We can only be treated like the enemy for so long before we become one.
I thought this to myself as I dealt with my daughter this morning.
Jealous of the new baby, she’s decided that I’m no longer always her wonderful mother.
No, sometimes I’m the traitor, the one who (she thinks, of course) loves the baby more, the one who pushed her lovely self aside to bring someone else home, to share our lives.
But this story isn’t about her jealousy or how we’re handling it. Instead, what I want to tell about is how, in being treated off and on like the bad guy, I’m becoming one more easily.
It’s much harder to remain neutral and empathetic when treated poorly and, sadly, this realization led me to also think about how I’ve been treating my husband.
Tired and new-mother hormonal, I often lose my patience with him over minor things that have been a part of him and our life together for years. Things like leaving a pair of jeans folded in front of the heating vents, placing a seltzer can on the glossy top of the girls’ dresser—minor marital grievances—become focal points for my “tsk-ing” and grumpily tuttering about our house.
Now obviously he doesn’t deserve to bear the force of my own temper tantrums, just like I sometimes feel I don’t deserve my daughter’s, but this is life and, in it, we don’t always act ideally or even as we’d genuinely prefer to. That said, this thought—that being treated angrily and disrespectfully can encourage bad behavior in return—has got me thinking a lot about why I believe so strongly in both positive thinking and, equally and perhaps most importantly, how this all translates back to self-love.
Another person who has been treated badly is me—by me.
I’ve been extra hard on myself as I try to juggle loving three people very intimately and intensely (my husband and our two girls). I’ve been hard, too, on my after-baby body and my mental fragility in the wake of slight postpartum depression and fatigue. Yet, as I sat in meditation yesterday evening, I was struck square in the chest—literally, I felt this thought in my chest—that I am, contrary to my own popular opinion—perfectly alright.
And, no, I’m not close to perfect at the moment. Still, I’m okay. Just as I am.
This time of crankiness and bitterly felt emotions will pass—just like my girls’ childhood will be over too soon, so will their transitioning emotions and all of these experiences. This is both encouraging and horribly upsetting, but if I don’t settle in to where we are right now—amid the lack of sleep and the tenderly beating hearts—we’ll miss it all, including the good stuff floating around within our postpartum household as well.
Moreover, my body is strong. I am strong emotionally and physically and, as I sat in my meditation last night, I felt this contented ease reverberating throughout my body as thickly as the base that had been playing on the stereo for my yoga practice prior to my seated contemplation.
I felt in my quaking muscles and my tearful eyes that, yes, I’m having a hard time now, but it’s okay.
It’s okay to have difficulty in life—the only thing that’s not acceptable is to add to our own distress by fighting our feelings and pretending that we belong somewhere else.
Because I won’t always have a postpartum body. I won’t always have only 20 minutes of Pilates in the hallway on the carpet while the baby’s napping in her crib and her sister’s playing in the family room. Someday—someday much too soon—I’ll have plenty of daylight hours while the girls are both in school, and my tummy will bear no fading Linea nigra, declaring that I had just gloriously given birth to life.
So, for the time being, I’ll settle in to where I am.
I’ll settle in to occasionally red-rimmed eyes that shed a few tears of frustration. I’ll settle in to a little girl’s huge need to be loved completely.
I’ll settle in, too, to piles of half-dirty clothes in front of heating vents and yoga practices that happen haphazardly on carpet instead of a mat. And, as I do this, I’ll remember that I stayed present with myself and my life instead of running away. Because we cannot run away—wherever we go, we’ll always be there.
But I’ll be damned if I continue treating myself and my family like my enemies, when the only enemy present is my ignorance.
Photo: Author’s own; Flickr/Road meditation.