You must learn to be still in the midst of activity and to be vibrantly alive in repose. Eric AllenbaughThere is a story about a man walking down the street who comes upon a hole and falls into it. He eventually climbs out and continues on his way. The next day, he walks down the same street, sees the hole and alas, falls into it again. The following day, he walks down the same street, sees the hole, stops, and in the process of avoiding it, falls in again. The fourth day, he walks down the same street and takes a wide berth of the hole and misses it. On the fifth day, he walks down a different street.
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' leaped into the forefront of my mind the other night when Liseanne, my youngest daughter, and I went to a reading that her sister, Alexis, was participating in. After the reading, I was goofing around, pretending to mimic Alexis' character in the play by speaking in a funny accent. As we walked down the stairs from the rehearsal hall, I chattered away. Alexis, conscious of the people on the stairs below us, hushed me up. "Mum. That's rude." she said.
My 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. Not a particularly constructive nor productive behaviour.
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. Alexis worked hard on her role in the reading. This was a big opportunity for her. 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 Alexis' 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?"
It's time to quit throwing stones into the calm waters of life and start sitting quietly in the stream of life flowing in and around, over and under me. It's time to be 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'.
The question is: Are you conscious of the habits that create your ripple on the surface of your life? Are you digging deeper into the flow to find the patterns that create the ruffled surfaces in your journey?