How Can We Find Hope When Our Children Are Suffering?

Helping Hands Generic

I wrote this post last year right before the school year started.  My daughter was recovering from a concussion and the idea of Maybe had been a refuge for me dealing with her recovery.  As all of our children are returning to school, we may be managing our children’s learning issues, social anxieties or physical ailments that are short-term or chronic.  This post reminds me how facing our children’s struggles with the idea of Maybe helps us find hope in uncertainty and gives us more resilience to remain present and strong for their life journey.  I hope it is helpful.  

Like most people, the key to my emotional suffering is my attachment to what I desire for my life. In the past, if the outcome to a situation wasn’t clear I became negative and worried that the worst case scenario was on its way. As many of you know, I finally found relief from much of my pain by embracing the Philosophy of Maybe. Like a burst of sunlight, I realized that life could unfold many ways and Maybe whatever I desired would come to fruition, Maybe something else good would happen or Maybe I would be okay no matter what. This turn of thought brought me ease and enabled me to live in the present moment. I was able to let go of my attachment to things happening one way and I found myself open up to the entire playing field of life. However, I still struggled and suffered with uncertainty in one area of life: PARENTING.

I am attached to my children. My desire for my children to be well, happy and peaceful will not waiver. I felt the strength of this commitment especially seven weeks ago, when my oldest daughter sustained a head injury. I couldn’t stand her pain and suffering and would have gladly taken it from her and upon myself, but of course I couldn’t. My desire for her to recover was so deep it predominated over all other thought. As her healing required rest, I felt her disappointment at having to quit her summer job. My heart sank as she worried whether her memory would fully return and as she struggled to read because her eyes would not stay on the page. There was no detachment for my heart and every minute she suffered, I suffered too.

I remember thinking to myself, “Where is Maybe now when I’m so entrenched in pain and worry?” Then a quote that I read a few weeks earlier came to mind. It was, “Uncertainty is the refuge of hope.” (Henri Frederic Amiel). And in that moment some of my pain went away. I felt some space in my breath and remembered the unknown is my friend. I always believed that my daughter would heal but my worry was so dense at times that I couldn’t feel hope. This quote and the connection between Maybe and uncertainty fed my spirit with more space for all of the possibilities. Maybe her healing would take some time and that was okay, Maybe she would need therapy to heal, and Maybe we would spend more time together as a family during her recovery. I found the courage to find the hope in the uncertainty that had proved so hard for me to handle. With Maybe I was able to hold my attachment to the future less tightly and with more ease and grace. I was able to accept where my daughter was in the healing process and saw that over time life would change and there was hope for new beginnings and new opportunities for her.

Now seven weeks after her injury, my daughter started her first day of high school. Some symptoms remain but she is expected to make a full recovery. I feel so grateful and blessed in this moment and hopeful for her future. I realize that my emotional hook to my children’s well-being is a tricky place in my search for joy and peace in life. Yet at least with Maybe, I can hold it in a wider place where there is more room for change, hope and possibility, through the daily challenges of parenting.

We all have tough moments in parenting. Every parent would take all the pain and disappointment from their children in a minute as their own. Unfortunately, as much as we feel their pain with them, we can’t take it from them. But when we realize that most of these painful moments still offer each of us the hope that Maybe everything will be okay, our suffering lessens. With Maybe, more air enters into the room to help us breathe and get through the challenging times. It gives a more grounded perspective for us and our children for moving forward.

My heart opens to every parent trying to do the best today for their child. I hope Maybe can ease your pain and help you remember that life will keep changing and so much is possible for each of our children.

Do You Need a Particular Outcome to Be Happy?

Your new house

Although I rarely practice law anymore, these past months I’ve been trying to help my cousin purchase his family’s dream home in New York.  My cousin and his wife have one child and another on the way.  Because of my emotional attachment, it has been difficult dealing with the many bumps and challenges of this transaction.  Yet I believed that I could get this deal done for them.  It became so important to me in part because my cousin had been very sick at one time and the opportunity to buy this home seemed like a new beginning for him.  In my mind, I actually started to believe that my cousin needed this particular deal to happen for his happiness and well-being.  My cousin does not have a lot of money and this house would be stretching it but affordable.  It was located near his job and in a good school district.  Yesterday we got word that the bank wouldn’t lend them enough money to get the deal done.  I was so upset and feeling very down last night about the news and I was only able to sleep a few hours.  As I woke up this morning, I realized that I was feeling down not because they didn’t get the house; I was down because I had slipped out of Maybe.

The minute I started to believe my cousin needed this particular home for his happiness and well being, I had doomed myself to stress, fear and disappointment.  No matter what had happened, the house did not hold his happiness.  I fell out of Maybe because the bank’s rejection destroyed my high hopes and I interpreted that to mean my cousin’s dream of owning a nice home was no longer possible and what I wanted for him and his family could no longer be attained.  In reality, however, all that really happened is that life was not fitting into my plan, or my story for my cousin’s life. Once I opened my heart to Maybe again, I realized that there are always many more possibilities than the one we envision.

Just like I did with my cousin’s scenario, it is easy to slip out of Maybe on a daily basis.  How often, for instance, do we believe that we need to get a particular job or promotion for our lives to be going in the right direction? Or that a particular stock must go up for us to be financially secure, or that we need to land a particular client to further our careers?  How often have we yearned for a certain person to like us so we can be happy?  Story after story we tell ourselves, reinforcing the belief that life must unfold in certain ways to guarantee our well-being and success.  Logically, most of us would agree that there are many ways to achieve a particular goal, but emotionally we fail to live with this knowledge in our daily lives. When the emotional attachment to our stories defies logic, we fall into a trap. And stay there, and stay there.

For me, when I returned to Maybe, I realized that Maybe there are other homes to buy and other choices my cousin can make for him and his family.  As my cousin and I sat with all these possibilities today, our inner wisdom began to guide us to other ideas to qualify for the mortgage or to find another home.  In fact, there is a cheaper home down the same block that he had not considered because he thought it was too small.  We figured out today that Maybe it’s not too small after all.  We know we don’t have all the answers to help his situation, but we are open and hopeful that we will find his family an affordable home, good schools for his children and ways to reduce my cousin’s stress. In the land of Maybe, his options have no limits.

So today, try to list all the inner stories that you keep thinking what must occur in the future for your happiness and well being.  Do these stories about what needs to happen next in your life make you stressed or unhappy and are you losing sleep?  Now think to yourself: Maybe. Maybe this event will happen, or Maybe there is another way to achieve your goals or Maybe there is something else out there for you that you can’t see right now.  Let Maybe allow you the room to breathe and stretch and open up to all that is possible.

Let Maybe give you ground to stay hopeful until you find your way!

 

A True Gift For Our Children – Our Presence

I am sure that every person reading this post loves their children.  But if we asked our children if they truly feel loved by us, what would they say? There is a decent chance some would say, “Sure she (he) loves me but ….” and then add some qualifier that indicates they are not fully satisfied. Now we can get our backs up and start listing all the things that we do, buy, and arrange for our children every day to show our love . . . or we can stop, take a step back and ask, “Can we be more caring, present and loving?”

The truth is that our children may not feel fully satisfied with our love because we are not totally present for them. We may feel that we do everything for our children but, in truth, our minds can be elsewhere at times. Maybe we are regretting the past or worried about the future or just consumed with everything that needs to get done today. Yes, we are there physically, but our minds can be everywhere else. If our minds are not present, our children might not always feel the depth of our love. They might not feel understood and our love may not be filling them with joy.

The good news is that there is an easy way to begin to be more present for our children. We can become more mindful of the present by following our breath for a few minutes several times each day. Before you judge this and think I am not going to do this it is silly, please give it a try.

When your child is asking you a question and you have things to get done or you are distracted by a problem or thought, just stop for a moment. Breathe in and think “I am breathing in” and breathe out and think “I am breathing out.”  Breath in and think “I am here in this moment” and breath out and think “there is only this moment.”  Your mind will return to your body and you will really see your child in front of you and truly comprehend what they need in that moment.  You might even want to look in their eyes and tell them “I am here for you” and you will see their faces light up.

It is with our presence that we can give our children more understanding.  When we are there to be attentive and look deeply into who our children are and what they have to say, we give our children joyful love and often alleviate some of their emotional pain.

With your presence you can impart the strength needed for your children to go out into the world and pursue their dreams. Why?  Because your children will feel deeply loved – by you.

Are You Tired Of Feeling Rejected or Excluded?

Daisy heart

My 77 year old mother recently told me how bad she felt that a neighbor excluded her from a party that she was throwing.  Interestingly, at the same time, I was dealing with my younger daughter feeling bad that she was excluded from a play date.  In the past, I have also felt excluded from an email exchange, a parent carpool to my child’s sporting event or a meeting at work.  At some point, I thought to myself at what age does this feeling of rejection or being excluded ever end?

If we are willing to reflect on our actions, sometimes we find that we were excluded because we have not been kind and thoughtful to others.  More often, we are merely being ourselves and other people don’t include us for that exact reason. When we react to these situations by feeling not cared for or not good enough and we search for confirmation of love or worth, we can end up feeling very lonely, empty and even angry. Our focus is all about what we are not getting from other people and we tend to believe that they are the reason why we are disappointed and unhappy at times in our lives.

Whenever I feel this type of rejection, I always go back to the mantra, “I am the love that I seek.”  If someone said this mantra to me many years ago, I probably would have gone right back to the story of how someone excluded me and how justified my anger was towards them.  Yet over the years, I have realized that this story is a losing proposition.  When I sit around and complain about what I am not getting from others I always end up suffering, I feel stuck and have no soothing solution.  When I say the mantra, “I am the love that I seek” over and over again my heart starts to slowly feel differently.  As I start to see myself as love, the emptiness begins to go away.  My heart need not search for what I am not getting because I am filled with how much love I have to give. For me, it makes me want to have a big party for my mother and my daughter and even invite the people that excluded them, and form my own carpool to drive to my daughter’s sporting events even if sometimes I drive alone. This way I am not looking for anyone to give me what I need because I realize that it already exists within me.  I feel less needy, more giving, and less rattled by how other people are behaving.

Realizing love comes from within doesn’t mean we won’t feel hurt when someone chooses not to include us in an activity, but it does give us a place to stand that is warm and inviting.  With the realization that we are the source of love, we can take a deep breath and give some love to ourselves and the situation we are facing.  As love fills our hearts, the search for love outside ourselves fades and we can move forward with kindness and generosity and bring light and hope to whatever situation we face.

I hope you give the mantra a try.  MAYBE you’ll find the love you desire was with you all along!