Let me ground this idea in today’s news. This morning I needed to be granted many chances. The waking hours are not my best parenting hours. I woke early, long before the kids needed to get up. I read all my favorite poetry websites, checked my e-email, showered, and coffeed my body. (Shouldn’t coffee be a verb?)
I call this work preparation, but still I was only gentle with the young ones for the first eight minutes of their day. The elder girl, oh, she was tired and not wanting to get out of bed. My mind raced, as usual. Was something wrong at school? Was this the beginning of her downward spiral into misery and despair? Or was she just tired?
And then there was the other side of the coin: why am I responsible for her waking? Was I responsible for her waking? How could I help her see that getting out of bed is a worthwhile endeavor? (Is it a worthwhile endeavor?)
Holy hell, my brain is heavy with unnecessary thought in the am that gets in the way of helping both of my daughters greet the morning and get out the door to school. This, this is why I love mantras. I’d love to say I immediately started saying my favorite phrase inside my head to make my brain stop twirling and invite more calmness into my body, and in turn, to my interactions with my family.
Oh, no, I didn’t jump on my “I am still” bandwagon. But that’s OK. We start over a lot at our house. I think I asked my elder child if we could start over four times between 7:15 and 8:10. By the time she exited the car, we had managed to find some laughter (with me frowning REALLY BIG as I explained that this is an inherited trait in our family).
But still and yet, after both girls had vacated our automobile, I wanted everything to be easier. I wished I had said “I am still, I am still, I am still” again and again to help myself be calmer as soon as I saw that my KK was tired.
I did what I do best, and thought some more. The truth is, I don’t just use this one mantra. Collecting mantras is my hobby. So far, I also love I am love, I am kind, and I am awesome. A few hours ago I grabbed onto a new phrase. Yesterday I read a Martha Beck article that talked about the idea of life being hard versus the idea of life being easy. She describes many ways things are easier in today’s world than in the past, thanks to Google, Amazon Fresh, etc. She suggested replacing the word hard with easy. It’s not that life is easy, but if we can imagine finding solutions to our problems as an easier endeavor, well, that makes one feel less like Sisyphus rolling the rock up that endless hill.
For example, my younger daughter has taking sleeping with her mom to new levels. I know it won’t last forever, but I also know I have to help end this phase of her not being able to fall asleep on her own and her waking me every single night. This is so hard. But even before I read this article, I had been pondering new ways to think about this issue. I told a few friends about our nights, and they threw out ideas. I already helped rearrange her room so she feels safer. I also know I helped her figure out how to sleep on her own many, many times over these last five years. I asked Annie what would help her: is there something she wants as a reward for sleeping through the night? Um, a raspberry bar at Starbucks. Um, I can do that. I was already finding solutions, and lessening the idea of it being an unsolvable problem (which it had begun to feel like, since she has slept through the night ONCE on her own since July 16th).
Or take this grumpy morning issue that pops up at least once a week. When I or one of the kids is beyond crabby in the am, I think: oy vey, I have to wake these kids up for the next 10 years? Um, how can I make today, this moment easy? By saying to myself, “I am easy.” Maybe the morning is harder than I would like it to be, but I can be easier on me (it’s not a failing to have a crabby child, or to have suffered from depression as a teen myself and worry my kids will slide into the same problem), and in turn I can be easier on them.
If I remember grab onto one of my mantras during distressing moments, I have a new one in my toolbox: I am easy. I think about the woman who taught me about mantras. Astrid told me there is a space before we react to any situation. The trick is finding that space before we react, so we can breathe more deeply and react from a calmer place, a place of strength, love, and understanding. Or just an emptier place than my busy brain. If I say I am easy, how will the morning dynamics change in our household? I try not to expect greatness. But I also know I often think mornings are so hard. Just playing with the idea that mornings are easy, well, it’s a small, welcome revolution for my whirring brain.