Sometimes you realize that you had it all on backwards. Sometimes that realization puts you into spasms of humiliation, and other times it just all clicks into place. You get the "aha!" kind of feeling.
Guilt. It's a longstanding Jewish tradition. We are overachievers. We expect perfection from ourselves. I would not have a perfect mothering morning, say, and waving them off I would feel a why? I would feel her morning could have been so different if I would have only... I would feel, guilty, guilty, guilty. Who told you that you should have kids, anyway?
I always know that its counterproductive kind of thinking because my drive would be gone and I would soothe my self-wounded ego in ways that had nothing to do with what I should be doing that morning, ie, things that were productive and would build up my fragile ego again. I would wallow. I would feed the negative thoughts and then think, see? I'm not cut out for this.
I heard a speaker last night. She is not a "real" speaker, but she is a real person. She spoke about simcha, happiness, and she said that one thing that she can share about herself with regards to this topic is the fact that she never beats herself up over mistakes.
"Say what," says I.
"Like, I would say to myself, 'I did the best that I could at the moment with the tools that I had.' And move on!"
I smelled a rat. "But," I said, "Sometimes you KNOW that you did NOT do the best that you could. Sometimes you're lets say cleaning the counter and your daughter walks in and has a meltdown about something and you know you should put down the shmata and go to her, touch her, not do what you do which is continue to clean and say to her without eye-contact, 'oh hon what's wrong?'"
"You didn't have the tools at the moment to listen to that internal nagging voice. You didn't--"
"I DID. I could have PUT DOWN THE CLOTH. You simpy open your hand, and--"
"In retrosepct, yes. Right then, for whatever reason, no."
"But I could have. I knew that I should."
"So now you have a tool that you didn't have last time. You know better. You will do better."
And that was when I knew that I used guilt instead of change. If I felt bad about it, it meant that i wasn't really that bad, right? I mean, a bad mother wouldn't FEEL bad for yelling. I do, so I'm not bad.
But it was all backwards, and I guess I really knew that. Guilt is so draining. It's like spinning your wheels in mud. If I could just let it go, let it ride, then I could actually get somewhere.
My friend told me that she yelled at her daughter in the morning to get up get up GET UP, and felt horrible as she waved her off. When her daughter got home from school she apologized and then said cheerfully, "But the good news is that I yelled so much this morning that I took care of all the yelling for a year!"
There's this acting game that we play in which you pretend to be two different characters. A third person says "Change!" and the character has to switch that last sentence to something completely different.
To change, without the guilt. To allow yourself the space to acquire the tools that you need so that you react the way you want to in the moment.
It's like realizing I've been tying my shoes wrong for years and the real way is easier but my fingers keep tying them the old way, the comfortable way. I need to focus and make the new into the comfortable. "Change!"