Mindfully watching the toilet overflow

I invite you to read this toilet meditation in a calm, slow, gentle voice, almost as if you were reading a poem. If you are able to, lie down on the floor of your office, allowing your body to completely relax as a friend or co-worker reads it to you aloud.  Think of it as a time for self care.



Toilet Overflow Meditation

Feeling, now, the cold, sweaty steel of the toilet handle . . . the warmth of your index finger, or thumb, or whatever parts of your hand are touching the handle . . . as you press down . . .and at the same time, noticing . . . now, for the first time . . . in this moment. . .that the water was already almost to the top of the bowl . . . even before you flushed.

Seeing now . . . the pale yellow water . . . the loose shreds of white toilet paper swirling about on the surface . . .dancing . . . disintegrating. . .Staying with the breath . . . noticing as the water and the swirls of white rise . . .Rising, rising, slowly . . . steadily . . .  to the top of the bowl.

Just listening and watching the water . . .rising up to meet the rim. . . spilling over the rim. . . and down the sides of the bowl . . .Not a mere trickle, but large cascades, splashing . . . flowing, rushing onto the hardwood floor that was just installed last year.

Just breathing  . . .Noticing how your mind might wander now, to the next door neighbor . . . and their goddamn tree roots . . . that back up your sewer each autumn . . . or perhaps, to your six-year-old . . . and his propensity for using far too much toilet paper . . . most times . . . this time . . . and then flushing . . .sometimes quickly, to get rid of the evidence. . . or sometimes obliviously . . . either way . . . each time . . . denying it . . . Pretending he has no idea what you are talking about . . . when you ask if he did it again.

Just noticing these thoughts, how your mind has  wandered again and then gently, without judgment, bringing awareness  back to this moment . . . now . . . here . . . this water rushing onto the hardwood floor . . . this waterfall . . . not the waterfall your mind remembers from the past, but this water, toilet water . . .here, now, gushing.

Allowing yourself to feel whatever you are feeling. . . . maybe a surge of energy shooting through your body . . . perhaps anger . . . or rage . . . or whatever feeling you are having . . . just noticing . . . Noticing your desire to shout . . . and to scream . . . and to swear . . . and to blame . . . and to cry . . . because you have no towels at hand . . . your hands are empty . . . and there must be two fucking gallons on the floor. . . and the six year old is pretending like nothing is happening . . . and is in fact asking for more toast . . . not asking very nicely . . . Not saying please . . . kind of a whiny voice today . . . in this moment . . .

And again, noticing how the mind has wandered, and bringing your awareness back to the body. . .bringing yourself to this moment . . . this toilet . . . so much water . . .

Imagining now the toilet water’s journey . . . soaking through the hardwood floors . . .behind the radiator, beneath the baseboards . . .flowing into the dark empty space beneath the subfloor. . .into the floor joists . . . beneath the joists. . .into the basement ceiling . . . just following its path. . .

Listening carefully, and now hearing the drip drip drip of water so much like the first drops of rain . . .yet it is not rain. . .it is the sound of the water, the toilet water . . . the pee water . . . that is now dripping into the basement. . .the water has flown through the bathroom floor to the ceiling below . . . is likely pouring from the can lights . . .and now onto the basement floor . . . flowing . . .

Noticing any judgment, perhaps wanting it to be different. . . or wishing you hadn’t so carelessly flushed such a full bowl . . . without realizing what was about to happen . . . and letting go, with kindness, and compassion . . . letting go of your desire to judge or blame yourself . . . or your child. . .or your neighbor. . .and to just accept what is here . . . right now . . . in this moment . . . just being with the toilet . . . and the water dripping . . . and the possibly ruined floor . . . and the continuing requests for more toast . . .

(and so on)

Four spots still remaining.

Four spots still remaining.


Everything is Relative

Update/Clarification: I am not really getting a horse.  But just knowing that there is a horse therapy class out there, that Equine Therapy for mental health and well-being is a real live thing that exists makes me feel more hopeful about my situation.  Sometimes when you have tried a lot of different things to feel like your old self again, and they don’t seem to be working, or maybe they work for only a little while, and then stop working, and you have to start all over again, it’s good to know there are possibilities you have never even thought of.  Okay, so maybe you have had a rough year or two, and you haven’t found the exact right medication, but hey, you’ve still got that therapy horse in your back pocket!

There are many roads to happiness.

There are many roads to happiness.

But back to today’s theme, which is everything is relative.  The kids do really want a dog.  At least one of them does.  (No longer the kindergartner and second grader!  What to call them now?  Elder and Younger?  Hmmm. . .Younger, with his six-year-old need to feel superior to everyone in all matters of grave importance, namely height, weight, age, grade, how-high-can-you-count and Excellence in Underarm-fart Sound Effects, would not be pleased.  I’ll need to give it some more thought.)

Elder wants a dog, or a cat, and I want a dog and don’t want a cat, and after contemplating getting a horse yesterday, now all of a sudden getting a dog, even a Great Dane, seems like no big deal.  This is a bad sign when I find myself mentally rehearsing my defense.  Calm down!  It’s not like I brought home a horse or something!   It’s more like I brought home a goldfish, relatively speaking

Horse : Great Dane = Great Dane : goldfish.

On a related/unrelated note, I went to EdinaRealty.com this morning, as I am known to do when I should really be cleaning the house I already own, to sort of psych myself up to start picking up (I don’t recommend this strategy) and somehow the price and zip code search filters defaulted to no filter and so the first thing that pops up is a house for Twenty Four Million Dollars.  So naturally a few minutes later it didn’t seem unreasonable at all that I was looking at a house for sale on Lake Harriet Parkway for “only” 1.5 million dollars thinking We just might be able to swing that. . .  Ha.

Takeaway for today (which I realize may not be exactly jumping out at you, because I have invited myself to post stuff that feels less than stellar/not very good at all rather than polish to perfection until I regain my full faculties because frankly depression causes considerable cognitive distortion such that I can’t tell the difference anyway) is that you will be no more or no less happy whether you are living in your current house with no pet, or in a mansion with a large fun animal, or any combination thereof.  Also you should be glad you have any house at all, because many people do not, even if they sometimes do still have a dog, like that one guy with the sign at the 35W onramp. ( I’m sorry.  That was inappropriate.  But my need to be funny sometimes overpowers my appropriateness.  It’s the depression talking.)   Just a reminder.  But doesn’t just reading “large fun animal” kind of lift your spirits?)


This photo kind of ruins the whole mathematical analogy thing.

I’m getting a horse!

I know!  You can hardly believe it either, right?

But there I was this morning, just like an hour ago, when it all happened.  I jumped online for a quick sec to check a class offering through the University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing, and it was like a horse just fell into my lap.  (I know!!)

The course offering I was supposed to be signing up for was CSPH 5541, Emotional Healing and Happiness: Eastern and Western Approaches to Transforming the Mind.  Which sounded pretty awesome and life transforming and was in fact going to change my life, but then, I saw–crap!– that class goes until 4:30 pm and I have to pick up the kids by 3:20 pm, and it was going to be so perfect and now it won’t work and I’m never going to find anything else and I’m never going to get better, and then–wait!!–thanks to a hugely serendipitous moment, this popped up, front and center under “Featured Courses”:

CSPH 5000-004: Horse as Teacher

Mostly online, 3 credits

By including horses in our daily practice of cultivating balance, we are provided with a unique role model – another conscious being who demonstrates with wisdom and peace how to be in the present, how to let go of attachment and accept life as it is. This course includes an intensive, in-person weekend workshop Nov. 15-17 at the University of Minnesota Nutrena Conference Center. Read More

It’s almost like we’re getting a dog, but a hassle-free dog, who is also really wise and at peace with himself, that we can also ride.   AND, because it is a horse, we will have lots of help taking care of it, which is a definite must, given the current state of my mental health.  I have always loved Great Danes.  This is going to be like getting the Dali Lama and a Great Dane all rolled into one.  But without the poop-sacks! ( Yay!)  Like a Great Dane that comes with his own butler and maid.  I feel like Richie Rich.

I might call him Dali.

This is someone else’s therapy horse, but mine will look similar.  I might call him Dali.

P.S. I have to just double check to make sure my mental and behavioral health benefits covers the purchase of the horse as teacher, boarding costs, stable fees and all that, but once I have clearance, I’ll post some pics of my new pony.

P.P.S. The kids are going to be so thrilled!!!  This so beats getting a hamster.

P.P.P.S.  If for some reason the Therapy Horse isn’t covered under BlueCross BlueShield, I’m going to try for CSPH 5341, Overview of indigenous Hawaiian Healing, which takes place on the Big Island.  In January.  Four seats still open.

healing in hawaii

CSPH 5341 Overview of Indigenous Hawaiian Healing

Click to register for this class 31844 -001 LEC , Tu,W,Th (01/06/2014 – 01/08/2014) , OFFCAMPUS , Kreitzer,MaryJo , instruction mode: Classroom/Onsite , 2 credits , This course takes place on the Big Island of Hawaii. Call 612-624-5166 for course fee information.
Seats Open  4 of 10 seats open

Love note

The second-grader decided to have a sleepover with the kindergartner.  He had already fallen asleep, though, so before she crawled in with him she wrote this note and put it on his pillow in case he woke up before she did (which is nearly always the case, so good call).


This is pretty much exactly how I feel about writing this blog.


I’m tired of thinking so much lately, so today I’m gonna take a break from writing my usual long, rambling blog post and draw a cartoon instead.


photo (1)

If this counts as a real post, then it’s number 25. (Yay.)

Be Here Now

Remember how I was supposed to get my taxes done, get a big refund check and then spend the whole thing on summer camps for the kids, so I wouldn’t lose my mind? Yeah, now I remember too.  Because I’m just now coming out of a depression that descended upon me about six weeks ago, when we hit Day Ten of no school, and I had apparently already reached my limit.

I do this every time.  Every long weekend, every holiday break, every school release day, every summer.  I overestimate my ability/desire/capacity to spend all the live-long day with the second-grader and the kindergartner.  And I fail to sign them up for sufficient time with Other Responsible Adults.  Which on more than one occasion has contributed to a loss of life balance which then smoothly paves the way toward the downward spiral of depression. Why? you ask yourself.  Why do you keep doing this when surely you know better by now?

Aside from the obvious, which is that I’m indecisive, prone to procrastination, and have deep ambivalence over my need to use child-care of any sort, I tell myself this time will be different.  The kids are older, now.  They’re at that “fun age.”  (Note this is always said by people with much older children, people with amnesia.)  You’re in a better place.  You don’t like structure and schedules and running them to a bunch of activities.  You’ll have a relaxing, kick-back summer with the kids.

I tell myself, you’ll do crafts, go on nature walks, go for donuts at The Bakers’ Wife.  You’ll play four-square,  jump rope, build the fairy garden, walk down to the creek, or the playground.  Watch a little morning television.   You’ll have a lemonade stand, go to garage sales, or the kindergartner’s favorite: “take a walk around the block and and see what’s going on in the neighborhood.”  Hell, you’ll just bask in the ability to walk outside without a coat on and sit in the grass for a change!

Well, guess what you forgot?  You forgot that the kindergartner can sustain interest in each of these things for no more than five to seven minutes, and because he also wakes up before 6 a.m. most days, you already did ALL of these things, and it’s still not even lunchtime.  (Here’s where you imagine the movie version of the above paragraph, a hokey montage of all of the fun summer activities happening in succession, to show the passing of time, only:  time was not really passing!!  It happened all in one morning!)  You still have 10 weeks of summer to go!!  Crap!!

Remember the squirrel on crack?  Oh, yeah, that's right.

Remember how the kindergartner is in fact nicknamed the squirrel on crack? Oh, yeah, that’s right.

You also forgot that the second-grader is largely a homebody like you, while the kindergartner is, like his father, built with a “bias for action” which means he needs to  go, go, go!  Go, Dog, Go!  And Go! You must!

Me neither, but it's probably "just the depression."

Me neither, but maybe it’s “just the depression talking.”

And not only do you not feel like going anywhere, neither does the second-grader, so you need to ignore both her whiny protests and your own and be a cheerleader for the troops and act like this is going to be Fun for the Whole Family even though, like the second-grader, you would rather stay in your pajamas and play Legos.  Or simply putter about the house, throw in a load of laundry here and there, relax on the sunporch, listen to the water fountain with a cup of coffee, flip through the Southwest Journal, maybe wander out to the yard (the real outside) to water a few pots after awhile.

But instead you find yourself  marching two bickering children out to the car, not even sure where you’re headed, just knowing you need to get the hell out of the house. Because the kindergartner is starting to wreck stuff.  And your day is only heading downhill from here.

"There they go.  Look at those dogs go!  Why are they going fast in those cars?  What are they going to do?  Where are those dogs going? (They have no fucking idea.)

“There they go. Look at those dogs go! Why are they going fast in those cars? What are they going to do? Where are those dogs going? (They have no fucking idea, but the kindergartner needs to get out of the house and it’s only 8:15 a.m.)

You also forgot that you don’t enjoy preparing meals, especially so many meals each and every day, and that the kindergartner and the second-grader don’t like to eat the same things, so it’s like preparing six different ones, not just three.  Also, you yourself are bad at remembering to eat, so when you do realize you are hungry you’re already famished and feel as if you need to put the oxygen mask over your own face before you can take care of their needs, and that makes you feel like a bad mother for feeding them second.

Essentially, you fail at responsibility.  The only reason this stay-at-home-mom gig ever works for you is because for so many months they are at school all day, and you can and do manage the couple hours in the morning (because your husband packs the lunches) and the couple hours after school (because your husband will be home soon to take over, and to make dinner). I know you’re probably thinking, “What the hell?”  What does she do all day?  It’s not like she has a job. It’s not like her house is spotless, or she even really cooks.”  I know.  I ask myself the same thing.  All the time.

During the school year, I do a little writing, I find junk in the alley and bring it home with good intentions to fix it up.  I sometimes meet a friend for a walk around the lake.  I read books.  I contemplate life.  I follow signs that say “estate sale” or “garage sale.” I read through The Loft Course Offerings.  Occasionally, I have lunch with friends, volunteer in the kids’ classrooms, even take a nap (especially when it rains).

One of my more recent "stuff in the alley" acquisitions.  Can you see the potential?

One of my more recent “stuff in the alley” acquisitions. Can you see the potential?

I go through cycles, creatively speaking, sometimes knitting, or sewing, or building stuff out of wood, refinishing a wicker sectional for the screen porch, sewing cushion covers.  I practice drawing, or learn some new guitar chords.  Sometimes I phone a brother, or my sister, or my mother-in-law.

I also occasionally get bored, or worry that I should really be looking for a job.  So I can make a contribution to the family.  I feel guilty, sometimes, that I am not making a bigger contribution to the world.  I vow to be more compassionate, to have more genuine connections with people, to not be so “earning money and productivity” focused, to try to use a different yardstick to measure my life.  I try not to feel guilty that I have so many good things, and I wonder about how to find gratitude when I’m feeling envious of other people’s close-knit families or in-town grandmas and grandpas, and how to see the beauty in the ordinary, every day moments.  Because that’s all there ever really is, and if you’re holding out for something extraordinary or grand or large, you will surely miss a lot of good.

If I’m doing anything on the computer, I will often stumble upon pictures of the kindergartner and second grader, or even better, video of them, and remember how little their voices were just a short time ago.  And I feel deep pangs of missing them.

How could this be four years ago already?  They look exactly the same to me.

How could this be four years ago already? They look exactly the same to me.

The first day this summer when the kindergartner was at Minneapolis Kids and the second grader’s being home all day was still fresh and new (and she wasn’t having a super talky day), I said to her, “It’s so different without our boy here, isn’t it?” “Yeah,”she replied thoughtfully.  She was building one of her many Lego montages, this one involving Batman and Robin and friends preparing to compete at the Pillsbury Bake-Off, apparently being held in Gotham City this year.  “It’s so nice. It’s so peaceful.” Yes it is.  Manageable, and peaceful.

But still, I missed him.  And herein lies the dilemma, of course.  The kids drive me up a tree most of the time, yet when they have been gone for like 20 minutes, I miss the hell out of them.  (And then they return, and the cycle repeats.  Sigh.) I also run toward the melancholic, so all the sappy things like the Subaru ad where the Chocolate Lab (Farley!) goes from puppy to old timer, and other poignant songs and images and moments that stand for the relentless passing of time run through my head in a continuous loop.  And there is my own mom’s gentle voice echoing, they grow so fast.  

And later, speaking of the process of raising four children only to watch each of us in succession pack up our belongings and head off to college (each of our departures unique, and with varying degrees of “all-at-once-ness”, but still, each of us gone in a way that was, as would become clear only in retrospect, in fact final), my mother summed it up with a wry smile, and these words:

Just when they get interesting, they leave.

An indication, or perhaps an obvious admission that, while her love for her children was deep and without question, she found grownups a bit more interesting to be around.  And though she would never say so directly, maybe she too found it difficult to spend long stretches of time at home, “raising children.”

I know I need to drink in these days, these summers with my kids while they are here, because they surely will not last.  And I am continually frustrated by my inability to appreciate the here and now.  To simply be here now.  And I’m reminded once again of one of my own dad’s favorite sayings, which he would no doubt offer up here if he were able: “Life is too much, and too little.” Maybe accepting that is my real work here.

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