Friday, February 24, 2017

Resting in paradise.

Last month Nancy and I went to Panama for an island vacation. We took three planes, two different car rides, and a boat to get to a 600 acre island on the southwest corner of Panama. There were five cottages on this island, no stores, no TVs, no restaurants, no buildings other than the ones people stayed in. We were the only guests there for most of the time, so it was the two of us, lots of howler monkeys and iguanas and a few very helpful staff.

On the plane over, we both noticed that we were getting sort of sniffly. Before we left, Lucia had a cold and we had been worried we'd catch it. By the time we arrived at our island destination, we were both full blown sick. Nancy showed symptoms about one day in front of me, so the intensity of our colds staggered-- she was bad one day, and the next day I followed suit.

The result was that we each had to rest and isolate at different times. On the first day, Nancy rested in our room alone while I took a hike in the jungle and explored the tide pools and the next day, I hunkered down to rest while she felt well enough to do a lagoon hike.

We laughed a lot. Every morning we had to ask housekeeping for extra kleenex. Having no way to replenish our stock of medicines, we rationed our cough drops like lost campers with their last Clif bar.

But we were sick in paradise and it was wonderful. Bernie Clark, one of my teachers, told us that colds are important. Getting the common cold and sitting through it, letting it work through our systems, is a way of strengthening our immunity. It's not unlike the slow build of core strength that happens over the hundreds of times we hold plank or the eventual opening of our shoulders when we do day after day of Bikram Pranayama. The strengthening of our immune system takes time. Getting a cold and following the natural course helps.

So it was a blessing in disguise that we were sick in paradise with no amenities. We did exactly as we should have done. We rested. We sat with our symptoms and let them run through us. If we'd been back in Seattle, Nancy would would have been running around trying to make it to Saturday morning spin class, squeeze in a tennis game, and have long days at work. I would have been driving Lucia all over the county for soccer, doing as much yoga as possible, and trying to finish taxes.

But we had none of those pulls there. And our sickness took us to a even more quiet place. We just rested in paradise. In Chinese medicine, they don't use the terminology, "catch a cold." They say that your body is out of harmony, that it needs to get back in balance. I believe that. Too much running around, too much of anything, even good things, can take the body out of harmony. Our Panamanian Paradise was the balance shifter. We both needed quiet, rest, and recovery. I felt so grateful, lying in bed with kleenex floating around the sheets and floor, to look out the window and see the Pacific Ocean, watch the geckos scamper across the ceiling, and listen to the howler monkeys and variant birds creating music outside.

When we returned, we were both on the tail ends of the cold. "What a bummer!" our friends and family exclaimed when then heard we'd spent our vacation sick. But neither of us felt that way. We both loved our vacation resting in paradise.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

It's all there.

Last week my daughter Lucia had her sixth-grade "student led" conference. She told us about how she plans her homework time, how she takes a Meta moment when she gets frustrated or angry, and how she is developing a growth mindset in her studies so she'll continue to work hard.

I was so proud of her. I know she was coached by her teacher and had help preparing for this presentation to her parents, but she was so self-possessed, so clear and direct. There are moments when a parent's heart swells and this was one. After the conference, as we walked through the school corridor to the parking lot I said, "Lucia, I think you did a great job leading your conference. How was that for you?"

Lucia rolled her eyes and said, "Ugh Mom, I hated that, but I think I did fine. I just channeled you." We're at that stage of adolescence where I knew that that statement wasn't meant as a compliment, but I pretended it was and we carried on with our day.

The next morning we got a late start. If I got her to school without a tardy it would be a small miracle. As we turned the corner from our house onto Lake Washington Boulevard, Lucia looked over to me from tying her shoes and said, "Hey Mom, let's do gratitudes on the way to school today."

The backstory here is that I am the annoying parent who tries to get our family to have regular "Family Meetings." I like to start the meetings with appreciations and areas of improvement. We each have a time to share about the other family members what we appreciated and what we'd like to see change in the future. Lucia bristles at this activity every single time.

When she suggested doing gratitudes in the car I was pleasantly surprised. "I'm grateful for living near the lake," Lucia started. "I'm grateful for having a warm, dry house," I said. And back and forth we went for the twelve-minute drive to school. It was one of my favorite twelve-minutes of the year so far and another heart-swelling moment for sure.

Twice in two days I found myself in moments of learning from my daughter. What a refreshing, exciting experience. As a parent it's easy to fall into the trap of controlling the learning to try to ensure that the lessons we impart are fully understood and integrated into our children. But the learning process is not linear, it changes over the course of our lifespans, and it is not unilateral. Lucia has as much to teach me as I have to teach her.

The full-circle experience of seeing my daughter sharing concepts, ideas, attitudes that I've tried to teach was incredibly gratifying and affirming for me. But witnessing her do it in her own way, on her own time, in her own voice, offered me a lesson from her-- to loosen the reigns a little bit, to trust and have faith that, whether it seems immediately apparent or not, the lessons are all there. They really are.