“Pick a mantra that feels right to you” the meditation app says.
And I don’t even know the name of the app I’m using (but of course now I just HAD to check. It’s Meditation Studio) but it isn’t important. What is is that I was trying to follow a six minute Releasing Self Doubt meditation because I’d kinda felt like I’d been missing the mark, parenthood-wise lately. And I wanted to move past self recrimination to actually being a better parent and maybe self doubt factored in there and what the hell, I had six minutes to solve all my problems, sure.
But… it wasn’t the right guided meditation, I guess. Or maybe requires more than six minutes? Because to “Pick a mantra that feels right to you” and then repeat it into the cathedral you imagine is the inside of your own chest (yup. You read that right.) didn’t work. And it was probably that the mantra was wrong. Or my wishes for this six minutes was wrong, but I didn’t get where I wanted to go. (Internal-chest-cathedral-that-you-repeat-your-mantra-in imagery, I promise, actually pretty successful.) But it was the mantra I think. You pick it yourself and there’s the rub- it’s your fault if you don’t do that part right. Some examples were “I am enough” or “I am strong”… I picked “I don’t blame the lettuce.” Again, dead serious here that I spent 6 minutes mind speaking a quote about lettuce into an echoing Sistine Chapel-esque space where my own ribs were the flying buttresses.
And here’s why that mantra didn’t work- it’s aspirational instead of something I feel I am. Because me? I kinda blame the lettuce, a lot, as it pertains to parenting. Catherine Newman wrote about it better here and a quote she references struck a nerve.
“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce.”
-Thich Nhat Hanh
So all this is to say, I seem to blame the lettuce way more than I would like around here as it pertains to raising these here chillins. These sweet little lettuces… I need to treat them more gently than I do sometimes.
The other day we’re carving pumpkins… and I start setting arbitrary limits on design or complexity… because I don’t want them to get frustrated? Or take eighteen hours? And somehow I think it’s their fault if they don’t just accept that dictated down to them? And one of the lettuces was okay with that. And one of the lettuces had a shiny film of tears… after such a joyously raucous pumpkin gutting and her repeated stating that she doesn’t know how many Halloweens as a “kid” she has left… And sure, I gave myself a time out about it, but not before I told her to stop having an attitude about it. And yeah, I went back and helped her with her more complex design I had unbent on. And yet I stomped all over the lettuce, and felt/feel awful about it.
And so, perhaps Releasing Self Doubt was not the meditation to do, I guess. And they didn’t have a self recrimination one. Or a “Hey, treat these little people more gently and stop being an asshole” one… or even a “hey you’re REALLY good at recognizing this stuff after the fact but if you could just start catching it on the front end and preventing your own shitty behavior that’d be great” …but woe is me. That is, I guess, a lesson that can’t be learned in an App. Or in six minutes.
And I fear- a deep down, scary fear, that I’ll never actually strike on how to learn it. That I’ll forever be over here, futilely trying to grasp it. Clawing at the door that leads to it, like whoever that poor skeleton was off to the side of the Path of the Dead at the end of the Lord of the Rings. That I’ll see what I need to change, but never accomplish it.
And sure, I learned a lesson here. But when, oh great echoing chest cathedral, will the lesson be learned?