Wednesday, March 25, 2015

When We're Too Busy To See

This past weekend we celebrated my son, Kyler's, fourth birthday. Four-years-old - unbelievable! I had, like always, over-extended myself in what I hoped to accomplish for his birthday celebration. Months ahead of time, Kyler had asked for a glow-in-the-dark theme, and in my effort to fully capture that effect, I bought just about every gimmicky glow-in-the-dark product I could find on Amazon. Glow spray paint, glow sticks, glow bouncy balls, glow bracelets, glow you-name-it. Since most of these items either didn't work, or needed to be activated within a couple hours of the party, I had to save a ton of the decorating for the very last minute. 

Kyler's other request was to have my Mama's Cheesy Potato Soup for dinner, which meant that during those last hours of setting everything up for the party, I also needed to be preparing, and then continuously stirring, two enormous pots of soup. Fortunately I had a few helpers on hand, but I was still frazzled and regretting having bitten off so much by the time the first guests started to arrive. 

Because of all this prep-work, Kyler and Havyn had spent much of the afternoon running around our feet, then being sent away to play with their toys. Typically an hour or so of such shooing wouldn't have mattered much, but since it was followed up with almost forty people filling our home, bringing with them an immense amount of noise and activity, my daughter, Havyn, quickly started to break. 

By age two we could tell she was a true introvert, thriving on quietness and solitude. And so this behavioral display was no surprise. And yet, despite the fact that I adore her, despite the fact that I know she is an introvert and is easily stressed by crowds and noise, despite the fact that I value her above any party detail, I found myself rolling my eyes and minimizing her needs. At one point, after Havyn threw herself on the floor and then stomped out of the room, I made this comment to a guest, "You want her? She's driving me crazy!"
It's hard for me to even write those words now. I am embarrassed, a bit ashamed, amazed that I became frazzled enough to lose myself in the activity and in doing so, lost my awareness of what matters most to me. 
The next morning - party packed up, floors swept, kids rested - my husband generously sent me out for coffee with a friend. Almost as soon as I relaxed with a deep breath and a warm cup of chai, the "You want her?" comment from the night before came roaring back into my consciousness. I felt sick with the reality of having spoken such words within hearing distance of my daughter. Up until that point, I hadn't even been aware of having said those words. 

This started a conversation with my coffee-date and dear friend, who is newly married and has had similar experiences in her relationship with her husband. She told me a story about a day when she and fellow co-workers found themselves chatting during a quick break, sharing the usual gossip of married life and painting it all in a very stereotypically negative light. The essence was: Men are dumb, men are messy, men are lazy. 

This friend, who adores and esteems her husband perhaps more than any wife I have ever met, fell in line with the conversation and added a negative comment about her husband to the mix. She described how, like me, not until hours later did she fully realize what she had said. 
And like me, frazzled from a busy workday, consumed with an endless list of things to do, overtaken with a desire to fit in, she had spluttered out words in the moment that were, in fact, exactly opposite of what she truly feels and believes. 
She told the story to her husband that evening and apologized for having spoken the negative comment. The next day, she also apologized to her co-workers, admitting that she had lost herself in the moment and actually felt opposite of what her comments suggested. Inspired by her self-forgiveness and courage, I left our coffee date and went home to a conversation with my baby girl. 

She was just waking up from a nap, so we settled into our usual cuddle-time and book-reading post-nap moments on the couch. With her soft, warm body against mine, I leaned in and said, "Havyn, Mama has something I need to talk to you about." She looked up with those rosy naptime cheeks and her beautiful, wide-eyes, "Ok." 
"Last night, when you were having such a hard time at the party and feeling really frustrated, Mama got too distracted and missed what you were trying to say. I should have stopped and sat with you, listened to your words and your actions, and made space for you to just be you. Instead, I got frustrated and said, "She's driving me crazy!" I am so sorry I said those words, Havy. I don't mean them at all. I love you and I like you and I think you are beautiful just the way you are. Will you please forgive me?"
She smiled and gave me a huge hug, whispering in my ear, "I love you and I like you, too, Mama!" 

I'm thankful for the privilege of getting to say, "I'm sorry" and so thankful for tender hearts that readily receive those words. I also appreciate the opportunity to model to my children imperfection, self-forgiveness and taking responsibility for our actions. 

And yet, I long too for days when I don't so easily get caught up in the to do's, days when I can remain more connected to my heart, despite the chaos and constant demands. I reach toward days when such apologies are required less and less often. I am inspired by these words from Eckhart Tolle, "Don't let a mad world tell you that success is anything other than a successful present moment. And what is that? There is a sense of quality in what you do, even the most simple action. Quality implies care and attention, which come with awareness. Quality requires your Presence." 
In counting the ways I am thankful, in stopping and sharing my stories, in creating space with one deep breathe at a time, I am learning to be more present. 
Present to the beautiful right nows, present to the beating heart within, present to the aching and laughing souls all around. Present to you, too. Not always, not perfectly, not without the need for regular apologies, but slowly I am learning. 

Will you join me in slowing down, stopping to see and sharing your story?

The next 30 Day Writing Challenge starts April 5...need a reason to tell your story? How about six.

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