No One Told Me

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The kids

No one told me it would be this hard. No one told me that my heart would bleed their pain.  I watch them grow and see the world as it is and I want to hide them. I want to fold them back into my arms and cover them with a soft sweet smelling blanket and them fall asleep. Instead I listen to their questions and comments and don’t know what to say.

“Mommy, are your tears the water you drink? ”  ” Do you ever think people see you differently than you see yourself?” Jake age 8

“People are mean.” “I saw cuts on her arm.” Gabrielle Age 12

“The drama is worse at school. ” Brianna Age 10

 

 

How To Create A Creative Life Part 3: Finding Inspiration

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Finding Inspiration

 

Welcome to the third post in a series about creativity. In case you missed it, here’s my first post and my second post. This post is probably my favorite  because it got me thinking about joy and curiosity and how we create. I didn’t plan for anything. I just waited and watched what inspired me. And then wrote it down.

It was no surprise that I found most everything to be inspirational. I am naturally curious about people, tv, social media, fashion, cooking, cleaning, education, psychology, pediatrics.  I like to watch Skill Share classes, Ted Talks and the Cooking Channel. I listen to my kids conversations, music, the rain. I browse through old journals, kids artwork, photos. I sit in the bookstore or library and follow titles. I like to talk. I doodle and draw. I am drawn to early morning hours and journaling.

Interestingly though, I found my problem wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the world and needed new things to spark a curiosity. Nope, it was that I’m too crazy at times. My acknowledgement of how cool it all is, is inversely proportional to how exhausted and overwhelmed I am feeling.  Who can write or exercise or doodle when there are dishes to be cleaned and clothes to be folded? Even if I am not doing it, then I am feeling guilty about not doing it and that paralyzes me – so I decide to ignore it all together and go shopping or watch 4 seasons straight of the latest Netflix drama.
It’s dark and quiet this time of the morning. The washing machine is running. My coffee is next to me.   I am writing random thoughts in my journal. This morning journal is integral to the creative process according to Julia Cameron artist and author of  The Artist’s Way, a book rated as one  The 32 Books that Will Actually Change Your Life. It’s a lovely  book for creatives needing a little jump start. Mostly for me , it’s a spot to dump my worries and start to dream.  The busier I get though, the later to bed I go and then the more likely I am to sleep in.  I don’t do my morning journaling on those days and my dream stays stuck.

So I’ve realized that for me- a busy professional mother -the key to creativity will be finding the balance between home, family, work and me. Without a balance, I will stay stuck in the early stages of creativity and never actually get to the physical process. Does this sound familiar? What inspires you? How do you work through barriers to creativity?

 

 

 

Defining Creativity- How To Create A Creative Life Part 2

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Playing with photos!

This is the second post in a series about creativity. In the first post -How To Create A Creative LifeI spoke of being vulnerable. Accepting vulnerability is critical to creating meaningful work. If you are worried about being safe, then you might filter your work through your audience’s eyes and create work that doesn’t reflect what you really want to say. You compromise. 

I first started thinking about creativity when I watched the most popular talk on TED. com . It was Sir Ken Robinson:How Schools Kill Creativity.  He says that that we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. The schools educate us out of it. He goes on to say, many highly-talented,brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at, wasn’t valued at school.

Defining creativity is going to be different for every person. For me, being creative is a process of using innovative ideas and applying them to the everyday.  It means breaking the rules.When I was little, we got up, had cereal for breakfast, got dressed for school, and then sat in little desks together and listened to the teacher. I didn’t know any different and it was comfortable. Traveling and meeting other people helped me get into a new framework and explore my conventional ways of doing things. It’s only then that I even realized that there was another way to be. As they say, you don’t know what you don’t know.If I hadn’t have traveled and seen other countries’ school systems, I would have never gone to medical school. I realized that the United States was unique because you could start over.  At any age.  

Who says who have to learn young? Who says you have to get married and have children? Who says you need to be older or younger than your spouse? Who says you have to retire in your sixties or go straight to college and then make sure to finish in 4 years? Who says your home needs a formal dining table or a TV in the living room? Who says that the best schools are private or that you need to live in THAT neighborhood? Who says you eat eggs for breakfast and pasta for dinner or that women should have long hair and skinny legs or that that beauty is youth and men don’t cry? Being creative can take our usual way of seeing things and turn it around. It’s recognizing there are options that we haven’t even imagined yet and being open to possibilities.

Creativity doesn’t have to be limited to the arts. We will increasingly need to use creativity to solve our problems. We must be encouraged to use innovative ideas and apply them to current dilemmas and while it brings me joy to see something made just for art’s sake, I love it most when the creative and the utilitarian merge. It’s the hand knit sweater that keeps you warm. It’s ceramic cup that holds your coffee. The interjection of these little pieces of art into the daily world reminds me that problems can be solved using creativity. And life is so much more enjoyable because of that.

So ultimately defining creativity is the most creative process of all. It can be anything we want it to be. We can create music, a blanket, solutions,  order, space, cleanliness,connections,a home, peace,beauty,warmth,a family,  a baby,  a friendship, a happy life. This realization is enlightening. If we open our minds and keep curious about the options,  then we start to realize that everyone is creative, any task is creative and any problem can be solved. Now it’s a matter of asking myself the right questions.

These are my questions:

1. How do I enjoy life more? 2. How do I prevent physician burnout? 3.How do I prevent parent burnout? 4.How do I reach the sad kids? 5.How do I make peace with medicine? 6. How do I pay off my student loans? 7.How do I connect with friends? 8.How do I raise healthy happy well-adjusted kids in a digital age? 9.How do I keep a marriage close with love and fulfillment on both parties? 10.How do I manage a work/life balance? 11. How do I create a creative life? 12.How do I keep a clean home?13. How do I travel? 14. How do I make time for my photography? 15. How do I get out of my own head? 16. How do I ease the anxiety? 17. How do I cherish it all?

It’s a noble road to answer these questions using creativity. What does creativity mean to you? What are the questions to which you seek answers?

How To Create A Creative Life

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How To Create A Creative Life

This is the first post in a series of posts I will be doing about creativity.

As you know from my last post, 10 Ways To Avoid Yelling At Your Kids,  having fun is an important way bring balance and joy into my life. When I’m happy, I’m a better parent, friend, wife, doctor…. Being creative is kind of like playing for grown ups and one of my goals in 2015 is to have more fun!

I  lost some of my creativity as I grew up. It was like a coat that got smaller the older I got. Eventually I outgrew it and tossed it away. I used to write poems and knit socks.  As I got more serious, I mistakenly thought that playing was for kids and that only work that produced a paycheck had value. The deeper I got into my pediatric practice, the more stressed I became.  I envied the artists in my life and their ability to dream and create. At one point I was so burnt out with medicine, I thought I’d quit and become a photographer.  It seemed to validate my hobby. If being creative was my day job, then surely I could finally play and enjoy myself.  I was wrong. It wasn’t that I couldn’t be creative. I had been doing that in pieces.  No one was stopping me. It was that being creative meant I was vulnerable. And that scared me. So I stopped. I felt uncomfortable  sharing my work at times. What if someone thought it was stupid?  I have been teased for my style of photography.

When I went to the Philippines, I didn’t take the usual touristy photos, I took a picture of a broom.

 

IMG_9061

 

 

Same thing with Japan.

Broomstick

 

And in Yap, some of the coolest places were the ordinary. Here’s the hospital cafeteria.

 

Cafeteria

 

I thought it was cool. It was different and gave me a feeling of the place. It’s what I remembered most of my travels and this of course is the most important thing.

Being creative is deeply personal. As it should be. It should elevate you and bring you joy. But being vulnerable is difficult most times and there are times when I’d rather go watch a movie. I’d rather watch something someone else created. Every time I push publish on one of my posts, I shiver a little. I know there are typos I’ve missed and I am opening myself to someone else’s criticism. I imagine some distant Facebook friend crinkling their nose and thinking how weird it is that I have a blog.  I imagine them asking, “What right does she have to say about anything creative?. Why should I listen to her?” But to quell this worry and create anyway is very important. Otherwise what is life? It is just a series of days strung together with work and sleep. When I read that book or listen to that song, I am so grateful for those brave daring souls that create. What if  they only created work that was safe and known? Can you imagine how it would all look the same after a while? Brené Brown, says that vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity. So I have to accept that it’s going to feel weird and do it anyway. .

Come on this journey with me.  We’ll discover how to create a creative life together. I know the first step is to become comfortable with being vulnerable. Watch Brené  Brown with her interview with Chase Jarvis. Daring Greatly to Unlock Your Creativity with Brené BrownIt’s inspiring. It’s single handily the most important talk you can listen to if you really want to be more creative.

 

 

 

10 Ways To Avoid Yelling At Your Kids

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Coffee

Coffee.

It’s the only way.

No, just kidding. It’s one of the ways, but not the only way.

I used to have all kinds of goals. I wanted the pretty organized home, the tone fit body and the progression of my career. It’s not that I don’t still want that but I want something else.  The other day I asked my daughter what she hated more than anything.  She said, “yelling”.

I gulped.

The older I get, the crankier I get. And the fact that no-ones understands make me more cranky. So now my goal is. “I don’t  want to yell at my kids.”

It’s a good goal. It’s a tough goal but I don’t want to have to fight off irritability with every single thing I do.  

Throughout the years, I’ve read lots of mommy books and they have helped with some of the irritability.  I have gone through periods of my life without yelling or getting irritable but mostly these were times when I was single and before I started studying medicine. Once I chose medicine, the anxiety factor kicked in  and my crankiness went through the roof. Even then though it wasn’t too bad until I had kids.  I had 3 kids in 4 years and between young children and practicing medicine, I stayed pretty wound up most of the time. The kids noticed it.  Once years ago,  I went to Bali on a three day trip with some friends.  It was my first time really away from the kids. It was a beautiful, restful, invigorating time. I ate lovely food, took beautiful photos and got incredible massages. When I came back my children hugged me and said, “Wow. You are so nice right now.” It was humbling. I’ve spent too much time white-knuckling parenting.

I’m writing this post for my future self to reflect on, as well as to share what I think helps.  When life becomes very  rote and task oriented, it’s hard not to be bitter and overwhelmed and then every little thing will bug you. Their little noisy eating will grate your nerves and the constant bickering will drive you crazy. I have learned that the usual “scream into a pillow” or “count to 10″ advice doesn’t work very well with me.

I have never, in the heat of the moment, said to myself, “Stop. Wait. I need to count to 10.” or “Hold on, I need to go scream. ”  If anyone even suggested it to me then I would probably yell at them too.

These Are The 10 Ways To Avoid Yelling At Your Kids:

1. Focus On The Good- Stop feeling sorry for yourself. It is what it is. The laundry needs to get done daily and the kids are messy. I have noticed that the more I complain about how hard it is to raise kids and how I need a break, the worse I feel.  Seek people who also feel the same.

2. Cultivate Empathy- Try to see life from their point of view.  My husband once asked me to remember what it was like to be 12. He said be the kind of mother that 12 year old needs right now. It was great advice. I softened immediately and felt for her.

3. Stop Multitasking- Give your child your undivided attention. It’s what they want more than anything. We often have our own agendas and try to get everything done all at once. I find I yell when I’m trying to do something really important and the kids aren’t  paying attention to how much quiet I need.  Basically the kids are  running around and being kids. I try to avoid charting and talking about their day at the same time. If I want to talk  then I do dishes.  If I do need to work, I’ll put on a movie or wait till they are taking their baths.

4. Lower Your Expectations- This is actually one of the most important ways to keep me calm. I remember what is the most important thing to do at that time. I also try to remember at what stage my children are.  Young children have difficulty with impulse control. Older children have more problems with planning and getting outside their world.   I used to yell in the morning a lot. I wanted the house to be perfectly straightened and stuff ready. Is a spotless house really more important than being kind and patient?

5. Model Calmness. Remember that kids are kids and your most important job is to role model what you want. If you want your kids to be careful and thoughtful, then you need to show them this as well. The storm can rage around you and you don’t need to react.  Remember that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.

6. Get Inspiration - Watch people you admire and see the how they interact with their kids.  Emphasize the person over the behavior. They are worthy and loving and look up to you to guide them. I draw hope and inspiration from my sister, my husband, my father and mother and my friends, not to mention my families in the clinic.  I marvel when they can sit and listen with patience. I love when they play and have fun. I watch with admiration and remind myself to do this as well.

7. Plan and Prepare-It’s critical to get out of crisis mode. Constantly running around putting out fires is exhausting. If you keep doing this, you’ll come home spent and have no patience for anyone else much less your children. Set up a day where you get all your stuff done at the house. Set up an anti-procrastination day or a decluttering day. Talk over strategies with your friend. 7 Habits of Highly Successful People is a great classic book with those people who need to help getting started.

8.  Have Fun – Enjoy the process.  Schedule little fun stuff to do with your children. Choose things you think you both will like. My kids love watching Brian Regan on you tube. When they are getting cranky or I am, I’ll put it on and just laugh with them.  I also play music really loud and dance. Sometimes we’ll go get coffee or frozen yogurt and then go feed the ducks at the duck pond.

9. Balance Life-This is one of the most important things you can do. When you do get irritated, take active steps to figure out why. Are you tired? Have you eaten? When was the last time you did something just for you? Make yourself feel better. You’re the only one who can. The Art Of Extreme Self Care is a great book that will encourage you to slow down and treat yourself well.

10.Be Proud Of Yourself- Parenting is really hard. No one  goes to school for it. We cobble together a plan as we go along.  A good friend once told me that when the kids were grown I could have the perfect house, but now was the time to enjoy them.  Your most important job is to help these little people grew into kind, intelligent, happy adults. Be proud of that.

So while this isn’t a complete task nor is it the usual self help tips for parenting and how to avoid yelling, this is what helps me. It’s what I tell my parents and it’s what I remind myself. I remind myself to be grateful every day. This is much better than screaming into a pillow. One time long ago in my residency, a 10 year boy died suddenly from a cardiac event. It was unexpected and everyone was devastated.  At the funeral his mom said he had just celebrated his  birthday. She said he wanted more than anything to camp in his backyard. She said she was going to say no but then changed her mind. She let him camp and do his thing. Now, she said she was so glad she had let him. She let him discover life and be who he wanted to be in those short years.  I want to be that mom. I want to remember what the most important things are and enjoy my children.

I hope this helps. It helped me writing it. Please comment if there are any tips you’d like to share.