Wednesday, April 13, 2011

riding the rollercoaster

"As warriors, we try to rejoice whenever there is an obstacle, and we try to regard that as something that makes us smile. Each particular setback creates a further smile. We keep on going in that way, and we never give up or give in to any obstacles...It is like riding a rollercoaster: the more you go down and the more you go up, the more you smile each time." - Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

I have been riding the rollercoaster that is parenting the past couple of weeks. I have been so tired out by six weeks of almost continuous illness that my neurosis has been, shall we say, a bit heightened. The usual ups and downs have been more exaggerated as my defenses have fallen away, or maybe, it's that the defenses have gotten stronger. Working with my mind while my two year old and one year old go about their business of exploring the vividness of phenomena and their emotions has been challenging work.

My previously very gentle eldest has turned into the toddler that hits, pushes and kicks other children, usually without any obvious provocation. If I look deeper of course, I see that there is provocation- as in, the other child is in his immediate space, or looking at a toy he is interested in, or beginning to interact with him in some completely innocuous way. Babies and older children alike are targets. It has been quite the ride for me, indeed. On the other hand, he has also taken off in his speech, which for me is a real joy. He was a very late talker, so much so that we were beginning to get concerned and had him evaluated. Hearing him express himself in words, and describing his world is incredibly poignant and wonderful.

Meanwhile, his brother is in that 13 month old "newly walking, must climb onto everything, creep into everything, run and fall everywhere" mode, marked by ouches and bruises. So, I have been alternating between loving appreciation of their growth and fear, chagrin, and horror at the acting out and getting hurt - all perfectly normal developmentally, and all perfectly challenging for this mama.

Using my mindfulness to create some space around my reactions to them has given me some insight. One thing that keeps coming up for me is my own fear of looking bad, or being bad. When my eldest pushes another toddler down, or deliberately bounces a ball off the head of a young baby - along with the almost primal reaction of needing to intervene and protect, comes a deep feeling of shame and embarrassment. These are very old feelings for me, and are present often in many of my interactions with others. Now, there is nothing wrong with me having these emotions. What becomes problematic is that if I am not mindful, these strong, old emotions lead me to behave unskillfully or aggressively with my toddler.

The same is true with my youngest when he is exploring and/or getting hurt. Feelings of shame, embarrassment, of somehow being wrong or bad arise, whether or not others are around to witness. Again, not wrong, but problematic if I am not mindful in how I respond. In both situations, if there is enough space, if I can pause for a brief second and touch in to what I am adding to what has occurred, what I am projecting onto it, I can usually respond appropriately- redirecting, comforting, distracting, having a gentle teaching moment, etc. When I can't pause, and am just carried by the energy of these hot emotions, I tend to overreact - I get a little aggressive in how I respond to my little ones. I become unskillful. I get more punitive or more exasperated or freaked out. I get shrill. I get nervous. Edgy. Things escalate. The space narrows. Everyone is miserable.

So, I am working on smiling, as Chogyam Trungpa taught. Learning to ride the rollercoaster with my arms up, constantly touching into the fear, shame, anger, frustration, tiredness, whatever, and letting go and opening up - smiling. Pulling myself and them out of the situation, sometimes physically, sometimes just to the other side of the room. Smiling.

It's been hard. Today was a challenging day. Painful. Trungpa continues:

"the experience of our day-to-day living situation consists of dissatisfaction, questioning, pain, depression, aggression, passion. All these are real, and we have to relate to them. Having a relationship with this may be extremely difficult. It's an organic operation without any anesthetics."

Today was like that. Raw. But I have found rawness to be more workable than just stuckness. Rawness has so much possibility and tenderness. Stuckness is so solid seeming and choking. So, I have had to keep touching that rawness, and just holding it.

"The present is worth looking at...Faith is that it's okay in the present situation, and we have some sense of trust in that."

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