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So this morning, I'm at the dentist (YES AGAIN), getting my temporary bridge replaced (YES AGAIN, AGAIN) and wearing awesome hot-pink dental-light-don't-blind-me-glasses (FIRST TIME) when this thought struck me.

I was thinking about one of my favorite movies, Big Hero 6, and one of my favorite characters in that movie, Wasabi.

I love Wasabi.  He's a neurotic perfectionist, with a plan for everything.  He has outlines on his work desk for every tool, including the place he rests his coffee mug.

Wasabi hates surprises, doesn't like winging it.  He's a man with a recipe to follow.

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That's been his MO for a very long time.  And for the most part, it's worked out for him.  His plasma based laser technology is astounding.  Long before Hiro gets a hold of it to adapt it for superhero use, it's pretty damn cool.

But, it does make Wasabi fragile in some ways.  The reason Fred nicknames him "Wasabi" is because he spilled wasabi mustard on his shirt one time, a fact that drives Wasabi bonkers.  During a really awesome car chase scene, Wasabi actually STOPS FOR A RED LIGHT, because he's used to knowing the rules inherent to a system and adhering to them.  Wasabi can often come across as fearful or timid, because he just wants to have a plan, and stick to it.

But there's this moment in the film when he overcomes this, beautifully.  During the climactic fight with the big villain, Yokai, Wasabi realizes that gravity is really getting quite goofed up by certain inter dimensional things going on.  And instead of panicking, or complaining about it, he makes a key choice: to use it instead.

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He pushes off the wall, and goes floating through the air.  Then he activates his laser hands, and gets in there, chopping up microbots with a vengeance.  It's like a form of parkour, and is awesome.  In a way, he gets a new superhero skill from it. 

So often when I read about (or have written about) mindfulness, it's filled with lots of "here's what you don't do."  But there's another side to that, and Wasabi's little story is indicative of it. It's the magical benefits you get from embracing it.

I have one like that, related to recent events in my life.  Just after Andrea's passing, a whole lot of folks reached out to me (wonderful) to offer their condolences (lovely) and help in any way they could.  (problematic)

What's so problematic about that, you ask?  

Well, in the midst of my grief , I barely knew how I even felt, never mind what sort of help I might need.  I had a few cases of folks who, with the very best of intentions, offered to help me in any way I might tell them.  But the problem was, I didn't have the knowledge, energy, or drive to come up with anything for them to do.  Even the prospect of it made me kind of want to shut down a little.  I was struggling to even get out of bed, I certainly didn't have the "emotional chutzpah" to offer guidance.

To make a food metaphor out of it, it was a bit like they were offering to take me out to dinner, but needed me to pick the restaurant.  It kind of turns the situation and the assistance from being focused on the person needing the assistance to the one supplying it.  Not great.  Under normal circumstances, that's no big deal.  But during grief, not so much.

I wasn't mad about it though.  Instead, I saw it as an opportunity for mindful practice.  I resolved that the very next time someone else I know was grieving, I would mindfully offer them ready-to-go assistance with something I already had to offer and which I knew they could use.

Sadly, such a situation has come up.  Just yesterday.  I won't get into the who or what of it, because that's private.  But I was resolved that when I contacted my friends, this would be my drive.  It worked out pretty well too.

And as I was sitting in the dentist's chair this morning, thinking on the contact I'd had, Wasabi and his change in attitude came to me, and I saw this was the same sort of thing.

I'm grateful for the reinforcement.  Hey wait, I can use that!

 

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesgratitudeNow

Tonight, a good friend did something very special for me.  They went out to dinner with me to help me process my grief about Andrea’s death.

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My Helpful Friend is something of a subject matter expert themselves on this matter, having recently had to deal with a death themselves. 

So we met. We sat.  We talked. I almost-cried a few times. I ate steak. It was good.  

One super helpful thing my friend described to me is that I would run into two sorts of pain in my grieving.  

  1. Punches to the head
  2. Punches to the gut

Type 1 punches are the things that make you think, that make you dig in, obsess, dredge up grief you thought you had already worked through and revisit it.  

Whereas type 2 punches are those quick, sharp, knock-the-wind out of you experiences.  Something catches you off guard, and you suddenly don’t quite know how you feel.

Here’s the thing though.  While experiencing these punches doesn’t feel very good, it’s normal and kind of good for you.

Andrea, she carved this special place in my heart, in my life.  I’m utterly, incontrovertibly changed by our friendship.  I don’t want  that not to matter.  I welcome  both the pain and the pleasure of how much she meant to me, and still means to me, even in her death.

I know that that’s uncomfortable.  I know that it’s not easy, not for me, and not for you.

 I’m grateful for the discomfort. And I’m grateful you’ve stuck around to share in it with me.

In a way, that was at the heart of my friendship with Andrea.  On the regular, we challenged one another, called each other on our bullshit.  My friend I had dinner with tonight helped me with some of that too, as we ate, commiserated, and connected.  It was damn fine.

I’m grateful for such good friends, those now gone, and those still with me.  

 

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
CategoriesgratitudeNow
I didn't draw this - and it's not the right number of kids, but it's got the general idea right.  My poly family is a family!

I didn't draw this - and it's not the right number of kids, but it's got the general idea right.  My poly family is a family!

This past weekend was a big deal.  My girlfriend Alissa (Squee) and her kids came to visit us for Easter, and to be a part of Missy's confirmation at church.  

There's so much to say about it all, I almost don't know where to begin.  

First off, there was the way even the prospect of the visit swept us all up in excitement and planning, at both our houses.  There were discussions about the best and most viable ways to travel (via a rented car), and schedule (travel all day Thursday and Monday), and time off (Friday for Missy and myself.)

And then the easter-bunnitizing.  Missy, Alissa, and I spent a whole bunch of time talking about ways to celebrate Easter.  We wanted stuff for the kids to enjoy, that wasn't all about getting stuff, but still let them really immerse themselves.  It involved a whole bunch of discussions about things that work well for them, and things that don't.  

Sparkly egg is sparkly

Sparkly egg is sparkly

We really made a family project out of it.  Missy and Marybeth shopped for days, looking for the right Easter Basket stuff, and for eggs for the egg hunt.  Me, I'm very-not-obvious about encouraging the kids to co-operate, not compete, so I searched for a way to make the egg hunt into a shared thing.

Here's what I ultimately came up with.  Missy got a bunch of sparkly, shiny empty plastic eggs.  I filled with a series of puzzle messages in a hidden code, based on a cipher key.  I also hid pieces of the cipher in other eggs.  The messages looked kind of like this:

If you really want to figure this out, do a search for the "pigpen cipher", and you'll be able to.

If you really want to figure this out, do a search for the "pigpen cipher", and you'll be able to.

Originally the message-puzzle was going to lead the kids to a hidden stash of pumpkin hand-pies I made for them.  And while I did in fact make them a bunch of those things (which they are all absolutely mad for), I had the better idea of having them search for the presents that were originally going to go in their easter baskets.  (Because scheduling, and food freshness, and the VERY HARD TASK of sneaking around three children to hide things.  You think linear algebra or organic chemistry is hard? It's piffle next to hiding presents from children.)

The special presents that were originally going to go in said easter baskets weren't super expensive things, just thoughtful ones.  Each had meaning to each kid because of inside jokes, games we play together as a family, or special interests they have.

We also looked for a super fun thing to do.  We ended up going to this escape room thing about an hour north of where we live.  It was hilariously awesome.  There was a fair amount of family-wrangling involved in our trying to get there for Friday, and we sort of blew it, because of holiday traffic.  But we made it work for us.  We wandered around the touristy town we were going to go to in the first place, having a great meal out, and just sort of wandering.

The next day, Alissa and the kids and I went back there, while Missy went to a confirmation rehearsal.  We got there totally early which was awesome.  All of the kids (and both grownups) were totally excited to get to do this thing.  Things have a way of working out.  Not only did we solve all the puzzles and escape the room, we did it with eight whole minutes to spare.

That's because we're a smart family.

That whole we-can-solve-puzzles-thing totally came back as an awesome "this is who we are" moment on Sunday morning, when the kids woke up, came downstairs, found their baskets and then the first sparkly egg.  S., the youngest cracked open the egg, saw a coded message and said, "Oh this is just like the escape room.  We can totally do this."  

Then all four grownups watched, delighted as the three kids tore through that egg hunt in short order.  L. the oldest, was sharp-eyed, and saw each egg before either of his sisters, and gently, lovingly, and bluntly-not-obviously gave them verbal clues to help them find them, like "I'm so on the fence about where the next one might be."

He's a great kid.  I love him so much.

Soon they had them all assembled, and put their heads together, and worked out the whole thing in minutes.  It was honestly, utterly and totally badass impressive.  

That sort of family co-operative thing was very much at play all weekend long.  We cooked meals together, set and cleaned the table together.  We supported one another, both when we were all together (like for meal times, or Missy's confirmation), and when we split off into groups.

Part of both that splitting off process and the larger group stuff was bonding.

Missy and Marybeth got girl-time with the girls, braiding hair.

Missy and Alissa spent quiet time together, cuddling and watching Moana.

Alissa and Marybeth got bonding time talking together about shared-life-experience stuff.  

Missy read stories to the kids at night, from The Great Brain books which she loves so much.

The kids and I did that co-op thing big time, playing this awesome silly videogame called Overcooked.

Yang even "helped" some with that.

Yang even "helped" some with that.

And there was plenty of alone-time and intimacy, too.  Alissa and I have a big rule that's super important to us, that when we're together, I don't dress or undress myself.  That's for her to do. We kept to it, too.  I goofed it a few times, and got spanked for it, too.  I was in diapers for bed every night, also.  And we made time for the intimacy with one another that we crave so much.

That wasn't weird or shoehorned in, either.  It fit organically into everything we did.  There was always at least one grownup looking out for, and utterly enjoying time with the kids. 

One of the highlights of the whole weekend was playing some of the games we play together across the internet together in our living room.  We played some QuipLash, and some drawful.

At one point, E., the oldest daughter drew this:

"Melodrama"

"Melodrama"

But I ventured the guess "accidental fart poops", which made pretty much everyone collapse in laughter.  

We all smiled at one another, basking in the warm glow of how very much we all love one another.

Because we're a family.

So, this morning Missy and I got up to go meet a woman at a flea market who was giving us a good deal on a dining room table, and chairs.  Afterward, we went for a sensible breakfast, and came home.  Missy had something she had to go do, and I had work to do on my side-business/software prototype, Project Drummond.

I'm in the midst of doing so, up to my elbows in javascript, when a reminder pops up on my computer, to pay some bills.

I dismissed it and kept going, but it kept bugging me.  Which is what it's supposed to do.  Eventually, I gave in, and went to the website for the power company, and paid the bill.  I repeated the same thing for our water bill, and our trash pickup.

I didn't even have to glance at my bank balance to make sure I had enough to pay them all.  I have it.  Lately, I'm on top of things financially to a degree I haven't been in a while.  I regularly save money, I don't buy too much silly bullshit I don't need (although some, because there's some joy in that).  

And when I was done, I turned back to working on my side-business.  That's when the unmistakable truth hit me full-on, right in my face.

I'm a grownup.

This was followed, about a minute later, by a residual tremor.

And I like it.

Feels kind of good.

 

Posted
AuthorMako Allen
Categories365 Gratitude