You know when someone asks you how you are, and you say ‘good’ or ‘fine’ because in that moment you are. In that moment, it is hard, and unhelpful to call to mind any recent ‘not OKness’and get stuck into it.
Even when we are going through a period of difficulty, it might seem best just to bang a tight lid on tricky feelings and hope they go away. Quite often, in time, this is exactly what happens. However, sometimes they stay there churning away, until they almost become part of the furniture, and we get used to them being there. Then, out of the blue, a moment comes where they start jostling for attention. At that moment, you might allow them to break out. You might acknowledge them. You might talk about them. This telling, in itself, can be a panacea. It can be an opportunity for change. It can be an open door.
Sometimes they bubble out of you, and you can release them. All it takes is seeing them, or rather, seeing them anew.
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by the wonderful Clesia Mendes for her supercool YouTube show ‘Womanhood From The Inside Out’. I could talk to this lady for hours, she is such a gem.
We chatted about a number of things, including my own story of not feeling a good enough mum, wanting to be perfect, worrying about my life, my kids, and my parenting. I talked about how I came to see myself, my life, my kids, my husband, and my parenting in a new light. That I saw how my family is a bizarre and beautiful, ever changing creation, with its own weather, its own weirdness, and that each of us is as good and as perfect as we ever need to be. I may have mentioned that that had an enormous impact on how I feel about life in general and myself, my kids, my husband, and my parenting in the specific.
Here is the interview:
I talked about a way of visualising the mind and how that changed my perception, so I would like to share an extract from a blog post I wrote about it. This is a story of coming to an understanding about toddler sleep habits!
One of the things that I get worked about is Miss just turned 1’s sleeping habits. The issue of baby sleep has become one of the most contentious topics on parenting websites, forums, and the topic of various research endeavours. Thanks to the mighty net, each of us has a plethora analyses and advice, not just the word of friends, relatives, and acquaintances, perhaps the odd baby book, but also forums and Facebook groups, ‘parenting experts’, and scientists. There are loads of books and ebooks to choose from too depending on your chosen approach.
Now, of course, being woken repeatedly throughout the night does tend to be tiring. On top of this though, is a list of niggles and anxieties: I am not intervening enough; not setting good enough routines; exacerbating her waking by co-sleeping; in danger of losing more sleep if I stop co- sleeping; night weaning might get me more sleep, but there are some benefits for Miss 1 if she carries on feeding at night; I don’t want to wean completely because I am enjoying the extended breastfeeding relationship and this is likely the last time I will be doing this; perhaps I should be prepared to do almost anything if it guarantees more sleep; perhaps I should have sleep trained after all; consulting literature reveals that there are pros and cons to sleep training, so either way I have probably done stuff wrong; perhaps I am doing the kids a disservice by being tired and grumpy too much of the time; maybe if I …..and on and on and on.
...Nicola Bird, Life Coach, and Wise Lady Entrepreneuress, helped me out with a simple insight…
It’s not the circumstances of my life that are overwhelming, it is the way I think about them which makes me feel overwhelmed.
At any given moment, I am constructing my perception of reality through my thoughts. Thoughts arrive unbidden in my mind on a constant basis and tell me stories about what is happening in my life. Such as why Miss 1 doesn’t sleep through the night, and the devastation it will cause because, clearly, she is never, ever, going to.
Nicola used an analogy involving TV newsreels to make me more aware of my thought patterns:
Imagine that your thoughts are a ticker-tape playing across a TV screen; one of those strips at the bottom of the TV, which keeps you abreast of incoming news items. The ticker-tape stories are played out in greater detail on the screen above.
As we move through our daily life, the ticker-tape flashes up responses to what is going on. For example, it reports on our behaviour and that of others. The story we connect to these behaviours appears in technicolour on the screen evoking emotional reactions.
The more that we pay attention to a particular story, the more vivid it gets. The story starts to feel more and more real. We start to make it real, even though it started out as pure imagination. The real fun happens when you start to try and pay attention to every story on the ticker-tape and begin to make them ALL real at once. This saps energy and leaves no room for what is actually going on in the present moment. We start to live in our heads. We smother our own personal resources. We start to feel less than well.
We can’t just switch the TV off. It is part of us.
On the other hand, we can just turn the TV round. Put it in a corner. Pay less attention to it. Take it less seriously.
I commented that I thought this idea would be useful.
‘It’s not just useful, it’s liberating’ said Nicola.
She was not wrong.
Miss 1 is so very far from sleeping through the night that the very idea of ever sleeping again seems laughable at times. Like I said above, I react to this in various ways. I have spent untold amounts of time thinking about strategies to help her sleep longer, and still more wondering what, if anything, I did wrong. I start worrying about the long term effects of poor sleeping on my mental and physical health. I get jealous and resentful towards hubster because he is not up as often as me. I get frustrated with her because, to be honest, I expected a bit more sleeping to be happening by now. I see this stretching into the distance for months and years to come with no end point in sight.
Well, none of these thoughts are helping in any way and this is actually interfering with my ability to deal with the present moment. The stories I am telling myself about the future simply haven’t happened yet, so they can go. The strategies I have read about, heard about, thought up, whirl around my head, but they don’t quite fit today, my baby, my current situation, me. Get rid of them all. It’s just clutter. The theories about how this came about. The expectations about little one reaching milestones. Out you go. Good riddance. Oh, and the beating myself up for getting cranky and impatient. I will lose that, because I am only human after all.
I really needed reminding that thoughts are just stories. Stories which tell me about what I fear and desire, not stories which predict what will happen in my own or my kids lives. Stories which have the power to shape my family’s lives, but only because of the effect I allow them to have on my own feelings. Paying untold attention to my thoughts sends me in circles, repeating the same stories to myself, when there are no answers here to resolve my feelings of overwhelm. In fact, these thoughts are creating that feeling of overwhelm.
Now, Miss just turned 1 is Miss 2 and a half, and she still wakes up, and still does not want to sleep alone. That is fine. I get my rest. I am OK. She is OK. We are all OK.
I hope you find this as useful and liberating as I did!
If you would like to talk about thoughts, life, perfectionism, or overwhelm, or anything else, come do so! Leave a comment or find me on Facebook.
I highly recommend that you check out Clesia’s show in general. That’s Womanhood From The Inside Out. There are a whole bunch of fascinating women to get to know and much to learn from their experiences.
Also, Clesia and I would LOVE it if you shared our video!
Lots of love,