Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Guilt plagues me as I spend a day trapped in mental depression and physical exhaustion and discomfort. It is a bright and warm day outside…one of the nicest so far this spring. This only intensifies the self judgments and guilt. I feel sorry for myself but also for my child, who (I tell myself) suffers with me. I keep having thoughts of what a bad mother I am and how he doesn't deserve this. I get lost in this awful cycle for a while and get little accomplished but rumination. Where did I go wrong? When did I lose my sense of magic?
I mean I still take care of him of course. I get up and get him breakfast, I pick him out clothes, I wipe him after he shits, I build him a fort, I feed him when he was hungry, I give him hugs and kisses, and I reassure him that “this is mommy’s issue, not yours” and “ I am sorry”. But the self judgements come in a steady stream. I should be grateful, happy, energetic. I should be taking him to the playground, into the woods, or up a tree. I should be meeting friends and arranging play dates. I should be different, better…more.
Benny begs me to go in his fort. I say no at first but he begs and begs and finally, out of guilt, I agree. He is always inviting me into his world like this. Like a court jester trying to make me laugh or Peter Pan reaching out his hand. Most of the time I refuse in order to attend to my boring adult chores. Dishes need to be done, meals need to be made, bills need to be paid, hair needs to be plucked. But when I do say yes to his invitation I am always transformed. He teaches me exactly the lesson I need to learn in a matter of minutes.
Now, this child in no way has been deprived of time outdoors or adventures. He has been up and down various playgrounds of the east coast. He has been to numerous children’s museums, amusement parks, trails, lakes, and waterfalls. He has swam in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Atlantic/Caribbean oceans. He has traveled more and had more experiences than most do in their first 30 years of life, if ever. So one day inside, on a sunny day, wont kill him. But I still feel awful about it.
The lesson he teaches, however, is so much deeper than this. So much more impactful.
So…I go into his fort; his world. I lye there in this space, made up of a few blankets, pillows, and a couple of chairs and I feel magic. He giggles as I awkwardly crawl inside. He shows me around his “home” and then gets out his light projector so we can make art. I begrudgingly comply and draw a monster. He loves it. I, lying there and barely doing anything, am making my son overjoyed. Then it hits me all at once: presence. It is not at all about what we do but only about how much we care and pay attention. About how engaged we can be in any given moment.
This is a complete parallel to what I have been dealing with on an emotional level too. Our emotions are like children. It doesn’t matter what you are feeling in any given moment but only how aware you are with the emotion. Be present with what you feel. Give it your full attention and compassion. Treat it like your child.
In this society we are taught to value action only, and it is all supposed to be done with a “positive” attitude. We are taught that it is not ok to feel the darker emotions, that they point to something being inherently wrong within us. Don't cry…take a pill! Don't dwell…go on a run! Don't play or rest….work! and so on and so forth until we are shoving our emotions down and shoving our kids to the side. Down the road, the emotions are still there but unprocessed and the kids are all grown up and repeating our unhealthy patterns. They learn to repress their emotions along with their magic.
I will not do this to my child, or myself, any longer. In order to live fully and recapture magic I will be present with both my emotions and my child. I will set aside time to play and time to feel. I will pay attention to emotions as they arise the same way I would pay attention to my child’s boo boo. This is how we heal. This is how we become whole. This is how we find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.