I've decided that guilt is what you feel when you are trying to do or live something like you 'should', but your Soul wants to direct you otherwise--toward freedom and vitality!
It hurts so much to experience guilt, because to be in conflict with your heart's desires, is to be continually stuck in a process of attempting to stop the flow of the river in its tracks, with your bare hands--after a spring melt.
Oh, the joy when you finally let go, decide to open to your Soul, and let it lead, to let go and ride the river of life, aligned with that bigger part of you, ready to move with the rapids no matter where they go--knowing that the risk will be worth it, that the affirmation of coming alive will reinforce the risk taking, and show you that you made the right choice; when you realize that staying stuck in the 'should's' and running behind the bus to finally 'get it together' and be 'perfect', or 'just put up with it', are the lies that kill ever so slowly.
So, I have to tell you about my mommy's guilt, the ultimate dam in my river, that little by little has sprung leaks, been compromised by cracks in the foundation--and finally has given way to a wild ride on the rapids!
And what do you know? I am enjoying my kids more than ever. You know why? Because I finally have something to give them!
It is true that when you feel full, you have the best parts of yourself to give.
When my first daughter was born I forced myself to spend hours playing with her with the hopes of her reaching all of her potential. It never occurred to me that she'd have creativity and smarts without me imparting it all to her. It never occurred to me that she was wired for survival and growth, not to mention brilliance. No, I was stuck in a paralyzing line of thought, that if I wasn't the 'perfect' mother, she wouldn't stand a chance. I had to make sure she had every opportunity for learning and for growth, and a huge head start!
Very normal desires of a new mom with high hopes for her child, I know--but kind of gets in the way of just hanging out with your child, and sinking into getting to know who they are without your intervention and projections, not to mention snuggles for the sake of snuggles, and the preciousness of watching a little one grow big.
I hated most every moment of the unnatural kind of play in which I felt I had to engage. But my guilt kept me from abandoning ship, stuck answering to my own captain's whistle. I better buck up, or my child would suffer for my selfishness.
Now that I had brought a baby into this world, I had to focus. I had to take responsibility. I had to absorb shit coming at me, suck it up and keep up a smiley face for my daughter--no matter that it was a mask. The guilt kept me from questioning my pain. I wasn't allowed.
Baby daughter two came along, and I was now dangerously close to drowning--(sometimes the best place for a revolution within!). My sweet voice often gave way to growling and yelling at my almost three-year-old. With a baby who lived on my hip on the go, and my breast at rest, I just didn't have the hands to redirect a toddler, and so my voice naturally got louder.
At this time I also felt the pain of boredom and the pressure of raising geniuses start to cripple me. One time I was drilling colors with my second baby, and she just looked at me exasperated and said, "I don't know!" Oh, my heart, how that hurt, that I'd hurt her! She was too little to tell me. It was a few weeks later, when I had let go, that she taught me her colors!
During this time there was a stirring in me to seek out connection with other mommys. The saving Grace, I found myself commiserating with them, and my own mother, who, by Jove, FELT THE SAME WAY!
This was a sweet discovery, to find a little bit of connection, even if it revolved around expressing our frustrations. I am so thankful to the mothers, who had the courage to be real and tell it like it was!
So, the guilt at not sitting down and playing all the waking hours of my days with my little ones, (wishing they'd just nap already), faded into the background every once in a while, during a much needed conversation with a girlfriend. These conversations brightened my days, and then weeks, and then months--the first beginnings of connecting with my spirit, since perhaps my own babyhood.
Of course, I was soon in conflict with all the time I spent with girlfriends at play dates, letting the kids run free and playing to their hearts' content, and the lack of my directed pedagogical and creative moments that I was sure were missing their window of opportunity!
But the pull was strong to grow something within me, to connect with others, and something in me honored something wanting to be born!!!! Now I see how I was always following my Soul, despite the guilt. Sometimes it was survival, but sometimes it was a knowing that life couldn't suck this bad--that I was missing something.
And all the while this little voice was bringing me to myself, to a woman who could feel herself as whole, and have everything to give her children, instead of a woman continually sacrificing herself to keep up with a mere idea of being the 'perfect' mother to save her children from herself.
Now I have found that giving of you and to you is a fine line that you must walk by faith.
I have been the 'perfect' mother! Wow, what a strong statement! Yet, I say it truly and humbly, realizing that I have given my children everything by being more of me, by taking the mask off, by showing my emotions, my flaws, and my vulnerability to life; by showing how I work to free myself from my fears, by showing how I choose love. They learn by watching me, and they are watching me deal with being a human, living, loving, connecting, and creating more fully.
I have had the audacity to let my children play ON THEIR OWN! and oh my dear God, the amazing creativity that they've shown, WITHOUT MY HELP! Imagine that! In fact, I am sure that they would have never been this creative with my constant direction of their play.
And can I just say that by following that little voice in me that craved connection, and tenderness from compassionate and understanding girlfriends and my own mother (a connection which transformed our mother/daughter relationship), from attempting to deal with the pain instead of masking it, in trying to get to the root and understanding this guilt that promised to tear me apart, I was giving myself what I most needed, and at the same time, I was giving my children what they most needed! And I hope if they learn nothing they will learn to love themselves in this way.
And what do you know? My kids are showing signs that they are learning from me!! because I have something worth teaching them, and it isn't how they too can perpetuate an empty life of keeping up with the Joneses.
Rather they are learning, just as I am, that there is a flame within each of us, that leads us to our best experience of life, that if we follow it, lean into it, trust it, that it will burn through the guilt, it will lead us to share the best parts of ourselves, and help us to experience a wholeness and a vitality and joy for life that we could have never imagined.
And oh the joy when I listen to their play-- it is palpable:
The other day one daughter was playing her version of medieval music on the piano, and the other was chanting along singing. They were dressed up in my dresses. They had bows tied around their necks, and bright red lipstick for their performance. I didn't know they knew what medieval chant sounded like, nor about the middle ages. But they did, and they got to explore it at the same time they got to connect with the magic of their little hearts that could be and do anything, and go anywhere, even travel in time!
I don't think I would have come up with the idea of the middle ages for creative play without tarnishing it into a music history lesson, nor could I have imagined coming up with the time they sported British accents and became perfect princesses (I didn't know they could be so dainty), or when they turned their room into a birthing hospital and stuffed multiple dolls up their shirts (I never knew they could be so tender and loving to new babies--all is not lost!), or when they survived being orphans in the woods, or camping in the living room, or having an animal rescue, or a pet store, or when they became singing ballet dancers, or their favorite, when they become teenagers, putting on jeans and a t-shirt and talking about their new cell phone and annoying boys, etc. etc. etc.!
So, as a mother, I thank my lucky stars everyday, that I have continued, despite the guilt, to give myself what I need, and let my daughters have the space to connect with their little spirits through play. I am thankful for the crippling guilt that was so painful that it kept me looking for ways to climb out of the hole!
Always, letting go is a process, but it is the root of all change, all expansion, and all immense joy and connection!
I am so excited about the sweetness that seems here to stay in our little house, what that means, and what magic is to come. And it feels so effortless sometimes--how can that be?
Here is to a very happy and loving new year, and to a lot of joy that you never saw coming to you!