Routines, amended

Last week our family got a new puppy. We had talked about this for a very long time- years in fact. One of my major reasons for holding out so long was that I knew it would be a lot of work. A big change. But, we finally felt we were ready.

You know how people tell you that having a baby will completely change your life and rock your world, and you nod and say that you know and that you’re ready, but that you can’t really know and then it happens and you’re suddenly thinking “oh, that’s what they meant”? Well, it turns out getting a puppy is sort of a milder version of that. You can prepare, and buy supplies, and read about house training, but until you’re actually in it, you can’t know.

Well, now we know. Adding a puppy to our lives is an amazing mix of love and fun (seeing her with my son completely melts my heart) and a serious dose of chaos. She’s a fluffy tornado of affection and activity who requires constant supervision until she suddenly collapses asleep on the floor and we all take a breath until the next round. Hmm, this does sound a lot like having a baby.

Any change, even a joyful one, can present challenges. I, for one, am a creature of habit. I love my routines. My early morning workout session before the rest of the house is awake. My coffee and audio book on the morning commute. Reading to my son at bedtime. These routines approach the sacred for me. And there is decent evidence that sticking to certain routines can be very healthy and productive. Yet, there are times we must be flexible. This is one of those chapters.

So, I’m trying to open my mind to the possibility of amended routines. I’m thinking about how these new routines might even be better than the ones I had before. Initially I was sort of resenting the amount of time I was standing around outside waiting for the puppy to do her business, until I realized that I was standing around outside. I’ve seen a few beautiful sunrises that I would otherwise have missed. I’ve heard the morning birds. I’ve noticed things in our yard that I have never seen before. I’ve started taking a book outside with me and appreciating the extra reading time. I may not reach this level of acceptance at midnight, but it is working well the rest of the time.

So, maybe I’ll have a morning workout buddy who sometimes wants to join in on the yoga mat or chew on the weights (not happening, ma’am), but I’m still out there doing it. I may never sincerely enjoy house training, but I’ll take the trade-off of unconditional love that our little puppy is already sharing over my strict routines any day of the week. Just remind me of that around midnight. I’ll be standing around outside.

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The calm between the storms. 🙂

Excuses

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Until very recently I was among the nearly three-quarters of American smartphone owners who sleep with their phone next to their bed. I routinely spent a fair amount of time scrolling just prior to sleep. This, despite recommending to parents at least weekly in clinic that they get their child’s gadgets out of their bedroom if they wanted to increase sleep quality and quantity.

For about a year now (okay, let’s be honest, at least two) I’ve been telling myself I needed to make a change. I wanted more peaceful thoughts running through my head when I closed my eyes each night; instead of the myriad news stories that Facebook put in front of me, or the work email that I just couldn’t shake. I wanted to control my phone instead of it controlling me. I had done pretty well with this in other ways- taking periodic digital sabbaths and gradually decreasing my overall screen time by tracking it.

But taking this final step was elusive. I had an excuse. A rationalization. A road block. The thought that runs through your head when you know you need to make a change, but cannot do it, and so convince yourself that it makes sense to maintain the status quo. In this case? I didn’t have an alarm clock. I really needed my phone to be my alarm clock.

Then my son got a tablet for Christmas. I had pretty mixed feelings about this but it is a fairly simple model that he uses for homework (and of course his “videos”). We set up some screen time rules around its use and one of those rules is that the tablet has a bedtime. It charges in a docking station in the family room. Here I was, telling my son that his tablet had a bedtime but I couldn’t give my phone the same.

So I bought an alarm clock. Ten dollars later and I am free. It’s been almost two months since my phone joined the tablet at its docking station each evening and, wow, I’m never going back. Better sleep. Peace of mind. More reading. Less parental guilt. And no more excuses.

10 Things I’m Doing Right Now

 

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Credit: David Sipress, The New Yorker

 

I’ve seen this graphic shared a number of times recently and I think it is something many are feeling these days. I know I am. I certainly do not have all of the answers (by any stretch) but here are 10 things I’m doing right now to try to find balance and peace.

1. Reach out to one friend or family member each day. Whether via text, email, call, or in-person, it feels like an important time to maintain our existing personal connections and build new ones.

2. Meditate 10 minutes (minimum) each day.

3. Place boundaries on social media. Now, more than ever, I need to control my media consumption instead of it controlling me. Giving my phone an early bedtime was the first (very effective) step.

4. Stay informed but carefully choose my sources. Facebook will not be my primary news source.

5. Place one call to a legislator each day. It is hard to know whether this will make a difference. But I do know one thing that will definitely not make an impact- doing nothing.

6. Read a little each day. If it is fiction, so much the better. Write a little each day. Whatever comes to me; and however short- not for any particular reason except that it makes me a better person.

7. Continue to get to know my Dallas community. Serve others locally as often as I can.

8. Dig deep into my roles as mother and pediatrician. Our children need us to be fully present with them; to support, guide, explain, and above all, to listen.

9. Practice and share self-care and wellness strategies. For me these include daily exercise, prioritizing sleep, and good nutrition.

10. Double down on radical love and kindness. There is no other way.