As the turkey was cooking in the upstairs kitchen, a game developed between the children and one of the adults present at thanksgiving. The kids would sneak up, quiet as mice, surprise the adult, and be playfully chased away- accompanied by mutual joyful outbursts and giggles.
Unfortunately this game sometimes took place in the upstairs of the home, as all parties came to visit the turkey and those tending it. I say unfortunately because rules have been laid down stating that the upstairs of this home is not for running, yelling, toys, or anything else that could disturb adult piece of mind or television.
And so, after one particularly joyful outburst, one adult snapped. He rose quickly from his chair yelling, “How many times do I have to tell you?! There is no running in this house!!!” and continued on in similar abusive and shaming form.
The children froze as other adults gathered and I walked over. The children and other adults relocated to the downstairs, and the offended adult returned to his place in front of the tv, drink in hand.
I took a few deep breaths and squatted next to his chair, “Please don’t speak to my children that way,” I requested calmly.
“Well then you enforce it! You know the rules! I shouldn’t have to repeat myself over and over!” he yelled at me, red faced.
I took a breath. “I find that I often have to repeat myself with human beings, of all ages, and even when I have to, many times, it is not okay to speak to someone that way.”
“Well you have to learn how to fu**ing control your children!”
To this, I had no immediate response, for a number of reasons. First, I have a long history of being spoken to this way, and despite more than 10 years of dedicated practice healing and calming my nervous system-to great effect- I do not function at full capacity when I am being attacked.
Second, I realized that there was no use responding, because nothing I could have said would have been received. The only accepted response would have been to cower and acquiesce.
Third, because I realized, in that moment, that I wholeheartedly disagree.
I am not here to control my children.
I am not here to control anyone but myself.
The idea that we can and should control one another, without consent, and often with force, shame, judgment, and abuse, is poison. The most that we can hope for is influence over another. That is, unless we are willing to back up our words and desires with violence and abuse.
I am here to nurture and grow myself. I am here to learn and practice tending my own garden so well and consistently that the only reactions and responses offered from me, sprout from my highest self; from the living union of my full humanity and full divinity. In this way, my children will learn how to care for and control themselves. They notice everything about me.
I am here to learn and practice loving unconditionally; to offer love, in all circumstances, knowing that everyone is always doing the best that they know how to.
And I am here to realize that sometimes love means taking space. Sometimes love means creating and holding boundaries with calm, kind, consistency.
It means that as the angry adult rises and hovers over me, I take a breath, and step away.
I let go.
I take the space to cry and write, to notice and release the years, maybe eaons, worth of pain that have accumulated in my tissues and spaces. I let my being weep.
It means that I give thanks.
I give thanks for my many reactions and responses, over the years, that have delivered me alive to this present moment.
I give thanks for the wisdom and teaching of everything and everyone around me.
I give thanks for growth, for a calm nervous system, and a healthy, whole being.
I give thanks for warm hugs, for tears, and for safe places in which to release them.
I give thanks for storytelling.
I give thanks for this body, which has held so much.
I give thanks for the blessing of a love, far greater than myself.
I give thanks for the opportunity to let go.