I have a windowsill in my house with a few rock piles on it. I never really set out to create this. I just like small, ovular rocks. And so, when I am at the beach or by a river and I find a particularly alluring one, I slip it in my pocket. Eventually I had all these rocks and wasn’t sure what to do with them.
So I made them into piles. It turned out that I had just the right amount of varying sizes to make them into rock stacks. They frequently get knocked over by the pounding of little feet up and down the stairs, but I have come to enjoy re-balancing them. It is a focused practice that feels internal at the same time as external.
The other morning I was doing just that when something occurred to me. The rocks don’t balance in their centers. It is not a symmetrical pile. Some rocks have to jut out on one side to keep steady. And I realized this is what balance looks like. It doesn’t look perfect or symmetrical.
We all come in different shapes and sizes, our ‘issues’ too. And finding balance within ourselves is a true act of effort – learning which parts of ourselves require more attention, which parts we can let ‘hang out’ all in order to achieve a sense of ‘centeredness.’ Some of us need to write in a journal, be physically active, paint a picture, cry into a pillow, or be held by a friend. It is important for us to learn ways to stay in tune with what we need so that others don’t become the unfortunate recipients of our foul moods. Of course it happens sometimes, because none of us are perfect and I’m not suggesting otherwise – just that when it does happen we need to recognize our part and take responsibility by working on those feelings and their root.
There are few things in life that so easily throw you off balance and find all your trigger points than our children. They come by it honestly and the issues are all our own, they’ve only been here for a small portion of our lives – but they find them nonetheless and unwittingly come into the cross hairs of our own discomfort and personal suffering. So sometimes we yell, get frustrated, snap, cry, tell them to go take a time out, or some other ineffective action. The perhaps ironic lesson here is that one should be ‘punished’ for making someone else (us) feel uncomfortable by coming face to face with themselves. We pass down the aversion to the mirror.
In reality, these moments when we make snap reactions from deep down – these are gifts, because they are messages from the deep. They are telling us, “Hey, there’s something down here and you should probably look at it.” When we are able to take that moment and turn it into self-knowledge, not only are we doing ourselves a favor – we are leading the way for our children to do the same. We are teaching them that in discomfort there is growth. We are teaching them to be bigger than their anger and fear.
Knowing thyself is a life long endeavor. Learning to accept both the things we dislike about ourselves, as well as the things we like (which can be equally difficult), allows us some providence towards becoming the person we want to be. When we mess up and acknowledge it, we can say “Geez, that is really NOT how I wanted to handle that situation..what went wrong?” It brings a beautiful humbleness to life.
When knowing and understand ourselves becomes important to us, we can work to not foist off the same things that have held us back on our children. We can acknowledge that we each achieve balance in our own beautiful ways. Our rock piles are not symmetrical, but they are balanced. We are not so easily tipped over. We can see that our children are they own people. They are not us. They are trying to make sense of the world – and sometimes, when our feelings make them feel scared – they push us just to see if they can.
Parenthood is raw. It is real. It is beautiful and traumatizing at times. And we get things wrong all. the. time. The beauty is in the effort – in the coming back together, in the sharing of ourselves and our personal journeys. We must dive into the discomfort to become bigger, more balanced people, always propelled by the small ones who are looking up to us as the examples of how to live a life.