Tuesday, December 29, 2009

# best 09 "Best lesson...."

It has been a remarkably rich year for me, lesson-wise, life-changing wise, and inner awareness-wise. So many things had the quality of deep revelation, epiphany, and enlightenment. It seems impossible to choose just one to place above all others, especially since so many are the type that will only deepen and strengthen, bestowing ever more meaning as time and life go on...

But there is one that is summed up well by most of the quotes I most love, one, by Shakespeare, I had thought I always understood, but that has now taken on an entirely new level of meaning, this year...

This above all; to thine own self be true.
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst be false to any man.

People have referred to me as "weird" my entire life. I've always thought more deeply about things, felt things more intensely, been more aware of my own instincts, than those around me seemed to be. It's often caught me by surprise, and so I learned young to temper myself, to keep quiet when I longed to speak, to not rock the boat with my unique viewpoint.

Essentially, I learned to stifle myself, to squash down my need to speak my mind and my heart, because I was afraid that to do so would be to be rejected, or punished.

But then along came unschooling, and the realization that squashing down all those dangerous thoughts wasn't helping anyone, least of all myself. Every time I agreed to something or kept my mouth shut by means of clenched fists or bitten tongue, I followed up, later, with a long, obsessive tirade. Jim would be roped into listening (although it usually had nothing at all to do with him).

This year, though, I started to realize the physical symptoms of those pent-up feelings. My neck, jaw, and shoulders would tense and tighten, I would get a headache, my breathing would get short, sharp, and shallow. I'd be irritable at home, while I plotted ways to force others to see reason.

Keeping my mouth shut was not helping me to feel peaceful or positive, and those things are vital to the practice of unschooling. Not only that, those obsessive binges would take a great deal of energy, leaving me drained and unable to fully attend to my children. And, eventually, I would blurt out what i'd been thinkning in clumsy, ill-considered words, backed up with all that emotion, finally breaking free...and always leaving me with the deep regret of not having lived my values.

It became clear that something needed to change; that the approach I was using was not only not working, but actually harming everyone in my home.

It took a lot more thinking, observing myself in difficult interactions, of slowing down and stepping back and breathing, before, a few weeks ago, in a series of flashes, I GOT IT.

I need to speak my truth....AND I need to let others have theirs.

I know how much treating our children as fully fledged, equal-rights members of our family has improved every aspect of that life, and I trust in the freedoms and choices my children have. I'm not guessing that this life is a good thing; I am living it, and, already, it is good beyond my wildest imaginings.

It works so well for us, though, because Jim and I accept that having children at all is a messy business, expensive, and a lot of hard work. Our priority isn't to make them share in that work, but to raise them with confidence, with generosity, and with kindness, because those things will inspire the same in them. We do willingly for them, and, in their own unique ways, they do willingly for us. Our priority is a rich, deep, joyful life, and children who behave appropriately because they choose to, who live a life that fulfills them, and that they do these things out of abundance, and not out of fear of punishment.

Others have other priorities, and other ways of attaining them.

I may not agree with their goals or their methods, but, ultimately, it's not my job to correct them. I wouldn't want anyone to attempt to "correct" my parenting, after all. I believe all children would benefit from mindful parenting, from parents taking the time to see the world again through the eyes of the child they were, in hopes of understanding the child they have. But there is no law requiring this, and I can directly affect only the lives of the children in my care.

Speaking my truth is good. There have been times, when I've done so, and it has give another parent something to think about, maybe even a way to interact more mindfully with their child. B8ut I can't control who will take what meaning from my words, either spoken or written. The best I can do is to speak my truth clearly and calmly, from a place of love rather than supremacy. I do not need, nor is it good for me, my family, or my relationships, to swallow down all my feelings and not speak out. Especially when my truth relates to children I love but who are not mine, I need to accept that speaking it may do nothing for the child, but it may allow me to feel I've given the child a voice, and maybe a chance for their circumstances to improve just a little.

I am still learning the balance point. At the moment, when someone responds defensively to my words, I am learning to step back and stop. The person who is defending is in a stuck place, and maybe has no intention of changing. And even if they are, my battering them nonstop is not likely to help.

When I feel that feeling of frustration, of needing to stop because the other person has had enough of my opinion, I'm learning to go as quickly as I can, and do something sweet for my children, or for Jim, or for myself. Whether I can change anyone's mind, I CAN direct love and generosity and sweetness to my own loved ones.

It's an act of love, and compassion, both for my family, and the other....hopefully, I will continue to get better at it....


Sylvia said...

Love this post! I'm really enjoying your blog.

Shan Jeniah Burton said...

Thank you, Sylvia. I am enjoying it, too. And I enjoy feedback, too! =)