Sunday, March 25, 2012
Relating and Imperfection
"Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." ~Howard Thurman
Ever since I went to Freida's class with my birth ball, to talk about what I do, I have been privileged to enjoy a 4 and 5 year old following. What a great opportunity to tell these future moms that home birth is the safest option and that hospitals are dangerous places for healthy people.
Do you think I actually said that? Just checking if you were really reading.
What I did say was that birth is hard work and also fun and it's really special to be a mommy even though it's really hard. I explained that I helped mommies when they were having babies and that sometimes they like to sit on the ball (all the little girls got to try) and sometimes I get them drinks and sometimes I just sit with them quietly so they feel safe. Ever since then, every time I go into the class the girls tell me about their mommies and babies and remind me that I visited with my ball. As if I could forget.
Friday morning I went into class and one of the girls said "Freida's mommy, Freida's mommy, guess how old I am." I guessed 5 and she was so pleased. Then she told me to guess how old her sister was and I guessed 3. "How did you know," she asked. I told her I was a good guesser. I also guessed that her older brother was 7 and her baby was 1. She was floored. Then she told me that when her mommy had her baby she was very sad and she was crying. I squatted down so I could look her in the eye and asked "Were you sad because your mommy wasn't home and you missed her?" She nodded her head. I just sat there, maintaining eye contact and offering compassion to the vulnerability I was privileged to witness in this little girl's eyes. She switched gears suddenly and told me "I was sad because you weren't helping my mommy."
My heart did some funky tightening. My compassion grew deeper. I suggested that I might help her mommy next time and she perked up and ran to play with her friends.
This conversation replayed itself in my mind a number of times on my walk home. First there is the feeling flattered. Little girls want to talk to me. They drop their puzzles and blocks and come to share of themselves with me. Sweet, innocent girls. Then there's the connection. The more attention I gave this child, the more she wanted to share about herself. How humbling is that? And finally, the vulnerability. I was moved to the core that this little person could tell me about her sad feelings and when I probed a little deeper - and maybe that was inappropriate - she was able to go inside of herself and sit with that feeling, with that truth, with that sadness. And finally, when those feelings became more than she was prepared to deal with, she moved over to empathy. "I was sad because you weren't helping my mommy."
Which got me thinking: why, as a people, do we think it's okay for us to feel sad for others but not ourselves? How can we truly be empathetic with others if we can't be there for ourselves?
I just finished reading a fabulous book called "The Gifts of Imperfection" by Brené Brown. The book was entertaining, insightful, poignant, moving and was written with a raw honesty to which I found myself relating. It's all about belonging, boundaries, (giving up) control, courage, compassion, faith, vulnerability, gratitude, breaking the shame cycle and living in authenticity. It's about engaging with ourselves from a place of worthiness. If you have been following my blog at all this might sound a little repetitious.
For all of our differences, we are pretty much the same. We all share the same basic needs. To feel loved, cherished, to be listened to, taken seriously, treated with respect. We all need someone safe in our lives, but first we need to be able to meet that need for ourselves. The way I treat myself is the message I give to the world of how I would like to be treated.
There are so many wonderful lines in this book, I think half of my book will end up highlighted. Will share a few.
On fear and joy: "The dark does not destroy the light; it defines it. It's our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows." It's our perception that creates our reality. When we don't allow ourselves to fully experience something positive, for fear it will end, we are limiting ourselves.
On resilience: "...there is no such thing as selective emotional numbing. There is a full spectrum of human emotions and when we numb the dark, we numb the light." If we suppress our negative emotions we are by default also suppressing our positive ones. The pendulum will only swing with the amount of force we give it. Our bodies create balance. That is the nature of a human being, of homeostasis. If we don't allow ourselves to feel the power of our pain or sadness, when we limit them so that we may stay within our comfort zones, so that we don't fall apart, we are also limiting our experience of happiness.
On expressing ourselves creatively: "When we value being cool and in control over granting ourselves the freedom to unleash the passionate, goofy, heartfelt and soulful expressions of who we are, we betray ourselves. When we consistently betray ourselves, we can expect to do the same to the people we love. (I would add, we can expect others to betray us as well.) When we don't give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in others." How many times do we not allow ourselves creative expression? Singing out loud, dancing freely. We are so busy worrying about being in control and how we are perceived by others we forget about the basic needs of our souls.
It's the season of breaking through our personal boundaries. I'm hoping to allow myself this authenticity in my life. It's a practice, not a decision. A practice that requires many repetitions before becoming my default setting. I hope to embrace my vulnerability, recognize my shame and face it, embrace my full spectrum of emotions and give myself permission to dance in the rain.
To good health,