What do you think, friends? How do you deal with the yuck? Any advice?
From mine to yours,
What do you think, friends? How do you deal with the yuck? Any advice?
From mine to yours,
Last week I shared a traumatic experience with readers. I was rewarded, in a weird way, with well over 300 hits on that post over 2 days. Now, I’ve gotta say… I have logged 200 plus posts in my 2 years of blogging: uplifting, funny, emotional, quirky, informational posts that I write with loving intent. Never once have I received that many hits on a post in such a short amount of time.
What this tells me, is that people love a good train wreck.
We’re all just a bunch of rubberneckers. None of us can resist the temptation of watching someone suffer. We love to watch each other burn, don’t we? Public hangings, courtroom dramas, war footage, animal attacks, car accidents, couples arguing on the sidewalk, school kids fighting after class, anything on Jerry Springer… We gather around with curiosity to watch as others suffer. Sick and twisty, right? But we’ve all done it.
And this is nothing new. When I read books or watch movies about King Henry’s England (one of my fave topics) I’m always amazed to see mothers and fathers bringing their kids to watch public executions. There is one scene in the movie Elizabeth I, in which QEI is tricked into thinking her beloved Jewish doctor, Dr. Lopez, is poisoning her. She feels she has no choice but to have him executed. We are flashed forward to a grizzly torture scene where Dr. Lopez watches as his very own intestines are cut out of his body and burned. Did I mention he is still alive watching this??? Oh, and there are families standing around cheering? Horrid. But we watch anyway.
We are voyeurs.
We are curious.
We are glad it’s not us.
We might even feel happy it’s them.
Suffering doesn’t always mean blood and guts. Suffering can be much more benign. And I’d bet that we can all relate to certain joys and reliefs found in observing others’ pain. Watching that woman who always wins first place as she falls down during a race. (Good, she won’t win this time.) Finding out your son didn’t make the varsity soccer team, but your neighbor’s son didn’t make it either. (Phew, he’s not the only one who was cut.) Learning your co-worker has to cancel his vacation to Barbados b/c a storm damaged his hotel. (Ha! Now he’s stuck here like the rest of us.)
There’s nothing to feel bad about. These are things we think b/c we are wired to think this way. But. (There’s always a But.) We don’t have to think this way. These thoughts are not creating a better world. These thoughts are holding us back from standing in the spotlight that is meant to shine on us. Instead of focusing attention on our own identities, our own stories, our own intentions, we are busy applauding someone else’s failures or feeling jealous of other people’s successful journeys.
Each of us has a path designed specifically for ourselves. Once we set our intentions straight and start working towards our goals, there won’t be any time to watch others burn. In fact, when we do come across others’ moments of suffering, we will discover a heightened sense of compassion. Successful people help others succeed. Michelle Obama said this beautifully at the DNC last month:
When we succeed in our own stories, we will no longer have the desire to poo poo other people’s efforts to live their best lives. We can succeed by living mindfully, compassionately, purposefully… and with intention.
One important addition to today’s story: I know that spike wasn’t all about rubbernecking. The high traffic last week tells me something else, something that especially warms my heart. There are a lot of mommies, friends and readers who appreciated the peek inside a really horrible day in my house. Through my embarrassing admission, others could see their own households reflected. And through this reflection might spark the desire to actively heal. I know that’s what it did for me. And for that, I’m totally in love with you. 🙂 Well, then again, I was pretty much in love with you already anyway.
From mine to yours,
i’m overwhelmed by the show of support. as it turns out, i am not alone… which is relieving, but also scary. because that means all of us are living with kids who are on the brink. i spent a good hour talking to friends yesterday about what happened and three hours returning texts and emails and facebook messages to many truly amazing and loving people who reached out to me to share their own experiences. friends offered ideas and self-help strategies and stories or just a voice of support. some of the advice was dead on.
my friend KF, who understands how my household runs and knows me all too well as a mother, told me i need to institute formal discipline and stick to it. she helped me work out a plan and suggested how i could approach PG with it. i did that last night and it went over very well. oh, and she also reminded me to make sure she’s got a fully belly.
my little mamma VR looked at me after the kids left for school and said, “don’t let them see you cry. be strong in front of your kids. you can cry when they’re gone.” check. words to live by. must work on this.
and then i spent a lot of time cleaning out my basement. i scrubbed and purged and analyzed and came up with this:
our kids are acting like freaks because they are freaked out. they are growing up in complex, confusing, chaotic times. and it’s scary.
in kindergarten, one of our children’s first lessons is on the rainforest, which is quickly disappearing. our children are obsessed with animals and sea life, which are are nearing extinction. we send them to the safety and comfort of school each day, where there are mandatory drills to protect our kids from not only adults but other children who want to shoot them with a gun. our children need to eat healthy food to grow strong, but vegetables are filled with pesticides and meat is filled with hormones. the list goes on… there are parents who can’t find jobs, there are children dehydrating to death in africa, there are terrorists who fly planes into skyscrapers.
as adults, we process this through prayer or action or mature discussion or nightmares or complete disconnection. whatever it takes to get through the day. but kids just absorb it. they don’t have the emotional or intellectual tools to handle this kind of information. so they carry it around with them. it’s not just a one-time frantic freak out. it’s woven into their list of daily thoughts and fears. they bring it up at bedtime, over dinner or on a long car ride. when their minds are quiet and focused, these questions crop up. they are scared, they are confused, they are stressed. it’s messing with their basic, primal need for safety. we’re talking root chakra. foundation.
when the foundation is not solid, the rest of the body is unstable. and it creates a child who is off balance, a child who turns into a maniac when just one more challenge is thrown at them. to add to the instability is the complexity that WE create in the lives of our children. we’re way past self-help books, mommies. we can unearth tools in books and lectures that can help us harness our strong willed children, but these collective tools are only a bandaid on a bloody gusher. the real problem isn’t them. it’s us.
it’s modern american culture. it’s this big, fast, flashy, plastic american childhood we offer our kids. i’m guilty of this. so i am not pulling a self-righteous tirade. but i truly believe that the solutions to our child-rearing problems are not to be found through books, behaviorists or bandaids. the solution is found in mindfulness and simplicity.
i think that children who are less stimulated will have fewer behavioral issues. the homework, the competition, the tutoring, the television, the team sports, the social calendar, the scheduled activities, the playdates, the closet full of clothes, the parties, the toys… each on its own is manageable. but glopped all together, it’s downright overwhelming. we can barely handle being responsible for all these things. and we expect our kids to be? and what is the purpose for all this activity? seriously, let me inquire again. what is the purpose for all this activity?
so now what? what do we do? how do we pull in the reigns? b/c growing up at the speed of life is just too much for our kids to bear.
first, we need to provide our children with a solid foundation in the intangibles. if there is no time for discussion about spirituality in the day, what the hell we all here for? to learn to color in the lines? to be the best athlete on the playing field? to get into a good school so we can make lots of money and buy shiny things? well, those things are part of development, part of the human experience, but are they all? i’d argue no.
i’d say that we are here to learn about love by way of these experiences. and if our sole purpose here on earth to learn about love, shouldn’t we talk about love more?
when i say love, i don’t mean, “i love my dog,” or, “i love the smell of grass after a rainstorm.” i mean LOVE. the love that connects, the love that is infinite, the love that empowers and restores and awakens. for me, love and god are interchangeable. and there is nothing that i love to talk about more.
but i admit, for as much as i write about love and talk about love with friends, there is only a casual, sporadic mention of love throughout the week with my children. we are very busy DOING, leaving very little time for devotion. so let’s start talking with our kids about god, buddha, love, spirit, allah. whatever you like to call this magnificent life force. start with a simple question like this: where is god? and just see where the conversation leads. everyday, try to ask another question about spirit. if you need prompting, ask me. i’m happy to provide ideas.
second, with the earthly shitstorm brewing outside our homes, we need to create a sense of hope for our children, mixed in with a dose of acceptance. because as it stands right now, everything they love is in big fat trouble. we need to tell them that this planet will survive, that mother earth is STRONG. we need to present to them examples of this earth regenerating and evolving.
we also need to make sure our children understand that we each have an enormous responsibility to take care of this planet, because this is our home. and every corner of the planet is connected, just the way each of us human beings is connected. we need to encourage our children to actively participate in the improvement of our surroundings and show that they can not only carry hope, but also use their own personal power to create a better world. it doesn’t take a lot to do this. we can start by doing something as simple as picking up litter while we take a walk. or giving them a little lesson at the grocery store about buying local and why it’s important.
and then you can instill bigger lessons. when i visit the city, i try to remember to pack a bag of oranges and bananas. my kids and i offer a handful of sunshine (oranges) or smiles (bananas) to homeless people that we pass. i do this because my heart aches for those folks who are suffering. i imagine how that juicy burst of flavor will feel in their dry mouths. and i feel like i’m spreading joy.
i want my kids to understand this and learn small ways to help people. i never know if these lessons stick, but a few weeks ago, PG said to me out of the blue, “remember that time we stopped and talked to the old homeless guy on the street and he didn’t have any shoes on?” i didn’t remember so she went on. “well, you asked what he needed and he said, ‘shoes,’ so you gave him 20 dollars and a banana.” i asked her why she was remembering that story and she said, “because i liked it.” i told her that it’s important that we help that man who needs shoes, but we can’t take away his suffering, because he is here on earth learning a very important lesson. and when someday he is an angel he will remember us and thank us for helping him that day. in retrospect, i should have continued the conversation by asking her some more questions. but i’ll be sure to do that next time. i hope that through these lessons i provide my children with tiny shifts that will carry them through adulthood and encourage them to use their superpowers for good, and provide them with a stronger sense of hope and acceptance.
i truly am confident that reminding my children of their own divinity and providing them with a lighter load of activity will help quell these frantic, chaotic, home-wrecking freak-out sessions. when the world gets too much to bear, take a breath and return to source.
love you guys.
from mine to yours,
i think i need to just add a little preface to this post for people who are finding my writing for the first time. below, i write about an experience that was extremely painful, one i wish never to repeat. but, as i’ve learned, it’s an experience that a lot of us mommies share. if you are turned off by the blunt way i present this, i get it. i am, too. in my own defense, this essay is not representative of my overall experience in motherhood, it is a snapshot of one really bad day. i shared it b/c we mommies feel enormous pressure to do everything right and be perfect in every way. so i invite you to take the pressure off of yourself and know that it’s okay to lose your shit sometimes and still be a loving, caring mother. i also shared it b/c there are an awful lot of self-righteous, perfect parents out there in the blogosphere, and i think most of them are full of shit. so please check out my posts on other subjects that will leave you with a warmer, fuzzier feeling. here or on the other blog – http://vanessagobes.blogspot.com
oh, and please remember that when you post commentary, you are communicating with a real live human being. so if you wouldn’t say it to me in the freezer aisle at the grocery store, please hold your comment.
motherhood. no matter what anyone says, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine. it’s really fucking hard, as i’ve been reminded all too clearly over the past 15 hours…
it’s homework time. my 6 year old daughter SG is in ready position with her assignment laying neatly on the kitchen table, so i choose to sit down and help her first. meanwhile big sister PG is too busy making loud animal noises and complaining about the dinner menu to pull out her own homework and invite my help. she’s pissed because she wants my attention. NOW. and she makes it known. she spends about 10 minutes working up to a full fledged assault on me. with one deep inhale, my daughter PG finally erupts with all her 8 year old power, “i HATE you mommy! everything bad is YOUR FAULT! i wish you never had me! i wish i wasn’t here! you’re the WORST MOTHER EVER!!!”
i send her to her room. i don’t want to engage with or be affected by her tantrum. she won’t leave. i stand up, walk over to her, lift her off her stool, and carry her to the stairs. this happens three or four times before she finally goes to her room. she is screaming. she won’t stop. the clock is ticking and i’m thinking about the homework that needs to be finished, the dinner that needs to be prepped, the dishes that need to be cleaned, the baths that need to be taken before the clock strikes bedtime.
in quarantine, PG continues to breathe fire. at first i can let it go. i’m breathing deeply. i let the hollers wash over me, not through me. honestly, i’m not even sure why she’s flipping out. i’m not sure SHE knows why either. i know it’s an act. this is high drama. this is a game. but it doesn’t end with words. she runs back downstairs and gets right in my bubble. she’s red in the face. she’s channeling the devil, i swear. she tells me one more time that she hates me, i’m the worst mother and she wishes she could have been born into another family with a better mother, “because YOU ARE A TERRIBLE MOTHER!!!” she has a bag packed and is walking toward the door.
i drag her back to the stairs, pick up her tote bag, containing a pillow pet and her crocheted baby blanket, and i chuck it at her. then i pull her up the stairs. she’s not moving. in fact, she’s screaming. i’m screaming, too. but there are no reasonable words to use. there’s just chaos. i drag her to her room and slam the door shut.
after 20 minutes or so, when we’re both calm, i go back up there and we have a reasonable conversation. there’s a lot of teary, “i’m sorry, mamma. i’m so sorry. i’m so sorry.” but i know it’s just part of the game. i explain to her, as i’ve explained a THOUSAND times before, that her behavior is unacceptable. that she needs to be responsible for the way she behaves and makes other people feel. she says she understands, that it won’t happen again. but we both know better. we cry and hug it out. the rest of the night is fine.
so when it happens again this morning, i am not surprised, but i am surprisingly caught off guard. i’m in my breathing room having a few moments to settle into my day and PG creeps in quietly. when i finish, i open my eyes and say, “thank you for being so patient while i finished meditating.” i give her a smile and a kiss and take her hand. we’re all rainbows and sunshine. we walk upstairs together and she sifts through her clothes while i wake up her sister.
a minute or two passes before PG starts freaking out from inside her closet, “it’s cold in the morning but hot in the afternoon and i never know what to waaay-errrr.” i try to help her but she is unhelp-able. she’s lying in the middle of her bedroom floor now, kicking her legs and saying nasty things. i think i’m still writhing from our scuffle last night and immediately tap into my unreconciled emotions. i’m standing in the closet door jam, pointing expectantly in the direction of her hangers, demanding that she get dressed. she walks past me, jabbing me hard in the thigh with her elbow as she goes by. without thinking, the sole of my foot meets her rear end and i push her solidly to the ground, “YOU DON’T HIT ME, PG!” i scream, “GET DRESSED!!!”
i’m mommy dearest, officially. i take two steps back and watch her while she begrudgingly picks out shorts and a t-shirt to wear.
we finally make it downstairs and i spend the entire morning bawling. bawling. ugly cry. meanwhile my other two kids are angels. they’re hugging me and being sweet. they’re cooperating and being kind to each other. and i can barely acknowledge the little ones because i feel like total shit. i send PG off to school without a kiss or a hug for the first time ever. i just can’t look at her. i feel like an abusive, psycho failure of a mother. and i’m mad at her for bringing that out in me. oh, i know a psychotherapist or a judgmental mother would look at me and say, “it’s not the kid’s fault, it’s your fault.” but right now i’m just mad at her. and i can’t help it.
these meltdowns are nothing i’m prepared for. i hadn’t scheduled chaos into my days. there’s no appointment in my calendar that says: “monday, september 17, 5:30pm: knock-down-drag-out that causes extreme psychotic episodes and results in diminished feelings of self-worth in both parent and child. ” it just doesn’t happen that way. pain and suffering are sneaky. they strike when we’re unprepared. they jump out of the darkness and choke us with guilt and shame, desperation and squeezey-ness.
i wish there were some sort of smoke signal that would go up in the early morning, just to warn me that there was danger ahead. i wish i had a chance to armor myself against the mass of headache and heartache that was waiting to ambush me. but that’s not how motherhood goes. motherhood is one minute tickles and giggles and the next minute flailing arms and streaming tears. no buzzer or bell or emergency alert signal to give a heads up, it just happens.
why does this have to be so hard? just when i think i’m getting somewhere. i’m working so hard to create a peaceful home for my kids, to instill a sense of compassion and kindness in them, to teach them responsibility for their surroundings and gratitude for the gifts they enjoy… all of the love that i show them is seemingly blown up in a flash. they betray me, like traitors. shouldn’t i have more control than this? don’t i get more of a say? i am their mother after all.
am i the only one going through this? do all these other mommies in their decorator homes with their manicured lawns and their shiny happy appearances experience this? because i can’t fake my way through this day. i can’t get through this day pretending to have it together. because i’m falling apart. today, i’m falling apart. and i’m lost. tomorrow i might feel different, but today i am in the abyss. and it feels very dark and lonely.
i try to turn to buddhism, looking for an answer. but how does a monk with all his peace and devotion understand what it’s like to be trapped in a house with three small people who can turn on you like a stray cat? what can buddha teach me today? really, i’m dying to know. the buddha is here, inside me. as close as my own breath. so i take a moment to listen for answers. i boot up my computer, as so often i find answers in my writing. this is the medium through which i discover my tiny shifts. during writing meditations, my fingers race over the keyboard (no time to capitalize, sorry) and i come out on the other side with healing epiphanies. but today, i find there’s nothing. maybe it’s PMS throwing up a smoke screen, confusing me and keeping me from connecting with inner peace and brilliant spiritual solutions. but maybe there is no epiphany for this mother today.
maybe there is just pain and acceptance today. today i suffer so tomorrow i can heal.
i cannot control how my kids feel or how they act. i can certainly encourage them to be their best selves. i can kiss them and love them and feed them and guide them. but they are who they are. one minute they despise me, the next they’re snuggling in bed with me. this is just the way it is for us mothers. this is just the way it is.
from mine to yours,
lordy, i’m afraid to post this. but the purge feels cathartic and it’s the realest thing i’ve written in awhile.