Monthly Archives: February 2013
I am a person who is uncomfortable sitting with an emotion in myself or another for a long period of time, especially if it is one of the more “negative” emotions – sadness, fear, frustration, etc. Sometimes I can hunker down with anger, but hanging out there can be destructive to myself and others. I understand that anger is actually a secondary emotion so I am using it to cover a more painful feeling when I get stuck there. Other times anxiety overtakes, I am no longer present or able to meet the needs of my children in that space.
As a parent, this struggle to tolerate my own feelings spills over into becoming a challenge to be with and in support of my children when they are expressing their emotions. It is a temptation for me to be more about “shutting it down” and making it stop rather than supporting them through it. This week I am getting a lot of practice in that uncomfortable space – I am trying to see it as a chance to learn and grow rather than a hassle and bother. One of our girls is overthinking and really struggling to do a task that is important for her to accomplish. Something that usually takes about 1-2 minutes to accomplish is literally taking hours. It is taking an emotional toll on her and me. But in reality, this is a great time for me to practice being in the uncomfortable place – pushing past my comfort level and learning to tolerate both my own and her emotions through this process. And also a great time for a child who tends to stuff and deny feelings to practice expressing them.
I am learning that the more mindful and honest we are with ourselves and our feelings, the more we can give the same gift to our children. The desire to dismiss emotions and say “you’ll be fine” too quickly teaches our children that feelings are not ok. A rush to reassure someone sends a message that we can’t tolerate whatever is being expressed. Repeating this over and over will lead to children who become adults that deny, repress, shove aside….and there is plenty of information and research out there on the toll this takes on the mind and body.
So this week, I am working to be grateful for this specific challenge in the life of my daughter. I am trying to sit well past my comfort zone in the strong emotions that are being expressed – both internally and by my child. Even though there are times when I feel like I might jump out of my skin, I can hang in there. I don’t have to shut it down. I think this will be a growing and connecting time. And as we sit side by side in discomfort, it may even help both of us to expand our comfort zones.
We first met over 25 years ago. We lived in a smallish North Carolina town, were early in our parenting journey and were trying to figure out our way in this world. I think it is fair to say that we were each pursuing more of a glittering image brand of self than an authentic true to our God given soul self. It took on a different form and shape for each of us, but there were similarities. We laughed together, learned together, cried together, shared life together and sometimes drove each other a little bit crazy. We resided in the same place for just two years.
Months, years and decades rolled on. There were times of connection but they were fairly few and far between. We met up in a variety of places – the hospital, her dining room table, a 40th birthday celebration, my back porch, a wedding, the telephone. We exchanged news of children growing, marriages maturing, extended family and God as faithful. It was obvious to me that she was making great progress toward shedding the false wanna be self I first knew. How she dressed, spent her time and what seemed most important to her were shifting. I was more delayed in this area of growing up. She had traveled through some dark and despairing places – places that encouraged her to keep on changing, laughing and believing. She inspired me.
Last week, I travelled about 2 hours west to once more reconnect and share life in this season together. It was refreshing, invigorating, full of promise. I have always known her to be a woman of great talent, with a deep connection to creativity and God. She is an incredibly gifted artist who currently dwells in a space where she can express profound thoughts and dreams through her art. She gently yet jarringly reminded me that I too had a false image self that I portrayed to the world for many a year. She has known me for a long time. We talked about writing as a pathway to plumb the depths of being true and honest with myself and a portal to experiencing God. She held up a mirror to help me see myself in light of a 25 year journey of friendship. It was a holy and hopeful time together. I have a wish – in 25 years from now, we will again sit together, encourage our real and best selves and bask in the faithfulness of God to us and to our families, come what may. I wonder what truth and grace I will see next time I look into the mirror of friendship
PS all of these beautiful paintings are for sale – contact me if you are interested.
Raising children provides an intensive course in letting go. In the early days, they are utterly dependent upon us for their every need. We are encouraged to form healthy attachment and in a sense, become one. But right around the corner, the separation process begins. At first, we just let out the safety net the slightest bit, with the ability to pull it back in if necessary. Before long, it is healthy to begin a greater release – from clothes to friends to how to spend time and out into ever widening circles of choice. For a parent, this process can be heart wrenching.
We quickly learn that the whether or not to wear a jacket discussion is small potatoes compared to some of the stuff coming down the road. These precious gifts are individual souls and do not belong to us. We are entrusted with their care and teaching for a season but it is healthy and right for them to head toward a life of making their own choices and decisions. This eventually includes what to consume, lifestyle choices, faith expression, political views, relationships and the list goes on and on and on. They dream dreams and pursue paths – some align with that of their parents and some don’t.
It is painful to watch our children struggle, suffer or take a path that concerns us. We need to respond in genuine and heart felt ways. But it is so very tempting to be gripped with fear – this can take the form of a low rumbling anxiety or wake up in the night, paralyzing worry type fear– and then in response to put wasted energy toward trying to fix and control. We can spend a lot of time in the mental gymnastics world of trying to figure out how to affect, influence and if we had our true preference, control our children and their choices. It is sometimes easiest to look for someone to blame – myself, my husband or any other player in any given family story. Personally, I sometimes talk the talk of trust and release of my children into God’s hands, but I stumble in the execution of this belief. I want to be different.
My desire is to be more at peace and ease in the realm of leaning into the mystery of God, life and the growth and development of my beautiful unique children. With five children ages 9-25, there will be many an opportunity for me to be shaped, changed and formed into a person who excels in letting go. Sometimes gentle guidance will be wise to speak and other times my heart may be ripped open as I watch in silence. But I want to master the art of letting go at an appropriate pace and time, with a heart full of love and hope. As I release my children, I want to dwell in the mystery and faithfulness of God and to find joy and delight as they discover and live out their own dreams and their own lives. My children have great treasures to share with me, but if I can’t see beyond my own expectations and desires for them, I am going to miss out. My first step is to loosen the grip and gently let them go.