A few days ago I read my dear friend Christine's blog post about Mother's day, and as I read my head was bobbling up and down in agreement and complete empathy. You should definitely go read it, if you haven't already, but I'll sum up. She says that this Mother's Day was bittersweet for her. That her children still have difficulty dealing with a day to honor someone else. Sure, they can hold their stuff together, at least until the day after. Maybe even completely. But why? Well, because they know what happens when they trash a special day. There are consequences, and they have to make repairs. They have stuff they want to do this week. Restitution and repair aren't on their short list. So though it is a victory of sorts, it still has little to do with loving and honoring Mom.
I submit that it is. Love your neighbor as yourself. What does that even mean?
I think about emergencies, crises, chaotic times. These are the times that love is most necessary, yet so often absent. We kick it into overdrive. We do what we have to do to get through. Sometimes survival is all we can muster the energy for.
So what happens when you live in survival mode from the day you are born. Children are naturally self centered, even cherished, nourished children. They have to be taught to look beyond themselves. It takes time and patience, and when we see it happening, we know that our children are growing to maturity.
My first reaction to my traumatized child's survival mode is to say they are completely self centered. They look out for number one. They make sure they get their share. They fight for it if need be. But this is a superficial understanding of the situation. My child is not loving their self, because they battle against that same self, at the same time they battle everyone else.
My child is trapped in a place where they can only fight for themself in this very moment. It's an emergency, a crisis. Adrenaline is flooding, fear is consuming. There is no tomorrow, there was no yesterday. They cannot even have empathy for their own future self. They do not care if their actions in this moment will cost their self dearly. They have no compassion for their own future tears or regrets. They don't give a damn about the loss that child of tomorrow may suffer. I have seen them weep for their own stupidity, and cry out how much they hate that child of an hour ago, that made such a mess for them to have to deal with.
Part of growing up, part of learning to love ourselves, is learning to discipline ourselves in the moment. The child learns to predict an outcome. They learn to empathize with their future self, understanding how they may feel with that outcome. They make their choices based on that understanding and empathy.
Their world begins to expand. Love your neighbor as yourself. Life is not an emergency. I am not in crisis. I can have compassion on myself. How might it feel to have compassion on another? I experience kindness. Can I share it as well? Reach inside and find that there is something there, other than fear and adrenaline. The fruit of mature self discipline is sweet, and there is enough for myself, and plenty to share.
Learning to discipline our self for our self, is the budding of the virtue of self discipline. Learning to discipline our self so that we may properly love others is the mature fruit. And so while the immature, hard little fruits are still bitter in our mouths, they are there. Given a full summer of sun and rain, I have hope that they will grow and ripen.
Of course Christine knows this as well as I do. I am truly preaching to the choir here. That's what we do. We speak the truth of our situation, and our heads bobble up and down in agreement. I know how you feel, I feel that way too. Then we go our way, thinking about it, turning it over in our mind, probing it for more than our own emotional reaction, probing it for the truth. My emotions tell me the fruit is a little bitter and hard yet. I feel the urge to spit it out. Wait a minute...what am I saying here? That's fruit mama, that's FRUIT!