Thursday, 4 October 2012

Post holiday lessons keep coming

Buddha in garden

Those of you who are Jewish know that we just completed the High Holidays.  Those who aren't Jewish might not know, or at least, might not know that this season of the year is about self-reflection, inner review and a determination to do things better in the coming year.

I had a particularly meaningful Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) this year, so it shouldn't surprise me that the lessons that go along with it just keep coming.

Today's piece showed up in my e-mail inbox, in a post from a site called Tiny Buddha.  Here's a little bit of what it said...

Finances, relationships, responsibilities, and life in general can certainly create a great deal of noise in our heads. However, if we truly want to feel inner peace, we must take the time to learn to be mindful instead of mind full. This, and only this, will allow us to respond to life instead of reacting to it.
I have tons of happy memories from my childhood and a few harsh ones too. Unfortunately, the harsh memories are those that we replay over and over again, until we heal them. A difficult memory that stuck with me for a very long time was my mother’s pattern of despair.
She would appear agitated or frustrated about something and soon after she would yell, “One of these days, you’ll come home and you’re not going to find me!” (There’s still a part of me that shudders a bit when I hear those words.)
As a child, this was a clear sign that my mom was angry about something and if I didn’t hurry up and make it better, she just might leave. (Read more....)
I immediately stopped there. In my head, I heard my own mother's voice making similar threats whenever I upset her or any number of other things upset her. But my mom's threat wasn't exactly the was to die. She spent her life facing a huge number of illnesses, some of her own making and some not, but she used those sicknesses as a weapon to express her anger.

My mom passed away in 2011, in large part because she refused any treatment that would have kept her alive and functional. She had finally made good on her threat to die.

Like the author of the post, I too had to reach the understanding that her anger and her threats weren't really about me. She had had a rough childhood, filled with loss and probably neglect. She had some very real health challenges. But this brilliant woman (and I do mean seriously brilliant) didn't have the ability/interest/skills/desire to channel her anger appropriately. She lashed out at her children, her husband, her neighbors as a reaction to any kind of frustration or fear or upset. She alienated almost everyone who should have mattered to her in the process, and she died without her children or friends or any family except my dad around (her choice.)

I have lived my entire adult life in terror of becoming my mother. I asked friends, family, even a therapist if I was like her. They assured me I was not. I sought out other role models for being a mom (mostly from my LDS friends who, thank goodness, were more than willing and able to model healthy family life for me.)

I embraced  the influence of spirituality and family heritage that she had rejected, and have used it to help me find deeper meaning in life. I have tried to find peace with her since her passing, focusing on the few good memories, and offering my hopes that she is now at peace herself, free from the demons that fueled her anger.

But...since moving to Texas last year, I have seen some aspects of that reacting in myself. I am unhappy here.  I am lonely and lately, not feeling well, as I deal with what seems to be an intense allergy to the place  (I can't remember the last day I didn't wake up stuffy and coughing.) And I am homesick for Florida.

Unfortunately, that unhappiness has spilled over into some angry reactions. I thought a lot about this during Yom Kippur. But it was Vicki Savini's article that crystallized exactly what was  happening, and reminded me what to do about it. And why it matters so much that I do work on it.

I will never be perfect.  No one will, and even the greatest saints sometimes mess up and get angry when they should step away and breathe. But I want to do better at responding instead of reacting. I want to incorporate that stepping away and breathing and finding the source of my feelings instead of just reacting.

I have no idea whether the message in my inbox arrived at just the right time to help me with what I was already feeling, or if the feeling made me more aware of the message.  And it doesn't really matter. I am just grateful for the synchronicity.


Image via

Do you have stories of synchronicity to share?  I would love to hear them! 

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