I can already feel the mom police revving their engines…the sirens are about to blow. I humbly request that you slowly take the keys out of the ignition and read…to the end…before deciding on my punishment.
I get it, I think my kids rock too and if I could just get them to see how indisputably, unbelievably, effortlessly, OK they ALREADY are, I could spend my days at the beach, with a bottle of wine and be done with this parenting thing once and for all.
Seriously! They already have what they need inside of them. If they could just SEE it, they wouldn’t need me! Up until a few weeks ago, I was completely convinced, it was my job to get them to see this and if not for this job, my life would be nearly stress-free.
In fact, a mentor of mine recently said: “Brooke, I have no doubt, if living on a deserted island all by yourself, you would be completely content with all that is you.” I burst into laughter and then fell silent. It was true. I couldn’t care less about how I’m feeling moment to moment, day to day. I have seen deeply that my feelings are not telling me anything important except which glasses I’m viewing my life through in that moment. My feelings are in a constant state of ebb and flow. I cannot control when I have my stress glasses on and I can’t control when they come off, but I rest calmly in the fact that they will always come off, eventually. I will never be stuck in one feeling forever. So, in times I find myself in one I don’t like, I find solace in its inevitable passing and if I happen to be graced with a feeling I enjoy, I find appreciation in its presence.
For all thoughts, all states, all feelings, all moods, they too shall pass. And the best part? Underneath all my thoughts and my feelings is where I truly reside – untouched, unscathed and unaffected. I can see how indisputably, unbelievably, effortlessly, OK I already am -even in my darkest moments.
But I had a huge blind spot, and the thing about blind spots is, you can’t see them… until you can! You see, my experience is so much bigger than me, Brooke. My experience, reaches beyond me and extends to whatever and whoever lives in the world inside my head. “Brooke’s” world recently jumped from 1 husband and 2 kids to 1 husband and 5 kids. Yes, you read that right. With very little warning, 3 new children leaped into my home and became a part of me and my experience (a story of chaotic beauty I’ll save for another time).
Short version, my world expanded, thus my experience expanded.
But it wasn’t me that had the issues. It was my anxious husband or my confused, scared, youngest daughter, or my overzealous new pre-teen, or my pissed off oldest daughter, or my sensitive, new middle child or my very, very, angry, youngest boy. Why couldn’t they just see that all their feelings were OK like I see all my feelings are OK? Why were they resisting what is natural? Why couldn’t they see they were going to be OK, no matter what? If they could, my job would be done, and I could finally rest.
And there it was…my blind spot. I thought I had a job. I thought I needed them to see that they are indisputably, unbelievably, effortlessly, OK for them to be indisputably, unbelievably, effortlessly, OK. In order for them to see this, I had work to do. Do you know how hard it is to manage other people’s emotions? Hint: It’s a lot like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos and expecting clean teeth when you’re finished. When in fact, you end up worse off than when you started.
More importantly: Do you know how hard its is to point to something you don’t really see yourself?
6 months ago, I was rocking this mom gig. Ebbs and Flows were my jam. I was at peace with my little family of 4 and all the glasses they wore. They could throw tantrums, be depressed, be scared, be anxious, be over excited, be overwhelmed, be ungrateful, be happy, be sad… In other words, they could be human, and I was there to meet them with a steady foundation of clarity.
Even in my crazy, I was lined with an inner calm. Whatever they threw at me, I could see clearly that, they too, were just like me: indisputably, unbelievably, effortlessly, OK – no matter what they were going through in the moment. I was so confident in their Ok-ness I didn’t even stop to think about how adding 3 kids, they hardly knew, would affect them. After all, these were my kids, and my kids know where their experience comes from. My kids know they carry everything they will ever need inside of them. Something on the outside, affect them? Please, do you know who their mother is? They would be fine. We would be fine.
It’s a funny thing, how thought works. Your whole experience can change in an instant. This is both the hope and the downfall of the human experience. A person can spend days, months, even years in the depths of hopelessness and with one change in perspective, one new thought, their whole life can appear full of hope and opportunity. This kind of possibility is what brought me into this line of work.
However, this same gift of thought, unrecognized, can just as easily paint a reality of despair and deception. In one moment I felt like nothing could ever shake my foundation of clarity, not even adding 3 children to my family… and then it happened. The slightest shift in my perspective, one new line of thinking, and I was left feeling like I made a decision that would have negative, lasting effects on my own children for years to come. A decision that changed how indisputably, unbelievably, effortlessly OK they would be. Looking back, it was one thought that changed the glasses I was wearing but that’s not where things got sticky for me. I’m used to the ebb and flow, I expect the ebb and flow, the ebb and flow is never the problem. Things got sticky because of what went unrecognized. I didn’t see my new glasses simply as a shift in thought that would eventually pass, and because I didn’t see this, I was left at the mercy of my feelings. I mistook my feelings as a new reality I was up against. A reality I had to no choice but to attempt to manage.
For months, I followed my children around saying the right words: “You are going to be ok.”, while I was trembling with fear over their now seemingly, delicate Ok-ness. For months, I was repeating, ad nauseum, “your feelings can’t hurt you, so don’t be afraid of them”, while following them around trying to make everything perfect in order to protect them from the very thing I told them was safe.
For months, I did this, times 5. For months, they tried to pretend they were settled and happy, so I wouldn’t crack. For months, they walked on egg shells until their little bodies couldn’t hold it in anymore. For months, they denied their own humanity because I was denying mine. Have you ever noticed we all have our unique tendencies that show up when we resist our humanness? We were built so perfectly that our bodies won’t stop trying to tell us we are using our minds against ourselves until we listen. One by one, all seven of us began to succumb to our human nature and our real feelings seeped through in all forms. There were tears – A LOT of tears. There was hiding. There was clinging. There was rage. There was cracked skin from over-washed hands. There were headaches and stomachaches and infections, galore.
There we all were, blindly following each other in circles, ferociously brushing our teeth, with a mouthful of Oreos.
And, as it does, this went on until we saw a better way. A night I won’t soon forget. Anxieties heightened, anger mounting, and clarity having left the building months ago, I found myself completely exhausted pleading with my daughter, at some ungodly hour, for the 100th time, to stop caring so much about the scary movie she watched with her older sister. “Dear God, it was two months ago. If you stop talking about it, you will forget about it!” I begged. “There is something wrong with me”, she cried, “I keep trying, I can’t stop thinking about it”.
At the absolute peak of my insanity, I blurted out “Why do you think you are so special?” The question offended her, so she stopped in her tracks. Her pause was just long enough to stop feeding her anxiety and I could see her glasses change to curiosity. The question took me off guard too, I hadn’t planned on saying it. It didn’t come from me, it came through me and in that exact moment, I shifted. I had always told her how special she was and now I was taking it back. Only, I meant it this time. I could see clearly for the first time in months. She was not special. She was not an exception.
I responded unapologetically, “That’s just how it works, you feel what you think, and you can’t control what you think. If you could, I bet you’d stop thinking about that scary movie, wouldn’t you? The movie isn’t the problem, and neither is the fact that you keep thinking about it. The problem here is that you think there is a problem. You think you’re special. As if this only happens to people who have something wrong with them. Good news kid, you aren’t that special. When it comes to your mind and your feelings, you are the opposite of special. You are extraordinarily normal.”
Still silent, she looked deeply for my anxiety she had become so accustom to seeing over the past few months. She searched my face for the familiar fear I pretended not to be wearing while spouting out my wisdom. She came up empty, it wasn’t there anymore.
A smile slowly stretched across her face. It had a softness that had been missing for far too long and trailing close behind was a loud, massively dramatic, belly laugh…mine followed. In an instant, in the midst of my worst job performance to date, we both recognized what was there all along, – our indisputable, unbelievable, effortless, OK-ness: untouched, unscathed and unaffected.