I am curious about something. There are times (like now) that I don’t want to write. I hate all the words and thoughts that come to my mind and nothing sounds good when I read it back to myself. Things sound silly or trivial or worse, pathetic. I fumble around with things until I can find the groove and talk about something meaningful. If I can’t, or if I get really frustrated with the process, I drop it. I guess there are a lot of false starts when you’re trying to understand yourself. But oh my gosh I just hate it when I don’t clearly understand the reason for a foul mood or short temper or general malaise. It eats away at me and makes me more frustrated and foul as a result. Perfect.
But I’m starting to learn that the biggest issue for me is certainty. If I understand the problem and can formulate a solution – even when the solution is miserable – I am okay. Stuff me in any box you want, just make sure I know what is going on and what comes next and I am as happy as a songbird. But if you want to make me suffer, put a mountain sized problem in front of me and tell me to sit with it without a plan. That mountain suddenly became unscalable. That problem, which is just an intangible thing just became about me. You see, in my mind when I can’t solve the problem, the problem must be me. And so it tugs on every one of my insecurities and they start to rise like bubbles in boiling water. The real ugly comes up, because that’s where the real fear and sadness live. Right there, under the surface, cracked open by my friends; self-doubt, fear, and uncertainty.
Right now, I have a lot of problems. I don’t have a mountain, I have a mountain range. And I could be okay with that. Except, I’m not. There are some problems, like how much my daughter is hurting, that I don’t have a solution for. And so I feel that fear rise and I find myself being more demanding on her so that she is less of a problem and I don’t have to sit with the fear of “what if I can’t solve this for her?” And then I get angry with myself for not doing better when I know better, and I throw more dirt and rock on that mountain.
One example is when I watched her play her first soccer games today. She has never played soccer before this season and isn’t as experienced as the other girls on her team. She told me she didn’t want to play in a game today so I knew before we started that this would be a struggle. “Great.” I thought to myself. “One more thing she has on her plate.” She started out enthusiastic despite her reservations, but as the ball continued to wiz by her and she was rapidly outpaced, reality set in and she got frustrated. She started to pout on the field. She refused to run and instead walked apathetically around the field uninterested in the game and her teammates. She was protesting that game as strongly as a five-year-old can passively protest. And of course, I got frustrated.
The things we tell ourselves when fear bubbles up are remarkable. In those moments, I stopped thinking about what my daughter needed and started to focus in with laser precision on myself. I easily convinced myself that other parents would judge me for raising a child who isn’t a team player. I felt shamed because her behavior must mean that I have been lazy or haven’t followed through as lovingly or as strictly or as consistently or as perfectly as I should have. I haven’t taught her how her behavior impacts others or how to be unselfish. I even started to get angry with myself that I haven’t practiced with her as much as I should have, maybe as much as the other moms and dads do, you know, those better moms and dads. The bottom line message was that I screwed this up. And she is too important to screw up. And so the mountain rises.
Truth is, I don’t have answers. And that is a hard hurt because I am responsible for her. Still, I don’t know how to fix her sadness over school or my illness. I don’t know how to fix her frustration with soccer or her sister or her friends. Her tiny cup has poured over, I know, and all I can say to her right now is “I know you feel yucky inside. So do I sometimes. Would you like a hug?” That of course is what I can say after I’ve quieted the self-doubt and fear and uncertainty racing through my own heart…which isn’t always right away, trust me. I’m sure I have thrown dirt on her own mountain when I’m panicking over my own, which in turn elevates mine, and on and on like that. Funny how the solution to getting better isn’t making yourself feel worse.
So tonight I’ll take a step back and tend to my own heart a little. Sometimes I feel lazy and selfish for taking time, but I know I need that. I need to zero in on the peace and healing within myself and get grounded again in what I can and cannot change. There are things I can do for her and I can find those things. I can learn from people wiser than I am, likely professionals, and take small steps toward helping her. In the meantime, I will help myself so I can keep things in perspective and as healthy as possible around here. Because the balance of all this fear and uncertainty is actually love. So much love it hurts to not get it right. But then again, what real love looks like perfection anyway? None that I know of. I’m part of a messy, imperfect, wild love and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Give ‘Em Hell