Sometimes our children do things that are totally unexpected and unacceptable. Then we try desperately to make sense of what happened by playing it over and over in our minds.So it was with me a couple of weeks ago. I ruminated endlessly about the incident without coming to any real conclusion. I was caught in a maze of thoughts and emotions that seemed to draw me farther in with no end in sight. With every thought came the inevitable ache of wishing it weren’t so. If only, I yearned, followed by Kobayashi Issa’s “and yet, and yet …”
The initial blow of circumstances was bad enough. But I was causing myself additional suffering by hanging on to the wish that things had gone differently. I needed to stop throwing second darts at myself and accept the moment as it was in order to provide myself with the mental space to just be.
It was strange how this brief respite gave me the impetus to think clearly about the steps to be taken towards learning and growth. When I could accept the moment as it was, I could call my entire being into thinking about what to do about it. It shifted my mental state of mind from helpless to hopeful, and triggered what may have been a ‘hope circuit.’But once the initial excitement was down, I began to notice a companion to my hope. It was not one I had wished to see.
You see, wedded to the hope of a particular outcome came too the fear that it would not happen. Hanging on to the dream of a desired future came with fear that kept me vigilant. Was the road to fearlessness found by giving up hope and letting go of dreams? Was Rumi’s field beyond ‘ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing’ also beyond hope? Does this mean that we can never dream for our children?
For that is not possible. Parenting is all about dreams. The lives of our children evolving right before our eyes beckon us into their futures. Their past memories and their future plans all tie into a coherent story that makes us live a virtual reality. To me, to not dream of their futures was an intolerable posture. To not hope for a positive outcome in this situation was to go under in the emotional turmoil that was mine to bear. Hope gave meaning to my suffering and allowed me to piece the puzzle together into the courage to face the future. Wouldn’t suffering without hope simply produce resentment and despair?
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.”
How then could I have hope without the fear that was pulling at my heart? Rubem Alves, a Brazilian theologian, talks of hope as this beautiful concept of “living by the love of what we will never see.” Hope as abundant love moves us beyond the inner focus of fear to the outer focus of love and giving from our hearts.
This was perhaps where I had stumbled on my journey. When my children were little, I gave with my heart and expected nothing in return. But as they got older, I sometimes forgot to love unconditionally, placing my dreams for them ahead of the reality before me. I occasionally forgot to accept non-judgmentally. I moved through daily challenges with an outcome in mind. I became tied to the fruits of my labor, and thus I became afraid. I began to hope without abundant love and acceptance. My ego subtly looked out for its own needs.
“Let us plant dates even though those who plant them will never eat them. We must live by the love of what we will never see. This is the secret discipline. It is a refusal to let the creative act be dissolved away in immediate sense experience, and a stubborn commitment to the future of our grandchildren. Such disciplined love is what has given prophets, revolutionaries, and saints the courage to die for the future they envisaged. They make their own bodies the seed of their highest hope.” ~ Rubem Alves, Tomorrow’s Child
Yet motherhood makes it easy to change course. I am learning to recognize this ego involvement. But even more, I am learning to feed my wolf of love that can be easy to forget in the chaos of bed-times and discipline, home-work and family rules, controls and consequences. When I can see my little babies in the teenagers before me, when I can connect to their mental maps, I can find it within me to hope with love in my heart rather than to fall prey to the helplessness that comes with trying to control their destinies. For that is not the place from which to raise our precious children.We can have dreams for our children. But if we create illusions and castles in the air, we live in fear of losing them.
We have to plant seeds of love and live in the hope that the young people before us will grow into their own unique adults, who live conscious lives of meaning and purpose, even though we may never get to see it. It takes abundant love. It is all within us.
Alves, R. (1972). Tomorrow’s child; imagination, creativity, and the rebirth of culture. Harper and Row.
Rumi, Jalal al-Din (13th century, 2004). The Essential Rumi, New Expanded Edition. Tr. Coleman Barks. HarperOne.
Tolle, E. (2006). A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. New York: Plume.
Wheatley, M. (2012). So Far from Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
Yuill, A. (2015, June 29). The Future Looks Bright. The Huffington Post.
Darts courtesy of Richard Matthews
Fear courtesy of Jimee, Jackie, Tom & Asha
Hopes and Dreams courtesy of Casey Fleser
Motherly love courtesy Schristia
Seed sprouting courtesy of US Department of Agriculture.