When I was out of town for the weekend, I indulged myself at the airport bookstore. Twice. Once on the way there, and once on the way back. The first time I was prudent, and bought The Power of Habit, just the one book. On the way home, after several delays, I bought two books for me and two for the kids! I bought How Children Succeed by Paul tough and The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. For the kiddos, Go, Dog. GO! by P.D. Eastman & The Big Book of Words by Richard Scarry. I love Eastman and Scarry. Such great writers!
In the past few months, I’ve also read The Whole Brain Child and am working on To Learn with Love. The Whole Brain Child offers dum dums like me insight into how children’s brains develop and how to approach the terrible brain purges of the two-three-four year old from a scientifically pragmatic perspective. It was a quick read (as are all of them) and well worth it. To Learn with Love I’m still working on. I am a very fast reader, but that sometimes means I skip and skim and this one I really want to digest. It’s about a large family’s experience as Suzuki teachers, and watching their children grow in the method.
I talked a little about the Habit book when purging my closet of dresses, but in more depth, I want to share a few things I gleaned. Our habits are ingrained, and the neuropathways get set and flow easily. But that doesn’t mean we can’t break and change and rewire our habits. I want to. I think we all do. Don’t we all have habits we feel chagrined by? Guilty about? Captive to?
I’m not talking necessarily about the hardcore bad habits (smoking, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, etc). I am talking about dipping into the chocolate mid afternoon.
I am talking about not getting up at 6:15 when AA does to make him a little breakfast and sit with him for a few minutes before he rushes out the door, simply because I want to lie in bed with my iPad scrolling Pinterest and making myself nauseated with dessert that early.
I’m talking about not hanging up my winter coat, or putting the diaper bag away, unpacked, when we come home.
I’m talking about not responding to phone calls & emails because it’s been so long that now you feel guilty.
I’m talking about not exercising because I don’t feel up to it, and not feeling up to it because I overate cookie dough.
Those kinds of habits. So I’ve started with clearing out closets. We live in a big house. Lots of room to store junk. Lots of room for maybe I’ll use this later or someone will need it. I have my closet left, then SuperBoy’s, then the attic, then the two storage closets in the basement, and then, oh, yes, the game closet in the room we love to dub the “library.” The games are mixed together, melded, dumped, and shoved in there.
How Children Succeed reiterated something I already knew: it takes an adult buffering a child from trauma, especially children that undergo systematic and continuous trauma, to allow the child’s brain to actually develop. It’s a biological phenomena. When we live under chronic stress, our body and minds reform and don’t function well. When baby’s needs aren’t met, when they’re left to cry alone, unsoothed, their brains are differently formed than if they’re cared for. When children’s fears aren’t addressed and assuaged, they grow monster-sized inside and freeze potential growth in hidden areas.
The brain is such a mysterious and powerful organ. Never underestimate the impact of how you act, how you chose to think, how you spend your time. This tied in a bit with the Habit book in that there are physiological repercussions to our habits, choices, and lifestyles. Hefty stuff, especially if you’re a parent.
The Happiness Project I was tuned into many years back when clerking by a girlfriend who followed Gretchen’s blog at the time. I followed it briefly, then gave it over in favor of spare time going toward planning my wedding, or eating Twizzlers in front of cable TV, what have you. I saw it in the airport bookstore, and thought, yes, I want to see what happened. How did she execute her dissection of happiness and how did it impact her life?
I’m half-way through and love it. So far what’s grabbed me firmest is that one of her 12 commandments is to be herself. She’s an attorney, was very successful–editor-in-chief of Yale’s Law Journal, clerked for the Supremes!–and finally let herself be what she really was, a writer, at heart. How many of us are so certain we’re supposed to be doing something, following something, because that’s where we feel legitimized? I struggled with these feelings harder before taking a break from law, and am slowly learning to embrace that me, Nell, I was always a reader & writer, long before I begrudgingly took the LSAT, caught law school fever over law review & clerking, and thought I was supposed to become THE lawyer.
My best friend and I went to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts the other night on one of their late nights they have. She met me there after work and I brought dinner to eat in the car. We talked and walked and absorbed some of our favorite paintings and sculptures. She listened to me try to process what the blog means, what my etsy shop is, and where they are going. As usual, it was amazingly helpful.
At the end, she reminded me to not over-analyze the answers I’d arrived upon. She knows I could go home and then shape, reform, critique, and not feel my direction was legitimate enough. She knows me so well! We laughed and I agreed to just be where I was about it.