Celebrating Bloggers 2013 – Parenting Myself
Over the past couple of years on my blog I’ve presented a number of author interviews, delved into personal growth issues, allowed my readers to companion me on various grief journeys (my most recent being my father’s death), and, in a confessional manner, put my parenting life on display through stories and metaphors. It’s been a therapeutic, rewarding, and fun way to connect with readers, writers, and an audience of individuals who seek to find common ground while reading and having their morning coffee or an evening glass of wine (sipping), while responding (sharing) how my words touch their hearts.
As life turned a metaphorical and tangible corner this year as my final parent died, coupled with some major life changes in my family, as well as the rapid approach of my oldest child turning eighteen, I find myself in a position of needing a different form of parenting. None of us is above the need for a word of encouragement, sound advice, or tender words of, “You are loved.” But, what to do when those parents either never existed because of their emotional limitations, they have died, or a combination of both?
The concept of “mothering” oneself is not new to me. It’s a term tossed about in therapy, probably a bit cliché and “new-agey”, leaving die hard psychotherapists ranting about pop psychology. And yet, Freud and his psychoanalytic counterparts were clear: if we don’t fix old patterns, we are doomed to repeat them (the repetition compulsion).
As I recently sat alone in my home—the quiet so deafening that the buzzing in my ears caused me to worry about the whole “ear bud” safety for iPods and hands free driving—then later went to bed alone, only to wake up alone, I had some choices in dealing with my aloneness. I could:
(A) Drown out my sorrows with incessant noise (music, TV, other voices).
(B) Self-medicate with alcohol or other drugs.
(C) Invite someone over.
(D) Be alone…and let myself sit with the feelings.
Choosing (D) required a strong measure of self-parenting; the still, strong voice not of my mother or father, but of the mother I’d developed and wished I’d been parented. The voice of reason who says, “It is okay to feel exactly what you are feeling, and while these feelings are strong, they will not kill you.”
The more still and silent I became, the more my body began to talk with me, and as a result, I craved more silence. I ate when I was hungry. I slept when I was tired. I drank when I was thirsty. I went outside when I sensed that being indoors too much was stifling. I turned on some comedy when too many tears gave me a headache. And then the noise of the TV hurt, so I turned it off, and enjoyed the silence again.
In essence, I was becoming attuned to myself. This is what we strive to do to our children: help them become attuned. To listen, and respond. I fear that too often, we tell our children what they feel, what they think, and how they should respond. As adults, we plow through our days, driving, carpooling, working, cleaning, writing, paying taxes, cooking, with little mindfulness, shutting out our attunement. All of these activities are incredibly meaningful activities, and yet, without a sense of attunement, they are mere distractions; things to get out of the way so that we can collapse into a chair, stare at the TV, and numb ourselves.
Perhaps this is why yoga, meditation, and retreats have grown in popularity. We are screaming out for silence, so we pay for it, and then we feel that it’s okay…justified…we are taking a class, and so, therefore, it is productive silence.
What if we were to turn the thought process around? What if we were to ask ourselves each day, with the voice of a loving mother or father, “What do I need on this day?” and then await an answer, silently, with great anticipation. Mothering or fathering ourselves could be a compassionate gesture by which we stop the treadmill of the ordinary, learning to make the simple things in life extraordinary.