Friday, February 20, 2009

Serenity Now

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
-Serenity Prayer

That is the serenity prayer from Alcoholics Anonymous. I have spent a fair amount of my time in self-help meetings. Beginning at an early age I went to them to deal with my father's many addictions. So I know it by heart, along with how to share without over-sharing and how to yell "Hello" to someone after they introduce themselves. I know these rituals the same way I know the Catholic Mass by heart and can sing my high school's "unofficial" school song. Practice makes perfect. Years and years of repetition will ingrain something in your head, heart and psyche. But there is one thing I didn't learn from all that time in "the rooms" reciting the serenity prayer - it was how to summon serenity as quickly as I summoned the words.

You would think it would be a kind of incantation like "Abracadabra!" Rabbit from hat - Serenity from me. Doesn't work that way. Know how I know? I've been praying silently and out loud for awhile now and I still can't manage to calm myself down with my children. All kinds of prayers: "Lord, help me." "Jesus wept." and my personal favorite - "Don't let me kill this kid!" Now before you call DYFS (and I think it bears saying that my Aunt is the director of Child Protective Services in Westchester - so I know the drill)my children can bring out the very best and the very worst in me. And I am practicing mindfulness and taking deep breathes and then my daughter will slam the door or talk back or roll her eyes one too many times and I see myself from outside myself. And the me standing there is blinking out. Literally she is gone - screaming, manically following the child from room to room and seeing all manner of physical retribution in her mind's eye. I know the neighbors can hear me. I am having an out of body experience. One that I am probably going to feel bad about when I regain consciousness. Why?!

Sometimes I really wish there was an audience to my parenting at all times, then I would behave better. It doesn't matter if I create an audience I know they aren't really there. So pretending doesn't work. There is something encoded in my DNA - probably in the collective maternal DNA - that has the scream gene. Some of us can fight nature and some of us can't. I fall on the latter end of the spectrum. And I feel badly about this. My mother was a screamer. And I often hear her and realize that I sound just like her. What's harder is that I hear my eight year old and she sounds just like me. I can fend off extreme guilt for only so long and then I have to do something about my behavior. Like stop yelling.

It is so hard. Yelling is cathartic. It gets the impurities out, sort of like an emotional facial. And since my vocal chord surgeries I don't really yell that loud. But yea, rationalization (see, I told you I've been to alot of self help meetings). So do I have a solution for this situation? Not really. I am practicing being in the moment. I am practicing having the prayers trigger a physical response in me other than blind fury. And I am carving out more time where I am child-free. I know I really need to have meaningful work outside of raising my children and that is a guilt bridge I haven't crossed yet - too busy standing on the side of it wondering how far down is the jump. All of these things are a process. So to all the Mamas out there here's my shout out for the day - commiserate or feel better about yourself. But I know I am not alone.

We are blessed may we recognize the blessing.

in peace

photo by: oddsock


DoulaMomma said...

oh yes, yes, yes...this is me to a T...complete with the imaginary audience & out-of-body experiences. So next time you are looking back at yourself, know that I'm probably doing the same across town (minus the vocal cord surgery, so maybe you can actually hear *me*!)

Anonymous said...

you know the one we tell in childbirth class about how the night you give birth 300,000 other women will be in labor with you? well, I think it goes along that they will also be screaming at their kids at the same time you are. rest easy sister. I will never roll my eyes at you!!

love, love, love all the way from bergen county