Tonight it was my turn to pick our dialoging question and I chose one to address something that has been weighing heavy on my mind. It was a difficult statement which forced nothing less than that kind of down-on-your-knees honesty and a period of tough introspection on my part. The statement was:
Please forgive me for ______________.
As part of a married couple, I think that way too often we just expect to be forgiven for our misdeeds because, well, isn’t that what you are expected to do for someone you love? Too often we ask for forgiveness without stepping into our love’s shoes and trying to image the pain we may have intentionally or inadvertently caused them. Too often we expect to be forgiven when we have not taken the necessary steps to repair the damage we have inflicted. Yet, when we really stop to consider what we have done and ask for true forgiveness we find it harder than we ever could have imagined. Why? Because we have to really look inside of ourselves, examine our motivations and sit with the various hurts that we have caused others by our actions. It is tough slogging-through-the-mud kind of stuff.In addition we often fail to:
- Consider how our actions were responsible for the feelings invoked in both parties
- Think about why we did what we did and then take responsibility for it
- Examine how our past has influenced our present day behavior and in order to do better in the future we have to unpack the past.
- Recognize our actions as continuing pattern of behavior and then evaluate if it is serving us and our loved ones well
- Notice how our actions may have led to a reaction from our spouse that is justified under the circumstances; but then turn around and use their reaction to justify our own less-than-stellar behavior
I have to confess that I often find asking for forgiveness to be difficult but not for the reasons you might think. I find it difficult because by asking I am risking that the other person may say “No I don’t forgive you.” Or I might have to change. In addition, by asking for forgiveness it forces me to examine those parts of me that I do not enjoy recognizing in myself which then forces me to abandon the luxury of blaming my spouse and instead I have to look inward…which is not always an easy place to go.
Asking for forgiveness is scary. Asking for forgiveness is humbling.Forgiveness takes practice. It is an art. Yet, asking for forgiveness by our mates is also necessary so that we can forgive ourselves and move on. For it is only in moving on that we can become all we were meant to be.
Please forgive me for_________. It is the only way to start.
She didn’t like the art museum. Okay, I kind of “get” that seeing pictures of old men with shrunken penises and heads being lopped off may not be your cup of tea but what about the woolly sheep standing in a brilliant green field or the pretty cuddly kitten chasing after a butterfly. Surely out of the thousands of paintings on display you could find ONE you liked. Just ONE. NOPE.
She didn’t like our dinner. She ordered pizza…what’s not to like? It’s a dish she requests time and time again but today it was as if the waiter brought her a plate of liver and onions.
She didn’t eat much of the blueberry pancakes she ordered. What the heck…we have blueberry pancakes all the time! But with hotel prices at $12 a plate for blueberries and batter she couldn’t stand them. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!
She didn’t like the Field Museum…one of the greatest museums in the world. You mean to tell me Ancient China isn’t amazing? NO. Or the gemstones the size of small hills? NO. How about SUE the most complete T-Rex in the world? NO. Really? You didn’t like her either? BORING.
Maybe the Ancient Egyptians with their mummies…thank you… NO!
Or maybe the animals mounted and stuffed in all their glory? GROSS. There was nothing in the entire building that caught her fancy.
Okay, BOLD MOVES by the Joffrey Ballet. This one I was a little worried about. I have really never loved ballet but figure I am giving her some “culture” and if nothing else ideas for her routine. Of course, she developed a nosebleed in the first part of the performance but I’d be damned if we were leaving. Here is a kleenex. Stuff it up your nose. And so we sat through the three performances and I wept like a crazy old cat lady during the final one. Never have I seen something so beautiful and moving in my entire life. Never could I relate so well. Today I learned to LOVE ballet…my tween daughter…not so much.
As a mom sometimes it feels like nothing you do is right.EVER. But then you finally catch on and realize it isn’t about you at all. It’s the hormones and your daughter is turning into a bitchy, selfish soon-to-be menstruating maniac and you remember back to a days when your mother could do nothing right. You didn’t like the dress she bought for you…it was too old fashioned just like her. You didn’t do the dishes and she did them for you because it was easier than dealing with the likes of you. You wouldn’t eat her pot roast and sulked like a two-year-old because there was only vanilla ice cream and not chocolate. You refused to SING ALONG WITH MITCH and instead turned up the volume on Led Zeppelin. And that is when it really hits you…horror of horrors… you realize that she has returned as you when you were a horrid cruel totally-into-yourself-snotty-14 year-old. Suddenly you have become your mom… old, boring and certainly not cool. Then, like the principle dancer who hastened her demise and threw herself upon a sword, you briefly consider doing the same, just so you can experience a quick and easy death rather than deal with a reincarnation of a teenage you in the house. That’s when you fall to your knees and wish for just one more hour with your mother so you could apologize, beg her forgiveness and tell her how great a mom she was and that you remember how hard she tried to create moments so special that you would remember them for the rest of your life but not appreciate them until your own daughter’s hormones went awry. And then you cry yet again because suddenly teenagehood is upon you and YOU aren’t ready to give up that sweet little girl that once hung on your every word, freely cuddled with you and loved you back without restraint. Yep, the teen years are upon us…God help us all!
As you know I am desperately trying to curb my yelling habit and for the most part I am succeeding. I had only yelled once in over eight weeks which in itself is amazing but this weekend I lost it.
It isn’t easy raising teenagers especially those with autism. Andre does everything he can to push my buttons. While incredibly smart he also uses that keen intelligence of his to manipulate those around him and it is draining. This weekend after repeatedly asking him to hang up his clothes he told me, “I don’t have hangers.” I responded by going to his closet and started throwing every hanger he had out saying repeatedly “Here’s a hanger, here’s a hanger” until I had thrown at least 30 into the middle of his room. Then I decided that he could go through all the shirts and get rid of those that no longer fit him and took all those shirts off their hangers and threw them in the middle of his room until his closet was bare. During this time he was intentionally saying “push your button” things that just fueled the fire; the embers rising swift and hot like my temper.
I hate when I lose it with my kids. It makes me feel so small. It makes me beat myself up about not being a parent that my children deserve and certainly not one whose behavior I want them to emulate to their own brood when they become adults. Losing it with my children feels like it diminishes my capacity to be a fully functional human being and that in losing it I also sacrifice part of my own humanity in the process; something I can ill afford. I hate it.
Mindfulness has helped change many of my reactions to situations but what do you do when mindfulness dissipates in the heat of the moment?
I am learning to apologize and pray that the others involved grant me grace. Then I sit in the moment of shame, observe it, then let it go. For they tell me that the only way we can feel diminished is through self-talk in which we berate ourselves for our numerous failures. Frankly, that kind of talk doesn’t get you very far in life and I’ve done enough of it to know. Dispassionate observation of what occurred and pausing to recognize what happened and then letting it go is my only option. Then I just forge ahead with the belief that I can and will try to do better.Truly it is the only thing I can do.