Thursday, December 10, 2009


Today I received a great lesson from one of my friends. I don't think she realizes she was being a teacher, nor do I think her actions were linked to any urge to impart wisdom, spur an epiphany, or suggest alteration was needed.

But lately I've noticed opportunities arise, or are given/created daily that offer a chance for reflection and - when I'm paying attention and remain open to the lesson - help me learn a little something about my thinking/feeling/deciding/attaching that might lead to positive change.

My friend invited me over so our kids could play together and we could visit. I was feeling down and worried I would not be good company. I thought about saying "no" even though I knew my daughter would desperately want to go so she could see her best friend.

I do this sometimes - isolate myself when I hit a rough spot or feel generally negative about things... figuring it best not to spread my lack of cheer all over everyone else. Of course, the paradoxical truth of things is those times are often when I need intimacy and connection the most. And so, by shutting myself off from the outside world, I'm actually doing the exact opposite of what would be most helpful.

Aware of this pattern and committed to being more mindful about my self-defeating choices, I said "yes," bundled us both up to stave off the cold for the 20 foot walk to their building, and away we went.

And we had a great time. It was wonderful to talk to someone and share some of my frustrations, to check in with another parent about the crazy phases kids go through and whether or not concern is warranted, and to hear another woman express so many things I too have combated: lack of sleep and the inevitable resulting impatience, worry over doctor visits and the health of our kids, frustration about needles and blood draws that do more harm than good, and the habit of not inviting people over because we worry our home is not ready for visitors.

Not ready, for me at least, translates into a number of things. It's like coded language for a tangle of emotions knotted up with elements of my self-worth and sense of value as a woman, wife, mother, etc. Not ready means chaotic, messy, cluttered, unfinished. It means dust bunnies in the corners, pee under the toilet seat, boxes stacked against furniture, and items everywhere.

Not ready means I haven't cleaned enough, haven't made my daughter pick up her toys or room enough, haven't managed to tackle the unending list of things-to-do... and so our house is in a state of undeniable chaos: unkempt, disheveled, and harried.

The lesson today, however, came when my friend said she experiences the exact same worries, with the exact same attachments and self-admonishments, and today decided to just say "so what" and have us over anyway. Because our being there was more important than all the fretting and self-recrimination potentially accompanying our visit.

And I realized... of course! There is no ready. There is no done. Our house carries with it an element of chaos - because it is lived in, because we are not perfect nor do we strive to be (at least not in a Homes & Garden/Family Circle kind of way), and it has nothing to do with my worth, value, or success as a mother, wife, woman, or human being.

That's what I've decided anyway. Maybe someday I'll decide I'm wrong, but today I think maybe those things are determined by the safety and love my child feels, the level of commitment I choose to make to my family, and the amount of compassion I am able to maintain in all my actions - be they at home or elsewhere.

Today I strive to embrace the chaos... maybe even love it a little. Because it's here to stay, and fighting it will only bring disappointment and sadness. Instead, I want to open my home and share that chaos with everyone I love. The richness they bring to my life is much more important than my self-imposed prison of imagined expectations and baseless shortcomings.

May you embrace your chaos and find peace within the storm. May you free yourself from confinement of your own making.

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