Humbleness

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from being a parent is using my willpower to walk the path of humbleness.

Being humble doesn’t come easy to me. It hurts to have to look at yourself honestly and admit you’ve been making things worse. This self reflection doesn’t come from a place of judgement or being self-critical. It isn’t about feeling guilty, although that is a very easy place to get stuck for me. Maybe this doesn’t come easy to me because I don’t like feeling incapable or inept. I know I don’t like feeling like I’ve caused emotional damage. It’s much easier to not look in the mirror and just keep doing what you’ve been doing.

But easier isn’t always the right path. Sometimes we must use our will power to ignore our ego and turn the light on so we can properly look in the mirror.

I’ve been struggling so much with my older two children. There has been a lot of conflict between them and some between me and them as well. Self-reflection isn’t something I enjoy doing, but the fact is if I want to help us move past this, it is a necessity. No, I’m not responsible for their choices , words or actions. But, I’m responsible for my words and actions and I cannot deny that how I act affects not only the situation, but the whole family. In fact, the only person I can control is me.

So I’m doing what doesn’t come natural to me, and what hurts to do, and that is self-reflection and being humble and willing to learn and change my own approach.

I’ve had this book in my stack of to-read books for a while and just haven’t gotten to it. If I’m honest, I will admit that I’ve been putting off reading it because I knew it would make me have to face mistakes I’ve been making, and that’s uncomfortable. I’d rather avoid that. But the time has come to face that feeling and be humble and willing to be open to growing.

One practice that gets me through these uncomfortable growing pains is self-compassion. Being kind to myself and talking to myself the way I’d talk to a friend in my shoes. It is what helped to pull me out of some very dark times in parenting a number of years ago.

Parenting never is dull. There are always opportunities to know ourselves more and grow.

Winter Solstice

The darkest day of the year has passed. This turning of the wheel is such a special time. It feels so different than the summer solstice. Each year that we celebrate, it feels calmer and more reverent.

We made sun bread to start the day.

We also made pizza, which I like to make on the solstice as it is big and round like the sun.

As the sun began setting, we went outside to build a fire. We kept it burning while we ate dinner (inside, as it’s very cold out!). We then headed out to burn our Yule log after dinner.

Every year, we get a log of wood and wind cotton string all around it. We then sit and discuss what intentions we want for ourselves in the new year and we write it on small bits of paper. These papers get tucked into the string and the log then gets placed into the fire. Last night, the moon was very full and the sky was clear. It was a perfect night for a solstice fire!

Tonight was our spiral walk with our co-op. There was rain forecasted, so we set it up inside. It was lovely!

And so, winter is here again!

A time of reflection

I haven’t blogged in nearly two months. It has been a time of adjustment and reflection. There have been some bumpy days (weeks?) and I’ve had to do lots of inner work and refining my own habits to find a sweet spot again. I’m getting there.

I’ve joked half seriously that I should start a blog called ‘Things My Kids Tell Me’. Not with the purpose of complaining or making jokes, but so that other moms out there don’t feel alone in their struggles. It can feel so isolating and depressing to think to yourself that the (unkind) things your child says couldn’t possibly be said by other kids, because no one you know has ever shared such things. I mean, we don’t really talk about it. Social media is full of the edited happy moments and lots of happy faces. But that’s not real life. And no matter how amazing you are as a mother, it is no insurance against your child saying hurtful things to you. Because what comes out of their mouth is a reflection about what is going on within them. I’ve found again and again how powerful it is to speak up and share with friends what happens within my house. It is sure scary to be vulnerable in that way, but I’ve found again and again that it not only is healing and helpful for me to share but that other mothers then feel less alone. Mothers then open up to me about the things that go on in their homes and how they’ve struggled. Our culture doesn’t do vulnerability very well. So, it takes intention and practice.

In our house, we’ve been in the thick of the 9 year change. I think we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that light is still a far way off yet, truth be told. I’m remembering how absolutely vital the inner work piece is and how making time for mediation and mindfulness and fun are is not optional. It is necessity. I’m reminded again and again that the only thing I can be in control of is how I react. So, I’m in charge of me, and that’s my main job as a parent.

I have taken some photos here and there of our homeschooling and life. Things are moving along nicely and we are settling into a workable rhythm. Lots of grace is given, daily. Grace, flexibility and self-compassion. Those are my tools lately.

What a WEEK

I think I’m feeling the rumblings of summer and the changing of the seasons. I am ready for a BREAK. Ideally, I’d just press pause and take a long out breath. But, life keeps moving.

Every day, I’ve felt like my feet have hit the ground running, from the time I’ve woken up.

We had to bury a hummingbird that flew into our window and broke its neck. (On Mother’s Day, no less).

My glasses broke. I have a backup pair until my new ones arrive. I was ready for something new, anyhow.

My baby has decided that 5:30 am is the best time to wake up and greet the new day. We’ve even had two days this week when he’s woken in the middle of the night to start happily babbling and talking.

I’m wrapping up 2nd grade. We have one more week of lessons for him. And I’m really digging into planning our next year.

On days like these, when I feel like the tasks ahead of me are never ending and overwhelming, I remember a saying from the Tao Te Ching that I learned about from Dr Wayne Dyer. (I was lucky enough to get to attend his talk in person just months before he passed on from this life.)

I’m paraphrasing here: “I do nothing and nothing goes undone.”

This brings me a calm that I can’t even describe. For me, that means I don’t sit and DO nothing, literally. But that I am being swept along this river of life and everything that needs doing will be done, I need only to do what my task at hand is, in this moment.

Stumble and trip

I’ve decided to share some of my personal struggles in the hopes of helping some other mothers out there. We all have our own journeys ahead and behind us and they are all unique. But I have come to know of the power of sharing those journeys with one another.

A few years back, when my third child was a baby (she’ll be 6 this summer), i was struggling in a very real way as a parent. I felt unhappy and resentful and STUCK along with a big dose of martyrdom.

I had recently become a full time stay at home mom and underestimated how difficult that could be. My sense of worth was gone, having been raised in this culture that tells us that we are our occupations and paychecks; I was with my kids pretty much 24/7; I felt my lack of social network strongly now that I no longer saw people through my work; and my ‘job’ of homemaking seemed endless (it is) and unappreciated (it isn’t).

My oldest son was 9, and in the thick of the 9 year change, and were we struggling! I didn’t know how I’d make it through it with him.

I was yelling daily. I was hiding in my room to cry in despair, regularly.

And I felt like the worst mother.

For me, this was a downward spiral. I felt like a horrible parent, and then that feeling would translate into me being even more mean as I felt so horrible about myself. I’d have a day here and there where the weight lifted, but then I was thrown right back into it. I’d often cry in bed at night from the guilt of the things I’d said to my children (mostly, to my oldest), and from the knowledge that I wasn’t being the mother I wanted for my children.

I felt so isolated because who could I talk to about this and not feel fear of being judged? My poor husband couldn’t help me much. He would just tell me that I good mother and to not be so hard on myself. I was certain that none of my mama friends ever felt the way I was feeling. (By the way, this isn’t true!) And I didn’t even know anymore who friends were. Most of my contact with them was through social media and just left me feeling more alone.

Looking back, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that turned things around for me. Likely because it was a combination of many changes that helped.

Here is my best recollection of what helped me.

  • Finding Waldorf

This will be a whole blog post of its own, so I won’t tell the whole story of how I found Waldorf education and philosophy here. But this was the first step. This helped lay the foundation of me learning how to run a busy household (which i had no idea how to do even though I’d been a parent for 9 years at that point) and enjoy it, how to enjoy homeschooling again, how to begin getting back in touch with my spirituality, how to enjoy parenting again. Waldorf (specifically Waldorf Essentials/Melisa Nielsen) was a game changer and felt like coming home.

  • Leaving social media

This was a hard one for me. And I was scared to do it because I thought my time on Facebook was my “social” time, since I was a stay at home mom. But after finding the 99 Days of Freedom challenge, I was inspired to just do it. It was life changing. After I got over the hump of the hard work of breaking my addiction, I felt like I had time to breath again. I ended up staying off Facebook for over a year. It was fantastic and life affirming. I read books again, did a ton of crafting and in general, I found so much free time that I didn’t know I had! I did eventually go back because of the usefulness of the groups, but my long break changed the way I view and use Facebook. I see it now as an anti-social time. It is a tool that can be quite handy but i essentially unfollowed all my ‘friends’ and 90% of my time is in groups that are beneficial to my life (local homeschool groups, babywearing groups, Waldorf homeschool support group). Leaving Facebook made me a better mother, for sure. I no longer spent time reading about what other people were doing, feeling inadequate in my own head, a feeling that would often linger long after logging out . Instead, i was fully present with my children and began to remember what it felt like to just BE.

  • Meditation/Mindfulness

Specifically, i found the Mommy Meltdown Cure created by the amazing Sigrid Kjeldsen aka The Joyful Mother. I was lucky enough to be in a small mindfulness coaching group that she led for a year or more, and it was incredible. Life changing! Words don’t suffice to share what it brought to me. Peace. Love. All of that good stuff. She’s now gone on to greater projects, creating a community called Motherhood Rising. She is amazing and I highly recommend her.

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I’ve come a long way in 5 years. But I still trip and stumble. I still fall flat on my face, even. Like a few days ago. But I know how it get myself up when that happens and forgive myself and have self-compassion, apologize to my kids, and remember all we have is NOW.

One of my favorite poems, by Mary Oliver, it brings me right back to the present and grounds me when I read it.

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees

For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees,  the mountain and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—

over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

Giving myself a hug

A dear friend brought the teachings of self-compassion to me last year. She introduced me to the work of Dr. Kristin Neff. If you haven’t heard of her before, check out her TED talk. She also has a book, but it was a bit too scholarly for me. Instead, the book on the topic that really spoke to me was by Dr. Christopher Germer. So good.

Self-compassion is what I turn to when I have a child screaming in my face. It is what wraps its arms around me when I lay myself to sleep at 8:45 because I just need the day to be over and am thoroughly exhausted with interacting with a child who has held onto his seething anger at me for over 5 hours.

Sometimes I first fall into self pity, but that is a pit that only makes me feel worse and leads to seeing myself as a martyr. Not a path that leads to much peace and love.

So, I’m so grateful that I’ve learned self-compassion. It is so simple and seems so obvious but it is so far removed from our modern culture.

What does self-compassion look like for me? Talking to myself the way I’d talk to a good friend in my shoes. Sometimes literally giving myself a hug. Having empathy and compassion for myself when I’m in really stressful and challenging situations.

This morning, I’m also thinking about self-appreciation. Kristin Neff has this great article on her website on the topic. Gosh, I needed to read this. Today. This morning at 6am as I am preparing for my day. Focusing on my faults go hand in hand with feeling like a martyr. When my child acts in a way that I can’t understand, shows zero gratitude, and is lashing out at all of us, my mind’s default is to start highlighting all the mistakes I’ve made and all the ways I am not doing a good job as a parent.  Crazy, isn’t it? When I stop reacting to what is happening around me, I can acknowledge that I know that my child is a child. He’s still emotionally immature. His behavior is not a reflection of me. His lack of gratitude for all I do for him isn’t personal and it doesn’t have to be a blow to me. His behavior and attitude is a reflection of his immaturity and the fact that he’s a child!

So, this morning, I’m reflecting on appreciating myself. I don’t need to wait for others to appreciate me, including my child or my husband. As Neff writes in the article,

William James, one of the founding fathers of Western psychology, once wrote that “the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” Luckily, we can meet this essential need without depending on other people to approve of us. When we treat ourselves with the same kindness with which we treat our good friends, we’ll have the support and care required to help us thrive.

I close with this quote from Dr. Robert Holden. I must remind myself of this daily. How often do we believe it is external circumstances that dictate our happiness? I do, all too often. But happiness is a choice. And it is a choice I want to make.

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