No cake this week, though there has been another birthday, and a lot of other stuff. Much of it has not been what I’d choose, but there are silver linings – at least in most things. And whatever life gives to us, however much we might fight it or wish it different, life goes on and the sun comes up each day (even on the days we never see it.)
There have been moments this week that needed no search for silver linings, and were joyous just as they were. Last week was our older daughter’s birthday, and this week is was my mum’s turn. It was her first birthday without my dad, so one of my sisters who lives much nearer than I do (on a different one of the Shetland islands) persuaded her to visit for a few days. She wasn’t too sure at first, but a friend offered to drive her there, so she went and really enjoyed herself. I am thankful for that.
I’m thankful for my mother in general, and for how, like my dad did, she has grown so much as a person in her later years. My parents were married for over fifty-eight years so it can’t be easy to be for her without my dad, but she’s managing so well it is inspiring. Of course she misses him, but she’s so accepting of how her life is now and says so often that it was the better for him that the end came when it did, rather than him having a slow painful decline. My mum had her own encounter with cancer over 25 years ago when she was in her fifties, and she sees that as something that made her see things differently and appreciate life more. I think she’s right. I saw changes in her then, saw her opening out. I can’t honestly say I’m thankful she had cancer, but I am thankful that she took the opportunity to grow.
This week has been marked by tussles with a few people in our daughters’ school. It’s been tiresome, and tiring, and some of it isn’t over yet. Partly because of that, I’m not going into details, though I am also aware that whatever I see in someone else that I don’t like is a reflection of what I don’t like in myself. For me, that means that instead of venting, I’d rather allow my feelings and then look for what I have been avoiding in myself – and look for those silver linings. There are many.
- It’s pushed me into facing things I might otherwise have chosen to avoid both on the surface and at a deeper level. I’ve been handling the situation in ways I would not have felt able to a few years ago, and I’ve been letting go of the feelings and beliefs that previously would have stopped me in my tracks. So I feel stronger.
- It’s shown my daughters that their mother is willing and able to stand up for them when it is required.
- It’s shown them that (sometimes) solutions do come easily and that getting feedback is better than wondering and worrying or trying to block it out.
- In the situation where this hasn’t yet happened, it has led one of my daughters to take a look inside herself and see where she would like to be stronger. That led to us having an important
conversation, and (I think) to her feeling better about herself.
On the themes of mothers and daughters and of standing up for yourself, I had an conversation with my mum not long ago when she said she’d always found it difficult to stand up for herself or to express anger. I learned that too, and it was how I was for many years. Even now I don’t always find anger an easy emotion to deal with, and I guess I passed some of this on to my daughters. (Though they are pretty good at expressing anger towards me or their dad!) I am thankful that over the years I’ve stumbled upon a few books that helped me learn new ways. I wrote about these in Ten Brilliant Self-help Books.
In particular, I am thankful that when the girls were little I read Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child The Heart of Parenting by John Gottman and Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life by Byron Katie. Gottman’s book describes a process he calls emotion coaching, were you validate your child’s feelings and then guide them towards appropriate responses. So, for example you might say: “It’s okay to be angry when your sister steals your truck; it’s not okay to hit her. What could you do instead?” When the girls were tiny and things got heated, often I’d get the Heart of Parenting out to work out what to do!
Then I read Bryon Katie’s book, and a whole new way of looking at the world opened out for me – that it is not what happens to us that causes our suffering, but our thoughts about what happens. This was such a revelation to me, and the more I’ve learned to look at life’s events that way, the less I suffer. I am very thankful for that!
Many people try to think positively about life in an attempt to feel happier or to get a better life. For some people this can work, but for others (including me) it has a forced and fake feeling that makes us feel even worse – and quite frankly it’s exhausting! The process Byron Katie developed doesn’t require us to censor our negative thoughts. Instead we notice them, question them, notice the effect of believing them and how it would be without the thought. What this effectively does is transform them with love. I’ve rabbited on about this before, as well as about the Sedona Method, the other process I use so much that it no longer seems like a process but part of my life – but truly I am so thankful for the way these processes transformed me from someone who reacted to life to someone who can deal with the challenges we’ve had this week and feel calm and happy even though it’s not all resolved!
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