Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The not-so-vicious circle

Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommmy mommmy mom-meee mommeee mommeeee mommeeee mommeeee mommeeee mommeeee mommeeee ma me ma me ma me ma me ma me ma me ma me ma me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me.

Right now it's all about me.

When I got back from vacation, and back to my desk, awaiting my attention was "Momma Zen," a memoir by Karen Maezen Miller, a mother, writer and Zen Buddhist Priest.

I had almost forgotten the author had contacted me and wondered if I might give it a read and a mention on this here little blog. (Color me happy as well as more than a little bit flattered).

You see, dear friends, I am a yoga practitioner who facilitates a free yoga class for mothers and others who want a little stretching, a little meditation and a little co-misery as they try to get through yet another week. But by no means am I a yogi. I don't talk the talk. I don't walk the walk. And I wouldn't know bliss if it walked up and bit me. I don't even think I've had a real "practice" since Ittybit was three months old.

Let's just say until I ripped open the envelope and tore through the introduction, I was more than just a little intimidated. Who wouldn't be? Zen. Buddhist. Priest. Mother. Writer.


As it turns out, the book was right up my alley.

It wasn't preaching so much as it was lending a branch for support. It wasn't expecting me to 'let it all go.'

I knew life had changed for me when Ittybit was born. I didn't really even mourn how. I didn't miss my single self. I was ready to give her the boot. I didn't pretend to know any answers, and I was willing to ask questions. I didn't have great expectations. But that didn't make me any more ready to meet my isolated self. My selfpity self. My holy-crap-why-haven't-you-combed-your-hair self.

There was a time in all this new mommyhood when I was on top of the world. There was a moment that gave me enough confidence to give the class a go. To brush aside self doubt, ask for use of a studio space, hang up some signs and welcome people who might expect better than me.
I read books, I played with Annabel in experimentation. I devised some things we could do together. I jotted down notes. Was this fun? Is she enjoying this? How do I feel about it? I eventually began to equate this new life of mine with breathing. In and out. In and out. I remembered when, for the first time, my breathing really did flow with the poses, and with the world around me. It changed everything. This was motherhood. It was breathing.

And then she turned two and a half.

Then, somehow, I forgot to breathe.

Staring at the book cover, it's black Zen circle dotted with Cherios, I felt my anxiety ease. I skipped through the first few chapters. 'They're about babies and I've already been there,' I think as I look for the section that will undoubtedly enlighten me on how to ensure my child's life now that her three-year-old self has shown up four months early.


Chapter 18


"Somewhere between last night's bath and this morning's diaper, she had transformed into a fanged menace, a horned demon. I reacted at peak throttle. I slapped her arm, hard, and we both crumpled in a flood of fear and tears."

This is what I was looking for. The part where you are stunned by your own intolerance.

"We are deceiving ourselves anytime we view our children as separate from the conditions that we ourselves still largely create: separate from the circumstances of their environment; separate from the state of their minds, their bodies, and bellies; and separate from the monumental influence we as parents impose. We look at them with loathing, these new, inscrutable children, these other children. In this shift of perception, we expel our babies from the unity of we and engage them in a battle in which they can only get stomped. These are the moments when wakefulness waves its puny white flag. If we can wake up, we will see that we cannot separate self from other. We cannot separate restraint from self-restraint. We cannot separate respect from self-respect. We cannot separate discipline from self-discipline. ..."

And hope returns. I can breathe again, at least for the moment. It's not all about me and what I'm doing wrong. It's okay to make mistakes, it's OK to make LOTS of them.

Miller's book is a gentle reminder that life is all about the practice, not the perfect. Now I can relax and read from the beginning.


Melissa said...

If it wasn't okay to make mistakes, I'd be in BIG trouble by now! Three children in seven years time can wear your patience thin, and I pray each night that I haven't yelled too much and hugged too little.

I once asked a veteran mom, who also has three children, "Does it get easier as they get older?" She replied, "No. It's still a struggle - just of a different sort." That's not what I had wanted to hear.

My once sweet and pleasing two-year-old daughter is now a sassy and argumentative seven-year-old. And there are still two kids to help through these emotionally and mentally trying developmental stages! What the heck did I get myself into?!

Mothering is THE most difficult job I have ever known and can often be very thankless. We demand too much of ourselves then feel like a lousy parent when we fall short of those expectations. I know I am a good mom, but I am nowhere near the type of mom I want to be. But what keeps me going is that I know there are other moms out there feeling the exact same way. I'm not the only one getting it wrong once in awhile.

The most we can do is love and hug and kiss our kids, even when they turn into that "fanged menace." And like you said, breathe.

Deep, cleansing breaths.

And maybe do a little sewing and gardening during naptime!

Andrea said...

In...out...in...out. I swore to myself when I got pregnant that I would never let myself fall into the "perfect mom" trap, because there is no such thing. And then I went and did it anyway. I think I need to get my hands on that book.

Thanks for the recommendation.

ECR said...

I thought I had motherhood down to that unconscious breathing thing...then my daughter turned 1, and I'm left hyperventilating. I know it only gets worse from here. I look back on her 6-12 month old stage and think that it was the easiest, smoothest, most rewarding time ever. But I guess it had to be that way--the foundation needed to be set securely in order to support the rest of our crazy lives. And it will be interesting, no doubt...but I think my breathing is going to be asthmatic for a long time to come.