Annie Fox's Blog...

Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Oh, these fuel-ish thoughts!

March 22, 2013

Please don't feed the monkeys

I sat and waited for my friend to meet me for lunch at a local place. I was trying not to do anything else. I was not succeeding.

When you’re waiting for someone to meet you, or call, or return a text, it’s easy to think fuel-ish thoughts (the kind that adds to anxiety):

Where is she already?

12:30. Wasn’t this the time we said?

It was for Wednesday, right?

Today is Wednesday, isn’t it?

Or were we supposed to meet Thursday?!

Is she trying to call me?

Is my phone on? (Yes!)

Should I check again? (Yes, it’s on!)

Did she forget?

Did she have an emergency?!

Is she all right?!!

All that mental garbage, piling up, muzzling my good spirits of ten minutes ago as I congratulated myself for finding parking so close-by… and with 90 minutes still on the meter!

But now fuelish spores exude from my monkey mind, infecting this happy camper. Downer thoughts. Not worth a damn. Powerless to alter current reality:

I am sitting alone on a wooden bench in a restaurant. My friend, who agreed to meet me for lunch is now… 22 minutes late. Make that 23. Whatcha gonna do about that, monkey mind?

Grass wallpaper. Potted palms. Bamboo fountain. Ah serenity. Except for the noisy diners. But actually, they’re perfect. From every part of the room happy folks enjoy a mid-day break with good food and good company. Eight friends over there (a birthday celebration, perhaps) swap personal updates and laugh it up.

I wish I was sitting with my friend enjoying the same. But she’s not here… yet.

I should just call her! Damn. I don’t have her number!

But you know what? That’s fine. Really it is. She’ll get here when she does. And in the meantime, I’m taking notes for this blog. Trying not to do anything else. Because nothing else is needed. It’s nice to sit here.

Are we out of milk? I’d better…

Shut up! No need to think about what I could or should be doing instead of waiting here. So I’ll just sit and breathe. In. Out. Ohmm. Present moment… Wonderf….

Maybe I made the mistake!

Maybe my friend is waiting for me somewhere else and wondering if I blew her off?

I’m hungry.

Do I grab a table and order something?

Do I want to buy lunch for myself if she doesn’t show?

We’ve got food at home and I’m 10 minutes away.

I don’t need to spend the money. I don’t think I should…

Sigh. Anyone want a monkey?

Filed under: Humor,Meditation,Mindfulness,Yoga — Tags: , , , — Annie @ 3:08 pm
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Someone is always not happy

September 25, 2011

This is a partial repost of a parenting article I wrote in 2007.

Dog + hill + fence=solution

It’s not like we didn’t already have a fenced-in yard. We did. And our land continued beyond the fence. Like the rest of our neighbors here in the flats, we believed the high ridge above us was designated open space, meaning that everyone can enjoy the land and it can’t be developed. For decades, we boasted to out-of-town visitors how that ridge would forever remain untouched by contractors. Our bragging increased our Happiness Quotient (aka HapQ) though I’m sure it decreased our guests’ HapQ, which decreases my own now that I think of it.

When a section of the ridge behind us was sold (because it wasn’t actually open space) we were unhappy. When a massive house was built up there, we were bummed.

But hey, no one can be happy all the time, right? So we breathed and we made our peace.

A few years back, I was hanging out with my dog by our bay tree. We were on our land but outside our fence. Suddenly our neighbor swooped down like a ringwraith with acid reflux.

Admittedly, I’ve led a sheltered life, but I’ve watch enough reality TV to be pretty sure that “Get off my $#@%$ property or I’ll shoot your $#@%$ dog” qualifies as harassment. Adrenalin pumping, mind a blur, I high-tailed it into the house.

Whoever said “Words can never hurt me” was either lying or hearing impaired. Words can pierce your heart and set up camp in your mind where they continue stinging like time-released poison darts.

For the next two years, every time I stepped into my garden I was visited by the ghost of Ringwraith. I never actually saw him again, but I felt trapped by my unspoken fear and a growing resentment. Just as I got completely fed up with myself for being such a wimp, our apple tree died. Naturally I had to delete it, so I hacked back the offending limbs but lacked the muscle to finish the job. Soon after, the apricot tree failed and I called the Tree Guy. He rid my garden of deadwood and planted a new apple tree. I was so happy I started dreaming aloud about extending our current fence to create more enclosed space in which to garden and plant trees. Turns out Tree Guy’s brother is Fence Guy. What luck!

When Fence Guy showed up Ringwraith reappeared. He wasn’t happy about our new fence, but Fence Guy was philosophical, “Someone is always not happy.” True, but someone isn’t always unhappy with me and when they are, that makes me very unhappy.

Things with Ringwraith got dicey. I went to scary places in my mind and couldn’t find the off-ramp. So I walked. I breathed. I ate embarrassing amounts of very dark chocolate. I remained in child’s pose for hours at a time. Nothing helped. Even after 8 years of yoga and meditation I could not get happier or calmer. So I resorted to Annie-bashing. You heard me. Not only was I dealing with the stress of an unhappy neighbor, and my constant fear of his reprisals, I was beating myself up for not being able to breathe my way back to Normal Life. My tower of unhappiness reached new heights daily.

Then presto… life returned to Good.

I wish I could say I had a moment of enlightenment that suddenly made everything all right. But I didn’t. We just built our fence like we planned. That was it. Now that the fence is up, so’s my Happiness Quotient. Oh, and we haven’t seen our neighbor. I don’t think it would bother me as much if we did.

Soon afterwards, under the full moon, I stood tall by my bay tree. I felt safe and strong and completely at home – light years from two years ago in that spot. Was it really just a bunch of fence posts and a couple of rolls of wire that made the difference? Or had I somehow made myself safer the moment I decided I’d had it with being intimidated? I really can’t say.

I also can’t say exactly what all this has to do with parenting. Except that sometimes we just have to tough it out. And so do our kids. We can’t always help them up when they’re down. Maybe the best we can do is remind them that someone is always not happy, and right now it’s their turn. On the other hand, tomorrow it could be their turn to be happy again. Just knowing that might help.

 

 

 

Filed under: Parenting — Tags: , , , , — Annie @ 1:18 pm
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For Parents: A Note to My Future Self

August 20, 2008

It was the end of yoga class and we had just finished svasana, my all-time favorite pose! For those who don’t speak Sanskrit, the translation is roughly: “stretched out on a folded blanket preferably with cushions under your head, knees and feet, chillin’ after spending the previous 90 minutes twisting, stretching and standing on your head while breathing consciously and trying to keep at bay all intrusive thoughts of life outside the yoga studio.” It’s called the corpse pose and it only looks easy.

When our teacher Laurel invited the bell, we 8 students brought our consciousness back into the room then slowly brought our bodies up to a seated position. In front of each of us was a yellow index card, a blank envelope and a pen.

Laurel said: “On your card, write today’s date. Then complete the following sentences:  I am letting go of _____________________ .

I am giving birth to ________________________________.”

For me the big draw of yoga and meditation has always been the promise of a ticket out of my Monkey Mind. That’s why I was surprised that Laurel seemed to want us to think and write.  But I totally trust her, so I completed the sentences. Then I sealed my card in a self-addressed envelope, handed it back to her and moved on to my next bit of mental madness.

5 months later the card showed up in my mail box. Because I wanted to play a joke on my future self,  I wrote “From a Friend”  in the return address. That, and the fact that the postmark was from Boston left me momentarily confused. What “friend” do I have in Boston??

Then I recognized my own handwriting and opened the envelope.

“March 24, 2008 – I am letting go of judgement of  myself, of situations, of other’s actions and reactions.  I am letting go of dualism. I am giving birth to the next level of my work.”

I’ve always been into setting goals, so I liked reading about giving birth to the next level of my work. Then the very next day (I swear this is true) I was notified that I had been selected to give a workshop at the annual Middle School Association Conference in Denver in November. This will be the first national venue I’ll be speaking at. The next level of my work? Could be. So maybe there’s something to be said about putting your aspirations out there while sitting on a sticky mat.

As for the letting go part, I’ve gotta be honest.  (Actually, I don’t have to be, ’cause you’d never know, but why the hell not?) Being judgmental and opinionated has always been my M.O.  It’s what I do. So it’s impossible to say that I’ve “let go” of even a micron of this tendency. But it can’t hurt to aspire to change, right? And the yellow index card sits right here on my desk here as a constant reminder to quit judging myself for still being so judgmental.

Well, here we are… almost September. If you took a minute to think about yourself and the way you are in the world… or the kind of relationship you want with your kids for this new school year, how might you complete these sentences?

I am letting go of __________________________.

I am giving birth to ______________________________.

Your thoughts?

Filed under: Announcements,Meditation,Parenting,Yoga — Tags: , — Annie @ 1:29 pm
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