This morning I cleaned out the van a bit in preparation for our trip up north next week. Marisol got upset with me for cleaning out the pockets in front of her seat. I was a bit baffled - it was a bunch of shells, wrappers and other trash, and some other random toys and bits. I thought she knew I was cleaning out the car. I was annoyed that she was so ticked at me. So I detached a bit for a while. I let her say what she needed to but I didn't engage too much.
Then later I went to talk to her. I crouched down in front of her - she was sitting in the computer chair - and I offered to put the stuff back. While I talked to her the song "Keep Breathing" came on the Pandora channel I was listening to (the music came from my phone in my butt-pocket. Super inspiring, I know!)
Eventually as Marisol kept talking some other issues came up. She didn't feel great. She was feeling stressed about going to our friends' house because there were going to be other kids there and she was worried it wouldn't work out well. She wanted to go, but she wasn't sure she was up for it. (And she didn't really care about the stuff I had moved out of the van... phew! Still, when am I going to learn to check with her EVERY TIME before touching/moving her things?? Sometimes I'm so slow!)
I nodded; I empathized; I offered options of what we could do. I told her we didn't need to go and that her friend wouldn't be terribly disappointed today because she had other friends coming over. I told her we could find out if they could get together Monday.
We ended up going. She ended up not having a great time so we left earlier than we planned. But then we had a great discussion the whole drive home about relationships and communication and how people learn things and how some people have a harder time with things than others. She definitely wasn't thrilled with the way things had gone done, but she also wasn't out of control because of her feelings (which has happened plenty of other times.)
We got home and only had a very little time to get ready for her dance class. But we made it on time. Gerry was a trooper. When we got home from dance she played with her neighbor friends. As we got ready for bed she said that the rest of the day had been better because she had fun at dance and playing. She said just because part of the day wasn't good that didn't mean it all had to be bad. Alleluia! I've said this to her a few times (thank you Sandra Dodd!) - that bad moments don't make a whole day bad, that we can move on and have good moments - it seems like it might be sinking in.
And somewhere in there I heard the "Keep Breathing" song again - on the drive home, or at home - I'm not sure. But it was perfect. And true... Sometimes all we can do is keep breathing, until the next moment, and the next moment, and somehow we get through the not so good ones and the great ones come round again.
I started going to a yoga class a little over 3 months ago. The impact it has had on me has been profound. I have yet to miss a week and have no plans to miss anytime soon - I love it too much!
Someone asked me recently: "Susan, your comments about yoga and meditation interest me a lot, because I cannot see myself "shutting off my brain" long enough for emptiness to enter and for me to be calm."
Honestly, I think that meditation and yoga are probably MOST important for those of us who think we cannot "shut off" our brain! To be honest, I believe that most of us are scared to even try. I know I was. I loved my thoughts so much and the idea that they made me, *ME*, that the thought of losing them scared me. When I felt passionate and ON FIRE and was sharing with the world what I thought was the "right way to be"... well, honestly, that felt pretty awesome! I didn't want to lose that feeling. I didn't want to run out of ideas or things to write about. I didn't want to stop caring about what I thought was important.
But the truth is that as long as you are reacting and pointing out what others are doing wrong (which is kinda what we do when we feel very passionate), you can never truly practice the most important things- kindness, listening, mindfulness... presence.
Anyway, my fear has kind of come true lately - I just really don't feel the intense need to write any more. I've read that it happens to other people too. I think it is partly due to doing yoga/meditation every week. For a couple of months (since around the time that the world lost Robin Williams) I literally could feel my heart aching - it was raw and open and a day wouldn't go without something causing it to throb in my chest. I wasn't exactly depressed - I mean I was carrying on quite well with a busy schedule, maybe even keeping up a little better than usual - but my emotions were always just barely below the surface. I feel like I've clawed my way back up to more stable ground with laughter, gratitude, and mindfulness.
Last week Thay, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, experienced a severe brain hemorrhage. Last night I downloaded a free digital copy of his work "Be Free Where you Are." I read much of it immediately. It is beautiful and profound. He opens with a poem he wrote during the war in Vietnam right after a town was bombed and destroyed by U.S forces. Here is the poem:
I hold my face in my two hands.
He talks about how angry he was, but that anger is what makes us suffer. He talks about taking care of his anger. He also talks about what he means by freedom: "By freedom I mean freedom from afflictions, from anger, and from despair. If you have anger in you, you have to transform the anger in order to get your freedom back. If there is despair in you, you need to recognize that energy and not allow it to overwhelm you. You have to practice in such a way that you transform the energy of despair and attain the freedom you deserve - the freedom from despair."
Yes. This hit a sweet spot for me. I know in my head that despair is not really helpful or useful to anyone - and yet when you see so many terrible things happening every day in the world, most by our own human hands - it is easy to despair.
Then today I read an article called, "Our Children Need More Than Our Anger" and it really clicked in with everything else. I need to go to bed so I can't elaborate more right now - but I really highly recommend reading both Thich Nhat Hanh's work and this article.
So I'm still thinking. But I'm also being more mindful - when I driving to teach I put on some classical music, see the beautiful fall colors, and notice my breathing. I'm trying to be better at really listening and hearing my children and husband when they are talking to me - even if I'm feeling tired.
And my mind isn't quite so busy. Turns out it wasn't really scary at all. Turns out it's pretty nice.
Debates, anger, passion, hate, division...
If you can't find any truth in the "other" side...
You're not looking hard enough.
If you can't find something beautiful to love in someone else...
You're not looking hard enough.
Pick a topic, debate, controversy -
Someone, somewhere believes the exact opposite as you.
Our experiences help shape us.
That is why we are all so unique.
Countless different ways to see, hear, smell, feel, touch the world.
Countless ways to abuse and be abused.
Countless ways to heal, love, and be loved.
Black and White will never be able to paint a complete picture.
The only real Truths:
Love, connection, discussion, listening, open arms, hearts, and minds, patience, Time.
If you've never tried on the words:
"What if you were me... what if I were you?"
Now's the time.
If you can't understand why someone else thinks, feels, BELIEVES, differently than you...
You're not listening hard enough. You're not thinking hard enough. You're not trying hard enough.
Lately I get onto Facebook and I scroll through my feed (as I do) and it just amazes me. The things that are controversial are just, well... kind of mind blowing. I mean there are the normal "BIG" debates in parenting circles and politics: e.g. abortion, vaccines, full-term breastfeeding, environmental issues, war, etc. etc. But really you can pick anything - and I do mean ANYTHING - and it can turned into a heated debate: drinking (cow's!) milk, celebrating Halloween, posting personal pictures online, when to turn your child forward in their car-seat - those are just a few that popped into my head right now, but I think you get the idea!
Ok, so I went over to my facebook page to take a quick peek to see what I could find. This picture was almost immediately in my feed (and I've linked it to give credit if you care). ummm can I just say wow. As a friend commented - if you feel that strongly about this you better start looking at everything you buy! (Which I think may be the point of this particular page actually, and even a worthy to think about for many.) But this is just ONE example of something people get really worked up about.
I mean - is it me or does EVERYONE have an opinion about EVERYTHING?? I know what some of you might be thinking - *You* (Susan D May) do too! I really do. I'm WAY more opinionated now than I've ever been. I mean seriously - I have some strong, "out there" (by mainstream standards) opinions. So it's not that I'm against HAVING opinions. Nah - it's be a pretty boring world, filled with boring people if we didn't have our own thoughts and beliefs. But honestly, I just can't seem to get worked up about too many things anymore. And when I do - I quickly return to a more peaceful state instead of getting more and more fired up. I don't have the time or energy to work myself into a tizzy about every little thing that someone else has an opinion on. My kids are growing up right in front of my eyes and we are busy and at the moment I seem to be barely keeping on top of things one day at a time.
Two years ago I made a Desire Map and two of the words I chose were "peaceful" and "on fire". Even at the time, I recognized how difficult it was to be both. When I started this blog I was regularly ON FIRE. I had something to say and share and I wanted to get it out to the world, STAT! I often stayed up till midnight or later pouring my thoughts out. Then I would click "post" and share what I wrote on Facebook and the adrenaline rush that followed would keep me awake even later! (Then I would wake in the morning and find that the sun still rose, the world was still spinning the same way, and people were still going about their daily lives the same as usual.) By the time a year had passed I felt that I was almost "Awake" - Meaning I was interested in achieving what this quote says:
"Once you awaken, you will have no interest in judging those who sleep." James Blanchard
But clearly when you are ON FIRE you are feeling passionate, and passion often causes us to think we have the "right" answer (aka "judge" others.)
Now, I'm not claiming that I don't "judge" others. I actually think that judging - as in forming opinions - is part of the human experience. It's fine to have opinions; it's fine to make judgments.
So what's my point? My point is - it's not the opinion or what you believe that matters - what matters is HOW you express your feelings, WHEN and WHERE you choose to express your thoughts, and WHO and WHY you choose to express your beliefs to.
These are not easy things to discern. I sometimes think I am kind of a wimp when it comes to sticking up for kids in real life. I'm way more likely to look the other way than I am to say, "hey! that's not right!" Partly, because I'm still figuring out what is the KINDEST way to help both children and those that care for them. And usually the answer is right there in that sentence I just typed - instead of telling people off when *I* think they aren't being kind enough, I can offer HELP. What can I do? How can I help you? How can I love and support you so that YOU can be your best self?
Because in the end I TRULY believe that we are all doing the best we can. I just have to REMEMBER that I believe that. People love their children. People want to do right by their children and loved ones. So, yes I have very strong opinions about how to treat children. But I'm no longer feeling the fire of my opinions burn me up every day. It's far more important that I let my thoughts, feelings, and beliefs guide me in how I treat my loved ones than spend my time debating every nuance on the internet. It's far more important that I build real connections with ALL of the people that cross my path every day, than spend spending my time judging every action and word that leaves their mouth.
I know that I am but one voice. I know that nothing I say here is original. I know I'm repeating myself. I have read many books and articles about treating others with compassion. The message is real and it's out there for people to find in their own way and time. I cannot control everyone else - I can only choose my own path, as mindfully and respectfully as I possibly can. And since I am human I will make mistakes. I will stumble and fall. I will run into others and hurt them. I will fail to stay the course I have chosen. I will be a hypocrite. But then I will remember that I love myself and I will try again. I will try to offer this grace to others too, and I hope people will do the same to me.
Wife, mom, information and peace seeker.