September 2011

The other night I was racing around getting ready to teach a yoga class and my son was in a Mood.  One of those lotsa energy, kinda crazy moods.  He took a bag of megablocks and dumped it out in the hallway and started playing with them.  Not building anything but driving a toy truck into them and spreading them around.

Now i personally need the house to look somewhat decent for yoga.  I don’t want someone coming to my home yoga studio to chillout and open the door to total chaos.

Since someone standing at the door can see down the hall I decided these blocks *needed* to be put away.

So I asked and cajoled and helped and we got the blocks put away.  Whew.  Then as the last one went in the bag he had an impulsive moment and dumped them all out again.

I was pissed.  The Control Freak in me was so mad that I had *just* gotten that done and he promptly undid it.  And the Practical Person in me was just cheesed that he did such a dumb thing – it’s not logical to undo what needs to be done!   And then the Impatient side got in there because I had decided this task needed to be done before yoga class and time was a-ticking!  And the Yogi in me was pissed because i was all stressed and instead i should be all calm and dripping with yogic peacefulness and how dare my child mess with my serenity?

What transpired after that will not show up in Stellar Moments in Parenthood. I did the my-way-or-the-highway thing.  The you-get-back-here-young-man stuff.  The kind of freaking out that only results in him feeling just as emotional as I am. I was not a good example of grown up behaviour.

It’s hard because I was raised in a pretty authoritarian household.  We listened to our parents or we got a spanking, simple as that.  And while I’m not doing the spanking thing, I have a hard time pulling back on something once I’ve asked him to do something.

Once I’ve asked, i feel i have to follow through or i’m giving in or letting him off the hook or all sorts of bad things that’ll ensure he’s a gang member by 13.  But the bottom line is that when he’s in that Mood there’s no point.  He’s not in a place where he’s going to learn or cooperate or get any value from my Important Lessons.  It’s best to recognize it, get him going on the next thing and let go of the rest.

Man, it takes a lot of discernment to make it through that process.

And i had zero discernment because i was Mad.  I’ve learned from situations like that that if i’m angry i need to deal with that first.  Before doing One Other Thing.  It’s not the situation’s fault, it’s my anger at my kid that’s going to make me do something regretful.

I look back on it and think, why couldn’t i tell him i was disappointed that he undid our good work and leave it at that?  And why couldn’t i either ignore the blocks or pick them up myself?  I could have chosen to be all yogic and dripping with peacefulness regardless of what my son did.  And really, isn’t that the essence of being peaceful?  Like that Gandhi quote that you see at the bottom of people’s emails, “be the peace that you want to see in the world”.

Since that time I’ve set my intention to try to stay aware enough, when things get challenging with my son, to notice when I get triggered.  Then I can deal with my own Mad first, and my son *only when i’m thinking clearly*.

Taking the long view really helps.  When my son is heading off to college will i say, “dammit at least i taught him to put the blocks away when i told him to.”  While cleaning up after oneself is important –  putting the blocks away, that one day, that one time?  Probably not important.

I was talking to a friend about the pain of taking things personally.  She and her husband are working to improve their relationship and talk meaningfully about things.

As a result, he told her what he really thought about her and their homelife and it wasn’t easy to hear.  It cut her to the core.

It’s a tough one. I find myself responding that way too, all time.  Getting so damn hurt by the things that happen.  It made me think about how to get out of it.  How do you get to the place where you can move on?

Here’s what I came up with.  Dive In.  The first thing to do is dive into it.  Does it bother you because it’s dead wrong or right?  Be brutally honest.  And kind.

Is it something you’d like to change?  How does it relate to in-grown patterns?  Is the behavior a pattern itself?  Or do you find yourself reacting out of a long-standing pattern?  If so, what alternative action could you choose here?  Maybe use the opportunity to try it out.  Or at least notice what it might be, for next time.

Don’t Let Go, Yet.  It’s a great time to really feel the emotion.  We’re always so quick to say – I’m letting this go!  Because yeah, emotions can be uncomfortable, they can be icky.  But the only way out is through.  Feel all the ickiness that comes up.  Don’t worry, they can’t hurt you.  Keep breathing.  Curl up under a blanket with some kleenex. Let the little five year old inside holler, “it’s not fair!”.  Tell yourself, “It’s not my fault.” Allow all of it.

Do a Victim Check.  Check into whether you’re in victim mode.  It’s such an easy one to drop into, but really, *nothing* useful happens when you’re there. As long as we’re blaming another person we won’t take any useful action, other than maybe slashing the person’s tires.  Not the best choice.

The best way I’ve found to deal with victim is to step into the other person’s space.

Get Empathetic. My friend did this really well.  She wanted to dive into what her husband was saying because she loves him.  She’s invested in the relationship.  She reminded herself of that.  She worked on seeing the situation from his viewpoint.  She tried to step into his shoes.

Forgiven, Forgiven. I’ve also found that when i feel some leftover ickiness i forgive the person.   It’s not about right or wrong or who’s justified, when I’m ready to move past all that I find i just need to let them off the hook.

I use Tara Brach‘s suggestion of saying to myself, “forgiven, forgiven, forgiven”.  I forgive them for being honest and noticing the lousy parts of me.  I forgive myself for having parts that I’d like to change.  I forgive my family history. I forgive the sky for being dark and rainy.  I forgive anything I can think of until I feel clearer and cleaner.

Because once you clear that stuff out and feel every bit of it, then you can consider the next stage.

Look Again.  Once you’ve experienced all the emotion, then you can look at the situation with a bit more distance.  You can look at it a bit more clinically, checking the situation for solutions, because once you’re through the emotions then you’re past react-mode.  You can move into act mode.

Reframe The Situation. How can you look at the situation and say, “yeah i need to work on this area, no biggie, everyone has challenges and this one is mine”.  How can you get to, “yeah this is tough situation, now I need to deal.”  How can you get past the freaking out and move onto a Meh,-it’s-just-life view?

You know?  What will it take it be OK with this?  How can you get to the stage where you’re just ready to deal?  If you’re not ready for the next stage, maybe you need to go back and repeat the previous steps.  It’s ok, we all deal with stuff in different ways and with different timing.

Find Your Inner Warrior.  The last stage is feeling your skin thicken.  Now you can find your inner warrior.  You’re moving on, you’ve reframed the situation, you’ve decided on your action – now is the time to feel your strength.  Not shutting down, but finding your quiet, inner knowing.  Your inner toughness.

This is the part of the process where you take the pain of the situation and turn it around.  You’ve taken it personally but now you know it intimately.  You’ve dug in, you understand it, and you own it, whatever the outcome is.

I heard this poem recently and loved the bit about “what batters you becomes your strength”.  Here it is:


Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.

Let this darkness be a bell tower

and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.

Move back and forth into the change.

What is it like, such intensity of pain?

If the drink is bitter, turn yourself into wine.

In this uncontainable night,

be the mystery at the crossroads of your sense,

the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,

Say to the silent earth: I flow.

To the rushing water, speak: I am.


Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus, Part II, Sonnet 29, trans. Joanna Macy

It’s tough to keep my 7 year old Angus’ belly full.  He’s a pretty active kid and carries no extra meat on his bones.  When he goes to school it’s especially hard.  He doesn’t eat dairy because he’s sensitive to it and the school is nut-free.  I’m also really careful with sugar because it makes him nutty.

So it’s tough to come up with recess snacks that will give him enough ooomph to power his play and help him get to lunch.  He needs some protein and it’s got to be a bit more convenient than sending along a chicken leg.  Although that might be worth trying sometime.

So i did some research on what protein-rich snacks i could make, that Angus would eat.  I found this awesome recipe for Protein Brownies.

Some weight conscious person i knew a while back told me about black bean brownies and i thought she was nuts.  She said, no really you can’t taste the beans!  But i never tried it, beans in brownies just didn’t seem right to me.  Like cats and dogs living together.

When i saw them in this recipe I thought, hey, for my kid, i will try it.  The key is that the beans sit in the blender for while, they totally liquify.  And even tasting the batter, I found it tasted just like regular brownies batter.

I reduced the sugar and used half fructose because it doesn’t bother Angus as much.

The brownies turned out amazing.  They were actually light and fluffy, i just assumed anything with that much protein would be dense and heavy.

I made the mistake of telling Honeybunny what was in the brownies, but he still had a couple they were so good.  Angus has had them for snack every day.

I can’t wait to try the next recipe i found, unbaked chocolate macaroons with TVP in them.  TVP is Textured Vegetable Protein and looks like itty bitty dog food.  Chickie who wrote the recipe said TVP is a nice crunchy addition, she eats it straight out of the bag.  This time i won’t tell Honeybunny what’s in them.