You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose. Eric Allenbaugh
When I was a little girl I was filled with wild enthusiasms, sparks of imagination and bursts of creativity. I was seldom quiet, was in constant motion and asked questions continuously.
A favourite game was to time me to see how long I could stay quiet without asking a question. I usually lost.
In an effort to gain peace from my constant chatter, my family chided me for being so noisy, so bubbly, so chatty. Dinner table talk centered around my father’s opinions and my brother’s counterpoints. There wasn’t much room for a girl to butt in, though I tried. Inevitably, I’d end up swallowing my tears, forcing a smile upon my face and pretending I wasn’t bothered by their ribbing.
Smiling, swallowing and staying silent became a habit. A not particularly healthy one, but one that kept me feeling ‘safe’, even when stepping into danger.
Breaking childhood habits, reordering traits, and rearranging responses is a prerequisite of a happy adulthood.
It’s also, at times, hard work.
You can take the childishness out of the adult but you can’t make the childhood disappear.
My pattern of dysfunction around ‘criticism’ can easily be triggered by my daughters’ responses to what I think of as me being ‘funny’ and then my automatic judgements of what I deem to be their judgements of my behaviour. One incident several years ago was the catalyst for my getting conscious of how my behaviour wasn’t working for me. I had gone to a reading of a play involving my eldest daughter. After the reading, I was goofing around, pretending to mimic my eldest daughter’s character in the play by speaking in a funny accent. As we walked down the stairs from the rehearsal hall, I chattered away in my accented voice, which, in retrospect, knowing my daughter’s serious nature and how passionate she is about any work she’s involved in, could have been deemed as mockery, versus the funny I was attempting to be. . My daughter, conscious of the people on the stairs below us, hushed me up. “Mum. That’s rude.” she said.
My visceral response was triggered by a long ago pattern of feeling less than, of feeling hushed as a child.
I shut up. I sulked.
Not a pretty pattern.
Awareness is the first step in changing any habit, in breaking patterns.
I am aware that my response to any criticism from my daughters triggers my feelings of childhood angst, of feeling belittled and mocked. Of being silenced when all I wanted to do was laugh or play or talk.
Has nothing to do with the circumstances I’m encountering today and everything to do with the trigger points within me.
Martial arts master Sang H. Kim suggest we, “Practice change. Change your hairstyle, change your breakfast cereal, change your jogging route.”
Changing how I perceive criticism begins with practicing accepting criticism in an open state. To be open I must Breathe and ask to be open. To expand, not contract.
Coming down those stairs I let down a wall that was holding me back from being all I desire to be. In my push to ‘be funny’ I was doing the very thing I had experienced as a child — ridiculing the efforts of the people I love.My daughter worked hard on her role in the reading. In my teasing, I was mocking what she did. And, I was embarrassing her by offending strangers with my imitation of the language of the play that happened to be part of their cultural heritage.
I don’t have that right.
On the surface, the pattern here is not my response to her criticism. It is my effort to ‘be funny’ and feeling like I was not allowed to ‘be me’. Beneath the superficiality of ‘being me’ is a deeper, darker need. My desire to be seen, heard, witnessed, honoured and cherished.
As a child, I acted out to gain attention.
As an adult, I sometimes do the same.
Time to break the pattern. Shift it up and switch it around. Time to act in ways that honour who I am and what I want to create in the world around me. As my friend CS often asks, “What’s the ripple you’re creating with that?”
I want to create ripples of calm and peace, love and harmony. To ‘be the change I want to create in the world,’ I must become the stream, let go of damming up the flow and become vibrantly alive in the repose of being me, exactly the way I am, without fearing no one ‘sees me’.
It’s time to sink beneath the habits that create the ripples on the surface of my life and dig into the flow of what creates the more of all I want to live lovingly in the rapture of now.