The recent Thanksgiving holiday week was especially busy in our household.  The hectic pace wasn’t necessarily connected with the holiday itself.  It was more likely born of the several moving pieces that comprise our lives and sometimes clash together to make a mess.  This dynamic may sound familiar!

Starting with the weekend prior, it seemed that every moment of every day leading up to Thursday (Thanksgiving) was committed in some way.  It was hard to breathe.  I felt “busier” than usual, and that is always my indicator that I am about to go into “tilt” mode.  I could see it coming!

So, I reached for the levers I’ve historically found useful when “balance restoration” was “highly indicated” (…aka changed my behavior before I reached “full tilt!”)  I ramped up the meditation, exercise and sleep (not always possible but short restful moments here and there can help!).  I tried not to eat too much garbage even though it was everywhere.  I stayed hydrated and did plenty of yoga.

Additionally, I pulled one of my absolute favorite “balance restoration” levers:  Spending more time with our adult, specially gifted son Zach who lives home and is 24 years old.  And by more time, I don’t mean more actual minutes.  As it is we are together all but six hours a day.  (Changing the structure of resources and support accessible to Zach is one of the “several moving pieces” I mentioned above!)

By “more time” I mean to say, that I remind myself to become very intentional about being “present” during the time Zach and I are together.  When I allow myself show up fully during that time, it’s a game changer.  I have no expectations, no attachments, I am not physically there but mentally somewhere else.  I am not multi-tasking.  I am not delaying my response to his requests and needs. When I can achieve this energetic state, the experience is as though we are the same person but in two different physical forms.  This dynamic connection (when I can attain it) allows the emergence of an all-inclusive state to ensue.

What does that look like?  It’s not easy to explain.  If curious, you should consider trying it for yourself.  Next time a loved one who may be looking to connect with you is “annoying” you, stop what you are doing and embody your physical self (get your head attached to the rest of you) in the now, current moment.  Let go of what you are doing (unless there is something pressing in which case this is not the time to experiment).

In this moment, allow your mind and your body to show up as one.  Engage the person pursuing you.  Watch how they respond.  Notice the positive energy that comes out of them when they feel seen by you.  Observe how effortless it feels to be completely in one place at one moment in time.  Sit still in the experience of “all-inclusiveness” and feel the air get lighter.  Experience a million different manifestations where everything transitions from “me” to “we.”

The best way I can describe it, is to say that the contrast (between “me” and “we”) is like the distinction between “going to a concert” and “jamming on stage with the band!”  Since I have experienced this so many times, I have been incentivized and inspired to focus more and more on intentionally and fully showing up.

So, about the Bedtime Story:  On Tuesday night of Thanksgiving week, I was helping Zachary get to bed.  We went through the usual routine (including getting cleaned up, changed, singing Frosty the Snowman and saying our Prayers). Zach’s bedroom ceiling was decorated by a toy “Astronaut” which beams stunning, moving lights onto it in the formation of a galaxy.  He easily settled into his pillow after noticing them briefly.

As I started to leave the room (knowing I would fall asleep there if I stayed) I heard Zach’s quiet voice say, “Read a story?”  (And this is where learning to choose “presence” took me from onlooker to participant.)

My well developed habit and inclination was to think of all the reasons I was too tired, had too much to do, and couldn’t possibly stay for another couple of minutes.  I might’ve wanted to respond with a statement like “Yes, honey we can read a story.  But not tonight, it is late, and you are already asleep.”  Or “Yes, I love reading stories, but I need to get us ready for company, let’s do it tomorrow.”

There was nothing inherently wrong with those responses, but they would have prevented the opportunity to experience what was about to unfold:

I flexed my “Be-Here-Now” (thanks Ray LaMontagne) muscles and responded with “Sure, what story would you like to read?”

First, Zach chose The Runaway Bunny.  But I couldn’t find it quickly.  His second request and the only book I could easily put my hands on was The Snowy Day.  This was one of his favorites as it was a gift from his kindergarten teachers.  They wrote messages to him on the inside cover.  The ink has since faded away.  But we still try to read the messages and remember his teachers before diving into the book itself.  I wish they could know how happy it still makes him!

Over the next five-ish minutes, I read Zach the entire book, without interruption.  And, when I turned to look at Zach’s face, I witnessed something I had never, in almost 25 years of being his bedtime captain, ever, seen.  Zach was asleep.  He was sound asleep!  No muss no fuss.  All of a sudden, I was a mom who read a story to her kid as he fell asleep!

This may not sound like a miracle, but I promise you that it is.  I may create another post about exactly what it has been like to try and read a book to Zach at bedtime or anytime, but for now I will just say that for 24 years and some change, it has been dicey.  And never, have I read a book fully through (a solid five minutes), as he drifted off to peaceful slumber.

As a mom who has been unable to feed Zach (he remains gastro-tube dependent for survival), and who has largely been unable to provide comfort to him with all of his physical challenges, aches and pains, reading a book and seeing that he fell asleep is the equivalent of me having done something right!  And I say that jokingly, because I understand that my ability to do many things “right” is the very reason God has entrusted Zach’s life to us.  But still, there are so many boxes that are unchecked, when something so natural like this happens it overwhelms me with Joy.

Now, let’s go back to the moment where I resisted my urge to deny his request:  OMG what I would have missed had I rushed out the bedroom door to get ready for the holiday!   What if I’d followed my brain’s inclination to bail on Zach’s desire to hear a story?  What if I’d responded with some BS about needing to work or cook or something else that could clearly wait a few more minutes?  I would have lost the chance to experience this miracle that needed two and a half decades to brew!

But I didn’t deny it.  I opened to it.  I corralled my mind AND my body to show up in the moment, I was actually in.  “Jamming with the band on stage” is a lot more energizing than watching from the bleachers (referring to the earlier concert metaphor!)

And major bonus:  That one singular moment of realizing Zach had fallen asleep without me knowing it as I read to him, gave me all the energy, calm, gratitude and balance I needed to continue to enjoy that week, instead of just survive it.

And this is the invitation.  This is the experiment.  This is the chance to get closer to inclusiveness.  The next time you are inclined to shut someone’s idea, or thought or suggestion down, use this as an opportunity to engage instead of to flee.  Do more of the things that make you feel like more of yourself and fewer of the things that chip away at that self.  Notice how many chances in a day there are to show up.

Give it a shot, even a small one and watch that magic unfold.

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