Thursday, December 11, 2014

Give a little Grace

I have been reading lately about healing and focusing on deep hurts that cause angry, defensive reactions. Because, I'm really ashamed to admit, I have a bad temper and sometimes have really disproportionate angry reactions to silly things.

For example, I burned my finger on a glue gun while making a banner. I curbed my initial reaction to scream obscenities. However, inside me this huge angry reaction was brewing that had to go somewhere. I picked up the end of the kitchen table and let it slam down. When the table slammed down, the anger released, but the plate that was holding the glue gun broke, and my tiny girlfriend started to cry.

Cue the guilt and shame tape that goes like this, "You're an asshole. You can't control your temper. You don't deserve to have these sweet little kids; you're a lunatic. Way to go. You're just like your dad."

And in about 25 seconds, I had gone from pain to rage to feeling about an inch tall.

I apologized to Lily and explained to her that I had reacted inappropriately to pain with anger, and I was sorry for scaring (and probably scarring) her. We talked about some times that our reactions didn't exactly match our feelings or the particular situation and then finished making our craft without further incident.

For the rest of the night, shame gripped me pretty tightly. I had to delve into my reaction and the motivation behind it. Once I did that and realized that my reaction was something that had been ingrained in me from childhood--when you get upset about something let your rage out on an inanimate object--I was able to deal with it and remind myself that having a bad reaction didn't make me a bad person.

Guilt and shame always go together for me--the dynamic duo of damnation--so I was enlightened to read Brene Brown's definition in The Gifts of Imperfection. She explains that guilt says "You did something bad," and shame says, "You are bad." I still think they're a terrifying team, but now I see them more clearly.

Brown goes on to say that we can steal the power away from this team if we talk about the stuff that makes us feel this way and bring it to light. Just make sure that you share with someone you really trust.

She gives a list of people you don't want to choose, such as:
  • Anyone who makes you feel worse about yourself. They will look at you with shock and judgment and say things like, "Oh...my."
  • One-uppers. You know them. They respond to everything with, "Oh that's nothing, let me tell you about the time..."
  • Those with low self-esteem who will use this as an opportunity to feel superior--think, drowning victims who push others down to get themselves to the surface. "Oh, I never have inappropriate reactions in front of my kids, but that's just me."
  • Condescending jerks. Pretty much the same as above with a heightened air of superiority.
***Please note that sometimes jerks look and sound and act like friends until you share something like this with them***

So, my week has been a lot of, "Yikes, where did that come from? Why does it bother me when people do a.b.c.d?" and more. This isn't a huge change. I'm always analyzing and overthinking and trying to do better, but sometimes it's not in the actual moment. I'm steadily trying to live the Four Agreements, but it's a lot of trial and error.

I spent many years feeling broken and damaged because of things that happened to me, but I am realizing in this decade* that labeling myself is not only unnecessary but it is also unkind. Yes, bad things happened to me, but really great things have happened too. By reconciling that I can simultaneously grieve loss and embrace blessings, by realizing that my past doesn't define me, and by reminding myself that every moment is an opportunity to embrace and extend grace, I've cleared my path from lots of tangled roots that tripped me up.

A few weeks ago the super-wise 20-year-old guru I'm blessed to call my daughter said that she felt fortunate that her dad and I hadn't really f#$%ed her up. We keep it really real. She said she always felt loved and free to express herself. This was such an impactful statement, as I have questioned everything I did as a mother for 20 years. In fact, the only thing I knew for sure was that I loved these little people God let me hold for awhile more than I had ever known was possible.

I'm pretty convinced some days that I'm messing Peyton and Lily up in some significant way. The nasty shrew in my head tells me all the time that I am worthless and have no business raising these amazing kids. I question myself all the time. And then I shhhhhhh them, breathe and keep going. I'm not sharing this because I need reassurance, but because someone else might feel the same. Do you? Let me encourage you: If you worry this much about what kind of person or wife or parent you are, I'm pretty confident that you are already amazing.

Give yourself some grace. And give the people who make different choices grace too. Namaste.

*The jury is still out on 40 because the emotional and spiritual rewards seem to come at the expense of some crazy things like thinning hair and brain fog and achy joints.

7 comments:

  1. I have panic attacks daily, multiple times a day, that I am fucking up or will fuck up Jinju. I see some tiny behavior or catch some snippet of conversation that mirrors something that I recall or think that I recall from my own childhood and I start to freak out and plot ways to counteract that because the worst thing I could imagine for her is that she grows up with any of my issues. But I think they are more resilient than we give them credit for and are smarter too.

    Luckily I don't have any of your rage issues. Whew! *cue memories of a knife being thrust at me* I am kidding. I have to check myself daily to avoid destroying property.

    All you can do is keep on going. Your kids are great kids. Ignore the assholes and listen to your kids. What they say and how they say it will guide you.

    But remember, there's something really cathartic about smashing shit now and again.

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    1. Thank you, darling :) you have a pretty great kid too.

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    2. Thanks, Liz, for reading and for your thoughtful and insightful comment :) Wishing you a happy, healthy 2015!

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  3. This is a beautiful piece you shared, you certainly hit on a lot of things I've been questioning myself about , as I too have been wondering if I'm screwing up my 6 children from my own child hood mishaps, thank you again. Looking forward to reading the rest of your posts. Stay blessed . Hope Smith

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    1. Thank you so much, Hope! I think many of us question or parenting, especially when we are still dealing with the repercussions of our own childhoods. I so appreciate your comment. Another person's willingness to step up and say, "Me too," is such powerful encouragement to get back in the arena and keep trying to do better :) xoxo

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