The other day she barged into the bathroom while I was finishing my shower.
I have to go the bathroom.
Go for it.
Then I turned off the water and reached for my towel, stayed in the shower more to avoid the chill in the air than to avoid the usual, Your tummy is funny and, I can see your butt!
From her throne, she suddenly blurted, “I love you, Mommy.” So I told her I love her too, of course. And then I added, “You’re my best girl.” And she said, “You’re my best mommy.”
There has always been this sneaking suspicion (or often it’s a very clear, not sneaky, thought) I have that I’m not the best mommy at all, not even close. From my first pregnancy through today, I’ve battled over ten years of self-doubt and guilt. Sometimes it is LOUD and sometimes it’s quiet–a hunch, a subconscious rattling around, butterflies in my funny tummy.
I’m too much of a realist for being such a dreamer. I know that I’m going to fail in some ways, and have. I know that I am going to make magic as a mother in other ways, and have. Sometimes I forget that it will all mix up to be okay. Even when it isn’t.
The last couple of years have taken me deeper into self-discovery than I wanted to go. I have always struggled with guilt, even before motherhood. I can find reason for guilt in anything I do or do not do. The most benign of things. I assume the worst motivation behind my actions. It’s really pretty weird. Some of us are this kind of weird. And then when something happens that provokes real guilt for real reasons, you’re pretty much screwed. Stuck. Shut down. Afraid.
THEN, if you are so prone to shaming yourself, you will have this shame party for months and years. I am terribly good at this. (Not bragging.)
In times of great stress, I totally forget all my previously learned lessons, and also drop all my tools for living a life of freedom and peace. Then I have friends that look at me and let me cry and then they say it like it is.
For example, my friends say that guilt is the most self-serving distraction. It interferes with my ability to take things at face value, and also? Who can see outside themselves when so swallowed? I can jump from one thought to the next, guilt in tow, and not SEE anything. I can focus on myself with great intensity if guilt is over-taking me. Guilt is heavy and painful and there is no way to see around it to others if it has taken over. Again.
It doesn’t make much sense to people who are not this kind of weird. But thankfully there are people who say, Me too, and this is what you need to do. Then we laugh hysterically because their suggestion for what to do has me flapping my hands above my head like these guilt and shame thoughts can be swatted away–a shaming swarm of bees. Be gone! It’s hilarious, but it’s also an action that provokes a mental picture that demands the guilt and shame to leave–No, no no no, (flap flap flap) you can’t stay.
I am not a shame hive.
I use the guilt like I think it’s going to be a catalyst to light bulb moments, or a good enough punishment for the failures, real and contrived. I allow it in and listen to the buzzing while it makes all the sweet honey bitter.
If there is worry and fear or something going wrong with my kids or anything, underneath it, there is this subtle (and sometimes LOUD), You did this, or, If you had done better/made a different choice/not been so…this would not be happening.
And then my friend Jean says, “Wow, aren’t we powerful today?”
Oh yeah, I forgot. There isn’t anything at all that revolves entirely around me. The hearts and minds and lives of my children are theirs and I am apparently, after all, not the center of their universe. I am here to be one of their greatest supporters, to bear witness and to step away and then step closer, depending. I am here, but only if I am not over there, with guilt and shame.
Go away bees, this isn’t your hive.