Category Archives: Children

The secret to sanity

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I usually keep at least one candle lit in the house, saying a prayer when I light it. Candles definitely lend a romantic, mysterious ambiance to any interior. I also keep a candle on the porch; when I'm expecting a visitor or family member who's been traveling, I light the candle to welcome them.

Most parents’ lives aren’t packed with mystery. (“Honey, Baby Bobby’s poopie isn’t so green today!”) But I believe one path to happiness lies through mystery.

I studied Latin with a ballerina named Camille at Indiana University, and I was always amazed at her perfect grades. One day, I asked her how she did it so effortlessly. She confided that she lit candles, played Gregorian chants, and pretended she was a medieval monk translating texts.

Back then, I thought she was a weirdo. Now I think she was a total genius, a visionary. She was using her imagination and embracing humanity’s mysterious past.

The big-deal psychologist Carl Jung lends cred to the need for mystery. Jung said, “Show me a sane man, and I will cure him for you.”

There’s two lessons to take away from this: As a psychologist, Jung exhibited keen business sense by doubling his customer base to include the sane and insane. The second lesson is that it’s crazy to view life totally in factual, scientific terms.

I’ve felt more grounded since I increased my exposure to mystery. I volunteer at the Oriental Institute, a free (!!!) museum in the University of Chicago dealing with adventure and archaeology.

Indiana Jones would’ve studied there–in fact, the character is based on a real OI Egyptologist. At the OI you’ll see artifacts from the place many believe Armageddon will occur, and I’m always relieved to see the end of the world will not occur in a bathroom in my house.

With every artifact I see, I have the same reaction as Chris Farley in Tommy Boy: “That–was–awesome!” Seriously, I stand before a bit of Dead Sea Scroll with my hair blowing like I’m in a shampoo commercial.

If you’re stressed, you may feel you can’t escape an unpleasant situation, but there are many local ways to escape into mystery. Worship and meditation help. So might reading a mystery or ghostly book by Region authors Mark Marimen, Kate Collins, or Scarlett Dean. A drive along Red Arrow and Blue Star highways in Michigan can be mysterious as you wonder what’s beyond each bend.

Museums make you feel you’re investigating a mystery–I love how the fairy castle in the Museum of Science and Industry is deep in the basement, just as the most primitive part of your brain is deep inside.

Turn off the computer, and light a candle. I missed the last issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, but I doubt it featured the article “Kim Kardashian’s Seduction Secrets (Hint: Light-Emitting Diodes!).”

I also think it’s important to lend enchantment to children’s lives. At the OI, I found an Egyptian perfume bottle, where I keep fairy dust to sprinkle on my kids before lights out.

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Taking time for you when you have no time at all

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It only takes a split second to renew yourself.

(Blogger’s note: I received a request today for a column printed in 2009 in The Times; indeed, it does seem relevant as ever, given that we’re in a season in which parents are getting bogged down with work, requests for fund-raisers, fall sports, and the like.)

Today’s column is about taking time out for you. With the advent of beautiful weather, I get outside when I can and take the kids with me. Outdoors, I don’t worry about them watching too much TV or getting too little exercise. I get my workout and keep the mess out of the house.

Last column I discussed making goals. To minimize burnout and maximize your wellness, take a few minutes to determine if your life is balanced as possible. Do you take time for your intellectual development? This can be as simple as picking up the newspaper and reading one article you normally wouldn’t.

Practice your spiritual wellness. Take five minutes to read about faith, pray, or meditate.

Do something today for your physical well-being. Substitute a healthy snack for that candy bar. If you can’t spare the time today, plan to wake early tomorrow to walk around the block before your kids awaken.

Most moms have no problem fulfilling the interpersonal side of life. So think about ways to improve. Start by giving everybody in your family an extra hug today.

Satisfy the vocational element of your life. If you work outside the home, solve a problem at work or join a professional group. If you work inside the home, connect with another home manager to make yourself the best you can be.

Most moms don’t have lots of time to ponder their wholeness. But almost everybody can spare 15 minutes a day, if only after your kids go to bed. And 15 minutes is all it takes to turn around how you feel about your life.