Driving to a family holiday dinner, I think my extended family should all get along. People should be interesting. I should feel welcome, just as I am. All of us should respect each other. But in my experience, not all of these things happen.
During the holiday week, I have much more time with my family than usual. I feel that we should have fun together. My kids should listen to me respectfully. Everyone should understand what needs to be done and pitch in. Again, not all of these things happen.
During holidays, I have unexplored expectations for myself, too. I should be happy. My house should be really clean and organized. I should be able to do it all without getting stressed or cranky. I should be less self-critical. Again, not all of these things happen.
There's often a gap between my unconscious expectations and my actual experience. And that is uncomfortable.
The antidote, I know, begins with recognizing my expectations. Once I recognize unconscious beliefs, they shift a bit. Watching my kids argue, I may get frustrated because the story in my mind says that we should all get along. Once I recognize the gap between my belief and my experience, I can soften, caring for my feelings with some inner tenderness and mindful breathing, I also get a bit skeptical, wondering to myself if my belief is true. Maybe it's normal they argue some? Maybe my messy house doesn't mean I'm bad. Maybe I can love the people around the Thanksgiving table with me, even if I don't agree with them.
There is so much that can divide us. I'm not sure if there's a single person I am in universal agreement or disagreement with politically. It's easy to find common ground with some people and challenging with others, but it is possible for me to find some commonality with every person.
Parenting can highlight what divides us, because when we hang out with different families, we bump up against other people's parenting. It's hard to watch people handling their kids differently than we would, isn't it? It's also hard to feel judged or scrutinized for our kids' behavior or our own parenting.
Maybe we can bring the curious, open aspect of mindfulness into our relationships this holiday season. What if we look at each other's relationships with an interested and accepting eye? Watch for the good moments between parent and child? Trust our family to handle the experience of potty talk, a particular religious lens, or uncomfortable political views that can come up when we're with a 'different' family or part of our extended family?
Could we approach our playground visits, school parking lot conversations, and Facebook experience with this willingness to accept and be curious this season?
This is my intention, to be intentionally curious about 'others.' To find the connection, even it's a subtle one, between myself and each of the 'others' in my world. While willing to speak up for my true values (stopping physical, emotional, and verbal assaults, for example), I want to promote tolerance personally, by discovering and letting go of my own sense of separation whenever I can.
Some of our kids are scared, scared that Donald Trump is going to do bad things. Let's face it, lots of us are scared about that, too! And things are happening, kids and adults are saying and doing racist and bigoted things. This isn't new, although it may be increasing.
How will we respond? How will each of us rise up and respond to hateful, judgmental, intolerant speech? And what will our words and actions teach our children?
I am trying to begin by taking care of my own feelings, because if I don't take care of them they will take me over. I am feeling them, sitting with them, holding them, and allowing them to transform.
I am trying to speak up where ever and whenever I see judgmental speech. I hope we each do this, allowing ourselves to be governed not by hate and fear, but by love.
I want to think before saying something hateful to a person because of their vote (or non-vote). And I want to speak up for those who are being judged or attacked, no matter whether they voted for Hillary, Trump, Bernie, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or someone else.
I want to stand with people who are being mistreated, literally standing with and protecting them. I hope we can all do this, helping those vulnerable people in our lives and world to know that we are there for them, emotionally, and physically. We can't count on this support to come from somebody else.
I want to find connections to people who have very different beliefs than mine, talking and listening rather than living in my own separate world. I would love for all of us to do this.
I want to really know that the answers aren't outside of me, that there's no political leader or election that will save me/us. I want my own leadership to rise up from my own soul. I want to express it in each choices that I make when faced with difference or 'otherness.' And I would love for you to join me.
I want to spend time with people who inspire me on this path, not by giving me easy answers about who to blame or hold responsible, but by helping me to go deep. Suchitra Davenport, Glennon Doyle Melton and Charles Eisenstein are some of my guiding lights. Who can you count on to inspire and support you?
I want to offer direct support to those who need it, through my classes and blog and other work, and also through my willingness to show up, speak truth, and listen.
I want us all to let our kids see us do this work. I hope we will talk with them about standing with the people who need us, about being brave, about love. I hope we will be here for our kids, accepting their fears and helping them to transform the fears into love rather into blame and hate. Because they don't just listen to what we say, they learn from who we are and how we live.
Post-election, parents are wondering what the Election of Donald Trump will mean to our kids. Kids learn much more from how we are than what we say. Let's look at ourselves.
Are you taking care of your feelings?
I want to be clear, taking care of feelings does not mean fighting, hiding, or ignoring them. It doesn't mean drinking wine or eating chocolate to get through them (I know, this is a hard truth!!). And it doesn't mean acting them out, posting rants on facebook, calling anybody names, blaming people we disagree with, lecturing, boasting, or being self-righteous. Taking care of our feelings does mean slowing down to FEEL them. To allow them. To be with our vulnerable selves. For lots of us, this includes talking with a helpful friend, a counselor, a support group, or another trusted helper, because we can't always do it alone (and we don't need to!).
When we do this, we set an important example for our children. We show them that it is okay to have even big feelings. I am struck by the parallel between our experience of this election and our teens' experience of getting into college. 'This is not the end of the world,' we tell them when they don't get into their first choice college, 'it's going to be okay.' Let's set an example of how to handle deep upsets by showing up for ourselves (and each other) in a loving way.
Are you staying in the present?
Someone told me at about 7 am on November 9, 'I can't believe Donald Trump is president.' He isn't! We are still in November, and most of us don't even know what we're having for dinner, let alone what will be happening in January. Let's take things one step at a time. This is the time for feeling, not projecting ourselves into the future and the past, both of which are out of our control. Let's stay in this moment.
Staying present helps our kids know that it is possible to stay in a hard moment. If they get into a fight with a friend and imagine how they will have to sit alone for lunch and recess for the rest of the year because they won't have any friends, we can gently bring them back to this moment. 'Right now, it feels hard. Things may change, but let's stay with what we know is true.'
Is your speech loving?
Can we talk about a person's choices, actions, and words without characterizing that person in judging, unkind, or insulting ways? Because the way we speak about a person teaches our children much more about us than about the person! So let's be mindful of our speech. Let's not dehumanize a person, no matter what they say or do, instead let's speak directly about their choices.
This is important because our reactive and alarming speech is really scaring our kids. When a child hears a parent say, 'He is evil,' they are going to be scared about what this means for our country. When a child hears a parent say, 'He speaks about Muslim people in a way that is just not okay. What I know is that our country is not only for one religion, it is founded on tolerance for all religions and no religion,' they understand more clearly.
There's a lot going on in the world right now! Take a moment to stop, watch, and let your thoughts and feelings settle.
Have you read How to Listen So Kids Will Talk and Talk So Kids Will Listen by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish? If not, check it out!!
There are two ways I can handle this moment.
I can surrender to fear, letting it take me over, feed on my energy, and act through me. This might have me watching the election polls obsessively, somehow convincing myself that it matters whether I know the numbers. It might have me speaking harshly about people, dwelling on the future or the past, or listening judgmentally.
Or I can surrender to love, letting it act through me. This could look like:
What's the most loving choice right that we can make right now?
My life and work are guided by the these core understandings: that all beings (including me!) are capable of transformation and joy, that healthy parenting matters profoundly, and that simple practices can support each of us.