get everyone napping, eating, bathed.  (Baths have grown much scarcer, let me tell you.  For all of us.  Ila likes to tell me that I’m smelly.)  Then, there’s actually getting out of the house.  HA!  Four out of five days, Kiyomi and I will say, “Let’s go do something all together today.”  Then, two hours go by in the process of slowly getting ready to go…and it’s nap time or dinner time and we abandon the whole trip.  Basically, family walks are our main way of getting out with all five of us.  Otherwise, one of us takes Ila out to do something fun to keep her from getting totally stir crazy.  By the end of the summer after Ila turned one, I think we’d gone on five actual trips.  Airplane rides, long drives, boat rides, train rides.  We’d even been out of the country.  Twice.  Now, we can’t make it out of the neighborhood.  I am thankful these two babies are not extremely challenging…just the ordinary level of baby challenge is almost more than we can handle.

Wobbly babies.

Oh, also, the sleep sucks.  Have I mentioned that?  Since mid-June, night time is not the restful domain of sleep.  It’s a farcical satire of that tranquil state.  It’s become absurd.  A good night is when I wake up 5-8 times to nurse, and everybody goes back to sleep immediately.  Pippa starts squawking at 5ish still.  Kiyomi and she go into the other bedroom and sleep a little longer.  Forrest, my once good sleeping-in companion, now wakes and starts rolling around, gurgling and yipping at 6.  If I’m lucky, he’ll do that for an hour and ila will sleep through it.  If luck holds, I can fall back to sleep for half an hour to an hour.  That’s a good night.  A bad night involves one to three children being fully awake for a period of time, usually more than an hour, and crying or hollering or having a bathroom accident or a nightmare or some other fit of wailing and yallering.  This week, I’ve had three “good” nights and the rest have been a little post-apocalyptic.  (Incidentally, I was planning on taking a challenging course with a lab this fall.  HA HA.  I think I will have to postpone that and take an easier lecture.  Really, even that may be beyond me.)  Amazingly, though my total amount of sleep lies somewhere between a very rocky three hours to a moderately disturbed six hours, I generally feel okay during the day.  Still pretty much human…at least passably so.  Night and wake up time are when I feel like I’ve joined the undead.  Oh well, this is just for…what? Two more years or so?

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Anyway, the days run together, and I find that I’ve barely taken note, explicit note, of new exciting things that I don’t want to forget.  The babies have, for the last few weeks, been rolling around a lot, from back to front especially.  Once on their stomachs, they are both pretty focused on pulling their little legs up under themselves and otherwise thrashing around.  Forrest is perhaps a little more persistent about this.  He also gets real pissed about it.  Maybe he really wants to be going places, maybe he’s just sick of holding his head up.  Who knows?  But they could both be little crawlers pretty soon here.  Then all hell will really have broken loose.  This week, Forrest has also become more adept at sitting up.  Over the last five days, he’s gone from ten seconds upright to several minutes…that is, if you spread his legs out to widen out his little base of support.  Pippa sometimes seems even better at it…then she’ll have a day where she doesn’t sit up for 2 seconds when I try.  However, they both love it.  They love watching the whole kooky performance that is our life from an upright posture.  They particularly love watching Ila.  She’s the only thing that has made them laugh out loud without being tickled.  It’s pretty adorable.  Ila is hilarious herself.  She’s so earnest and animated when she talks now.  She’s been talking a lot about her Dads.  Plural.  Apparently she has a few.  Sometimes they are small enough to fit in her pocket.  Other times they are big guys “who don’t clean much but fix a lot of things.”  It’s fascinating and also a little horrifying that some of the cultural messages about gender have really come through already.  We recently went up to Flagstaff (that was an exhausting but fun experience with the three children).  Ila got to hang with a cousin who is about five years older than her.  Ila was entranced.  This girl could do so many things – like pretty amazing tumbling (gymnastics), which Ila had to try in turn.


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Perhaps it’s the sleep deprivation, but it feels surprising when I get one phone call or one email sent.  That’s the bizarre thing about having very small children, you are so busy but you don’t actually get much done.  I’d like to try to get even less done, actually.  I mean, sure, I’ll be taking a class this fall, but I will just have to do that in the little bits of time I’ve carved out with babysitting coverage.  When I’m with the kids, I would like to try to do less.  Just the basic amount of laundry and household stuff (which is shockingly a lot, sure) and the rest of the time just be with them.  It’s very easy for me to get swept up in trying to get an email written or an extra load of laundry done.  I like to be engaged with something other than just tiny people.  But, I feel very torn, very pulled in half when I am only partially attentive to all their tiny demands all day.  I mean, I’ve got to get some shit done each day for the house to run, but I need to spend some very conscious, very focused time with the children.  It’s sort of weirdly artificial, but I’ve started sort of setting a goal, like half an hour one-on-one time with each.  The others can be around, but at least half an hour where I am holding and talking to that child.  With Ila, we do story times before nap and sleep.  We have some snuggle time in the morning and after her nap.  With the babies, I try to spend that time with eye contact, holding, talking, singing.  It feels like so little, but it’s hard to do even that much.

Still, I also need to focus a little on other stuff.  Chores, phone calls, a run.  Otherwise I feel a little Charlotte-Perkins-Gilman-Yellow-Wallpaper crazy.  It’s funny because, on the one hand, little small tasks like these are important to distract my brain.  But, too many and I feel stressed, disembodied, like I am not located in the present enough. I recently heard this quote from Thomas Merton about the innate violence of trying to do too much, even for good.  It seems to me that acceptance and choosing to not do is really at the heart of living skillfully with grace and real peace.  It’s just not a skill that’s particularly emphasized or easy.  I mean, who wants to accept all the irritating shit that’s out of our control?  I’d rather rage, blame, resist, holler, and otherwise beat my fists against the wall.  What is that Virginia Woolf quote?  “Against you I fling myself, unvanquished and unyielding, O Death!”  I’d like to do a little less of that high scale resistance, even if it is very poetic and even sometimes a little satisfying.

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