Feel it, Acknowledge it, and Let it Go
Never before becoming a parent did I experience emotions more. It’s now mine plus theirs in some complex exponential calculation that makes it a lot more to manage. Sometimes our emotions are in sync and all of us are in flow. More often though, it feels like a tsunami of clashing emotions bubbling to the surface. So, how do we navigate?
Having kids is probably the single hardest thing I’ve ever done. Even harder than running a half marathon. Probably because it’s a 24/7 marathon that I will guess never ends, even when they eventually grow up and move out. So, as if perfectly on cue, this is the blogging topic and this was my morning.
I have a son who has a seizure disorder. This comes with other complications for him, as things like impulse control are affected. Enter in brother dynamics and here’s what goes down. These two love each other more than anything in the world. They also know how to push each other’s buttons. And this also means that in a three-minute span they can swing wildly from, “You are my best friend in the whole world,” to “We are sworn mortal enemies and I will smack you upside the head if you breathe my air”. It’s also really early in summer break. You don’t even need to be a parent here…if you grew up with a sibling you are nodding at the complete normality of this range of emotions. So today, in a moment of “I love you,” they undertake a game that involves a giant exercise ball. In about four minutes flat there is a “Lucy moves the ball and Charlie Brown falls flat on his back” moment. World War 3 has now broken out. There is screaming, crying, stomping, red faces, and all get sent to their rooms. Holy smokes, what in the H-E double hockey sticks just happened? I wasn’t in the bathroom that long!
So, in my mom way, I enter in the room of one kid who is mad. I mean angry. We name that emotion. “It’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay to express it—except not by smacking your brother upside the head. Even if he had it coming. He had brain surgery for crying out loud.” My blood starts to boil. Breathe in, breathe out. “It is NEVER OKAY to hit. I don’t care how mad you are. Bad choice, bad outcome. Think about how you can better handle your frustration next time.” That went well as can be expected. I close the door and go to the instigator’s room.
Me: “Dude, what happened?”
Him: “My brother smacked me in the head.”
Me: “And what lead up to this smack in the head?”
He proceeds to explain in minute detail his lapse in judgement that earned him the smack.
Me: “So what do you think about your decision making in this instance?”
He smacks himself in the forehead and calls himself stupid. Up come the mama bear emotions, ferocious and raw. As you can imagine, having a seizure disorder creates all sort of emotional havoc, and low self-esteem and anxiety are often companions of his. We work daily at re-framing, avoiding labels to focus on our strengths, and to learn from our experiences and not so good decision-making moments. It’s a full-time job to keep guiding his thoughts and words. It physically hurts me to see him be so mean to himself. It makes my heart hurt.
Normally, I am quietly fiercely patient and compassionate because we know huge emotions can be a trigger for seizures too. But I can’t this morning. I spill out all the frustrations of watching him demean himself. I tell him how he and his choices are responsible for the world he sees as sucking. When he makes bad choices, his nasty inside voice rises up and continues to spew its horrible story. The lying story that he has bought into about his worth that plays in his head. I tell him every time he makes a choice to do something that does not come from love, he chooses to let that lying little voice in his head win. And guess what, when that voice is in charge of your heart and your head is disconnected and that is just when seizures creep in because you are caught in your head and feeling badly. (Notice there is no punctuation in this last sentence, it’s because that’s how it all came out). Oh yeah I said that to an 11-year-old. It’s all true. It’s all honest, but man oh man, it’s a lot for an 11-year-old. But I am not done, I went on to say it breaks my heart every time he is mean to himself and that if he doesn’t show himself love, that he is giving everyone else the example of how he wants to be treated. I end my diatribe with yelling, “LOVE YOURSELF SO MUCH THAT YOU DON’T NEED ANYONE ELSE TO VALIDATE YOU”.
I leave the room. I am shaking. I breathe in and breathe out. I vent to my hubby who can see my mounting frustration, and the angry, and hurt tears spill over. He kindly suggests I take a walk, and I do. I am angry. I am hurt. I am tired. I’ve expressed it, and now I choose to walk off the emotion. It’s a win already.
You don’t get these curves from having a healthy relationship with food. Many times food is my comfort. I don’t do well with anger. Stuffing food in helps stuff down the uncomfortable feeling. I think the other thing is it’s not socially acceptable to bite the person you are angry at so angry chewing and gnawing at something other than the person somehow soothes the angry bear. So there you have the not so healthy expression of emotions. But today it was healthier. I chose to walk. And then it hits me. I chose to love myself. I start to cry really hard here. My son’s internal struggle today was a mirror for me. My other son, in his anger, was also a mirror for me to express my anger. As far as I have come, as much as I meditate, heal, and teach others healing, I still play stories of worth, or lack of it, in my head. I still have work to do on managing my anger. For better or worse, these kids are my teachers.
As I continue to walk a dragonfly follows me. I make a mental note to look up its significance. While walking I take in the blue sky. I notice the warmth of the sun on my face. I hear the leaves in the trees rustle in the breeze and the bird’s sweet melodies. I can feel my jaw unclench and my heartache start to dull. I feel lighter. And then I hear it, “Love yourself so much it spills over like sunshine”. Inspired and lighter, I return home. I scrawl the inspiration on our kitchen chalkboard and realize a lesson here. It’s okay to have the emotion. It’s okay to express the emotion. The last—and in my mind, most important—piece of the puzzle is to then let it go. For me the letting go came today in verbalizing it. I’d held those words and emotions for a long time in my heart. Holding it in makes it worse. The emotions stick around longer. Was it my best parenting moment? Likely, no. I hope though that the intensity and passion of my reaction with respect to the importance of valuing yourself is one that he’ll remember. I know I will.
Once again emotions—you are great teachers.