Why is it, that no matter how long and hard we work on ourselves, or how far we think we’ve come, the second we spend some extended time around family, we seem to regress light years? I do my best to stick to all of my practices when I am spending time with family. I meditate daily, I eat well, I write in my gratitude journal and I exercise. In spite of all this, somehow my inner 4 year old always seems to make an appearance and she manages to beat out my mature, self- actualized adult every time.
I just returned from spending time with my mom who has sadly been diagnosed with cancer. Unfortunately she lives 800 miles away so seeing her regularly is challenging. My intention was to help her with some nutritional stuff such as supplements and healthy eating, to cook for her, to spend time, give her love and just be with her. I managed all the parts that involved “doing”, however the parts that involved “being” fell under the rug. As soon as I arrived, my inner control freak reared her controlling head. I felt the need to tell my mom what to eat, how to eat, when to eat, what type of therapies she should or shouldn’t do and the list goes on and on. If she didn’t comply or disagreed with me, I took it personally and behaved like a child. I was aware that I wasn’t embodying my highest self, however, I was unable to change it at the time.
Being an over functioner when things get tough is part of my nature, my inner perfectionist coming out and trying to control everything for everyone. I know that as a child I formed this behavior to feel like I had some control over situations that were completely out of my control. Instead of just letting go and being, living and letting people live, I want everything to be done my way. I’ve been able to let go of this in most areas of my life, or at the very least recognize it early when it happens and take the necessary steps to get back on track. Usually taking some time to meditate on the situation or participating in other centering practices helps me let go of control and go with the flow. When it comes to family though, it’s a whole other ball game. Somehow when those childhood triggers come up in the presence of family, it’s much harder to gain perspective.
When I left my mom’s, I was very sad. I cried most of the flight home. I was sorry for not being there for her or giving her what she really needed from me. I felt badly that once again I repeated old patterns. I asked myself why, even in the face of my mother’s serious illness, would I still behave this way. I wondered if it will ever change and how much more work I have to do to improve in this area.
In the past I would have gone on a downward spiral of shame and self-loathing. This time, however, I did not beat myself up. Even while it was happening, I constantly reminded myself that I am a work in progress, that I will not always feel this way; that I am doing the best I can in a difficult situation. I also realized that even though it feels like I took one big step backwards, I had taken several big steps forward before the trip so I’m still ahead of where I started. I called my mom as soon as I got home and apologized for my behavior and our time spent together not being what we had both hoped it would have been.
I recently did an exercise where I identified some things that are crucial for me to function my best. That list included sleep, meditation, gratitude, connection with others and dance. When I am home, I dance almost daily. At my mom’s I didn’t dance once. I knew that as soon as I got home, I absolutely needed to dance. I put my headphones on, went into my backyard and danced for a good hour. I danced fast, I danced slow, I laughed, I cried and I regained some much needed perspective. Even though my visit was far from perfect, it could have been worse and in the past, it might have been. I acknowledged the improvements I did make. First and foremost, I did not beat up on myself, secondly, I called my mom as soon as I got home, acknowledged my mistakes and apologized. Then I forgave myself for not being perfect, for being a work in progress that is learning and growing in every moment.
Times are tough for my family right now. Things are very stressful with my mom’s illness. Being gentle on myself is the best thing I can do at the moment. Loving and accepting myself unconditionally, regardless of what I did or didn’t do, will set me up to do better in the future, to catch the downward spiral sooner and maybe next time, I will be able to pull myself up and be present with, and accepting of what is versus what I want it to be.
I know that my next visit with my mom might not be perfect, however I will do better, and even if it is just a tiny little bit better, improvements are improvements and that’s all that maters. As long as I can stay on a positive path, pick myself up when I fall, dust myself off, forgive myself and ask forgiveness of others when required, then I am doing my best and that is all I can do. And maybe next time, my mom and I will dance together.
If you find yourself in less than ideal family situations this holiday season, remember to be gently on yourself and do your best. Go for small improvements, acknowledge them and forgive yourself for any perceived set-backs.
I’d love to hear any insights or family stories you would like to share. If you feel so inclined, please leave a comment below.
© Copyright 2014 Vanessa Naja/Holistic Moving