Dust and the Heart of the Universe

I’ve discovered a new blog that is revolutionizing my world at the moment. Actually, I had heard of Momastery before and read a few posts, but I secretly found Glennon’s tone a bit sarcastic and negative and naively wondered how she could view her kids that way. Then mine turned into toddlers and preschoolers and now I completely understand! A recent post about screwing up with lots of cracking it and blaming and swearing could really have been a scene lifted from my house, and it made me feel comforted that another mother struggles with similar issues to me but is able to pick herself back up each time and ask for forgiveness from her family. 
Then I made the mistake of reading another vein of blog- one less confessional, more advice on how to be an awesome mum. There were posts about how the author had potty trained her three boys in three days before the age of 2, the importance of getting kids into bed before 7pm, making the most of each moment and being a mum who is stress-free. Think Mary Poppins as a stay at home mum. It sounded wonderful and amazing… and so unachievable. It sent me into fits of tears as I had just experienced a day where just getting to the end of it had been the main achievement!  
Sundays at the moment are tough- getting the kids dressed (and redressed- Hudson is loving the topless look at the moment), preparing food for the gathering, driving to the venue (often with one or more crying kids in the back), distracting a cord obsessed Hudson from ‘helping’ Dave with the set up, keeping a ‘jack-in-the-box’ Eli from standing on his seat during the service, jiggling the pram so Ivy doesn’t wail, making sure the food is set up for/packed up after lunch, trying to have meaningful conversations while keeping an eye on the runaway children, feeding Ivy at some point and driving an overtired set of children home again. By the time we get home and crash on the bed, Sunday may as well be over.
Not that the rest of the week is that bad- we muddle through, mostly, and I’m trying a lot of new strategies for managing my emotions. Instead of putting only tasks on my ‘to-do’ list, I’ve been entering things like ‘cuddle Hudson’, and ‘smile at Eli’ on there. I’ve also been practicing telling myself ‘it’s just mess’ and ‘focus on what you are doing’ rather than mentally snowballing all the tasks I can see staring me down. I have noticed when I try and smile at Eli and tell him what he is doing well, he responds so much better. Still practicing this one with Hudson’s meltdowns as he has entered a new phase of ‘any opposition to my ideas of what I want to do at this moment will be met with extreme emotional force’. Gives me so many opportunities to practice patience (or not!).
I’ve realised that keeping things clean can be my ‘drug’ at times. The activity I turn to to distract myself from internal reflection or to exercise control over some portion of my environment. When I survey the sparkling bench tops and ordered playroom, I can artificially feel like I have done something right and something to be proud of. When I mentioned that we had forgotten to do the ‘packing up game’ last night, Pat congratulated me and told me I was getting better! Ironic that for me ‘not cleaning’ at times can be more of a personal success than cleaning…

Over dinner tonight, Dave shared an anecdote from a Rob Bell podcast he had listened to about a Rabbinical tradition. In one pocket would be stored a piece of notepaper with the words “You are dust” and in the other “The universe was made for you”. The idea being that when you needed to be brought down from the lofty heights of pride or raised up from the depths of despair, you would delve into the pocket that held the appropriate perspective. In some ways it sounds a bit corny, but I have been trying it (without the notepaper) so far tonight and already it has really worked in stabilising my emotions and viewpoints.
Perspective can be such a trap at times. Striving to be ‘perfect’ to prove something to yourself or others, trying to look like you have it together only to be ‘betrayed’ by the crazy munchkins running around at Tribe. I said to Dave its a bit like my nail polish at the moment- from a distance it may look like I am polished and nailing it (ha – see what I did there?!) but when you come close you can see the varnish peeling and the cracks showing through.   On the flip side, congratulating yourself for artificially succeeding can be just as negative as you begin to invest your self worth into things that don’t matter. 
Trying to reach an equilibrium that doesn’t involve complete despair or false pride is difficult. The Rabbinical practice offers a concrete way of pulling yourself back from either extreme. I should probably invest in a pair of pockets.

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