Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Baking Cakes, Peace and Running

“Joy is not in things. It is in us.”

Richard Wagner

Not too long ago, I was driving in my car, serving in the capacity of what currently feels like my most significant role as the mother to two children: chauffeur. And while sometimes I feel like that is the extent of their use for me, particularly as they enter the teenage years, I realize that the car is a fabulous place to engage their sponge-like minds and have conversations that might otherwise not happen. I mean, they are captive for whatever length of time I have them in the vehicle!

“You know, you guys hear me all the time talking about doing the things in life that bring us joy. For example, you both know that my work brings me a great deal of joy. I love working with kids, the volunteers and the staff at Girls on the Run.

So, what brings you two the most joy?”

Hank, immersed in a skateboarding magazine, was riding “shotgun”, in the front seat next to me and Helen was fiddling with her I-Pod in the backseat of the car.
Hank, now a young man, lives, breathes and eats skateboarding. He didn’t even look up, pause or take a breath.

“Skateboarding, of course.” His response was to the point, simple and clear. The tone of his voice was monotone and the sound of it was in that new and fabulous man-pitch that comes with being almost fifteen.

“Helen? How ‘bout you? What brings you the most joy?”

Everything Helen does and says exudes a kind of glitter, pop and fizz. She stopped messing with her I-Pod, and looked up from her throne in the backseat to make eye contact with me in the rearview mirror.

“Mother (interject sing-song kind of voice with twinge of exasperation), I’m only 11. How am I supposed to know what brings me joy?”

I drove along for another minute or so, just letting the silence sink in a bit.

Hank turned another page and Helen fiddled a bit more with her I-Pod.

We are driving along, for at least another good five minutes, when I hear from Helen, who is now staring somewhat dreamily out of the window. “Although I will say, that baking cakes does set my spirit free.”

This is when, as a mother, coach or teacher it becomes almost painfully difficult to not laugh out loud. Her choice of words was so…well…so like something I would have said.

Needless to say, I dropped Hank off at the skate shop and proceeded to go with Helen to the grocery store. We bought six different cake mixes and all the ingredients necessary to make icing from scratch. Later that afternoon, I watched her working in the kitchen, battling bowls with wooden spoons and measuring utensils. The girl was clearly as close to nirvana as one can get.

In my younger days, running was that place of joy for me. I’ll admit that at times it was joyful because it provided me with an opportunity to escape much of the chaos I was creating with the imaginary stories I was telling around relationships, work and family. I was running from rather than to.

Now, though, the joy I get from running isn’t the escape it provides, but the peace it brings...the presence within me that I feel when I run. When I run I feel beautiful, powerful, and real. The pieces of me that I share throughout the day are all assimilated back into one beautiful tapestry . . . one amazing piece of reality . . . one experience that is mine and mine alone. The physicality of it provides me with a powerful reminder that my body is capable, strong, powerful, and MINE.

Every time I run, I make a statement to the world, "I own my action, my body, my thoughts, and my experiences. I do not and will not buy into the stories which objectify, sexualize, diminish, or dominate me. I am real. I am human. I am spirit manifest within this strong, healthy, and beautiful physical body. I honour that which rests within me and in doing so feel and choose joy.”

When I run, I rise above the stories which define and limit my joy and go to a space where the stories are not only diminished but eliminated. My mind becomes empty and the joy of just being...present, within and real...can find a home there.

As I get older, I realize that it isn’t the running, in and of itself that brings me joy. No, joy comes when I willingly recognize and let go of the stories I tell and buy-into about myself and the world around me. Joy comes when I just peace.

I can find joy even in the simple things:

Folding my children’s clothes...I feel the soft fabric beneath my finger tips as I tenderly and lovingly place shirts and shorts in their dresser drawers;

Waiting in traffic...observing the people in the cars around me, watching the stop light go from red to green, seeing for the first time the flower garden rising up, roadside, planted there by a local community group;

Washing dishes...feeling the warm water across my hands, seeing the bubbles emerge from water, towel to pan, pan to shelf, good meal in my belly;

I will run today, feel the warm sun on my shoulders, hear my breathing, and feel my feet on the ground. Joy will be there, as she always is, patiently waiting for me to clear out some space and let her in.

What brings you joy? When are you most joyful? Are there areas of your life that seem joy-less? What could you do differently to possibly find the joy that is hiding there? Let me know at

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