Part of my work as a parent is the hyper-vigilance of looking a few seconds into the future as i watch the placement of her footsteps and where they may lead her. Responding to each crisis, fall or tantrum with the appropriate level of gentleness or firmness is an ongoing dance.
There is another sort of uber-awareness however, that is like having eyes in the back of my head that can also see in the dark AND into the future…years ahead. It is this gaze that is on the look out for blindspots and subconscious behavior that I may be modeling unwittingly. Like, what is my pace as I move through the world? How am I responding to our constant stress? What is my tone of voice as I respond to Jeff in the midst of multi-tasking? How often am I multi-tasking? What about constantly managing experience, like with the bait and switch, to avoid emotional meltdown? That constant reaching for chocolate, what message does that send? (Ignore that last question).
With my line of work as a psychotherapist, as well as only having recently managed to navigate my life with any kind of grace, I am well aware of the subtext of our lives and the impact it can have on what children are really learning from us. Lately, however, I’m a little too aware.
That vigilance has taken on other characteristics, like constant over-evaluation and disapproval. My stress levels have been building, along with an increased sense of failure. Whatever I’m looking at, be it inner or outer, I’m not cutting it. Not “enough”….not loving enough, not patient enough, not wise enough, not organized enough, not insightful enough, not friendly enough…work, parenting, partnering, living…you name it, I suck at it.
Where is this coming from? It’s easy to say from a distance. Not enough sleep, and definitely not enough time to do self maintenance. Not enough exercise, or meditation, or time alone. I don’t know how to strike the balance. I’m trying…blogging in the morning and taking an hour before clients to slow down and check in, using Fridays as a day for career advancement (but let’s be honest, it usually turns into “room cleaning”) and trying to be in the moment as much as possible. In the moment however, there’s a lot of stuff that is hard to just sit with. Anxiety. Irritation. Physical discomfort. Exhaustion. How do I manage all that? Oh…right…that is supposed to be addressed in my allotted “me” time.
Just managing isn’t enough. Time that I take…there also needs to be time to deepen. To soften. To grieve or wail or cry or remember that bodies feel better when they are stretched. Our culture and modern life has built into it the urge to forget…forget about yourself, your loved ones, your pets and nature itself. Keep your eye on the job, produce, be successful, and consume. Magazines and self-help books urge us to take care of ourselves, which is supposed to be squeezed into the rest of our lives, after the work and haste, because love is not the name of the game in capitalism. I want a slower life for us, one that is built upon a different foundation. We aren’t there yet though.
For me, there is an ebb and flow to forgetting and remembering. Remembering is often triggered by wise words…or hormones (thank you, PMS). Ideally, I would like to have more balance in this too…ideally I want that afternoon meditation to Ala Kazam! Produce instant, soft, deep awareness. What seems to happen though, is that the breach that is created when I automatically disconnect, just to keep moving in the world, becomes so wide that I can’t see the other side. And I can’t recall what was over there. Forgetting. Remembering. Forgetting. Re-membering.
It used to be that the only casualty was me. Now, the stakes feel so much higher. I can’t keep her from experiencing suffering in the world. I just don’t want that suffering to be handed down on a platter of nature/nurture.
Regardless of connection or disconnection, despite how much of a head case I might be, in the midst of remembering or forgetting I think the key is in self-forgiveness. I hope salvation may be not in how much I eff up, but in how I resolve it…how loving, friendly, accepting and forgiving I can be towards myself. I know this is one of the most important gifts I can give her.
As a parent, how do you strike a balance or remember? Or what are the colors of your life when you are in the midst of forgetting?
(more inspirational writing like the above link at the blog Labor of Love.)