Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Starting Now (some thoughts on shame and parenting)

Okay, I’m tapping upon your shoulders, asking for help in a little shame management. One of the things I learned (amongst many many others) from reading Brené Brown’s book about shame resilience is the need to share our stories. When I keep silent, I deepen my sense of worthlessness and despair and cut myself off from learning or growing.

Long winded way of saying, I had a crappy day yesterday and I reacted in a typically human way: I lashed out at those I love. I’m human, I know, and we all lose our patience, get short tempered, reactive and strike out in order to diminish the pain and frustration we are feeling inside. I can forgive others when they respond from habit or fear, but when I do it, I want to crawl under a rock and hide. Because deep down, my behavior only confirms my deepest, darkest secret about myself: I am a flawed and irredeemable.

I don’t know if it is changing hormone levels (hello perimenopause!), parenting in energy challenged middle age, or life in this frantic everything-now world, but I have been struggling with my temper. A lot. I mean, I don’t even have a fuse: I am a pool of gasoline with life tossing matches upon me.

I haven’t given up on myself and I keep on reaching out for ways to cope and ways to work with myself. So it is doubly frustrating when I do fall into the cesspool of emotions that I wallowed in yesterday. The particulars are not all that amazing: driving to work and school, Cowgirl and I got stuck in the traffic jam to end all jams. I tried 4 different routes only to realize we were like rats on a sinking ship: no way out of the mess. I even turned the radio on thinking maybe there had been an emergency broadcast telling my side of town to evacuate. It was a grey, dreary day. And I just turned nasty.

I lost my temper big time with Cowgirl, words were said that were just mean spirited and she got very very quiet. I went too far and I knew it. And I got quiet. I wanted to be defensive, telling her what I said was true, but that my manner of saying it wasn’t right … but even that was false. I had to let myself be still and sit with my pain and shame and give myself time to claw my way back to a better mental place. As it was, we could only sit in the traffic, so I had lots of time.

We talked about my reaction and I apologized as best I could. Things were smoothed out a bit, but the bad taste of it all stayed with me throughout the day. I know I am working on this all – parenting, my attention, my temper, my being or not being present. I know if I let myself sit in shame, I would not believe myself capable of changing or transforming myself into the person and the parent I aspire to be. I want to believe in myself and Cowgirl makes me want try harder, work more assiduously towards the goal of finding my true self which is Truth, Wisdom, Bliss and Love.

So today I pulled out my copy of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. I have desperately wanted a guide on parenting from a Yogic perspective but have found that book has not been written (at least, I haven’t found it yet!) My goal in starting this blog was to explore the Sutras and other teachings from the Yogic tradition, applying them to parenting and writing about my experience. Now that I’ve stated my dream, I have to take responsibility for it.

I open the Sutras and start with the first one: Atha Yoganusasanam. Now the practice of Yoga begins. Atha conveys a sense of a prayer being offered and hope for a success. For me, this opening statement is a reminder that at any given moment, I can begin anew. As many times as I may slip, forget, fall off the path, it is in that moment when I catch myself lapsing back into habitual patterns, I have a choice. I can give up or I can start again. Now I begin. And Now I begin. And Now. I do not dwell on the past, letting my backlog of mistakes overwhelm me; if I am truly present, then all that exists is this moment and what I do starting now.

So yesterday in the car, old and future selves crashed big time into each other. But I chose to begin again. And today I am trying to cultivate the attitude of hopefulness and faith in my efforts to begin anew. It is never too late and it is far too important. My Cowgirl deserves this. I deserve it.

Oh, and today we left for school 10 minutes earlier. Only this time, we enjoyed sitting in traffic.


  1. Oh, Lisa, Clara is so lucky to have you for a mom- someone so reflective, determined, and humble. I know you want to be the very best mom to her and from what I've seen, you are. Keep sharing your insights, so the rest of us can learn from your thoughts and know that we aren't alone.

  2. beautiful post, lisa.

    and i came to read just after having a round with my 13 year old daughter...perfect timing. so relatable and true. *big sigh*

    sending love. we're all in this together. every perfectly imperfect blissful bit.


  3. Parallel lives. But yesterday I finally opened up and talked about my major anxieties and it has really helped.
    Truth, Wisom, Bliss and Love? Would you mind having a companion along the way because I could use some of those. And I think you need to write that book.
    Today I'll begin again too. Inspired by you.

  4. A humble thank you to you all. This was hard to put out there even though I know everyone goes through this. It means so much to me to have you wonderful mamas to turn to for cyber hugs, support and advice. I am excited - and relieved - to be committing to this task of mindful parenting with the support of Yogic teachings. It feels right. I feel ready.

  5. lovely post and as other readers stated... right when i needed it. i've noticed lately that my little beaming ballerina is really reactive and i want to blame my husband and then i realize we're all reactors waiting to go off in a way... blame is just bla with out me, right? if i'm pointing out 3 fingers are pointing back to me... he reacts, she reacts, i react... i feel like we need a big cool, damp, heavy blanket to slow, cool and relax us... i'm trying to keep that feeling in mind... slow, cool, relax and hope that she picks up on that.

    thanks for your honest and open approach here...

  6. Hi there. I found you through Jo's blog recently. Just wanted to say hello - fellow adoptive parent - and say that I could really relate to this post. I find my "lashing out" time to be in the mornings when we're rushing to get to school/work, the least favorite time for me and I feel the pressure to get to work on time. And it's hard to rush a 6 year-old.

    I'm a practicing yogi too so I can also relate to where you turn for comfort and inspiration. Thanks for the post!

  7. I found you through Jo's blog as well. Normally I lurk and read and move along when I follow a link on a friend's blog but I decided that I just couldn't be quiet this time. I had a similar day yesterday (I am blaming the moon) and beat myself up about it for a long time last night. You have no idea how much I needed to be reminded to live in the moment today. Thanks.

  8. this is so powerful and so real and so very much appreciated!

    to know we are not alone in these moments really means so much.

    i felt every bit of this emotional progression right along with you.

    your darling cowgirl is very blessed to have you!