The Anguish and Joy of Parenting

The Anguish and Joy of Parenting

In any given day,  I experience the highs and lows of being a mother of four children.  The lows come in the form of heartache, worry and fear and the highs are felt in the happiness I feel as I witness my kids experience the joys of life. The highs are also generated from just appreciating them exactly as they are.  I know when I am worrying about them, and I do from time to time, I am not loving them. Worry and Love cannot exist in the same space at the same time. When I am worrying, I am not trusting in their journey. I am not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I want to fix them. But they are not broken and I know that. Deep inside, I know that. My higher self knows that. My gut knows that. However, I am not always seeing the world from this wise, elevated place. When the lens I see my children with is clouded by fear,  my thoughts go to the worst case scenario. I become critical of them and myself. But, here is the good news! Through my mindfulness practice, I can stop myself….stop the runaway train of doom-and-gloom thoughts, stop myself before I open my big fat mouth and say something I don’t want to say, stop myself before I start lecturing, nagging, and projecting. Sometimes, I can stop myself. And sometimes, I am aware I should stop myself, but I don’t. I am a work in progress, after all. And so is every other parent. We are never going to arrive at some high place where we wipe the dust off and say, “We’re done, now THAT was easy.” Hell, no! This parenting thing is damn hard, and amazingly wonderful, and pushes us to become the best selves we can be. And even when we are doing our best, we are going to question ourselves if we could have done better. And that is our cue to be kind to ourselves, to be our own best friend, to give ourselves a freaking break. And that process of leaning into our own anguish with kindness is what builds our resilience to wake up the next morning and drag our tired butt out of bed and do it again. My intention today is to stay neutral about any outcomes for my kids. Hope and fear both exist in the future and are attached to a certain outcome. “I hope my kid gets into a top college” is just the inverse of “I am afraid that my kid won’t get into a top college”. Instead, we can stay where our feet are and empower our kids to do the same. In the present moment, our best selves have the opportunity to emerge. There is such freedom in focusing on the present moment and doing our best work and letting go of any attachment to a certain outcome. Today, I salute all my fellow parents in your quest to be your best self. I wish you less worry and more joy and freedom. And so that I practice what I teach, I wish the same for myself!

On Forgiveness

On Forgiveness

Forgiveness is a topic that has shown up a lot in the past couple of weeks. I listened to a mother who lost her son during 9/11. She spoke about the importance of forgiveness and yet, reserved the right not to forgive the terrorist organization as they showed no remorse for what they did. I listened to a holocaust survivor talk about how she forgave the Nazis and that it helped her live a more peaceful life. She went on to share that there are many fellow survivors who are angry at her for publicly forgiving the Nazis for their wrongdoing.

Forgiving is not the same as condoning. We think we are punishing others when we don’t forgive. The only people we are punishing is ourselves when we don’t forgive others for the wrongdoing that caused us harm. It is the act of holding onto our past hurts that cause us to continually re-live them. What we resist persists. The person who harmed us goes about their life with remorse, or not. Our lack of forgiveness affects us, not them. Bitterness is a terrible thing to live with. We can hold people accountable for their wrongdoing at the same time we forgive them.

What happens then if the person we need to forgive is ourselves? I work with parents, especially mothers, who beat themselves up for messing up on-the-job. If the kid gets a bad grade, we parents ask ourselves where we went wrong. Worse yet, if our child is using drugs or depressed, we blame ourselves. We think we must have done something desperately wrong to have that outcome. I know. I am a mother of four. I, myself, have wished I would have been wiser, more evolved, handled situations differently, been more skilled, over and over and over again. At the root of all this beating myself up is shame. Shame is rooted in the belief that I am not good enough.

So, if shame is the obstacle to self-forgiveness, what is the solution? The first thing to do is to see the story that we are not good enough as just that…a story. Acceptance of ourselves as the flawed humans we are is paramount to having any peace. Next, I have incorporated the idea presented by Brene Brown, author of Rising Strong, that everyone is  doing the best they can given the conditions they were brought up in and the resources or limitations they have. Many of us instantly protest this idea, claiming that people are not doing the best they can. Whether that is true or not, imagine how much less you would suffer if you adopted this belief as well. Try it out for a day.  See what it feels like to give yourself and others the benefit of the doubt.

If I am still having a hard time forgiving myself or others, I practice lovingkindness meditation. This is a process that really opens your heart with compassion for others. For free monthly meditations, click the link below and sign up for monthly newsletters. https://westchestercenterformindfulnessandwellbeing.com  September’s newsletter featured the lovingkindness meditation. I encourage everyone to do this meditation every day for a couple of weeks and see what happens. When we  practice lovingkindness we are actually re-wiring our brain and opening our hearts.

May you be happy. May you be well. May you abide in peace. May you feel safe and secure. May you feel loved and cared for. (And May I feel all those things as well!)