I came across this quote today in a new post from Slow Your Home, a site I’ve only recently started subscribing to. It comes at the right moment for me, as although this is a wonderful time for us as we await the imminent arrival of our baby girl, it is also a very difficult and heartbreaking period as we are simultaneously dealing with the prospect of a bereavement within our close family overseas. Recent weeks have been some of the most difficult I have ever encountered, as there have been so many arguments and conflicting emotions, along with heavy responsibilities to shoulder. Sometimes it is hard to see any light or come to any understanding as to how things are going to unfold and what the impact will be on my little family as well as on our wider family. Hope is all I can have – that although there will be suffering, this too shall pass. And I hold on to the belief that the birth of our baby girl will still bring joy, and also comfort, in the midst of pain.
I lost sight of things a little bit last night. Well ok, a lot. It was a long 12 hours with Miss M yesterday, and by the time my husband got home I was feeling pretty resentful. It’s been a while since this emotion had a good hold on me. Knowing as I do how destructive it is, I’ve worked hard these past 9 months on cultivating a mindful attitude of gratitude and ridding my life of pointless resentments. After all, that was the whole point of this starting this blog! But, a very wilful and energetic toddler, anaemia and 7 months of pregnancy have left me a little bit, shall we say, frayed at the edges, and it all came to a head at bedtime. Started with a passionate speech about the utter unfairness of men not being able to physically bear children. Yeah, I know. In hindsight I do feel a little bad for my husband in the face of that little vent! Ended in much snot and tears, related to fear that I will be unable to cope with a newborn and a crazy toddler with a husband that works long hours, and expressed in loud anger and resentment toward him for not having instant miracle answers and always saying the wrong thing. He is so not a bad husband, he’s a bloody brilliant husband. Evidenced by the fact that after a rather heated exchange (well, he’s only human…) and despite all that vitriol, the whole thing ended in cuddles at about 3am when I snuck back into bed from my (rather uncomfortable) point of principle in the spare room.
Awoke this morning feeling drained and puffy, and whilst having a cup of tea in bed alone (thank you lovely husband!) I came across a wonderful article via Twitter by Leo Babauta called The Only Way to Respond to Life, extract here:
“We often not only take life for granted, but complain about it…but goodness, look around you! What a wonder life is! If only we would take the time to see it, to really appreciate it, and to applaud. This moment is a ridiculously generous miracle. Give it up, folks, for life.”
And that was the boot up the ass I needed to get me out of bed and into the day. I got things back in perspective. Sometimes I think there’s too much social media in my life, and I need to cut back. Other times, as happens so often, I find a little gem – a quote or a short article – in my Twitter or Facebook feeds, and I remember what a wonderful tool social media can be. It’s all about moderation, of course. Less trawling through the crap and discussing nonsense, more constructive learning and sharing is the way forward.
Meantime, note to self, or rather, promise – every single day I will remember to stop, and be grateful. It really is the only constructive way to respond to life – especially when the going is rough.
Before Miss M was born I remember reading that “having a baby is like throwing a hand grenade into a marriage”. Nonsense! Said I. Not my marriage! We have endured long distance separation, migration, 7 whole months of 24/7 togetherness in often arduous physical and emotional conditions while backpacking in Southeast Asia! We have our moments of course, but we’re a rock solid team! Oh, how the mighty have fallen…It’s been quite a rough ride, particularly recently, and I think we’re both still adjusting to the change in pace and priorities that parenthood brings, especially coming from a background of such freedom and being a little later in life and therefore perhaps more set in our ways that we had imagined.
So it was with great hope and high expectations that I finally reached Chapter 7: Living with Partners in Sarah Napthali’s Buddhism for Mothers, yesterday morning. I was inspired! Loved it! We are not alone in our marital struggles as we adjust to the changes the past 2 years have brought us. I saw clearly where I might try and improve things and to my enormous surprise and delight my husband, who is not a reader, scanned all 20 pages and paid attention to the summary. We were on the same page!! We were moving forward!!
Until 10pm last night when he made the mistake of questioning a credit card payment in relation to my party planning business, which sent me into a spiral of rage stemming from a) I was too bloody knackered to look at numbers and how dare he be so inconsiderate as to bring this stuff up so late on; and b) ohmygod have I overcharged one of my very first customers and messed up my very first order ohmygod! And all our shared Buddhist learning from that day went straight out the window. Big time. Especially the part about skilful speech, I am ashamed to say…
We pulled it back together, but not until a lot of mean things had been said. However, as my gran always advised, we did not let the sun go down on our anger (well, it had already gone down, but you get my drift). And this morning I awoke to a cup of tea and a little bit of Me Time in bed before the day began. We don’t do Valentine’s Day, but I think this an appropriate day to start over and resolve to work much harder on my marriage, beginning with being constantly mindful of this powerful little piece of advice: pause before you speak.
I am not feeling very Zen today (whatever Zen is exactly). I was fine until just after morning tea, when we had agreed to go out, but husband took forever to get his arse in gear (or so it seemed to me) and then just when I thought we were finally about to leave the house he started faffing at the computer saying he needed to check which account to do shopping from. Why? Why must this always wait until we are at the front door?? And all downhill from there…
Oh, I am feeling all twisty inside!! Filled with simmering resentment and anger! A combination of PMS (curse these raging hormones), disappointment that period clearly imminent as we are in third TTC (Trying To Conceive) cycle, and the fact that it has been raining for days on end have combined to turn me into the least mindful mum imaginable.
There was one brief break in the weather and I insisted we all get down to the ocean for a quick walk before I lost my mind completely, and that did help a bit. However, it occurs to me that perhaps I should have gone and done that by myself and cleared my head, as might have been wiser for all concerned, especially given the mad dash back to make sure we didn’t veer too far from the Miss M’s new routine, and my inability to respond nicely to any comment, however well-intentioned…
So, one step forward, two steps back on this journey of mine. Husband is cooking dinner tonight, which I possibly don’t deserve, given I did kind of demand it in ranting, shrill tones of which I am now ashamed…perhaps I can still make good though. I’m shut in my sewing room trying to regroup self. Helps to write it out.
Miss M woke up his morning at the glorious time of 6.10am! I made a mug of tea and took it back to bed with Buddhism For Mothers until the even more glorious time of 7.30am, as it was my husband’s turn to do morning milk and play (part of me misses breastfeeding after 16 months of that unique closeness with my girly, but the rest of me in all honesty absolutely relishes the freedom that ending that chapter of our lives has brought!). Once again I felt inspired by this book and even shed some tears at the wonderful realisation that I am far from unique in my deep-rooted resentment and frustration with regard to various aspects of Motherhood (although of course I don’t wish them on anyone!) and that these feelings can perhaps be overcome and replaced with a sense of much needed peace, if I’m willing explore the solutions offered to me in Buddhist teachings.
Unfortunately after this marvellous start to the day, I then checked my email and was confronted with a continuation of Wednesday’s wider family conflict. I had just finished a chapter about dealing with negative emotion but didn’t imagine I’d be calling upon it within minutes of closing the book! As it was, I instantly forgot everything I had just read and began bashing out a lengthy point by point retort full of anger mixed with hurt and guilt. An hour later, emotionally exhausted, ready to be late for an appointment and having spent no precious time with Miss M, I started thinking about what I had read earlier. It finally dawned on me that I could perhaps try to control all my negative emotion instead of being carried away by it. I tried to be mindful and focus on what my body was doing, how I was holding it, my breathing. I calmed down enough to realise the absolute futility of an angry, point-scoring response. Instead I sent a short paragraph explaining that I’ll be in touch in a few weeks. I managed to end on a note of kindness that in all honesty I didn’t genuinely feel, but I wished it was genuine and I hope that is enough to diffuse things for the time being, while I sort out my emotions and decide how to approach these latest relationship difficulties in a calm and mindful manner.
From joyful relief to angry hurt in the space of a few minutes, and it was only 8.30am! But, despite my uncontrolled initial reaction I had managed to get it together in the end. Maybe there’s hope for this grumpy ol’ mindful mama wannabe after all!
One of the things I am struggling to accept is that the SAHM’s To Do list is NEVER completed. I have just carried 16 things into this week from last week’s list. This morning we needed to drop one of the cars at the mechanics, and usually I would want to head straight back home as soon as possible to get on with all my chores and lists, and my husband and I would then spend Miss M’s 90 minute nap in separate rooms doing our own thing. Today I decided to stop worrying about all the stuff I have to do, be in the moment, and put Family Time first. Instead of rushing home I suggested that we take Miss M to the play park and then have a walk to the marina, during which she would fall asleep and my husband and I could be alone together during the day without distractions – a very rare occurrence! The sun was shining, the waves were crashing against the rocks, and we walked and talked about our plans for the year ahead, and our goal of buying a house by the end of next year. We even did some snogging on the harbour wall, which was rather lovely!
However, experience has taught me that throwing caution to the wind with regard to household management for even half a day in an unplanned manner can cause a chaos spiral, so after a happy family lunch I consulted my organiser and I got stuck in to some baking and cleaning. While my husband fell asleep on the sofa. And thus The Resentment started to simmer beneath my surface. Being mindful, I told myself that he had been up since 5am, that he would be doing dinner and bath later, that he deserves some down time too; and I managed to put a lid on it. Until Miss M decided the TV was boring and being in the kitchen with mummy and her floury hands and hot oven was way more fun, and he did not respond fast enough to my call. Then some milk was spilled (literally), and my red mist descended. All my good intentions and a lovely morning spoiled. And I felt so ashamed because while my daughter is too little to understand an argument between her parents, I’m sure she gets the vibe. I struggled to regain perspective and control, and eventually managed to explain to him how resentful I was feeling and why his reaction to the milk being spilled angered me (oh, how trivial it all seems now!!). An unhappy silence reigned. But then, a short while later, he said the magic words: “would you like me to do the hoovering?”. And just like that, peace was restored. While certainly unpleasant, this horrible quarrel was shorter than most – perhaps in part due to the beautiful morning we had shared.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.