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Archive for the ‘Learning Compassion’ Category

Max has been going through some energy shifts. He has been more needy these past three days and I have had to come around and adjust to his behavior.

We were originally going to head out to my MIL’s today when I decided he needed a little one on one time with his mama. We spent the morning fighting, painting, laughing, snuggling, and I even managed to get an hour of “quite time” in from 1-2 pm. I’m not sure what developmental shift is going on, but he’s in the middle of something big.

I have noticed that he has been remembering everything we talk about. For example, we had a conversation about how cow’s milk aggravates his eczema and that I think he should drink less of it while at his grandma’s house. Two days later when we were at his grandma’s house, Nana offered him a glass of milk with his cookies and he explained to her how it causes him to “get worse eczema.” He then asked for soy milk. I still have to translate for him so was just beaming [inside] with pride when he asked for soymilk. The fact that he remembered our conversation… my gawd… he really is a person.

I feel like kids just keep getting better and better with age. At infancy, they are like a bucket for love. They take love any way it is given. It’s a one way relationship. However, as they get older, the relationship becomes two way. That is when it gets really exciting and feels the most rewarding. To me anyway.

As a mother, a wife, a friend, a woman, and someday an employee…

I am working on how I give information to others. Whether the information is proceeded by that sharp pang of anger or if it is moved by love – I want to give my thoughts to others in the most compassionate and non-judgmental way imaginable. The challenge – and thus the real “me work” – is in learning to respectfully deliver my perception when it is prompted by annoyance or anger. I don’t want the anger to be the only message to come across. I want the meaning behind my anger to be what is understood. I feel like I have already wasted so much of my life expressing anger – making certain that other’s “got” that I was pissed off at this, or that, or them. The anger, I now realize, is not what is most important. It is the deeper meaning behind the anger. It is the hurt that I need to know how to express. It is the love behind the hurt.

**Okay. Those last two sentences sound like some hippy dippy bullshit. Here is an example of the kind of anger work I am focusing on:

My BIL tends to invite us to his kid’s birthday/important gatherings at the last minute – meaning the day of and a few hours before. This happened last Sunday with his daughter’s baptism. We were told of a party that was to start at 2pm by my MIL, at noon. We worked the party into our day only to be told (at the last minute and only because I asked) that the party was starting later and that there wouldn’t be any vegetarian fare for Max. We had to feed Max before we left, which wasn’t a problem, but rendered us late to the party. When we finally made it to BIL’s house we were swiftly informed that the party was “winding down” (whereas on the phone we could show up “anytime”). We stayed for about 20 minutes. Max had a meltdown on the way out and then again in the car.

After leaving the party, I called BIL while we were at the gas station as we were getting Max water so he’d calm down. I said something to the affect of, “I really feel bad that we showed up late. I would like to be on time to your parties but need more notice in order to make this happen.” This is all very well said but then came the knife that was fueled by my anger… “You know, this business of MIL calling me at noon to tell me we are invited to a party at 2 just doesn’t work for us.”

I know, you are probably thinking that what I said was actually pretty restrained. And I agree, it was. I also told him that I was going to talk to his girlfriend and get the birthdays of all her kids so we don’t miss any more gatherings because of last minute notices.

IF I had been speaking to someone who would validate my anger (a friend or my husband) what I said would be within sane reason. However, what I did was express my anger to someone who 1.) doesn’t care and 2.) doesn’t care. More importantly, though, I expressed agitation to someone who is always dismissive of feelings and thinks I’m a controlling bitch, anyway. Therefore… “expressing myself” didn’t make me feel better because I felt ignored. Furthermore, it did nothing for the family dynamic that I’d like to keep civil and genuine.

That example illustrates the depth of anger work I’m doing right now. I don’t want to ignore anger, pretend I don’t feel it, or oppress it. However, I also don’t want it to control me even in the slightest of instances. I’d like to get to a place where I can think to myself, “oh that was rude… what can I do/say to help the situation…” OR, “How can I get my point across without making the person I’m speaking to throw up a wall.”

I’m also not saying that I will ever let people walk all over me because nothing “gets to me.” I’d like to be able to let people know what I think without behaving overly emotional or passionate about an issue.

I think the entire spectrum of emotions (including being passionate about issues) is important… but I’m getting to a place in my life where I no longer want to be ruled by my spectrum of emotions. I want to *feel* but respond because I have *thought* about what I am feeling and why I am feeling it.**

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got, today.

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Who’s who???

The colors probably give you an idea.

Bella turned one month old on Friday. I can hardly believe this month is over. Hal goes back to work tomorrow. This past month I have been devising plans on how I’m going to run the house (my job – I take it seriously and enjoy it) and soon I’ll get to try those plans out. Also, I’ve been focusing on noticing when I get angry/frustrated/annoyed, how it feels, how long the feeling lingers in my body, and then letting it go without reacting on it.

I’m not against expressing these feelings but I have to ask, do they really need to be expressed in the moment? Is that really a form of expression or is it more about lack of control and reacting? People always justify yelling/screaming/throwing things as a form of expression, but I think expressing yourself should be a healing action – one that benefits not only you but the people close to you. Yeah, I may feel momentarily better if I yell at my kids or Hal but usually afterwards I feel like an ass. And me yelling certainly doesn’t make my family feel good.

This is were creative endeavors come in. For me, my good mojo and clear mind comes from writing. I am able to work out issues by capturing my feelings with words. For someone else, it may be sewing or drawing. I want my children to learn to recognize different feelings as they arise, attach words to those feelings, and find their own creative outlet to express them. This isn’t always practical in the moment, though. So, what I do in the moment to help keep myself from lashing out (when angry) is… I listen to my breathing. In through the nose – out of the nose. It helps bring me back to reality and out of my head’s (run away) thoughts and body’s feelings. I’m going to start teaching this to Max, too, and eventually to Bella. When they get frustrated I’ll get their attention and tell them to take a deep breath – helping them to breath by breathing with them. I saw a mama doing this a couple weeks ago with her son and thought it was brilliant. Her toddler calmed down and breathed with her.

I used to think anger was a useful emotion but I’m really starting to question that line of thought. Useful to who? Do I need anger to know when something is wrong? Do I need anger to move me into action? Does anger ever feel good to me? These are some of the questions I’ve been thinking about. I’m beginning to see anger as something that clouds my perception. I mean, all the great thinkers and doers may have “done” the good based on their anger for injustice but while they were “doing” what it is that they did, they did it with a clear head – having already gone through anger – to the other side of it. They acted not on anger but on the desire to make change. Anger may have been what woke them up to the need for change but it certainly wasn’t what gave them wisdom to act in order to make that change. And anyway, I’m not planning on changing the world or making my entire country’s life better (directly anyway). I’m just thinking about my family and what is best for our lives together.

Max and his toys:

I had to put this one in here because of that funny KISS doll that fell before I took the above picture:

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While reading, Everyday Blessings, I discovered something about myself. While I have gotten really good at managing my frustrations with Max when he does something that I think is annoying/wrong, I still have a ways to go before I actually respond to him without judgment of what he is doing. What I mean is, yes, I’m not yelling at my son (which is a great accomplishment in parenting) but I am still reacting to him in an aggressive and judgmental way (which is not so good for Max or me). My body language and facial expressions are speaking volumes about what I’m thinking even though my voice is low or all together silent. I’m still “reacting,” but I have just changed the way in which I do it. I want to go further with being mindful. I don’t want to be superficially mindful.

I want to not react to what I’m feeling and thinking. Instead, I want to learn to just see it for what it is – a thought and a feeling. I want to be able to determine what my response will be based on what my children’s needs are and not based on that thought and feeling that is touching me. I want this to bleed over into the rest of my life. I have a lot of respect for the thoughts and feelings that course through me but I want my life to be more than a series of reactions and responses to those forces. I want to never lose sight of the big picture. I don’t want to ever forget that mothering is altogether unimportant and the most important work I will ever do (this is a revelation for me that came about while reading the aforementioned book). I want to leave the possibility for other realities open. I want to see life from multiple angles and when I close my eyes, not see it at all. I want to feel each breath I take without making an effort to do that.

I’m craving more Zen yet want to live without ever thinking about it.

I have a long way to go.

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Max is napping, I have a lot of cleaning to do, and I’m hyped up on caffeine right now. But I refuse to spend the little bit of free time I have cleaning. So here I am sitting at the computer.

I have a lot of animosity towards my mother-in-law (MIL). I don’t want it that way but through the years of silence on my behalf about her negativity towards me (mostly behind my back and passively/aggressively to my face) it has built up.

It’s not just about my silence but also about my inability to change her behavior. AKA: my inability to influence or control her. I also think part of the problem is that I haven’t taken the time to really examine why she gets to me so much.

I try hard not to let it interfere with my daily life or how I interact with the in laws while around them. It’s challenging. And sometimes I pop in unexpected pointless ways… in ways that make me examine my feelings.

For instance, she likes to dote on and on about my BIL’s (figure that one out for yourself) girlfriend. Her favorite thing to talk about is how family oriented BIL’s girlfriend, O, is (until she officially becomes my SIL, I’ll refer to her as “O”). But, she does it in such a way that it is obvious she is attacking me. She say’s things like, “O is so family oriented and I love that about her. She is from a culture of people like the Philippines who are taught to be family oriented and to always put family first. Family is important to her and she will do everything for her husband.” She means she’ll wait on my BIL hand and foot while taking care of their four kids and keeping the house in order. But she doesn’t stop there. She has also said that my BIL would never let a woman take him away from his family. These are all direct attacks on me because she doesn’t think American women are family oriented – yes, she has actually told me this, too. I called her out on all of this one day by asking her, “Do you think that I would prevent Hal from seeing you or his family? I’m asking because the way you are talking about being family oriented sounds as if you don’t consider me to be family oriented. What does it mean to you to be family oriented? What would I have to do before you understood that I am very family oriented” Her response was, “well, you aren’t close to your family and you are raised American.”

She, Hal, and I had a long conversation about her misconceptions about me. It was a serious but light-hearted talk about what she thinks about me, how she is wrong, and how she should love me because I’m an awesome DIL. Did it help? The answer to that question is a big fat NOPE. The following weekend when she “got in trouble” for putting Max in the car without his car seat she started up again with the “family oriented” bullshit. Hal warned me that our conversation with her would not make a difference in how she behaved. MIL is the type of person who is happier when she is putting someone down. I recognize the trait because like all flaws in other people that are glaring to my eyes, I carry it as well.

I was talking with Liz the other day about O, and I found myself saying negative things about her. I mean really negative and unfounded judgments. Like, and I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I said she probably got pregnant on purpose to keep my BIL around. I justified my judgment by saying, you don’t have three kids one right after another and not know how easy it is to get pregnant when having unprotected sex. Liz actually defended O by reminding me that my BIL is just as responsible for the pregnancy as O is. Well, my response to that was, “SHE is responsible for her body and what happens to it so SHE should have protected herself from pregnancy.” I feel dirty and like a big fat looser admitting all this.

I called Liz today to apologize for my terribly misogynistic and judgmental comments. I hate that I can be that way and feel horrible when my shadow self gets the better of me (the “shadow self” is a Jungian Theory). It’s difficult to admit that saying what I said is misogynistic – especially since I have such a deep love and respect for women.

This is what I think was going on inside me: I think I was doing the same exact thing in my speech about O as MIL does to me but I flipped it. Instead of raising O up to put someone down I was knocking O down in order to raise myself back up. I was attacking O while trying to simultaneously disprove MIL theories about her and prove my loyalty to family.

Fact of the matter is… MIL hurts my feelings almost every time I go over to her house. She never acknowledges anything good about me. And at the same time I have a difficult time seeing how far I’ve come in life in with learning how to be family oriented. MIL is right, my family is not close and I’m only so-so close with my mom. I’m also an only child which according to MIL, automatically puts my mom and me in the category of “selfish.”

When she attacks me I’m internalizing it and on some level because of my own struggles with low self esteem (not because she is speaking the truth), I believe her. It also hurts me that MIL never gives Hal credit for his life accomplishments. She is always criticizing and I haven’t found a way to see it for what it is and not take it personally.

What is it in her that makes her this way? Well, I imagine it is the same thing that can make me the same way, low self-esteem. Each interaction with her has become a practice in compassion and self awareness.

With the introduction of O into my BIL’s life, my family is growing and I’m extremely happy about this. If Hal and I could afford it, I would love to have more than two children. I really do like O a lot and am excited to get to know her. At my BIL’s birthday party last night O and I got to talk shop about parenting, breast feeding (I offered to help her do it successfully with her new baby if she would like me too), the death of her husband, and even a little about her and my BIL’s relationship. She is a very warm woman and I enjoy being around her.

Universe and Self, please forgive me for thinking and speaking so ill about another. I truly am sorry. And, pleeeease, help me with MIL.

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