She looked at me and I SWEAR, I could see smoke pouring from her ears, her eyes on fire with rage.
“You never let me do ANYTHING!” she screamed. I grabbed the remote and turned off the television.
“You are the meanest Mommy anywhere.”
‘And, my job is done here,’ I thought. My inner dialogue gets a little sassy like that when pressed.
But, I SAID, calmly, oh so calmly: “Time for bed. Go get your pajamas on.”
I sipped – okay gulped — a glass of wine.
Her cheeks tightened and her chin dropped on to her chest and she looked up at me, this child of mine, her eyes a narrow slit.
“No!” she said.
Damn, I thought.
“Go. Get. Your. PAJAMAS on.” I said a little louder now.
This set off a fit of foot stomping and shrieking kind of like those who walk over hot coals but don’t quite make it.
Spiritual Practice under Pressure
And that’s how my spiritual practice showed up that night. Right there in the middle of foot-stomping madness, I was either going to get a lesson in mindful acceptance or I was going to run out the door, clutching my wine bottle, screaming “I can’t take it anymore” before finding myself at Walgreens wandering in a fluorescent-light induced daze.
But it was cold and I hadn’t showered. And well, I couldn’t find the car keys, so I opted for the more spiritually-oriented, stay-at-home, freak out.
And this is when the spiritual practice pays off. In the middle of the madness when I’m exhausted and my kid is sassy and I can’t get to Walgreens. This is when it has got to work, right?
I mean gratitude and mindfulness and acceptance is all good when everyone is doing everything just right and the sun is out and you’ve just seen a unicorn galloping toward the rainbow at the end of the block while you pick up the mail containing your lottery winnings. Hey, let me tell you what, I am really good with acceptance on those days.
But when my kid is squealing like a little humpback whale and I’m standing here without a go-to parenting plan, this spiritual stuff HAD better show up. I need help and I need it NOW.
Why Spiritual Practice Matters
And it does. You know? It does. Most days I find peace in these practices. Acceptance helps root me in the moment, even while reminding me that if I can just hang on the moment will change. There is clarity and hope there that keeps me from covering her mouth with duct tape or otherwise over-reacting. Or at least it keeps me from over, over-reacting.
Gratitude reminds me of the goodness that is there too, even when it’s wrapped up in squinty eyes filled with frustration and the defiant posture of a you’re-not-the-boss-of-me 8-year-old. And mindfulness, helps me find perspective. It helps me stay centered and connected to myself instead of all “I-am-your-mother-you-will…”
This is why the PRACTICE MATTERS. It helps us get in the habit of acceptance and mindful awareness, and gratitude, and compassion. These things become something we do, every day, even during the easy times, so that when the tough stuff is coming down we fall into these practices, by default really. And instead of going all Bruce-Banner crazy we manage just a little easier. We find a little grace. And we get through.
Sometimes though, shifting from the present to the future can be helpful too, and I’ll tell you about that in Wednesday’s post.
For now, consider which habits support you when the cable goes out or the bills are due or the kid is crying or the boss doesn’t “connect” to your ideas and life is just a little bit tense, a tiny bit stressful. What practice could you develop so that it supports you doing those trying moments?
Now, make time for it. Save five minutes for a gratitude practice during your day. Challenge yourself to practice mindfulness every time you wash your hands. Get comfortable with the practices and they will be there to help during the times you feel most uncomfortable.