The true title for this post should really be called “A 3 Part Reflection on Motherhood, Money + Work in the World ending with thoughts on Non-dual reality” so here goes.
We were standing in our kitchen talking about having kids. I said if it happens great if it doesn’t that ok too. Nate said it would be ok if our baby had special needs, that he could handle that, and I said, don’t say that, because I don’t think I could. 2010, months after we were married, I took a pregnancy test and bingo! first try, pregnant! Happy healthy pregnancy until the spring when I developed a cough from a virus we think, still no concerns and in late July, I went into labor rather gently and spaciously - we took our time getting ready to go to the hospital, eating croissants and waiting for our doula to arrive. We headed on over got checked in and labor got going. 12 drug free hours later, labor was not progressing, doctor broke my water, then an epidural, then a cesarean surgery and I was looking into B’s beautiful baby eyes … I didn’t put him down for the next 24 hours or so it felt. We were in the hospital for 3 days and it felt like forever. The first thing my dad said was you still look pregnant (I don’t know what he was thinking when he said that). Anyway, We took him home, I dressed in white to mark the right of passage and tiny little baby B with me, in the back seat. We slowly pulled out of the parking lot onto the main street and I gave the driver behind me the middle finger - he was too close to our bumper. Welcome to Motherhood!
The next 6 weeks I recovered from surgery and nursed my beautiful babe, in love with every bit of this new person, relying on Nate and family and friends for food and help up. We went for a very short walk to Tumalo Falls and I cried because I couldn’t make it more than several hundred feet. Giving birth this way was not what I had expected or planned for.
I owned a yoga studio at this time and I was ready to cut back on my responsibilities there and settle into being a mom when with a 6 week old, Nate lost his job - a job he left another job for. So, we needed the yoga studio to be more “successful” to cover our living expenses. We went to work together for about 6 months and I prepped for teaching Yoga Teacher Training. Nursing and mothering and running a business began to take it’s toll on my health. The cough I had during my 3rd trimester went dormant, but still lingered and after the baby weight came off, I kept loosing weight. B was delightful, sleeping through the night and we had a good rhythm in our little family. Nate began working for an acupuncturist and was able to bring B to work while I taught me classes. The cough continued and one day I was walking the few blocks home from Nate’s work with B in the moby and I started to get short of breath, by the time I got home I had to sit on the curb in front of the house to catch my breath - too tired to get inside. So I went to the doctor, CT, pulmonary function test, pulmonologist, cardiologist, etc. - diagnosis: perinatal cardiomyopathy - congestive heart failure - shock. At this point no more children, and possibly death - shock, we are sending you home with this oxygen tank. Even as I write this, I can’t remember the details and its hard to remember sitting in the doctor’s office with baby B and Nate hearing this. I honestly don’t remember all the details of that year, but I went on medication, stayed with my yoga, meditation, healthy eating practices, and went to all the healers: massage, heart-mapping, crystal healing, acupuncture, energy work, carnio-sacral therapy (the perks of owning a community yoga studio). Went on beta blockers and got better but I also developed asthma. I took time off. We decided to close the studio. The final week after dinner with some students, I started to get short of breath. That night I had an asthma attack, we went straight to the ER. I didn’t have to wait in the lobby or check in, they took me right away. My lips were blue, I couldn’t breathe. I am sitting on the exam table, leaning forward, lorazepam in my veins, doctor is looking at me and I am wondering how come I can’t breathe, doctor is deciding on whether or not to intubate. Nate and little B are in the corner. I spent two nights in the hospital and couldn’t teach my last class.
My heart broke the day I became a mother. My lungs tried to process the grief and couldn’t. Couldn’t because I wasn’t sad - being a mother has also given me the experience of unconditional love. True Love.
We went on to get pregnant again and in 2014 gave birth to O, on the anniversary of the day my mom died 12 years earlier. Seems that motherhood for me would be destined to be a great paradox - tension for transformation.
2104, we were in Portland. Nate was in residency at a Level 1 Trauma and Children’s Hospital (he’s a hospital chaplain) and I was home with 2. 5 year old B and and baby O. My body tried again to process the emotions and I experienced postpartum depression. Nate also brought home stories and energy from the hospital which contributed to feelings about what if …
Where is this reflection going?
Feelings, so many feelings, feelings coming to the surface for me to process and learn from.
Fast forward, we move to Wisconsin. Moving from the Pacific Northwest to central Wisconsin was a pretty tough transition. I loved living in Oregon, it is so beautiful. Trees, rivers, ocean, high desert, alpine all the wild places. Places to connect with Nature to balance the feelings. We went hiking and took adventures all the time. When we moved to Wisconsin I settled into family life.
I taught a few yoga classes per week, a few workshops, but my focus was on raising the little ones and learning about this new and exotic Midwest culture. It was a good life, stable, balanced, centered. B went to preschool two blocks down the street and O was still napping. My creativity returned. After 6 months in our rental we moved into the cutest house, a Cape Cod build by the owner in 1932. Life with 2 small kids is challenging, but we were cultivating a peaceful existence. Pancakes on Saturday morning, fires in the backyard fire-pit under an old tree, swinging on the swingset, the infectious delightful laughter of young children.
When B was 4, I got a call from school saying he fell down some stairs - he hit is head and had a giant goose egg. I noticed he moved slower than the other kids and he took a long time getting up stairs. He was my first, I didn’t know what was “normal.” He began to work with a physical therapist at school and we set up a special plan for him to work on his gross motor skills. When he was 5 I had a terrible feeling and an internet search brought fear and tears to the surface. Nate just thought I was stress crazed, but he agreed to talk to the PT, the PT suggested with we talk to Pediatrician, B got a blood test. This week is etched so clearly in my mind. One night we had a picnic at the lake and B had his bike, Nate and O had fishing poles and worms, he rode and I walked - it was far and I remember thinking this may the last time we ever get to do this. B said he wasn’t tired. May 5, 2017 the doctor called with the results - elevated CK levels, I’m getting you in with a specialist next week. We drive to Milwaukee, the specialist didn’t wait long to confirm what we already new but hoped against - Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy - “I am very sorry.” We will do genetic testing, find out his dna sequencing. The time between getting the blood test, seeing the specialist and waiting for the genetic results was slow, I think I took a video of the boys everyday and watched it every night before bed. I tried to stop time. Stop time long enough for a cure to be developed, a miracle.
“Brendan if you could go anywhere in the world were would you go?” His answer .. a local nature preserve. I wrote this after visiting the nature preserve. At this point I was still thinking maybe it’s something else, maybe miraculously, magically it will be Becker’s MD.
Paradoxically, DMD is a slowly progressing disease, which gives us time to slowly get used to what that means. It will be years before he will rely fully on the use of wheelchair. He can have a “normal” childhood. It’s also quickly progressing, life expectancy is maybe 30.
You might be able to imagine what this feels like. (I write about it in my blog posts from around that time - I didn’t edit much. I was also interviewed on the Special Needs Spotlight of the blog This Little Miggy, after the initial trauma subsided. Nate also wrote about how it affected our marriage.)
Motherhood is hard enough I thought, how? … how the hell am I going to do this? I experienced suicidal ideation and massive situational depression. I also continued to teach yoga classes, tuck my boys in at night, make the family food, play in the park & backyard, laugh + live. We sold our house, bought a new house, moved and started at a new school. Elena, my yoga teacher, gifted me with a mentorship program and a box of doterra essential oils. I had nasal polyp surgery then enrolled with doterra. The best day of my life was the day we went to Little Farmer in September 2018 - the boys had so much fun, it was warm, we brought a picnic and I could smell. I had not smelled my children yet, I couldn’t stop smelling them or my husband. The best day of my life occurred after we got the news? The human experience is expansive.
I began to seriously consider the opportunity to build a business with doterra. I wanted to be able to pay for a power chair, accessibility home renovations, trips to give my boy a full life and experience of this beautiful world, therapy, self-care support so that I could show up for him and O and Nate and family, friends, community fully and “super duper happy” (see here). I considered the ways in which I was “trading hours for dollars” - teaching yoga a few times a week would not be sufficient should anything happen where Nate were to loose his job and/or insurance.
I began to put effort toward building + offering classes at a newly renovated Holistic Health space. (This was something I had been thinking about and waiting for a long time.) I waited patiently for the renovation to be completed. Jan - March, then finally to May. I had a full first class and then summer started. Summer is not an ideal time to start something up in Wisconsin. I was hoping by September (and Owen’s start of school) things would be flowing. However, all this effort was a distraction. As I write this, I can see the excuses, the sabotage. I was trying too hard. I wasn’t sure I belonged or was wanted. Energetically nothing was balanced.
In Sept 2018, I stepped away from teaching yoga to process all that had happened and to focus on ways in which I could move out of “trading dollars for hours.” This was 10 years after I opened that yoga studio in Bend.
It’s now Feb 2019. I have enrolled just under a dozen people. The oils and supplements have been very helpful. I said yes to doterra because of the support that the oils + supplements give to B in the form of mitigating inflammation and stress. The only treatment available is long term corticosteroid use so we need to balance the side effects with holistic alternatives. In this area, doterra is a godsend.
However, as I am writing this now, I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t mean teach classes, share knowledge, support - that I can do all day. But, I don’t know if what I offer is needed or wanted. Is this thinking sabotage? Probably. Truth is that I have a hard time working for money. Partly because there is a belief that I can’t and partly because my thinking goes to far end of what is possible. Its is not balanced. It is extreme. Truth: I don’t have a healthy relationship with money. And being a mother of a child with special needs has brought that truth to light for transformation. How often do we, culturally or personally talk about money?
This is the first time I am writing about it …
(Thank you for reading this far, if you have made it!)
I grew up in affluent southern California. My dad was a Chief Financial Officer for a major real estate development firm and was able to retire with a home in Irvine, a beach house in Newport Beach and a rental property in Venice, CA in his 40s. My mom was a SAM. Dolores came to clean our house each week, lawn care was taken care of our HOAs. There were neighborhood pools, playing fields, basketball hoops, tennis lessons and a lake for sailing lessons. My childhood was full of soccer, gymnastics, dance, girl scouts, horseback riding camp, Disneyland + amusement parks, family road trips, a European vacation, braces, and shopping. I also ran track, played basketball and played competitive volleyball at a national level. College was paid for, as was my car, insurance and phone bill. I write about this here because its an important part of my understanding of my work in the world and how it relates to motherhood for me. It is also an important part of owning my privilege and reconciling with my feelings of worth - again to opposing extremes. After college I worked in sales and then married a US Marine at age 23. We moved overseas, I was given a job for the US State Department. Post: US Mission to Cote d’Ivoire, West Africa, per capita income aprox. $2500/year - welcome to the 3rd World. Poverty wasn’t just for poor people, this was an entire nation. I didn’t think about this then. I was a 23 year old living overseas in an apartment with a pool, a guard and househelp. I was also given a job - though I had to interview for the job, it was one of the jobs reserved for spouses. While living overseas, I was able to save over $100k, by age 25. So my experience with money up until this point was that it was plentiful and always available, that money was no barrier - it was unlimited. I did not see this at the time and today as I write, I am horrified by my thinking and ignorance.
When my mom died, the veil was torn and my whole life cracked, a seismic shift occurred. Money in the bank was no buffer to the pain of this experience at that age. Civil War broke out, and Cote d’Ivoire fell into chaos. We moved to Frankfurt and then back to the states - living in Alexandria, VA. Then we built a house and moved to NC and soon my husband was off to Afghanistan. Afghanistan, post 911 meant very little contact. I went out to lunch, I bought furniture, I took yoga classes, I went to the spa, I went out to dinner and spent time in fancy cocktail bars, drinking lots of expensive cocktails.
I created a business, The Little Black Box - special events and date planning service. I set up the perfect dates, where the husband (usually) only had to click on the package and I set everything up. This meant lots of “research” vising hotels and restaurants in cities all over the country, making contacts, creating “grand gesture” experiences for other couples, while my husband was entrenched in a war zone.
While all of this was going on, I took yoga classes daily. The mat is a place of transformation. Anyone who practices regularly knows this. On the mat, I was confronted with dishonesty in myself and I had to face it. (Full details I am leaving out of the story at this time, but being that this is a reflection about money, its relevant to note that money is related the 2nd chakra which is also related to sex - considering my story about money thus far, you might be able to deduce that if I had an abundance of money, then maybe I also had an abundance of something else related to money.) I didn’t know at the time that my behavior was a result of my inability to face loss, it was defensive. It was wrong, but with no judgement I can see why and I understand and continue to forgive myself.
I had a really profound experience at a yoga workshop and signed up for teaching training. By the time the 6 month training was complete, I was separated and had filed for divorce.
End of Part One
I went to Kripalu and lived without money all together. I helped open two yoga studios, taught classes, moved from NC to OR and waiting for the house to sell while I waited tables. This job was the first job where I had to work, physically labor. But, I made so much money in a short period time and had so much fun that looking back it doesn’t count as real life. My house sold, the season slowed, my fling with the sous chef ended and I visited Bend OR. With the money from the sale of the house, I decided to pack up and move there. Bought (actually my dad did) a season pass to Mt. Bachelor and went snowboarding. When spring came, I fell in love with the guy who delivered my newly purchased table, we broke up, and I decided to grow up a little. I went to yoga, I got a job and at night I sat in McMenamin’s working on a new business - a yoga studio. I did this while I drank Maker’s Mark (so I could sit there for a long time and not have to order more drinks) and ate tater-tots (cheap + delicious). Oh, the paradox of that!
I went on a silent meditation retreat for 10 days and then opened a yoga studio in the midst of the economic crash of 2008. Of course.
I mean the paradox of my existence was completely dualistic.
I worked hard, but not smart. At 31 this was the first time I was responsible for anything. All insecurities, lack of focus, irritation, self-hatred showed up in those years. And at the same time, I was happy to be stepping up, learning, growing, changing, and being really challenged. Doing something that I loved, that was honest, that was true. Completely hooked on yoga and deeply immersed in the teachings, study and practice. The studio was rich in love and community. I moved from a “business model” to an non-profit community model. I fought my dad on how to run this “business” and I made so little money that I had to apply for food stamps. Can you see where we are in the cycle?
The day I signed the lease on the studio is also the day I met Nate. We were inseparable. He moved into my apartment, he knew he wanted to marry me, but I didn’t want to be married. He asked and I said ask me tomorrow, this went on for several weeks, maybe months. One year after we met, we had a “celebration of love and commitment” a potluck, a bonfire, the whole community there. We asked each person to share a reflection on love and commitment and how we (Nate and I) demonstrated this. It was profoundly moving and I woke up the next morning feeling married and happy. One year later we were actually married, in a ceremony in a shaman’s house in front of a fireplace on the Oregon coast. I was barefoot and had feathers in my hair. Nate worked at a bakery because the studio income wasn’t enough to cover our expenses, we made the reception a potluck, we asked everyone to pitch in. We used food stamps to purchase some of the food. We were supported by the State, our community, and Love. My dad was in shock I think. I think he’s still hasn’t recovered. Food stamps and state insurance. After the honeymoon (paid for by my dad), I had surgery (nasal polyp surgery #1). We knew we wanted a family. We decided we would get to it while we had State support. I was also 34, so the time was now or never.
This takes us back to the beginning of this reflection on motherhood, money + work in the world.
In Portland, I went to the WIC office each month with my two babies to get checks. Residency gave us insurance, but Portland is expensive, we had just enough to cover our rent and most of our expenses. I am so grateful to the State of Oregon for taking care of our needs. When residency ended, we had had enough. We were both eager for Nate to get a full-time job.
I went from affluence to welfare. As I write this I feel the shame of that.
However, now I glance out the window at the snow on the ground. My warm house has a fire going. Nate has a full time job (that he loves) with insurance. The boys are at a great school in a great safe neighborhood and B has all the special needs support that we could hope for. We go to costco every month to fill our pantry and we eat organic food. We are growing a big garden, we have a pure-bred pub. I have been able to take the last six months off and invest in my health each month with doterra.
Motherhood has humbled me. Special Needs Motherhood has humbled me more. I am confronting me fears, my failures, my mistakes, my ignorance, my shame. I am confronting my privilege. I am a rich white lady with every opportunity. I struggle with a sense of worthiness and at the same time, I am motivated to make a difference and to serve, to grow.
I see the duality. I see the paradox. I feel the tension.
End of Part Two
In Kate Northrup’s Book: Money, a Love Story, she says that money doesn’t exist. It’s made up.
It’s a stand-in for something else. In essence, we trade money for what we want, for things that, in our eyes, have a certain value. The economy is simply a system of value exchange. That’s it. Money in and of itself is nothing. It’s what money represents that makes the whole shebang a little complex.
Side Note: I have listened (in Audible) to Kate’s book. I brought tears to my eyes almost immediately. She considers your relationship with your money a mirror for your relationship with yourself. Change/heal your relationship with yourself and you change/heal your relationship with money changes - both will grow. It is a guidebook for shifting mindset. I have yet to go through the workbook, but it’s on the goal list for this month (more about that in another post).
Here is the inherent conflict I am wrestling with and working to heal: I associate money with pain + sickness on the one extreme and ignorance + entitlement on the other extreme. My view of money is dualistic as is my thinking.
Father Richard Rohr says this of dualism:
Dualistic thinking, or the “egoic operating system,” is our way of reading reality from the position of our private and small self. “What’s in it for me?” “How will I look if I do this?” This is the ego’s preferred way of seeing reality. It is the ordinary “hardware” of almost all Western people. We ended up confusing information with enlightenment, mind with soul, and thinking with experiencing—yet these are very different paths.
The dualistic mind is essentially binary, either/or thinking. It knows by comparison, opposition, and differentiation. It uses descriptive words like good/evil, pretty/ugly, smart/stupid, not realizing there may be a hundred degrees between the two ends of each spectrum. Dualistic thinking works well for the sake of simplification and conversation, but not for the sake of truth or the immense subtlety of actual personal experience. Most of us settle for quick and easy answers instead of any deep perception.
We do need the dualistic mind to function in practical life, however, and to do our work as a teacher, a nurse, a scientist, or an engineer. It’s helpful and fully necessary as far as it goes, but it just doesn’t go far enough. The dualistic mind cannot process things like infinity, mystery, God, grace, suffering, sexuality, death, or love; this is exactly why most people stumble over these very issues. The dualistic mind pulls everything down into some kind of tit-for-tat system of false choices and too-simple contraries.
I can count the times where large amount of money came with great pain. The death of my mom, the death of my grandfather, my divorce, B’s diagnosis. As a little girl, money felt embarrassing - going to the bank to set up a bank account, showing dad what we bought - being asked to model the clothes we purchased that day; in college my roommate thought I was a “rich girl” and with that came some sort of shame - I went from Polo to Grudge as quickly as possible. And, I also loved to dress up and eat at fancy restaurants, go to snowboarding and gambling in Lake Tahoe. My parents lived on Lake Oswego and in the summer I would drive my mom’s bmw convertible into Portland and take yoga classes. I think I’m spending so much time here on the story because reflecting it shows me what I didn’t see at the time. Telling you this story opens me up to criticism and judgement. However, if you can remain nondual in your observation as I am, you may be able to see subtlety in it all. I see it. I see the complexity and confusion and lack of clarity, the misunderstanding of action not aligned with intention and presence. I can see the fear, lack of trust, unknowing.
So when I come to the question of my work in the world - my purpose, I must make space for the transition between dual and non-dual thinking. A paradigm shift is occurring - shifting from either/or to both/and; from extreme to balanced.
I can feel the tension. The tension comes from not trusting, lack.
Richard Rohr describes non-dual thinking as “our ability to read reality in a way that is not judgmental, in a way that is not exclusionary of the part that we don’t understand. When you don’t split everything up according to what you like and what you don’t like, you leave the moment open, you let it be what it is in itself, and you let it speak to you. Reality is not totally one, but it is not totally two, either! Stay with that necessary dilemma, and it can make you wise.”
Paradox is usually like that.
We don’t get to see everything. We don’t get to know the future. We have only a limited understanding. Manifesting and goal achieving follow through with not reveal all, only here and now presence can. Look at how dualistic these sentences are!
I see the excuses coming up, the reasons, the justifications, the defensiveness all coming up. I see the comparisons and judgments - the same thinking that kept/keeps me small and scared, hindering the move from dualistic to non-dualistic thinking.
So how do I evolve from here? From this stuck place that perpetuates the dualistic thinking? I think I could begin to look at life in a continuum. That can see that I don’t have to be one or the other … I don’t have to be a mom or a business owner for example. That I am in fact, both/and and that truly it is a matter of perspective.
This is the longest blog post I have ever written - I didn’t set out to write such a long reflection and truthfully I am not going back to edit, because this is a blog post - my own space to reflect and learn from my reflection.
What have I learned from this reflection? And what piece of value can I share with you and keep close to my heart as I move forward?
Now that I see the duality of my thinking, I can keep perpetuating it or I can began to orient my thinking toward nonduality. This happens not through doing, but through being, through listening and through presence. I will end with these words, once again, from Father Richard Rohr
The dualistic mind cannot process things like infinity, mystery, God, grace, suffering, sexuality, death, or love.
Nondual consciousness is a much more holistic knowing, where your mind, heart, soul, and senses are open and receptive to the moment just as it is, which allows you to love things in themselves and as themselves.
So as I move forward, I will move forward with a mind and heart oriented towards “holistic knowing” and move from there; cultivating receptivity to the moment just as it is.
As my Nate said, just last night while I was lamenting my current lack of direction, “You have to be the thing, before you do the thing … You have to think about what kind of person you are going to be before you get all fixated on what you are doing to do.”
There you have it my friends.
Thanks for reading.