THE ONE THING YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE TRULY HAPPY

The other day I found myself in a hot yoga class, struggling to stay focused while my muscles shook and my mind wandered to all the things I had to do that day and the multitude of things on my to-do list I had clearly forgotten to tackle. The instructor was calmly guiding us through each pose, as sweat dripped off my nose, and I became uncomfortably aware that I wore the wrong top, because it kept riding up whenever I lifted my arms above my head, revealing my outie courtesy of my two pregnancies with my boys. “Surrender,” said the Zen-like voice. “Surrender to the pose, to your breathing and just be.”

Yeah, easy for you to say, hipster 20-year-old surfer yoga instructor dude (with great hair, may I say). You don’t have a mental checklist of all the things you are missing right now, as we sweat together and do downward dogs and warrior poses for the next hour and a half. Just being here is giving me anxiety and large amounts of mom guilt.

Surrender. This word evokes so much. It is the struggle I wrestle with daily. It is negotiating with the type-A part of my brain that always wants things to go the way I planned; it is picking my battles with my husband when I know I’m right but it isn’t worth the argument that will ensue; and it is being able to survey my house with an open mind when nothing is where it should be and the hours of cleaning I did have been undone in a few single minutes.

Before having my children, there was very little I had to compromise. Sure, I had a partner whose needs I had to balance with my own, and of course friends, family, etc. But pretty much I was the ruler of my own universe.

Not anymore. Any mom can attest to the earth-shattering change that comes along with having your first kid. You give yourself over completely those first few months (and probably forever) to this adorable, helpless small person. Gone are the days where you leisurely wake up at 10 a.m. on weekends, or walk aimlessly on a Sunday afternoon wondering which coffee shop or store to pop into. Cleaning your home used to have a purpose. Now…is there even a point? And negotiating with a toddler—forget it, you’ll never win. Surrender.

I have gathered a few tips and tricks on how I function in this new reality. I am my own Yoda these days, absorbing advice from the amazing moms around me, the wonderful mommy groups I attend and learning from my own missteps and less-than-perfect moments.

1. Breathe. It is amazing what simply focusing on your breath can do. It literally slows down everything. I can focus again and reel it all in. Two-year-old screaming at the top of his lungs while I’m sitting in traffic and he dropped his toy a row behind him. Breathe. Husband left three half-empty cartons of Vita Coco Water with the lids off for the hundredth time on his dresser within the kids’ reach. Breathe. And move them immediately without a snarky comment. Adorable puppy managed to open baby’s door and diaper pail and has gone through four poopy diapers which are now all over the white faux shag rug.Breathe. But not too deeply ‘cause it smells so bad.

2. Manage my expectations. This one’s great. I just had to lower them, like, a lot. I know, I know, it sounds like I’m giving up, throwing in the towel. But no, in fact, I am simply embracing the wonderful chaos that is motherhood. As long as I don’t expect everything to be perfect, I don’t get disappointed when the inevitable happens (that nothing in the life of parenthood ever goes as planned) and then I’m totally OK with it. Like when I spent hours planning the perfect outing to a theme park with my husband and kids, my husband cancels last minute because of work, one kid decides he hates said theme park and the other one isn’t tall enough to go on any of the rides we have fast passes to. Yup. Because in a weird way, I planned the unplanned. Get it?

3. Self-care. This is a hard one. What does this even mean and how does one find time for this “self-care” business? This can be as simple as taking 10 minutes a day and closing your eyes and imagining you are in Cabo with your three best friends sipping margaritas in a cabana. It can be sneaking out for a manicure down the street, it can be reading 10 more pages of the 900-page novel you hope to finish by 2018. Or perhaps it’s that hot yoga class with the super cute instructor. Whatever self-care looks like to you, I promise, it’ll make a world of difference. You totally deserve it.

4. Make a list and then tear it up. Stop punishing yourself for all the things you aren’t doing. I struggle with this on a daily basis, so don’t think I’ve perfected it. There is never enough time in the day to do everything we are “supposed to do.” I get it. I have so many people pulling me in so many directions with all different expectations and I want to do it all. But no one can. No single human being can in one day pick up the drycleaning, run around the city to meetings and auditions, pick up both their kids at different times from school and shuttle them to after-school activities and then cook up a fabulous gourmet dinner and remember to open the mail that has been sitting on the entrance table for days. I am learning to look at that list I am constantly updating on my iPhone and know that I will get to it all eventually. And that’s OK.

The art of surrender is no easy feat. It is not a smooth path, it’s bumpy and curved and filled with unexpected roadblocks, but that is what makes life exciting and interesting, right?

I might not be a Zen hipster yoga surfer girl who speaks in calm tones and doles out wise isms to follow, but I have created my own mantra that seems to be working (so far). Now who’s signing up for my class? 🙂