I was a man down with my husband traveling when it hit – and all appointments, plans and schools were subsequently cancelled. I was tired; all three kids had woken at different times the previous night. But I was determined to make the most of this now free day.
And then by late morning, I began to feel unhinged – much like the kitchen cabinet door that was mysteriously hanging at an angle. And then the washing machine that clogged. And by the time I had to shovel us all out with my baby stranded on top of a snow bank, I was irritated. (This is the same baby that I unknowingly dumped face first into the snow while pulling him along in the sled, only moments later.)
When I finally arrived at my friend’s house to play, I felt as if I was trying to keep a lid on a simmering pot. I wasn’t sure what was weighing on me exactly. But, inside, my emotions bubbled and churned.
I needed some quiet time to myself – or I would explode at the expense of my children. And so, I got the kids home and fed – and escaped to the bathtub. Time was limited, as a child would surely burst in soon. So I made myself speak – out loud – any words that came to my mind, as if dumping them all right there in the tub.
If I had weaved a story about what was bothering me to my friend earlier, I would’ve been wrong. In fact, I did. I shared the unhinged cabinet and broken washing machine and up-all-night-parenting and bitter cold shoveling. But that wasn’t it.
What came out of my mouth were a string of unkind judgments towards myself. And it was triggered by all the time I spent on social media that morning, which fed my ego – the part that measures and compares and always comes up short.
And now, I felt tender and open.
I tucked my daughter into bed an hour or so later, and crawled in alongside her. I will sit and listen, I said, for as long as you want to talk. And she did. She started with little things, like how she preferred sporty clothes now. But then she said she sometimes wished she had a different Mama, but hoped that didn’t hurt my feelings. And how she didn’t feel acknowledged enough. The boys got more of my positive attention, she felt, and she received more of the negative. We talked for a long time.
My heart ached as I listened to her, but I was also grateful. All of this was simmering inside of her, too. And she was lifting off the lid.
When she finally fell asleep, I noticed that she had tucked allof her stuffed animals in bed alongside of her. Usually, she chooses a few. But tonight, she went to bed with a full heart. There was enough space for all of them.
Even though the evening ended with an epic red wine spill in the living room, I, too, went to bed with a full heart. I could see the beauty in my day, even though it took a different course than I envisioned.
Because the beauty was in my humanity. It was being with the hard stuff, with tenderness and vulnerability, and experiencing their transformation into something else.
It was uncomfortable, yes. But it was also the gateway into deeper connection.
And so, as you enjoy this love holiday, may you consider this. Your beauty lies in your humanity, especially the parts of yourself that you’d rather hide. Because we all have them. It’s a brave act to be able to sit with them without lopping on contempt or shame or other judgments. And brave is beautiful.
So take the lid off, bear witness to what’s inside, and then use your tenderness to deepen your love. And next time you have a shit-really-hit-the-fan kind of day, accept the invitation.
And find out what’s really there.