Whole days can be lost to frustration.
I nearly lost mine to a compulsion to clean and tidy. I wanted to clear space around the house, but it was one of those days where my will met resistance at every turn.
While sitting with my resulting disappointment, I found myself thinking about that desire. Cleaning up my environment has been a sort of meditation for me.
To have a clear space outside makes it easier to clear space inside. It seems so much easier to relax oneself in a calm and organized environment.
Desire for outer stillness and space can become a deep craving. That time to yourself, and the peace of being in the moment without any big, flashing to-do signs running through your mind.
The frustration that results from that desire left unmet comes on like sheer desperation. The sort of rage that comes when our narcissistic friend, the ego, just can’t seem to get his way.
It can make you want to scream and thrash about. It can make you want to cry. I tried to clench my teeth and breathe through it instead of trying to bury the discomfort.
It was a day of fighting the flow at every turn. Resisting whatever was in front of me (a crying baby most often on this particular day) because I had to sweep, I really just needed to get that dishwasher loaded.
On days like this, I can start to feel resentment toward my children just for existing and for being dependent on me.
Whenever I stood up and started picking up toys or reached for the broom, they suddenly needed my attention urgently. I could drop my ambitions with a depressive sigh. Or I could try to hold out as long as possible, feeling the guilt wash over me if I left them to wait for just a moment longer while stirring my coffee.
As soon as I resigned myself, however begrudgingly, to sitting down to watch my oldest play, or to nurse my baby, they both tuned out of me entirely and were playful and silly.
Just basking in my presence, completely comfortable and content.
And again and again, all I had to do was shift my attention away from them and start to think about doing something else, and everything came crumbling down.
This left me increasingly agitated. Another challenge of addressing our own shadows while modeling emotional resiliency for tiny, impressionable creatures.
When we cling to ideals we can’t quite live up to, we can end up yelling or acting in ways that will leave us feeling embarrassed and guilty on top of everything else. I had to muster my own apologies and steal moments to cool off.
I felt defeated in this instance because I imagined that if I could not get things clean and orderly, then I would not be able to relax and rest my mind. If I could not continue to flurry around the house in a productive whirlwind, then I would not get the break and recharge I so rightly deserved.
It’s tortuous chasing that elusive carrot on a stick (because the chores will never really be finished with young children in the house) by imagining that completing some impossible task is the only way to get the peace that is wanted and needed so desperately.
My peace was there all along, trying to get my attention. My baby cried and crawled after me whenever I started to get lost in busy-ness. My toddler would run up and hug me, engage me in a game or ask for help with something whenever I lost myself making mental lists and trying to organize things.
All day long my children were trying to remind me…
They would bring me back down, over and over again. I’d sit down to nurse, to snuggle, to listen, to watch, to tickle, to smile, to sing…and it was perfect. But I could not let myself enjoy it for long. I was still stuck on the idea that my comfort was somewhere out there in the future, when the house was cleaner or when the kids were asleep or whenever it might be.
When we spend our days contesting whatever is happening in the moment, thinking that something else is more important, we wear ourselves down. Fretting about all the important things we are not accomplishing.
But it’s all ridiculous. All there is, is right here.
Our children can offer us more than what we are striving for.
As I obsessed over tidying, my daughters were teaching me to clear space on the inside even when there is chaos without. That is something better. That is much more than I asked for, and it is exactly what I need.
And when I am able to listen, when their insistence breaks through the din in my mind and really stops me, there I find peace. There I can laugh at myself, relax and take it all in.
That little bit of presence; that little bit of surrender is all that is really needed. So let your children show you the way, and let go.
Author: Alura Henault
Assistant Editor: Jan Jan Farias / Editor: Catherine Monkman