Week 49: Performers, Lion Tamers and shadows.

This year, I set myself 22 little goals to pursue throughout the year. I call them the 22 in 22. Once a week (or there abouts), I take a few minutes to check my progress on a few of my goals.

#1 Connect better with the scalawags, according to their Love Languages

If you’ve been following the ups and downs of the Fields family, you’ll know that we’ve been struggling with some anxiety issues lately.

I’ll be honest, I was worried that it was going to be compounded this week because my eldest had an actual reason to be anxious: he would be performing in his first concert.

Well. We had a crisis-free week. In fact, it seems that we have a brilliant little performer on our hands.

It’s easy to see that this child feels validated when he performs…it’s as true when he does a spelling test as when he does a double bass solo.

Against all logic, this makes me incredibly sad. I know how this feels…to feel like I’m worthy only when I’m performing. I didn’t realize how insidious this tendency is, how it creeps up and becomes a motivator at such a young age. I hope I can parent him in such a way that he can feel that kind of worthiness without having to “do” anything.

After a week like the week before, where the big one was taking up all the oxygen with his crises, the little one was start to act up…like he sensed a shift in the atmosphere. What he needed was some one on one time, which he definitely got.

He tamed a lion. No small task.

#3 Scoop the kitty litter as an act of love

No, I didn’t scoop the kitty litter this week. My gentlemen took care of the litter. But for some reason this week, that cat has been in my mind.

This cat, the only one we have left, did something strange this week. He sat on my lap. I know! I was sitting through a day-long Zoom meeting, and this cat came and sat on my lap.

He is not a lap cat. He is a shadow creature. I only ever see him as a shadow in the space between my pillow and my indulgent husband’s pillow when I wake up in the middle of the night.

But that’s not all! On Thursday morning, I woke up to a strange sensation on my forehead. This cat had stretched out his pretty black paw and rested it in my head.

This is literally the most interaction I have had with him in years. Is it because it has been glacially cold? Is it because he is unwell? Is it because he just knew I needed him?

#9 Create a workflow for new projects and know how long each part takes realistically

This is just a silly showy-offy thing, but I needed to decompress from these last weeks of crises, so I knit myself something from the handspun wool from the Little Prince’s sheep:

This is related to #9 Create a workflow for new projects and know how long each part takes realistically, because I think this project was a corollary to it: “Sometimes a new project is just a palette cleanser and you have to let it run its course before you can settle back down to normal things.”

Episode 41: The Ideal Gift Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year. Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman's website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 41: The Ideal Gift
  2. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  3. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  4. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  5. Episode 37: I Need to Think!

Transcript Episode 41: The Ideal Gift

Introduction:

Welcome to Sing With Your Feet. My name is Lily Fields and I am going to be your fairy godmother for the next half-hour or so.

This week’s topic is one I hope will come at just the right time for you in your Cinderella life. We are talking about gift giving for this week and the next, but as with just about everything we talk about here on the podcast, we are going to relate even gift giving back to the Golden Rule. 

So we have a little bit of work to do, because if you are anything like me, Cinderella, gift-giving is one of the most frustrating, most anxiety-inducing parts of the holidays. 

The gift I hope to give you this year is to help you bring even one tiny bit of inner peace and joy into this tornado of overwhelm that is the holidays.

So we are going to start with a wide swath of thought experiments this week, before next week, when we will start digging into the list of people that you need to buy gifts for and thinking of how you can give a thoughtful gift that will speak volumes about just how much you love the people on your list.

Speaking of which: have you started making a list of the people you need to find gifts for? It’s not too late…but not too early either! So if you want a piece of actionable advice from your humble fairy godmother right this instant: go make that list.

For those of you who are still here, we’re going to talk about my favorite subject. You, Cinderella.  We’re going to talk about you. I have brought an extra dose of fairy dust this week, and I supercharged my magic wand. Are you ready? 

Let’s go.

Part One: What do you want for Christmas?

Those six words: what do you want for Christmas? are, in my book, six of the most stressful questions I could ever be asked. Rivaled only by the six word terror-inducing sentence, I need to talk to you, which, if you suffer from Impostor Syndrome or any feelings of illegitimacy or self-loathing, you will recognize as a major trigger.

We aren’t talking about Impostor Syndrome today, thankfully. We are talking about Christmas gifts.

I’ll be honest: I hate both asking and being asked that question. I hate it that I have to ask that question of the people I love, because my perfectionist instinct tells me that if I really loved someone, I should be able to know instinctively what would make that person happy, feel loved and seen and known.

But I also hate that question because I know that no matter what gift I ever receive for Christmas, it will inevitably disappoint me. I’m old enough and have enough life experience behind me to know that no tangible gift would ever make me truly happy, or feel truly loved, seen and known.

Spoiler alert, Cinderella. If you haven’t arrived at that conclusion yet, let me spare you some heartache. No gift left under the tree will ever fill you up. Because what you are lacking is probably not tangible anyway. But here I am, getting out ahead of my crystal slippers.

Let’s remember the Golden Rule for a moment: Do for others as you would like them to do for you, and Love your neighbor as yourself.

Obviously, if what I would like done for me is that someone gives me a gift that makes me truly happy, feel loved, seen and known, I am setting the bar very very high for myself as a gift-giver. 

The goal of this podcast is not going to be to resolve that particular conundrum. 

The goal of today’s podcast is to help you examine what your deepest want is, or maybe even, what your deepest needs are, and to help you find ways to provide for them this holiday season. When you have started to scratch the surface of what your deepest want is, you will be able to start looking down your list at the people you love, the people you need to buy Christmas gifts for, and with the bandwidth you have available, start asking the same question of them.

I’m also going to suggest that perhaps looking for tiny ways to provide for others what you are wanting is going to bring you a harvest of fairy dust and joy during this season.

Several years ago my husband asked me that dreaded question, “What do you want for Christmas?” You know I love my husband. I know my husband loves me. But that question threw me for a loop. I have no idea…was my genuine, honest, absolutely instant reply. My mind went perfectly blank. 

I mean, sure, I have seen dozens of things in stores that I like. I mean, I have a little list in my secret journal of things that I love and that I want. But for some reason, the question hit differently once I actually heard it with my ears. 

Because I believe in listening to my own thoughts and reactions, and this perfectly numb blankness was something brand new, instead of just going into my secret journal and listing off a couple of things I had liked, I undertook to actually think about it, and to understand why this question gave me a deer in the headlights moment. 

I want to save you numbness of a deer in the headlights moment, my dear. So I am going to ask you to go sit down. I need you to be in the most propitious position for thinking. Grab a blanket, grab a cup of coffee if that will help. Grab your little notebook. Get cozy, because we are going to talk through some things.

Part Two: The Gift

I want you to imagine that your fairy godmother just handed you a wrapped gift. It sparkles in an otherworldly way. When you blow gently on the ribbons, a little covering of fairy dust floats into the air before dissipating. The wrapping of this gift is so exquisite, you think to yourself “It’s almost a shame to open it up!”

As someone who loves to wrap gifts, I do enjoy taking special care to make a package look special. What I also know, is that , as a gift-wrapper, quite often, and i am not proud of what I am about to say, I take more care to wrap the gift than I did to actually pick out the gift itself. So…and I’m sure you have experienced this before, when you have a particularly cute little package, and then you open it up and the contents are….disappointing. 

That has never happened to you? Well. You are a better person than I. But if this has happened to you, you’ll know that feeling of letdown, which is a brutal cocktail of ungratefulness and disappointment. You almost wish you could go back to the moment before you opened the package, when there was still mystery and unknown and excitement.

Well, this package that I just handed you today? This is not that kind of package. Whatever is inside that package is, if you can believe it, even better than its exquisite fairy dust covered exterior.

Whatever is contained inside this package is the thing that would give you absolute peace, joy, happiness right at this moment.

I know that we are talking in the abstract right now, but I want you to imagine the texture of what is inside, without yet trying to define what the thing inside the package is. Is it something soft? Is it cool and smooth? Is it stretchy or firm? Is it delicate or sturdy? 

Is the gift heavy? Or is it light as a feather? What is the shape of the package? Does it have sharp edges or are the edges beveled or rounded?

Whatever is in that package is the thing that your life is missing the most right now. Notice that I am not asking you what are you needing the most right now. 

I am asking you, in the abstract, to describe what that thing would look  like and feel like if it could be boxed up and handed to you in a pretty package.

Please, take a moment and imagine ways to describe what is inside that package with words, without worrying about what the object actually is.

Are there any thoughts that are bubbling up? Any echos of conversations that are coming to mind? Keep dreaming for a moment. Is there any music playing while you imagine the scene? 

Now, I am going to share with you what happened when I allowed myself, a few years ago to imagine what it is that I really wanted for Christmas. I am fully aware that this is idiosyncratic, and that because you are you, your gift is going to contain something different than mine. Depending on what is going on in your life or in my life, the contents might change, too. What was inside my Ideal Christmas Gift won’t necessarily be what is in there in three years from now.

Okay. So, the package that I had in my hands was rather flat, maybe two inches at most, and it was about two handbreadths wide. It was heavy for its size. The wrapping was breathtaking, with intricate beading and a simple, wide cream colored ribbon tied in a bow holding the package together.

Now keep in mind, in this thought experiment, no matter what was inside of this package, I knew it would not be a disappointment to me. I knew that whatever was inside, it would be a fulfillment of something deep and profoundly needed in my life. So there was a mix of excitement and trepidation about untying that ribbon. 

I’d like to think that I took my time opening the bow, sliding the ribbon off, maybe even smoothing the ribbon across my lap out of respect. Then I remove the beaded wrapping, and same thing, I neatly lay it across my lap.

The box…the box is hinged, and made of a live-edged piece of wood. It is smooth and softly finished. I run my hand over the details of the grain. As beautiful as this box is, what is inside is even more beautiful.

So I slowly unlatch the box and open it. Inside, folded over the gift is sparkly tissue paper, the only thing separating me now from the one thing that I truly want right now.

I fold back the tissue paper.

Whatever it is, it is the palest pink. It has a pearlescent sheen to it. It appears to be made of something silky, but stretchy. It is strong, and as I pull it out of the box, I hold it to my chest and can feel that it is the one thing that I truly need right now.

But what is it?

As I hold it against me, and as touch it to my cheek, a little waft of music floats through my head.

It’s from Hamilton, which seems a little strange, but I recognize the melody as the song Who lives who dies, who tells your story… It’s a moment that leads up to one of the most exhilarating key changes in history, and I try to remember the lyrics.

And then it comes to me, and if you want to hear this for yourself, just go into the shownotes and listen to the YouTube link there. It’s 1:50 into the song. 

The Lord in his mercy he gives me what you always wanted, he gives me more TIme.

That’s right. This gift, this stretchy, soft, comfortable gift, which is the fulfillment of my deepest want and need at this very moment in my life: it’s more time.

Maybe for you, what you need most deeply right now is more sleep. Or more connection with your spouse. Or more peace in your heart.

I want you to keep on imagining this thing that is inside your beautiful gift until that simple, deep, undeniable truth makes its presence known.

I am not a therapist or a counselor. And for you, this deep need in your soul might be something that you need to talk through in a more indepth and personal way. I would encourage you, if this conversation becomes a trigger for you to find someone to talk with.

Part Three: The Gift of the Intangible

That’s all well and good, Lily, but even you, my fairy godmother, cannot give me more time. Or more sleep. Or more connection with my spouse.

This is true, my Cinderella. I cannot give you those things. But you can.

Granted, there are only 24 hours in a day, as we have discussed on myriad occasions. We all have exactly the same number of minutes in an hour…in a week…in a year. And yet, what was in that box, that one gift that would not disappoint me, was exactly that. It was more time.

You see, once you realize and come to terms with the thing that you are most lacking right now, you can start to make a plan to pursue that thing in small, practical everyday ways.

When I realized that what I needed and wanted the most, that the thing that would bring me the most satisfaction would be simply to have more time, I was able to start addressing this. First, by tackling the things I was doing to sabotage my experience of time…things like wasting time on internet rabbit holes and wandering aimlessly through the grocery store.

Tiny things like setting time limits on my electronic devices, or making an actual grocery list instead of the aimless wander or…even better, eventually discovering the curbside service of my grocery store…these things were practice steps that made that precious gift of more time into a reality of my life.

Once you know what your deepest desire is, and you purpose take yourself and your desires more seriously, you can start pursuing them. Until then, you are living on a parallel timeline in which you will never be satisfied because you aren’t taking yourself and your desires seriously.

Part Four: The Elevator and the Golden Rule

So, something funny happened once I realized that my deepest desire was for more time. I started finding ways to make the time I did have more efficient. This didn’t mean that I had extra hours in a day, but it did mean that I felt like I wasted less time each day.

This may be a subtle distinction, but it’s worth taking a closer look at.

Our perception of our lives and the reality of our lives can be very very different. I mean, when we are busy, we are busy. Our perception of that busy-ness, though, can either be of anxiety and stress of where do I need to be right now, and I should have done that yesterday! Or, it can be…for example…joy. Look at all I got done today! And Good for me for not clicking on that link that would have sent me down a rabbit hole!

You see, the reality is the same. It is our perception of it that is different.

Let me tell you a story.

I live in a 6 story building with an elevator. My family lives on the fifth floor, and we park our car in a basement parking garage.

When I come home from the grocery store, I unload the car in front of the vestibule that leads to the elevator. I try to prop open the access doors with my grocery bags. I am usually in a hurry when I do this, and I know for a fact that my heart is racing, for fear that someone will end up needing to pull into the garage and find my car parked in the way. I usually call the elevator while I am there, knowing that it will still be a few minutes before I actually get to head up.

Once the trunk is empty, I hop back in the car and park.

Then, I walk through the two access doors, collecting the grocery bags as I go, and I tap the elevator call button. If everything has gone as planned, the elevator opens right away and I put the groceries in the elevator, push the button for my floor and away we go.

For me to feel like this has been a successful grocery trip, the one small element of that little dance I described that has to be in place is that the elevator be called before I go park the car.

Does this sound like a small, insignificant detail to you? It probably should.

But let me tell you another story. Every day, when I bring my kids home for lunch, one of them will take my keys and take the elevator up by himself to unlock the apartment door, while the other one and I park the car and come up later.

For some reason, when I arrive in the vestibule and see that the elevator is still on the floor we live on, I get irritated.

Now, as someone who loves to examine these weird little psychological phenomenon, I wondered to myself, why do I get irritated when the elevator is still on the  upstairs floors?

And the answer was simple. It is a waste of my time. I also managed to feel disrespected and forgotten about. I mean, how easy is it to just push the button to send the elevator back down to the parking garage? Could that child not think of his mother and brother before galloping off to unlock the door?

Am I asking too much? Maybe I am. But the thoughts and feelings…my perception of the thing is authentic.

On the other hand, it happened once that someone who was arriving on a normal day, and disappeared into the vestibule just as I was pulling in. When I arrived at the elevator vestibule, I saw that the elevator was waiting for me…without anyone in it. That person had sent the elevator back for me.

And can I tell you how I felt, in an extremely irrational, inexplicable way? I felt loved. I mean, I felt LOVED. I felt seen and respected and all of that simply because someone had pushed the button for the parking garage level when they got to their floor.

When we talk about the Golden Rule, when we talk about doing for others what we would want done for us? How do you think this manifests for me, now?

You got it. I always send the elevator back down for someone who is coming after me.

You see, the Golden Rule helps us take what is our deepest need, and find small, doable ways to fulfill that need for the people around us, too. By recognizing and honoring our own deepest needs and desires, we are better able to care for and love others.

Little by little, our perception begins to shift away from ourselves and our inconveniences, and becomes about how we can bring more fairy dust into the lives of the people we meet….which can also be more simply put, loving others.

Getting to the heart of our deepest need and desire can also help us answer that incredibly troublesome question, “What do you want for Christmas?”

If I know that what I really want and need is more time, then what I should give some extra thought to would be a gift that would help free up some time. My husband is an excellent gift giver in this regard, and when I told him that my deepest need was to have more time alone, he came up with a plan. Now, several times a year, he packs up our children and he takes them to his parents’ house, leaving me for a few days alone with my thoughts and a large swath of time to do the things that I want or need to do. 

As you start to examine the contents of that perfect, Ideal gift, can you think of ways that someone who loves you could help provide that gift in a small, practical way? Even an intangible desire can have real-life manifestations. Taking the time to perform a little bit of self-examination can substantially increase your experience of satisfaction. 

If you need help thinking this through, drop me a line, either by direct message on Instagram, or by email lily@singwithyourfeet.com.

Part Five: The Love Languages and Gifts

The Five Love Languages…ahhhhh yes. We talked about this briefly last week, but it is absolutely critical to everything that is coming up next, so I am going to real quick catch you up, especially if this is something new to you.

Dr. Gary Chapman, who is a psychologist and marriage counselor, wrote a book a while back called the Five Love Languages. In it, he posits that each of us experiences love in different ways, and that we can put those experiences of love into five broad categories:

  1. Spending Time
  2. Physical Touch
  3. Acts of Service
  4. Words of Affirmation
  5. Gifts or tokens of affection

There are two complications to this rather simple notion. Number one: we do not necessarily express love in the same way that we experience love, and Number two: the people we love do not necessarily experience love in the way that we express love.

In the first case, it means that we need to do a two-fold examination of ourselves, both looking at how we feel most loved, and learning to recognize how that plays out in our lives, but then also how we are most comfortable expressing our love to others. 

This is complicated because, for example, you may be someone who experiences love by touch, but you absolutely are not a hugger yourself. Or, you may be someone who expresses love by, I don’t know, cleaning the toilet, but when someone does the dishes for you it leaves you cold. 

Knowing yourself and how you express and experience love can be a wildly helpful thing when it comes to increasing your sense of satisfaction in your relationships.

In the second complication, we need to realize that when we go to express our affection to someone that we love, we need to realize that they might not experience love in the way most natural to us to show it to them. So we might actually be putting pressure on ourselves for something that will ultimately backfire, because it won’t have the desired impact.

The answer to the second complication is to become a student of the people we love, and learn how they are most receptive to our ouvertures of affection.

We cannot assume that we know what it would take a person to feel loved, because our own experience of love can get in the way.

Like in my earlier example, about my husband taking my children for a few days and leaving me utterly alone? Spending time alone is one of my love languages. But you know what? Spending time together is one of his. So he had to learn that for me to feel loved by him I needed to be alone. I know, it doesn’t make sense. But if he were to continually be making time for us to do things together, and thereby fulfilling his need for love, then mine wouldn’t be getting met.

This is a give and a take, obviously. Because what I know to be true is that he also needs, in order to feel loved by me, for me to drop what I am doing and do the New York Times Spelling Bee with him before bedtime. 

The most important elements to mastering this crucial relational dynamic are  1. Become a student of our own experience of love and 2. Become a student of the people we love.

Part Six: Becoming a Student of the People we love

I’ve talked about this before, but truly loving people is hard work, isn’t it? It’s particularly hard when our feelings are having a difficult time catching up. This was true when I was experiencing post-partum depression. I mean, I knew in my head that I loved my family, but my emotions were kept at bay by a kind of numbness that seemed to reach into the deepest corners of my life.

It doesn’t take depression for this numbness to reign in our lives. I mean, we don’t always feel soft and fuzzy affection for our families. It’s hard, when you are wiping a kid’s butt, to have tender, warm feelings. But it isn’t because we aren’t feeling anything that we aren’t supposed to perform the acts, gestures and behaviors of love.

Caring for the needs for an infant is relatively simple. Holding, feeding, changing a baby is pretty much all they need, and it’s all the experience of love that they know.

But as they grow, and their personalities develop, they start to show tendencies. One of my kids needs to be wrestled, as in like Greco Roman wrestling to know he is loved, but shows he loves me by playing with my hair. The other needs to have you sit on the floor while he runs from one side of the room to the other telling you about the story he is imagining. You don’t have to do anything. You just have to be there. He shows me he loves me by making a little gift, or a drawing and wrapping it up for me to open…and this…every. Single. Day.

My husband needs words of affirmation and to do the New York Times Spelling Bee with me to know I love him. But he expresses love by cleaning the toilet and taking the boys to his parents’ for a long weekend.

Each person we love has this dichotomy. Each person, including every single person on our Christmas list. 

If you already have a list of the people you need to buy gifts for, and you have a little bit of bandwidth to try out this challenge I am putting before you this year, pick a few of those people and consider the question: How does this person show love? And how does this person experience love?

I tried this little thought experiment last year, and I came to an unbelievable conclusion: One of the most difficult-to-shop-for people on my list wasn’t just being difficult.

It was that we had been trying to buy something tangible, when what he really needed to feel loved was to feel useful. 

That’s right: my father-in-law, bless his heart, is someone who expresses love by performing acts of service. When I came to consider him, and my relationship to him, I remember him being truly happy only a handful of times. And each one of those times was when he had pulled off an exploit–one time, he had gone to every single shoe repair shop in the tri-city area looking for a specific red shoe polish for a pair of my shoes. And he came back victoriously, with the stance of a superhero. 

So when I came to consider how I could give him a gift that would help him feel loved and appreciated, I realized that if I could create an opportunity for him to pull off an exploit, then I would be really speaking his love language.

So that’s what we did. We paid for a trip for him to come visit us and help us fix up some things in our apartment. We made a list of things…cupboard doors that needed repaired, holes in the walls to be plastered…

It seems like an odd gift. But you should have seen the twinkle in his eye when he understood that he was needed. It was the ultimate good idea in gifting.

This is an especially useful technique to consider for those tough-to-buy- for people on our lists. It’s worth it to try.

As a side note, I fully recognize that doing this kind of thing–becoming a student of the people we love–is far more time consuming than ordering up a gift card on Amazon (which, may I add, can be a perfectly valid gift to give in any number of circumstances!) It requires more thought, more sensitivity and, well, more bandwidth than usual.

The point is not to do this over the next month for every single person on your list. The point is to pick just one or two, and really try to understand them and how they experience love, and to give them a gift in accordance.

Next week, I will be enumerating what I like to call “Gift Receiver Templates”. They will describe different kinds of difficult-to-buy-for people, and attempt to uncover what their needs and wants are, and how with your gift, or the way you select or give them the gift, can help respond to those needs. 

I know, I know. You never expected to get into philosophical or psychological weeds about Christmas gifts. But fairy dust can take you to unexpected places sometimes, n’est-ce pas?

Homework

All right so you have your homework for this week. You are going to spend some time thinking about that deepest want, or deepest unfulfilled need in your life right now, and how you can turn it into practical, small doable elements. Ask for what you really need this year. Ask for the tangible manifestation of an intangible desire.

Then, I want you to consider your list of people to buy for, and think about how one or two of those people and how they receive love. How can you speak their love language this year with your gift?

Listen, Cinderella. I believe in you. I believe that you are capable of bringing more joy and more love and more peace into this world, because you are willing to do things differently. Do not buy into the “more is more” fallacy this holiday season when it comes to gift giving. 

The only way more will ever be more is if you are willing to love yourself more this year. By loving yourself more, in more specific, targeted ways that respond to your deepest needs and wants, you will have more joy and more peace. 

That joy and peace is a gift that will never disappoint.

We’ll be back next week to talk about those nightmare scenarios and people who are hard to buy for. 

Be great this week!

I want to give a great big thank you to Seven Productions here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outro to the show, to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.

This is your fairy godmother signing off. Just remember, it is never too late to sing with your feet!


Episode 41: The Ideal Gift Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year. Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman's website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 41: The Ideal Gift
  2. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  3. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  4. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  5. Episode 37: I Need to Think!

Episode 41: The Ideal Gift

Show Notes:

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year.

Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic

Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman’s website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn

A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.

Episode 41: The Ideal Gift Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year. Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman's website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 41: The Ideal Gift
  2. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  3. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  4. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  5. Episode 37: I Need to Think!

Week 48: Anger, Snuggles and Resolutions

This year, I set myself 22 little goals to pursue throughout the year. I call them the 22 in 22. Once a week (or there abouts), I take a few minutes to check my progress on a few of my goals.

#1 Connect better with the scalawags, according to their Love Languages

It’s not often that you will find me in despair, so bear with me for a bit. I might need to vent a little bit. You’ll find hopeful Lily again soon, but today she just needs to worry.

Several weeks ago, I mentioned my eldest was having some trouble going to his music theory class, because he had internalized a scolding that had been directed at another child, and this triggered some kind of anxiety in him.

Well, we dealt with it then. He was able to be brave and tell the teacher to “Not yell.” But it happened again. Pure panic. If I had never seen what a panic attack looked like before, I have now.

But it is no longer limited to music class. There was a substitute teacher who yelled at the kids. My child disintegrated.

Then at his beloved track and field practice, the coach had to put a few wild kids back in line. My child disintegrated.

Then music school again. He disintegrated.

When these moments of helplessness appear, and I am faced with the reality of my own powerlessness to help this child, it makes me so angry. My anger doesn’t help the situation, obviously. My being angry doesn’t make him less sensitive. It doesn’t do a single thing to make the rowdy kids calm down. It doesn’t inform the other adults in the situation that they are responsible for a child who takes their every word for himself.

Not to mention that he has developed quite a mouth on him. He can’t stand it when I ask him questions at the end of the day, trying to sound out what possible sources of anxiety might rear their ugly heads next. He pushes me away, then verbally makes sure I want to stay away.

So I have been thinking a lot lately about how to love this child through these crises and anxiety attacks, because my anger doesn’t make it easy, and his reactions to my efforts make it nearly impossible.

I can only speak words of affirmation so much. I can only spend so much time. My fluency in his languages comes up short.

A little voice in my heart whispered, “when all else fails, speak your love language.” A weird thought, because my love language is touch, and this kid doesn’t generally like to be touched. He’s like a cat who doesn’t want to be petted, and lowers his back to avoid your touch.

It was morning, and no crisis had yet erupted. I went into his room, where he was sitting on his beanbag chair. I sat down next to him, and asked if he wanted to sit on my lap. To my astonishment, the answer was yes. He curled up on my lap and let me hold him for a good five minutes.

If nothing else, it was five minutes during which we weren’t angry or fighting. At best, we were quietly reinforcing our foundation of trust and affection.

I tried again the next day, and this time he didn’t resist either. We sat on the couch, the same couch I used to snuggle him in when he was a teeny tiny baby. Just a few moments, but it was enough.

The next day again. This time we were sitting on the floor, and he draped himself across me.

This hasn’t solved the panic attacks yet, and I’m not sure that is what the snuggles were designed to do. But they have provided us a few minutes each day to re-affirm our mutual affection before he starts getting mouthy and panicky, and before I start getting angry.

I never would have imagined in a million years that snuggles would be his love language. And maybe they aren’t…maybe he is getting fluent at mine, and these few minutes are his way of practicing.

Oh my goodness. Maybe he is snuggling me to show me he loves me.

Oh my goodness. Maybe love really does make a difference.

#14 Mise en Place and Weekly Planning

I finished gluing my pages for the first half of 2023 into my planner. I have started transferring over everything I know will be happening in 2023.

I have started thinking about what kind of resolutions I want to make for 2023. While this year it was 22 in 22, I think I might have seen too big. I want to think small in 2023.

Here are a few ideas for 2023:

  • Live out the Golden Rule in everything
  • Manage my creative ebbs and flows and plan for them
  • Find small ways to rest and recuperate
  • Love, love, love, love, love.

Episode 41: The Ideal Gift Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year. Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman's website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 41: The Ideal Gift
  2. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  3. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  4. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  5. Episode 37: I Need to Think!

Transcript Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays

Welcome to Sing With Your Feet, the podcast in which we make every attempt to think differently about things.

The podcast in which we get perhaps a little deep into the theoretical and philosophical weeds about topics which, admittedly, probably don’t deserve a dissertation…Topics like, I don’t know…Christmas trees and holiday parties.

The podcast in which we use the Golden Rule as a plumb line to help us make the holidays bright.

My name is Lily Fields, and I am going to be your fairy godmother for the next half hour or so…

I hope you had an amazing Thanksgiving, and I really hope that, if you needed to, you were able to put a little bit of what we talked about in our last episode. Or at least, you were able to start questioning the dread you might be feeling about a commitment, and have started to tease out some of the deeper sources of contempt, anger or guilt that are keeping you stuck in commitments that shouldn’t be yours in the first place.

The End-of-Year holidays are filled with these kinds of commitments. Whether they are traditions that we never actually consented to, but make us feel anxious, or last-minute invitations that we feel obligated to agree to, much of what makes our holidays less than sparkling is all the crud it dredges up from the depths of our hearts.

There is so much cognitive dissonance around the holidays, and I think I speak for a lot of the women of my generation when I say this. We want to create something beautiful, and warm, and bright and memorable, but the very fact that we desire it so much means that we will inevitably fall short of what we imagine. Our desire is to make things perfect for everyone, which means that our efforts will inevitably be perfect for no one.

I have told you this before, but my indulgent husband and I haven’t, for as long as we’ve been married, had a television. I tell you this as an admission of being completely out of the pop-culture loop. I recently was listening to an amazing podcast called Business Wars, and it took a deep dive into what has become a pop-culture phenomenon about which I had zero awareness whatsoever: the Hallmark Christmas movie. 

I felt like I was an alien, peering in on this whole genre that seemed just…so absurd. I was particularly intrigued as they talked about location scouting for these Christmas movies, and how absolutely every scene had to scream, “Christmas”. Like, overdose on lights and stockings and snow and trees and hot cocoa and Santa Hats.

So, as someone on the outside of this phenomenon peering in, what I see is that the Ideal Christmas had been commoditized. It has a Christmas look and a feel of Christmas feel and a Christmas sound and an oddly predictable storyline.

And as with anything, when we start comparing our lives to something that is intended as entertainment and to represent a homogenized “Ideal”, we will feel like we are failing.

We people pleasers walk away from nearly every single activity in which we were trying to please others by creating the “perfect” Christmas, feeling like complete and utter failures. 

So, Cinderella, the first, most important thing that I want you to hear from me today is this: You are not a failure. Whatever cultivated and curated version of Christmas you are trying to recreate, stop comparing yourself to it. 

Your heart and your intentions are honorable. But you are missing something critical: in trying to create a perfect experience for everyone else, you have forgotten to love yourself first.

The Golden Rule says, love others as you love yourself. But you must start by loving yourself. Knowing yourself. Being in love with yourself. I’ve said that a million times before and I will keep saying it until it sinks in and starts becoming a reality in your life.

As your fairy godmother, I feel that it is my duty to sit you down for a few minutes and have a very important chat about why we do what we do, especially at the holidays.

Up until now, you have been setting expectations: expectations for the perfect tree, the perfect decorations, the perfect cookies, the perfect gifts, the perfect ugly Christmas sweater, the perfect…the perfect…I don’t even know what. I know what my expectations are, and they aren’t always for a perfect “thing”. I want the perfect ambience. I want a Christmas day on which my children don’t get jealous of each other’s gifts. I want to feel like I have made someone happy. I want to sit back for a few minutes and not feel like a failure.

Is that too much to ask? 

If this sounds even remotely familiar to you, then we’ve got some things to talk about.

Part One: What we control

When we talked about articulating our Ideal Life, I talked about how critical it is that our Ideal Life statements be about who we are in our Ideal Life… If this is new to you, an Ideal Life statement describes the kind of person we are and the life we want to lead, and we construct them by answering the prompt, “In my Ideal Life, I am a person who…” over and over and over again until we have dozens of pages of filled with the description of who we are in our Ideal Life.

After we have gotten to the bottom of the well of all the ways we imagine ourselves being in our Ideal Life, we look for themes that recur in all of our statements. 

Some of these themes include Parenting, or Marriage, or Relationships but also themes like work, our bodies and health, our Mental Health, and many many more.

The trick with these statements is that they are not about the other people in our lives. They are about ourselves. For example, “In my Ideal Life, I am a person who has children who are always satisfied with their gifts,” while a dreamy ideal, is not a valid Ideal Life statement, because it is about who my children are,  and not who I am. 

The only person whose attitude we can change, whose behavior we have any control over, whose needs we can fully understand, is our own. 

This is important to remember, because when it comes to the holidays, and our dreams and fantasies of an Ideal Christmas, we can very quickly hang our expectations for a successful holiday on the peg of someone else’s experience, attitude, behavior or needs. 

Part of loving ourselves (which is the precursor to being able to live out the Golden Rule)  is taking the time to know what we want and what is under our control. Every single time we hinge our experience of a bright and merry holiday on someone else’s experience, we are letting air out of our own tires.

You are responsible for your attitude, your behavior and what comes out of your mouth. There is no way that you can hold yourself responsible for how irritating your brother-in-law is, or how overbearing your nephew is. You cannot control your mother-in-law’s criticism, or your boss’s unrealistic deadlines. You need to unhook your expectations for yourself from all those things.

But you are responsible for how you do or do not take to heart your irritating brother-in-law’s mansplaining, or your nephew’s endless monologue about the latest conspiracy theories he’s found. You are responsible for having perspective about your mother-in-law’s criticism and not taking the bait when she wants to get a rise out of you. You are responsible for doing the work you can in the time given to you. The rest is not in your hands.

Sometimes, our own expectations get in the way. We have these big, beautiful dreams, and big dreams are exciting and motivating, yes. But big dreams can disappoint us. They can leave us feeling like failures. But, again, as your fairy godmother who wants to see you live your Ideal Life, I would encourage you, for once, to dream small.

Start with your own heart, break down the building blocks of what would bring you joy this year, and then seek out those small pieces.

Do you remember why we started talking about the Ideal Life in the first place? It was because of Marie Kondo, and her book the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Before she tells you to grab a black trash bag to start decluttering your home of everything that doesn’t “spark joy”, she tells you to spend some time writing about what your perfect life would look like.

When I first did this exercise, I did it in a rather perfunctory way, because what I really needed was to start making space in my apartment. I didn’t have enough space in my head to imagine what my Ideal Life would look like. What I needed at the time was to make space for my firstborn to sleep.

Well, what I want for us to do, because this is going to be the key to everything else we talk about from know until the end of the year, I want you to really imagine what your Ideal Holiday would look like.

Back in Episode 34, called Navigating the ideal Life, we talked about the difference between expectations and expectancy. Expectations are pre-defined outcomes against which we can pass or fail. Expectations will, more likely than not, leave us disappointed. Factors beyond our control are par for the course in this life, and very little ends up how we expect it to. Too many expectations will leave us feeling like a failure. 

However, expectancy is a fervent hope for a positive outcome. We cannot fail at an expectancy. Expectancy is the ability to imagine a bevy of positive outcomes, and hope for the greatest common denominator of all of them.

This holiday season, I my hope for you is that the greatest common denominator of everything you undertake will be…joy, with a little bit of  love mixed in for good measure.

Do you have a moment to think about this right now? I’d love to walk you through some questions, to help you think about what joy and love would look like this year. The goal is going to be to find the nuggets of deep, live-bringing, innocent desire, the little building blocks of joy that will give you direction as to how you will love yourself first, so that you will be fully equipped to love others this holiday season.

Part Two: Know Thyself

I want you to take a moment and imagine your Ideal Holiday. Let the images pass through your mind like a ViewMaster. Don’t know what a ViewMaster is? Then imagine a kind of slideshow. Maybe there is just one image. Maybe there are two or three. Or ten.

In those images that just clicked through your mind, are they situations that have already occurred, and you are remembering them fondly, or are they wishes that you have for an Ideal Holiday that has yet to materialize?

In these different situations, are you alone, or are there other people? 

I’m going to confess something to you: in a lot of the images that flashed through my mind, I was alone. Out of the maybe 5 images in my mind, 3 of them were just me. It’s okay and it is healthy to want to have part of your Ideal Holiday be in which you take time alone to enjoy the ambience. Not everything you do has to be to please other people. But we will get to that.

If there are other people, who are they? It might not be the people you usually spend your holidays with, and that’s okay! Remember, we’re over here dreaming right now. Maybe they are people you lost touch with a long time ago. If that is the case, is it the person that you are thinking of, or is the shared experience that made it such a memorable experience? Is there anything of that shared experience that you could bring back into your life this year, as you seek out joy in your holiday season?

What does your Ideal Holiday look like? Does it look like garlands of lights? Is it snow-covered, or is it under palm trees? Does your Ideal Holiday include candles? Is your Ideal Holiday showy and bright, or is it subdued and discreet? Do you have all the trappings of a traditional holiday, or do you do things differently? Are there lots of gifts, like mountains of gifts, or are there just a few? Is your Holiday homemade or store bought?

Next question: what does your Ideal Holiday feel like? I mean, like physically. What are the sensations you feel in your body? Are you cold but happy? Is there a roaring fire, and so you are physically toasty? Are you cozy under a blanket, or are you wearing a slinky off the shoulder dress holding a flute of champagne, freezing your butt off but happy? Are there hugs? Are you holding someone’s hand? Are you wearing a fur coat, or a down jacket, or flipflops with sand between your toes? What does your Ideal holiday feel like?

What does your holiday taste like? Does it taste like hot cocoa with marshmallows? Or Cinnamon cookies? Does it taste like panettone, or roasted chestnuts? Does it taste like mulled wine or fruitcake? Does it taste like cheap, hollow foil-wrapped Santa Claus, or does it taste like Ferrero Rocher? What does your Ideal holiday taste like?

What does your holiday smell like? Does it smell like pine? Or like roasted turkey? Does it smell like outdoors? Like popcorn? Like a fireplace or chopped wood? Maybe like cotton candy? Does it smell like plastic toys, or does it smell like expensive perfume? Does it smell like candles and mandarine oranges? What does your Ideal holiday smell like?

What does your Ideal holiday sound like? Is it the crackling of a fireplace? Popcorn popping? Bells jingling when the front door opens? Like a cat playing with the ornaments on a tree? Like a child shaking a wrapped gift? Like the laughter of children? Like the voice of someone you love that you haven’t heard from in a long time? Is it the popping of a cork and the clinking of glasses? Is there music? Is it quiet? Is it so quiet that you can hear your heartbeat?

Next question: How much thought and time do you put into your Ideal Holiday? Is it something you scour shops for, looking for the right decorations in just the right color, or do you make do with what you already have? Do you set aside a weekend to set your ambience? Or an afternoon? Do you have a list of people you give gifts to, or do you just pick things up as you find them? Do you wrap your gifts the night before, or do you wrap them as you bring them home? Do you take several trips to the Post Office, or just one big one? 

On this same note, what about gifts? What is the gift-giving process like in your Ideal Life? In your Ideal Holiday, how would you select a gift for each person on your list? Would it be because they requested the item, or because it brings you joy to offer it? In your Ideal Holiday, do you pull out all the stops, or do you give gifts within a budget? And conversely, how do you enjoy receiving gifts? In your Ideal Holiday, do you know what your gifts are in advance, and you spend the season anticipating them, or do you prefer the suspense of not knowing and the joy of opening up a surprise?

There is so much to say on the topic of gift giving and receiving, that next week’s entire episode is going to be a treatise on Gift Giving and the Love Languages, which I hope will both an interesting listen and an exciting way of looking at what can be one of the parts of the holidays that is so hard to get right

Next question: What kind of things do you talk about during your Ideal Holidays? Is it just like any other time of the year, or is there something special about your conversations? Are you fully rested, so you are able to really engage in your conversations? Are you able to keep a good attitude in your conversations? 

What I want for you to do this week is to take a little bit of time, and to break down those ideas that you have for what your Ideal Holiday would be like. What is your experience of your Ideal Holiday like, and how can you, as you start inevitably planning your end-of-the-year activities with those building blocks in mind.

Sometimes the smallest, most insignificant things are what can bring us joy, and if we can just prioritize them, our experience of the whole thing can change.. I mean, sitting quietly watching the Christmas tree with a cup of tea after the kids have gone to bed, alone, costs me absolutely nothing. But the quiet, the lights, the coziness…those are elements that I know will bring me joy. More of those moments means more beads of joy on the necklace of …my holidays!

Part Three: When Mama is happy…

There is a little phrase that gets whispered between my children from time to time, which, sadly, is more true than I would like to admit. “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” 

They say it when they don’t think I am listening, and when I have told them to do something that they don’t want to do. It’s stunning how much self-awareness they have: my children understand that their obedience has the power to keep things running smoothly. They know that doing what I ask them to do makes me happy, and when I am happy, everybody gets along. But for some reason, once, I must have let slip, “When Mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy,” and now they taunt each other with it.

It usually will goad one child into doing something he doesn’t want to do, like putting his clothes in the washer or tidying his room. 

I hate this phrase, because I don’t like to think that I am tyrant, but, I will admit that sometimes I am. What I wish my children would say instead is, “When Mama is happy, everybody is happy.” Because that, right there, is the actual truth, and not just when it comes to putting away toys and eating vegetables.

As the Mama in charge of my little family, my state of mind, my mental health has an enormous impact on the family. When I am doing well, when I am in a good space and when I am actively taking care of myself, things generally go better than when I am experiencing a roiling volcano of cognitive dissonance within my own heart.

Maybe this is just me, but when there is something in my heart that is awry, whether I am not getting enough sleep, or I’m not feeling challenged enough in the work I’m doing, or…anything is systemically wrong, and not working when do my daily check-in with my Ideal Life exercise…when any of these are the case, my fuse is shorter, my attention span is limited, my ability to hear what my children mean rather than what they actually say…all these are impacted.

Layer on top of this the expectations we have for ourselves to make sure everyone has an A+ holiday…well, if we aren’t doing well, it’s just going to compound. During the holidays, we need to double-down on taking care of our mental health, so that we don’t become a reason that ain’t nobody happy.

Loving our families isn’t enough to give them a solid foundation. Loving them isn’t enough to give them the sparkling holiday season. We could give and give and give of ourselves until we are completely empty, and still fail them.

Because when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. On the other hand, to a great extent, when Mama  is happy, everybody is happy. We have so much power to set the tone in our families this holiday season.

No, loving our families is not, it will never be enough. We must start by loving ourselves, by being gentle with ourselves. Being curious about ourselves and what we like and what we want for our Ideal Holiday. 

Remember, Joy is contagious, even in little tiny specks.

When we start asking ourselves, “What would joy look like to me this year?” we are manufacturing our own fairy dust. We are acknowledging that our joy matters, and our joy has the power to impact the people we love. 

Part Four: The Love Languages

Oh yes, that again. No, you’re not imagining things. We have talked at length about the Love Languages before. It dates back to Episode 7, entitled My Intentional Valentine. Back then, I was encouraging you to be your own Valentine, and to love yourself according to how you would like to be loved. It was a fun episode, and if you have a half hour or so, I would recommend listening again. 

You see, only when we know how to love ourselves, and our unspoken, deepest needs for love are at least acknowledged by us, can we start loving other people the way they need to be loved. 

It’s like…we cannot see what others need until we know what we need. I have been married for more than twenty years, and in many ways, I am only just now learning how to love and be loved by my husband. Because for a very long time, I didn’t love myself. I didn’t think I was deserving of love. So I couldn’t receive the love he was giving…which he was giving in the only ways he knew how.

It wasn’t until I started loving myself, and loving myself the way I needed to be loved, that the lens changed, and I could see what my husband was doing to show me that he loved me. And even if his act of love, cleaning the toilet isn’t something that I experience as love, I see that he is doing what he knows how to show me how much he loves me.

We both had to learn how to speak each other’s love language…both speak and understand. But it started because I got to know myself. 

Before I get lost again on a tangent, here’s the deal with the Love Languages: not everyone experiences love, or expresses love the same way.

This concept of the Five Love Languages, was developed by Dr Gary Chapman. I highly recommend reading the book, and taking the time to consider how we experience love and how the people we love experience love. But just as important is how we express love,  and how they express love. 

Once we are in a place where we love ourselves and can provide the building blocks of our own joy, we are able to, with great lucidity, become a student of the people we love. 

Becoming a student of the people we love is one of the most satisfying ways to be a parent and a spouse. 

Here is an example: 

My indulgent husband and I differ very, very strongly on one solid, rather important relational point. He believes that surprises are a good thing. I, personally, hate surprises.

This difference has only recently come to light in our relationship, and, as with most of the other points of conflict that have arisen in our 23 year-long marriage, it has come to the forefront because of our scalawags.

Neither of us are wrong, of course. He is right in a very practical way: what they do not know about they cannot ask four thousand times in three hours “Are we there yet?” about. I am right in a more contentment focused way: anticipating something is a way to enjoy an experience in advance, making the pleasure of the experience last longer by displacing its starting point.

Case in point

My indulgent husband is a teacher, so theoretically neither of us is actually “working” during school vacations. Technically, however, we both have mountains of work to do. He has papers to grade, I have chapters to write. There is never not work to do.

When we are very organized, we work out a “work plan”, so that each of us gets one half of a day to work on as many days as possible during vacation. What a “working” parent does during his/her work time is his/her choice. The job of the non-working parent is to get the children out of the house.

Me, I am a planner. It is pure joy for me, for days in advance, to be able to plan out what work I want to do when. I love what I do, so to be able to plan for it is also a great pleasure. I view those hours that I have to myself to work as gifts. Because I am a creative, with inevitable ebbs and flows, the fact of knowing that I will have time to work can shift the tide towards Flow.

Well. It happened that we were not particularly organized over a long weekend earlier this year. I had assumed that we would share the duties. (And you know what assume means, right?) I had tons of work to do, I was in flow and I couldn’t wait to get started.

But I noticed that my indulgent husband hadn’t mentioned anything about a work plan for that long weekend. Because I was a people pleaser and had no idea how to advocate for what I really want, instead of actually talking about it, we ended up all getting ready to go to a park.

I’ll be honest, I was crabby about it. I wanted to stay home and work. I probably wasn’t being enthusiastic about our preparations. But I did it. I was ready. We all went downstairs, got in the car. Everybody had their seatbelts on.

And then, my indulgent husband said, “Haha, just kidding! You’re staying home to work.”

So, confession time: I am an ungrateful person. I am a terrible communicator. I am self-centered and miserable to live with.

Instead of being happy and thankful to have time to work I became so irrationally angry.

I was angry because I felt robbed of the opportunity to anticipate. I was angry because I hate surprises. I hate jokes. I do not understand them, I do not appreciate them. They always leave me feeling disrespected and confused.

This was no exception. My communication skills and self-centeredness are part of the problem: no one is a mind reader, not even after 23 years of marriage. But the other side is, in spite of the fact that I got to stay home and work, I was left feeling more unloved and more angry than I would have had I gone to the park. This was not my indulgent husband’s intention. But it was the result.

The moral of the story is this: A kind gesture can backfire if it does not align with the needs and desires of the receiver.

This is why, when I say that being a student of the people we love can make us better spouse and a better parent, we can start setting a precedent of loving people in the ways that they need to be loved.

And…as we saw earlier, as Mamas in our homes, we have the power to influence the very beating heart of our homes. Our example is a powerful, powerful tool to set a new direction for our families. Our example speaks louder than our words.

When next week we look at how the five Love Languages and Gift Giving meet up, you will see that it will begin by thinking about how we like to receive gifts.

It always has to start with self-knowledge. Self-examination. Lucidity is a virtue that will keep our fire burning throughout the holiday season.

Part Five: The Challenge

All right, Cinderella, so let’s recap a little bit. First things first, remember that you are not responsible for how other people think, behave, or speak. You are responsible for you and your attitude. By taking really good care of yourself and your mental health, you can measurably improve your family life. This is the very essence of self-love. And you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.

Secondly, you need to let yourself dream a little bit about what your Ideal Holiday would look like. Distill down those dreams into the little elements that make up each dream. The music, the lights, the conversations, the smells, the flavors. With every tiny element you are able to bring in, your are increasing your chances of having more joy in your holiday season. So…really, what I am asking you to do is to dream small. Dream down to the building blocks of your holiday, and seek those building blocks out. Don’t seek out some big, dreamy Hallmark movie scene. Seek out the basic elements of that scene and incorporate them in your holiday.

Lastly, as you get comfortable with what brings you joy, start considering the people you love. Become a student of the people you live with, the people you interact with at the holidays. Actually listen to what they say and think about what they have expressed in the past. Study the people you love and start thinking about how you can bring small bits of joy into their lives through what you discover about them.

Conclusion:

Listen, Cinderella: I know that on the surface, I have said both a thing and its opposite today…namely, that both you are and you aren’t responsible for everyone’s experience of the holidays. This apparent contradiction is what I talked about at the opening today, when I said we were going to go out deep into the weeds and get philosophical about celebrating the Holidays.

It is a fact that you are not responsible for making everyone’s perfect dream come true on a macro level. You cannot hold yourself to a standard of perfection or make someone else’s expectations your marching orders. In that, it is true that you are not responsible for everyone’s experience of the holidays.

It is also a fact that you are, as much as you probably don’t think of yourself this way, you are an influencer. Your words, attitudes, hopes, disappointments…those things influence the words, attitudes, hopes and disappointments of those people in your immediate circle. Taking care of yourself, getting to know yourself, falling in love with yourself will fill you up and make it possible to have a positive impact on those around you. 

Please, please, please: unhook yourself from other people’s expectations. Love yourself first. Find the most basic, simplest elements of joy and pursue them. When you have done these things, it really does become easier to love truly other people.

Whether you like it or not, you are the beating heart of your family. You influence the overall attitude of your family by your own. This is a big responsibility. By taking care of yourself, getting to know yourself, you will discover more joy and more love. And when you have more joy and more love, then it will spill over onto your family.

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast. I am so grateful to you and I am pulling for you as you start dreaming small for this holiday season.

I want to give a great big thank you to Seven Productions here in Mulhouse France for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro to the show. Also, a huge thank you to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.

This is your fairy godmother signing off. Just remember, it is never too late to start singing with your feet!



Episode 41: The Ideal Gift Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year. Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman's website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 41: The Ideal Gift
  2. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  3. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  4. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  5. Episode 37: I Need to Think!

Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays

Show Notes:

Talking Points: Unhooking ourselves from the expectations of others; the lowest common denominator for joy; imagining our ideal holidays; taking care of ourselves.

A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.

Episode 41: The Ideal Gift Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year. Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman's website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 41: The Ideal Gift
  2. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  3. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  4. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  5. Episode 37: I Need to Think!

Week 47: Mise en Place saved my life this week

This year, I set myself 22 little goals to pursue throughout the year. I call them the 22 in 22. Once a week (or there abouts), I take a few minutes to check my progress on a few of my goals.

#15 1€ or less CPW for each individual item, less than 0.20€ per item globally

If you remember, I hit the “0.20€ global Cost Per Wear” earlier this fall. This meant that across every item in my closet, those I wear a lot and those I wear less, cheap things, hand-me-downs or full-price items, the global cost per item was twenty cents per wear.

Well, I get a little shot of excitement this week, (in that very specific kind of way this kind of geekery tends to incite) when the global CPW went down to 0.19€.

This is, I guess, mostly because I haven’t bought anything new in a while. It’s easy to whittle away that number when I’m not adding anything new to the Pantheon, now isn’t it?

I find it really hard to believe that this time last year I was heading into the final stretch of my “buy no clothes in 2021 challenge”, excitedly planning the purchase of black socks and cool black boots and a zebra dress, and here we are. Those black socks are well-loved, the black boots are at less than 1€ per wear and my zebra dress is…well, it’s still the cat’s meow.

In the New Year on the podcast, I am going to be talking about closet geekery. I hope I can transmit to my Cinderellas just how exciting it can be to take charge of our personal style, to love everything in our closets and to prove this live in a ruthlessly mathematic way.

#14 Mise en Place and Weekly Planning

I should have started a “Mise en Place saved my life” segment a looooong time ago, but it’s never too late.

This week was…I don’t know how to say this other than the craziest seven days of my life so far. Remember last week when I gave the dubious advice that one way to unhook ourselves from the peg of “tracking our results obsessively” was to have so many things going on that you can’t breathe?

Yes, well, upon reflection: Zero stars, do not recommend.

Without Mise en Place and a habit of referring back to my Poppy Fields inspired planner, I would not have survived.

Just for sec, let’s look at all the unrelated hats I wore this week: I was a mom, I sang at church (with an extra early rehearsal on Sunday morning), I was an in-a-pinch graphic designer, I was a taxi driver for two small children, I was a student in a night class. I was a social media fairy godmother, I was a teacher to sixty some-odd kids in three separate classes about the wonder that is wool, I was an English teacher to a retired judge. I was a guest on a TV show, I was a Thanksgiving reveler, I was a side-hustler looking for boutiques who might be interested in carrying locally sourced, poetically infused handmade wool items, and I was the narrator/soloist for a holiday concert.

And somehow I always knew where I was supposed to be when.

Thank you, Poppy Fields!

I will write a song one day about how Mise en Place saved my life.

#19 Create a workflow for new projects and know how long each part takes realistically

Specifically, this was about how to reproduce a Wool is Cool presentation for elementary students with very little time between sessions.

In order to capture their attention, I wrapped the different props I would be using as adorable little furoshiki packages. (I mean, I’m not Lily Fields for nuthin’. As I like to say, “why do simple when you can do complicated…”)

This added complication also prevented them from being nosy in my stuff, while keeping them guessing about what was in the package.

But when doing back-to-back sessions, I was faced after the first one with what looked like a Christmas Day explosion that needed a hefty dose of fairy dust to get the genie shoved back in the bottle. (If that metaphor was confusing, just try to actually do it in ten minutes flat.)

The secret to this particular workflow was to take a deep breath and sort. Quickly but patiently. Sort out the materials sample books from the baby clothes, gather the magnifying glasses together, roll up the wool samples, line up the knitting needles and crochet hooks and drop spindles.

Then, with samurai-like energy, furoshiki the heck outta that stuff.

I’ll be sharing a round up this adventure over the next few days, but I believe I earned a black belt in furoshiki this week.

Episode 41: The Ideal Gift Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year. Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman's website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 41: The Ideal Gift
  2. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  3. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  4. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  5. Episode 37: I Need to Think!

Thankfulness Week: My Cinderellas

In January of this year, full of hope and enthusiasm, I launched the podcast Sing With Your Feet. In the time leading up to the launch, it was a labor of love, the kind of thing that becomes the only thing you want to talk to anyone about.

My friends Jonathan and Eric had patiently walked me through how to get the thing off the ground. Seven Productions handed over some of the very very very best theme music anyone has ever heard, written by Claude Ekwe and performed by Matt Kugler. My friend Robin helped me think through some marketing strategies.

I launched the podcast into the universe without having any idea what would happen with it. I mean, does the world really need another podcast? And, of course, why in the world would anyone ever listen to me?

I was so tickled when LiElla Kelly, Death Doula extraordinaire, wrote that first letter to Lily, bringing her unique perspective as someone who walks with people through the process of dying, to our conversations about living the Ideal Life. LiElla is definitely someone I am thankful for this Thanksgiving.

I am so incredibly thankful this Thanksgiving for my listeners, my Cinderellas, who spend a half hour or so each week with me, their Fairy Godmother, as we all marvel at our Venn Diagrams together, seeking joy, learning to consent to our lives as they are today, and living the lives we were destined for based on the time, talent and treasure we have been given.

It is such a privilege to be invited into your lives and to be privy to your challenges and successes. (I especially love those success stories! Keep ’em coming!) I am so incredibly honored when you share the podcast with your friends. Thank you for trusting me with the people you love!

So, to my Cinderellas across the world: I am so thankful for you.

Love, Lily

PS. For those who have been adorable and asking how their Fairy Godmother is celebrating Thanksgiving in France? Today is just a regular day, so we have to go out of our way to make it special. I’ll be doing a Wool is Cool session in the morning, and working on some homework for the class I am taking. Thrilling, I know

But this afternoon will be better. I’ll take the boys to the Conservatory after school. While they are there, I’m picking up our guest of honor: a bucket of KFC.

From there, I will make some carrots with maple syrup glaze, mashing up some lofty potatoes, and baking an apple tart. I know it’s not anything special, but it’s what we can make happen.

But you can bet that all day, I’ll be thinking about you!!!!!!!!

Episode 41: The Ideal Gift Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year. Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman's website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 41: The Ideal Gift
  2. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  3. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  4. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  5. Episode 37: I Need to Think!

Thankfulness Week: The Big Kid

In the first session of the Wool is Cool project, I lead the (mostly) French kids in a discussion (in English) about clothes.

It’s an easy conversation, but it gives the kids the opportunity to stretch their wings in English with a native English speaker, on a topic they should be relatively comfortable with. It’s a fun “get to know you” kind of activity.

As I was preparing the materials for the first session, I dug into the boys’ “boxes”, that is, the little treasure chests where we put objects, cards, hospital tags, and newborn onesies and socks from the time surrounding their births. I needed some small items of clothing, and, let’s be honest, there is nothing more adorable than tiny baby clothes.

As I’ve written about rather recently, our eldest scalawag has put us through it these last few weeks. If I were being honest, he has put us through it since he was born, but it is a cyclical kind of through it.

I looked at a pair of tiny tiny baby shoes, the ones that were given to us by a woman I barely knew, who, long before I ever thought I could get pregnant, told me, “God wants you to know that you will have a baby,” a phrase at which I scoffed at the time. I was livid that anyone thought they could say something like that to me. My childlessness was not a subject of public discourse.

Those shoes, though. I refused to look at them for a long time.

It’s not like a newborn actually needs shoes. So after he was born, he never wore them. But I kept those shoes in his box as part of the journey.

I hadn’t looked at them or thought about them in years. And yet, here I was taking them out of the treasure box and using them as a prop in a lesson about clothes.

At the appropriate moment in the lesson, I unwrapped the baby clothes (I had furushiki’d them all…so it was like a grand reveal, and lots of little packages set up on the desk…it was so dramatic!) and I took out the shoes.

“Are those Joel’s?” one of the kids asked. Twenty other kids sat in rapt attention, waiting for the answer.

Now, it’s a small school. 180 kids. Neither of my kids were in the two classes I met with yesterday. I could have feared a kind of mockery. I really could have messed up my kid’s year, and I didn’t even think about it in advance. I mean, kids can be mean.

“Yes,” I replied cautiously. And I watched the kids react. They were…I don’t know how to say this…there was this general sensation of, “That’s so cool!!!!”

One kid even said, “I can’t wait to tell Joel at recess that I saw his baby shoes!” But it was not in a mocking way. It was like…”Joel is cool. Now I know more about him!”

There was an enthusiasm about both of my children from these two classes, but especially about my eldest. Granted, it’s a small school and everybody knows everybody. But the way these kids seemed to genuinely like my eldest…it put all the putting us through it into perspective.

We forget that our kids are out there being little soldiers all day long, holding it together, navigating relationships and finding their place in a world that is just so incredibly complicated. I mean, I only spent one morning with these elementary kids, and I was made dizzy by the intricate world of their relationships.

When he decomposes emotionally with us, his parents, who are his safe space, or with his brother, who is his really really safe space, it’s because he knows what to expect from us and he can put his guard down.

Wow. It was just a pair of baby shoes that got me thinking about all this.

The Double Bass: A Love Story

I’ve been meaning to tell this story for a while, and this seems to be the best occasion, since I am writing an Ode to Scalawag 1.

When he was 2 years old, my eldest Scalawag took my guitar, held it upright and turned it into a double bass. He stood with it, and pretended to play the double bass with it. He was barely 2 years old.

That year, the Conservatory moved into a new building. I have a friend who teaches there, and she encouraged us to come for a visit during the open house. So we went, and we ended up outside the classroom for the Double Bass teacher.

He was just a pipsqueak, a tiny little thing. But the teacher noticed how intrigued he was, but also was observant enough to see that he was shy and didn’t want to go into the room. So she brought a teeny tiny double bass into the hallway and left it there for him.

He got spooked and made us leave. But not more than ten minutes later, he wanted to go back. So we did, and the double bass was still there. He admired it. We chatted with the teacher.

He started taking the Intro to Music classes, did it for two years, and then was able to choose his instrument. Marie, the teacher, remembered him when he came for a trial lesson. She encouraged him, and even said that it seemed like he had already played a stringed instrument before (aside from that upright guitar and smashing keys on a piano, he had not.)

Now, my cool kid plays the double bass. My prayer is that his life will be like the double bass: stable, steady, a rhythmic, beating foundation.

I am so thankful for this kid.

Episode 41: The Ideal Gift Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year. Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman's website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 41: The Ideal Gift
  2. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  3. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  4. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  5. Episode 37: I Need to Think!

Thankfulness Week: People who entertain my wooly follies

What? You thought that I was going to be thankful for my other scalawag? Hah! I got you!

Well, we’ll get there eventually, but today, I am particularly thankful for the people who, for some reason I will never understand, are willing to sacrifice time, energy and resources to entertain and make possible the crazy things that my brain comes up with, and this, particularly, when it comes to wooly endeavors.

I’m just so darn thankful for Musa at Le Parc du Petit Prince, for saving those stinky bags of wool for me when he sheared the sheep earlier this year. I love it that he is passionate about what he called, “les vieux métiers”, meaning, the “ancient arts”, (he is a pigeon trainer by profession!), and I love it that he is willing to talk to his visiting school groups about these “ancient arts”. I’m just so thankful for having a strategic-partner-in-crime.

I’m thankful to my friends who have working sheep, meaning, these sheep are living, breathing lawn mowers. They provided me with some wool again this year, too, and it was just the loftiest, cleanest stuff I have yet worked with!

I am so thankful for the principal at my kids’ school, who gave me carte blanche to take up time and space in his school, and to the teachers, all seven of them, who trust to me with their kids to do something…well…a bit zany. Like, I don’t know…teach them that clothes don’t come from stores, they come from people who make them. Or… how to spin wool and felt and recycle things to make something fabulous.

I am incredibly thankful for the parents who have generously donated their time to help me cut out 180 CD-sized circles from recycled Amazon boxes, who have donated fabrics and laces and all kinds of materials from their stashes to make this project work, and those who will come to the classes with me to help out when we get to crafting.

I am just so thankful for those people who don’t tune me out when I get a crazy idea: in particular, my indulgent husband who doesn’t mind me turning our bedroom into a storage unit while I am in full-folly mode, but also my children who aren’t opposed to having Mama come to school and hang out for a while.

Episode 41: The Ideal Gift Sing With Your Feet

Talking Points: What is the one thing that you need most deeply in your soul? How can you turn that intangible idea into something tangible? It can be done, but you need to let yourself dream for a little bit. Also: how understanding your love language, and that of the people you love can help you be a better gift-giver this year. Here is a link to that amazing key change Lily talked about (check it out at 1:50): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gnypiKNaJE&ab_channel=OriginalBroadwayCastofHamilton-Topic Here is a link to Dr. Gary Chapman's website so you can read up about the 5 Love Languages: https://5lovelanguages.com/learn A great big thank you to Seven Productions in Mulhouse, France, for the use of the song La Joie as the intro and outtro of the show; to Matt Kugler who sang it and Claude Ekwe who wrote it.
  1. Episode 41: The Ideal Gift
  2. Episode 40: Loving Yourself at the Holidays
  3. Episode 39: Leaving a Commitment
  4. Episode 38: Let's Do This!
  5. Episode 37: I Need to Think!