I am of the firm belief that looking forward moves you forward while dwelling on the past can paralyze. I had the gift of a weekend away, which gave me a bit of time to reflect on my life and kind of take inventory. I hate inventory sometimes because it hurts.
The last several weeks have been exceptionally difficult for me as I have felt like a failure in every area of my life. Thank goodness for amazing people who reassure me that I don’t totally suck, but the voices in my head were screaming otherwise. And while all of this screamed at me, I stared at my three kids, all with different needs (some louder and more intense than others) and felt almost immobilized because I was so frustrated by my failings. I realized I needed to get control over this emotional chaos. That led me to tighten our schedules, push them harder to get things done, spend more time frustrated by their resistance….blah blah. A familiar cycle for any parent.
Todd and I spent a night together and I finally just emotionally vomited. During our talk, he listened so carefully and did not try to silence the screaming voices. Rather, he helped me realize something—that I was kind of grieving a loss. I was grieving because, after 7 years as a mother in total, I finally realized that I could not be superwoman or superhuman or fix everything through a little R&I (resourcefulness and initiative). Can you believe it took me that long?
I think that, in my life, I have cherished the fact that drive has helped me to succeed—I could push my body to do hard things, practice improved my musical abilities, I had a successful and exciting career. I guess the mantra was always “make it happen” when things got tough. I will never forget the day that Stephen Covey carefully pulled me aside and basically attempted to break the news that, once I had kids, such would no longer be the case. Admittedly, his “caution” that I needed to let a little bit of that control go when I had a family fell on deaf, very single ears. I couldn’t imagine finding a husband at that point, much less birthing anything. I took his sincere and sweet message and found a different application—more of a spiritual one—which served to be a life lesson for me. But just recently, another life lesson—less spiritual, more practical, equally impactful—has hit me. I can’t fix it all, control it all, or manipulate things to ensure they turn out how I want them to when it comes to my family. All I can do is listen, love, and look forward.
Let me give an example of a failure….my Matthew has been doing this therapy for ages and we’ve seen incredible results when we are diligent, but it is something we have to do ourselves. Recently, I have been excusing myself from doing it in the name of “I want to me his Mom and not his therapist” and avoiding it because of the fights we sometimes have. Enter guilt because, in my mind, we do the therapy, Matthew gets better. We don’t, and I’m failing him. I was missing the point though….we do the therapy and it is an opportunity for me to connect with my son. The therapy isn’t the point—the point is the connection. As I dodge something that feels difficult, I am missing a big opportunity. It isn’t about manipulating the outcome—it is about the relationship with my sweet boy.
Like I mentioned earlier, I had the opportunity to get away for a few days and just be selfish. Yup. It felt great. Part of that selfish time was time with just my thoughts. I was walkng around the streets of New York, exploring with my incredible, kindred friend and thinking about my life….stepping back and taking the birds eye view of my world and my life, considering where my current perspective and actions might lead my family. I started to, candidly, freak out a little and feel so sad at the things I need to fix. Maybe because the list is a little longer than I ever thought I would allow it to get, or maybe because my failings have been staring me square in the face lately, I felt so sad! But the prevailing thought, and this was so clear to me and literally stopped me dead in my tracks, is the simple idea that I needed to look forward. People have the capacity to change….but it isn’t an overnight BAM! I’m amazing. Rather, each fix is an evolution. I don’t do well with evolution, mind you…I like BAM!
My evolution needs to start with a mindset—I cannot fix/control/manipulate my children. Motherhood is not about marching your kids through life in a certain direction and when they stray from what YOU think is the perfect path, beating them (only figuratively) back in line. Rather, it is about backing off sometimes. Seems counter-intuitive, but for me, that’s exactly what needs to happen.
Sometimes when we back off of our ideas of what things need to look like, we can catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. Too close is the worms-eye view—and only seeing the “dirt” in front of you is not a fabulous way to live. What I hope the “back off” view will give me is a better picture of the unique capacities that each of my littles has—including my loud, rough, but amazing love bug Matthew who I have literally pushed away in exhaustion lately. Even writing that has the tears flowing. But it is true…I have pushed each of my littles away a little as I have been bogged down by my failings and exhausted by the worms-eye view.
While the birds-eye view was a short-lived luxury, it helped. I might not be superhuman, superwoman, or Mother-of-the-year (unless you are using the term sarcastically in which case it might be appropriate), but I can certainly envision myself being better than I am today. Yesterday didn’t erase that opportunity…I have a lot to learn from yeseterdays .which I am grateful for. And it is with eyes fixed forward, I commit to back off a little so that I can better appreciate the masterpiece in front of me.