Tuesday, September 27, 2011

painful reminders

We can stop looking for some idealized moment when everything is simple and secure. This second of experience, which could be painful or pleasurable, is our working basis. What makes all the difference is how we relate to it.
- Pema Chodron

I had the painful reminder today that when I lose my temper with my little ones, it is so very, very rarely about what they are or are not doing. Instead, it is most often the result of me carrying the past and/or the future into the present moment. My worries, my story lines, my fears, my hopes. I am caught up in all that when suddenly, one of my children acts out or does something that is upsetting. Or like today, when my eldest got a pricker in his finger and refused to let me help him in any way, but instead screamed in pain, complaining that it hurt him, for five entire blocks, then in front of our apartment house, then up the stairs as I carried him to our apartment, both fighting me from touching him, but refusing to go up the stairs himself.

I shouted. I told him "to walk up those stairs." I told him, "no, we are not going to just stand outside here and scream." I said, "I am very frustrated right now, because I want to help you and you won't let me." I suppose I could have said all of the above gently, but I did not. I was angry. I was angry because I have been having one of the worst months I have had in years and years, a month full of obstacles and threats. Challenges and setbacks. I was angry because I was looking forward to going to the library storytime with my little ones, which we have not been able to do for quite some time due to several of the aforementioned obstacles and setbacks. I was angry because on the last three outings I have taken my children on, they have either gotten hurt or had a huge tantrum that forced us to leave said outing often almost as soon as we had gotten there. I was angry because I am worried about where we are going to live. I was angry because I am worried about getting food on our table. I was angry because my mother is dying. And so on. It had nothing to do with my poor little boy and his very uncomfortable finger.

And it is at times like these, when I totally lose it, that I just can fall so easily into despair. It is so easy to use an outburst like this as evidence of what a failure I am as a mother. But instead, I can use a time like this to be more gentle, kinder to myself. Pema Chodron says:
Openness actually starts to emerge when you see how you close down. You see how you close down, how you yell at someone, and you begin to have some compassion.
If we can see how we shut down and yell, then we can begin to understand how others can yell too, or how they can hurt us or others. It comes from their own suffering, just as those moments when we do it comes from our suffering. So again, we are presented with the choice - close or open? Touch that tender, broken heart of our's or pretend it isn't tender at all, and wrap ourselves in duality and aggression? In being right?

So, I began again. I apologized to my son for shouting. I got a bowl of warm water, and had his little brother splash in it. This helped my eldest relax enough to try putting his hand in it. We were home again, stuck inside on a beautiful day, story time a lost event, but he was calm again, and the pricker floated out, as I knew it would. His younger brother, who had been very upset at having to leave the library, played happily with some blocks. I got some support online from caring friends, who have been there, in that same kind of painful, raw moment. Things changed. I had to let go. Let go of my worries. Of my story line. Of my hopes for the day. Of my little one letting me help him, even. The letting go was the opening up.

I haven't been writing here often because of all the obstacles my family is facing currently, but you are all in my thoughts. I hope you and your little ones are able to relax into whatever moment is arising, and let go again.

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