Last week I traveled to Mississippi, where I grew up, to spend the weekend with family. When I enter into this space, I’m always struck by how easily I regress into my childhood stance. Being aware of this, my senses were heightened and I made a mental note to be kind to myself along with all the players in my family drama.
On the plane I could feel the tension arising and had to consciously work with myself to breathe and open to a new possibility arising. Every time I caught myself getting tight with my daughter, I would remind myself and her that I was feeling stressed about going home. Just speaking the truth, easily returned me to the present moment and how much pleasure I was experiencing traveling with my girl.
With my awareness attuned, while watching myself closely, I was able to stay open and present. I was actually enjoying my time, basking in the joy of seeing how comfortable and confident my daughter was with my family. All was going well until my mother made an innocent comment that triggered an old familiar response. It only took a split second for my armor to engage and I immediately shot back a deflecting comment. This gave me enough space to instantly bring in all my defenses and to withdraw my energy and get as small as possible. As I peeked out of my safe space I re-enforced my position by judging and seeing my mom from an old lens. As painful as it was, I was just trying to take care of myself.
Later, as I went to bed, I began to feel guilt and shame for shutting her out and began to beat myself up for not being more loving or kind. The cycle was in full force. Fortunately, I was able to slowly pull the lens back and got enough distance from the past to hold myself in the present. With hand on heart, I was able to love the part of me that was doing all she could to take care of herself. I was able to thank her for doing her best for I knew she was trying to protect my innocent nature. I truly felt gratitude for this young part of myself that was just trying to take care of me. As I soothed her and held her in love she began to soften, open and amazingly a deep full rich compassion arose for my mother.
With this new found depth of holding I was able to offer the same compassion to my daughter the next night. She was feeling overwhelmed and needed some space. When she gets this way she can get hard and cold and others experience her as mean. I was able to see that she was just trying to take care of herself the only way she knew how. As I sat with her, letting her know how beautiful she was and how I could see she was doing the best she could to take space she began to weep. As she softened into my arms, we both felt held and the tenderness was beyond words. We fell into the loving arms of a greater source and as we did our hearts opened allowing us to return to our family filled with love and joy. What a miracle!
Practice: Remember, we can only give our children what we are willing to give ourselves. When you feel yourself moving into guilt or shame for how you have acted, see if you can place your hand on your heart and love the part of you that is trying to protect your innocence. Give her the love she needs. As you do, you will find a place inside that will see your child as trying to take care of herself instead of acting mean, or whatever you may see otherwise. Offer her your loving heart and see what happens.