It hit me like a freight train carrying the nasty cargo of my own hypocrisy. Yuck.
I was telling Zaida, my 9 year old daughter, that it’s okay for her to feel upset, frustrated, angry, and not okay for her to take that emotion out onto other people in her words or behavior.
It’s good, solid parenting, right? Yes and…
The words and the concept are for sure useful and wise. The ‘problem’ was that I was saying it in an annoyed tone. Whilst telling her one thing, I was showing her something else. I was teaching her that what we do is take our emotion and put it onto someone else – I was doing that with non verbal (which is way more powerful) communication through my tone and overall energy.
What instantly zapped the life out of the yuck, was that I saw it, said it and made a new commitment. AND I asked for help.
A moment after I said it:
“Zaida, that was not cool. I just did exactly what I told you not to do.”
“What do you mean?” Her downturned head lifted up toward me.
“I just said that in an angry voice.”
“Yeah, it didn’t feel good.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I know I hurt you and I don’t ever want to do that.”
A moment before that downturned head was moving away from me. Now she turned toward me.
“Do you want to go for a bike ride?”
I reached for her helmet.
“Z, from now on, I’ll tell you if I’m frustrated rather than direct it toward you.”
“Thanks.” She looked up, sideways and smiled. “Or you could just stop being frustrated.”
“Sometimes I don’t realize I’m doing it. Will you help me by telling me,” now I smiled coyly, “gently and lovingly tell me.”
She agreed. A few days later, the old pattern did what they tend to do and rose up so I could choose who I really am.
“I’ve been sitting here waiting for you to start the movie.”
She joined me on the daybed. “Papa, you just did it – spoke with an angry voice.”
If how she said it wasn’t exactly loving, it was gentle, and it was extraordinary that right after I’d hurt her with my energy, emotion and voice tone, she offered me the gift of her care, and an invitation to awaken.
“Yikes. You’re totally right.” In hearing her feedback I dropped 80% of the frustration.
She was sitting on the opposite side of the day bed, half a meter of space between us.
I looked at her. “What were you doing there on the floor anyway.”
“You didn’t seem very happy, so I just went down there.”
Instant tears (mine). Huge leverage. Whatever remained of my frustration evaporated, and I transformed. It was so powerful to experience that my little moment of grumpiness had the visceral effect of pushing my own heart (Zaida) away from me. People tend to change when the pain of staying the same becomes intolerable – that one felt like a turning knife in my belly.
I told her so.
“Hey, thank you for that. Would you come over here and give me a hug? I was having a hard time and you helped me. A hug will help even more.”
She did so. And we watched the rest of the movie cuddled close, her head upon my chest.
The protagonist in the movie we were watching was the classic reluctant hero. He was afraid, didn’t feel worthy. Yet allies, guides, people who knew better repeatedly told him that he is ‘the light of hope for the world.’
Perhaps the light of hope for our world is the twin powers of love and honesty. When we value love enough to be honest, especially to ourselves, and especially when vulnerability is required, we light a candle. Let’s brightening this earth party every day. Pretty soon it’s going to be a constant, disco-ball-sparkling extravaganza.