”Mama, can I go to the North Pole?”
I briefly wonder if he has recently watched an episode of the Wild Kratts and wants a close encounter with some Arctic animals. I consider reminding him about the weather conditions. But something in his voice tells me to shut up and listen. His crackling voice, which tells me of his need to go there, is urgent and filled with emotion. Is he going to cry?
My kid is seven years old, going to first grade next year. He is no longer a “baby”. He likes facts and figures, animals and bugs. I jump from my computer and join him on the couch where he is immersed in watching Polar Express again, for the I don’t-know-how-many-times-this-is time. I give him a hug and desperately hope to find the words to answer his question.
Of course you can go to the North Pole, I think to myself. You can go anywhere your mind and spirit want to take you. But I say nothing. Squeeze tighter. My voice breaks and I tell him that I love him. He looks up at me surprised, and asks me, why there are tears in my eyes. “Because you are magic, and I love you.” And because Santa is not real, but I don’t want you to ever lose your faith in magic.
I sometimes catch myself scared of the moment when my boy will figure out the truth about Santa, or the tooth fairy, or the superpower-full, wonder imaginary pets of whom he so tenderly takes care. Will he be crushed to know that the old man does not live at the pole, does not have a sleigh, and most likely is lactose intolerant? Will that discovery turn off the spark I see in him every day?
To be completely honest, I am afraid to admit that believing in magic is more about faith than it is about fairies, unicorns, and stars over the rainbow. Losing and finding faith is a journey we all must take, sometimes more than once, sometimes on our own and often with our kids.
I recently heard an interview with Mastin Kipp of The Daily Love, in which he described a challenging point in his life. He was living in an eight by eight foot borrowed room in the pool house that belonged to his ex-girlfriend’s mom. He was working on his dream of launching his (now well-loved and famous) site, and was looking for a sign or an answer about what was next for him. As he says it, a universal voice told him that his faith was as big as his room, but that was enough. It made me wonder about mine.
Sometimes when I am looking for big backpack sized amounts of faith I forget about my appreciation, and, dare I say it, love of paperclips. I have paperclips in all my desks, and always carry a few with me in my pencil bag. Weirdly though, when I seem to be in most need of a paperclip, and I am desperately looking for one, there is rarely one around. I can never find a paperclip when I need one. Moments, hours, or a day later, however, three of them show up.
Faith is my paperclip. It holds me together: the small parts of me that need remembering to listen, to cry, to let go of getting it right, to surrender, and yes, to trust fully in myself and my soul’s ability to find magic. I will admit that my faith is often not in sight when I need it, but like my paperclips, I always seem to find it.
I believe in magic, especially the magic of children. I know this because I tear up when my son talks about far-away places where wishes come true, with the clarity and conviction of someone who has had the chance to be there and see sparkling lights dance across the night sky. If it is true that losing our faith is a journey we all must take, then keeping our magic is a requirement for finding it. Here are small steps to nurture and connect with magic.
I recently visited my sister in Baltimore. My son saw fireflies for the first time, and in some ways, so did I. Seeing the fireflies fill the night with sparkles, like a universal electric parade, was breathtaking, even for me. Seeing my boy light up with joy was magical.
In connecting with others, we expand our awareness of the world around us, both of its splendor and its challenges. Sharing grief over the loss of a beloved pet fish may not be uplifting. However, the realization that we are not alone, that we have someone else that shares the pain with us, that allows us to feel hurt and vulnerable, is uplifting and magical.
At first sight, it appears many of us have an ordinary life. I hear this frequently from parents, “Growing up, I had an ordinary life. Sure, my parents worked hard, things were not always easy, but overall, it’s not like I had to endure torment, torture, famine, or war. I feel pretty blessed.”
I believe in the magic of all our stories regardless of how ordinary. I delight in the simplest of stories my friends tell me, especially when the insignificant details are vividly colored in for me. As an immigrant to America, I share my stories of growing up in far-away lands, climbing trees to snatch a few of my neighbor’s peaches, and playing in the streets with my friends. I share the evolution of my dream of coming to America from its genesis, when I was seven or eight years old, to its fulfillment when I landed in New York at seventeen. I share both big chapters and very small details. All our stories are magical.
Every January my friends and I get together for a “Dream Session”. We share stories, laughter, and good food, and we write our dreams for the year on sticky notes. I love seeing the colorful puzzle that results when we all display our dreams for everyone’s viewing. I can feel the energy of a dream session in my body. It’s tingly, exciting, and it makes me giddy. Looking ahead towards new dreams and imagining the delightful “what-ifs,” makes me happy, hopeful, and faith-filled.
Every night when we go to bed, my boy and I go over the things we are grateful for: our health, family, work, house, community, and planet. The list gets very interesting (and long) every night, and before I know it, we say thanks for our Lego® toys, dinosaur pets, the sting rays at the local aquarium, our creativity, and ideas.
When I was young, growing up in communism, there were times when my sister and I went to bed hungry. Part of the insanity of the regime we lived in was the slow and gradual torment of its people through consistent deprivation from basic needs like food, heat, and electricity. I frequently share my story with love and courage because I am grateful for the great gifts I have been given, but especially for the small ones we typically take for granted.
I frequently look back and try review and explain my journey from childhood to now, and realize there are no words that can make sense or explain all of it. The only word I use often, crazy as it may sound, is magical. With profound gratitude and thanks, I wonder to the universe: who am I to say that going to the North Pole is not possible?
And now it’s your turn. Would love to know, what resonated with you? What do you do to encourage your kid and yourself to believe in the power of dreams and magic? Please leave a comment below and let me know.
With love and appreciation,
“Each day is a little life” – Schopenhauer
The magic dust of New Year excitement has settled. It now takes longer to see the sparkle in the midst of preparing lunches, attending meetings, and doing life every day. I recently caught myself evaluating how I’m doing by analyzing my output thus far, which inevitably led me to feeling like I’m not doing quite “enough”, and like I’m already falling “behind” (whatever that means). Feeling behind, in one word, feels: Yuck!
Depending on the study you read, it takes 21, 28, or 66 days to build a habit. This is why we have 21 days cleanses, 28 days diet plans, or three months to a 5K programs. Most of us put our best effort forward for those days, and then, admittedly fall off the band wagon again, and again, and again.
Here’s my interesting non-scientific observation both of myself and my students: it only takes one failure to take down our meticulously built tower of confidence, one mean glance to make our delicate self-esteem shatter into million pieces, one limited belief to make our teeter-totter balancing self-worth lean to the side of insignificance.
That’s just c r a z y!
Sure it can take one day to stop a healthy habit, to postpone our dreams, or to make ourselves and others miserable. But by that same token, it takes only one day to get back on the inspiration bus and on the unstoppable action route to dream-your-big-life land. Here’s a list of a few of my favorite things to do when I’m feeling that “not quite enough and totally behind” feeling:
1. Shrug and Flush
I’ve learned to say “oh well” even though I know my seeming indifference to the issue at hand would drive my mother mad (as it makes me too). As I tell the kids: you don’t stand there and look at your poop in the potty, do you? You flush it! Flush the mistakes, the mean words, the sour looks. Flush, flush, flush. (I use the toilet brush too when necessary).
When I was a dancer I was taught to smile in spite of the blisters on my feet inside the pointe shoes, the tight hair bun giving me a headache, the long rehearsals. One of my favorite mantras is: no matter what, smile!
3. Get an inspiration infusion stat
I get my inspiration from walking in nature. I have a special spot where the pelicans come to hang out at the Bayshore. I love watching them organize themselves for long trips, and take flight. I go there to listen to my thoughts and to talk to my inner spirit. I go there to pray and say thank you. Whatever it is that inspires you – music, art, reading, watching movies, exercising, a TED talk – take one hour off and indulge yourself.
4. Do the Work
Sometimes the best cure for the yuck feeling is blocking out time on the calendar with your Chief Executive You, turn off email, phone and any other interruptions and get the work done! In a favorite book of mine, Do the Work, Steven Pressfield says it well: “Resistance is a repelling force. It’s negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.” You hear the man: Do the Work! (Read the book if you need to add another source of inspiration to your infusion above.)
5. Take a Siesta
Sometimes the truth is simple: we just need to take a break. We don’t do it more often because we feel we should be doing something more productive instead. Why would you waste this precious time taking a break? My Qigong teacher, Dr. Roger Jahnke calls this “napping Qigong”. A great many things happen when we rest; our body restores and replenishes. Our mind relaxes and declutters. Our spirit performs jumping jacks and blissful cartwheels.
6. Start with Thank You!
It sounds cliché and yet here it is: be grateful for what you have. Here is the full extent of the quote at the start of this post:
“Each day is a little life; every waking and rising a little birth; every fresh morning a little youth;every going to rest and sleep a little death.”
Knowing that you have one more special gift to have a full life today, what one person, dream, place, thing can you be grateful for and how will you show it?
With love, for the joy you bring to my life, your generosity in reading this blog, your persistence advocating for wellbeing for yourself and your kids.
I thank you!