Things to do today:
Exhale, inhale, exhale and ahhhh,
just enjoy the fresh feeling of free!
We all need reminders sometimes. Directly or indirectly, they are triggered by all sorts of things and if not immediately perceived, will pass us by in a blink of an eye. A goodnight kiss, a spontaneous smile from a stranger, a seemingly unimportant post-it, a couple of kind words, bumping into someone unexpectedly on the street, an email from an old friend, an incredible sunset, but also, a disappointed glance, self judgement or even a mistake- all potential reminders. This week’s writing experience reminded me of something of paramount importance.
I was completely consumed by the drafting of my next post entitled “Baby Steps to Freedom”. I was determined to create something truly special – a post that would unveil the secret to a freer existence and explain to everyone how we all can find freedom in our lives, one baby step at a time. It was going to be amazingly inspiring, spiritual and poetic.
Then, early Saturday morning, one of those rare moments of sheer clarity hit me smack in the face. I was seated at my usual table on the outdoor patio of the family-run hotel where we stay, typing away with a zillion thoughts in my head (many of which had nothing to do with what I was writing) when Havana came skipping towards me to ask me if she could have the keys to the room. Before she could even finish the question, the words “Havi, not now!” came bursting out of my mouth in a very un-Zen, irritated tone. As I watched her slim, graceful body instantly droop like a bowl of jello that has been sitting around for too long, the corners of her huge eyes sag straight to the floor, and her radiant smile disappear into a set of disappointed lippies as she bravely held back the tears, I suddenly stopped and took a good look at what was happening.
The reminder: an exaggerated reaction to the innocent request of my own child.
The desire to finish my post was mischievously luring me away from everything that mattered to me, including my kind natured self. I realized that I was feeling stressed. I actually said it out loud “I am feeling stressed!” as I squeezed my limp, 7 year old between my arms for comfort (mine, not hers!). My commitment to write about freedom was taking over other more important needs of the moment. My fingers were racing back and forth across my keyboard while my mind was sprinting all over the place. How could I be writing about priorities and slowing down and a stress-free lifestyle, and at the same time feel as if someone had pressed the fast forward button on my own time.
Stop. Breathe. Observe. Ask and Listen.
Who is the most important person right now?
The person standing before (or within) me.
What is the most important thing to do right now?
Pay attention and satisfy the needs of the person standing before (or within) me.
What will make me happiest right now?
Enjoying exactly what I need to be doing this instant (with or for the most important person right now).
Feeling as if everyone needed a cardinal piece of me this past week, I realized that it was time to ask myself “What does freedom mean for me today?” At this point of my life I am not interested in mere theory. I write about this stuff. I breathe, sweat, fight and dedicate much time and thought in search of it (both on and off my mat). We all have this sense of freedom inside of us waiting to get out, even in the tiniest of spurts. However, grabbing just a glimpse of freedom sometimes feels like trying to capture a single grain of rice in a pot of boiling water. It is a difficult thing to hold on to, but it almost always has a unique way of resurfacing itself once we allow the water to calm itself down… and when it does, it demonstrates to us over and over again how essential it is to our wholeness and wellbeing.
So, when I did finally stop, breathe, observe, ask and listen, the answer was as clear as the Costa Rican sky.
Freedom for me TODAY is not writing the post on FREEDOM,
and instead searching deeper into my real needs and
those of the people surrounding me.
Today, my freedom involves giving my time freely and completely to my family, friends and myself. So for the moment, I have put aside the lists and objectives, the mental deadlines and the programmed post, and I have decided to re-own my freedom.
Stop. Breathe. Observe. Ask and Listen.
This is what freedom meant for me this past week…
- Offering my time to listen to my husband, Andrea, so that he could release his frustration of not being able to open a bank account (considering that we have residency and own a small lot of land it shouldn’t be such an ordeal) after over 4 weeks of trying to understand, convince and negotiate, more than 50 trips to 5 different banks, innumerous telephone calls, each one providing different and often contrasting information, the search, scanning and sending of documents that in the end proved to be unnecessary, several appointments with accountants, notaries and attorneys, a substantial sum of money wasted, lots of huffing and puffing, energy drained, mental presence shut down, patience remaining: ZERO. Just a typical problem faced in paradise, but quite challenging to accept at times.
- Offering Kenia my time to help with her first written and oral report (in Spanish) at school. She needed me to reassure her that this project was not bigger than life itself, and that after taking a deep breath and putting things into perspective she would be able to complete in time and even have a bit of fun learning something new. I accompanied her to purchase materials. I helped her draw lines on a huge sheet of paper so that she could write neatly in big letters. I sat beside her as she researched information about El Monumento Nacional Guayabo. She didn’t need my occasional correcting and suggesting. She just needed me to be with her while she worked. My unlimited presence reinforced to her how much I love and care about her, and that there was absolutely no other place that I preferred to be in that very moment.
- Taking the time to explain to Kenia why I didn’t want her to chew bubble gum, drink mango flavored Tang, or eat white bread and refried black beans from a can for breakfast like her friend Jasmin Maria. After allowing her to express her opinion, we calmly came to an agreement that satisfied both of our needs (no yelling or hysteria involved).
- Lovingly preparing frozen Choco Coco Banana Pops with Havana for her school’s fund raiser (instead of taking the faster and cheaper route of buying a chemically processed, packaged snack). Healthier, prettier, super yum and SOLD OUT!
- Listening to Havi as long as she needed me to– cuddling her and soothing her, and wiping away her tears when her big, cruel sister didn’t want to see the sight of her. Offering her a couple of hours of just us time over an ice cream cone, a “funniest face” competition and a lot of silly chatter.
- Having an extra couple of hours to help a stranger search for and book the cheapest flight to Manila, Philippines.
- Bringing my girls to school and picking them up (back and forth up to 4 times a day – but that is another story!) without rushing, without saying “come on” or “you are going to be late”, enjoying the walking, or rather hopping on one leg, as well as the view along the way.
- Caring for my own back which has been playing not-so-funny tricks on me for the past month and a half.
And remarkably, when I decided to free myself this week, it turned out to be contagious. This week we all enjoyed some extra freed time. For example, Andrea enjoyed the building of the wooden jewelry boxes he had promised our daughters weeks ago and we all had so much fun painting them together.
Many of the things we did during our extra freed time weren’t much different than the things we normally do (arts and crafts, card games, homework, preparing meals together, story-time). The difference was all in the enthusiasm that we offered to each activity. Deciding to be freer added what I call “vacation spirit” – take yourself away from schedule and routine, stop setting limits, and everything is just better!
Freedom for us this week also meant slowing down long enough to count rainbows after each sun shower (in Costa Rica rainbows are as easy to encounter as finding a Starbucks in Manhattan), admiring the clouds speed past us with super strong winds, choosing a special star to wish upon each night.
But, most of all my choosing to be freer this week meant being free enough to remember to be kind and loving and patient with one another, and that the best thing about having a family (and time) is all the extraordinary moments that are created in every single ordinary day when you remember to stop and listen to what you really need!
Stop. Breathe. Observe. Ask and Listen:
What does freedom mean for YOU today?
Thanks so much for sharing with me.
Wishing you a fabulous week filled with a freed you, freed days and a freed life!