Leaning In… To Anger

I used to run with two standard poodles, one on my left, the other on my right.

I spent many months laboriously training them to know which side they belonged on when on-leash.

Today, nearly a year after “my” poodle died, I ran with his brother and my son.  Tangentially, running strollers on gravel provide a LOT of resistance!

Negativity crept into my mind as the poodle began moving from side to side (at one point causing me to smash the front of the stroller against a concrete barricade).  I thought, “why can’t I ever just train in PEACE?!”  Why am I always carrying so much stuff… so much baggage?  Why can’t I ever be rid of things that need me; people to take care of, mouths to feed?!  

Instead of letting the negativity reign, I caught myself (after blasting off a few four letter words in the direction of my spunky standard poodle) and felt immediately ashamed.

Disciplining my poodle and now my toddler has been a crucifix for growth in my life.  It’s forced me to see the way I was ‘trained’ to disciplined through mirroring my family.  In that world, discipline is enforced with Fear, not Love.  Not compassion and much more carnally and less consciously than I want to model for my son.

The poodle kept pulling the leash and the stroller.  My blood would heat to a quick boil; and then I’d resist and breathe into it.  I leaned into the anger and explored it with Love.

Everybody wins in this environment.

Suddenly I realized that Enzo the poodle took the right side when his brother was alive.  Now, with his brother gone, he is perhaps confused about which side to take.  He lost his pack leader and he’s wildly defensive of me and my son.  (Especially my son.)

I began to see my poodle not as a bad dog, but as a product of my poor training once his brother died (my fault) and we made the transition to a running and hiking trio versus a foursome.  I turned the feeling of anger into a feeling of personal responsibility for my neglect.

I vowed to begin carrying treats and start training him with commands that will help him, and thereby the baby and I, to have more successful outings.

We are all composites of our earliest training.

When we compassionately consider this, we are able to show more grace and love.  Best of all, hot heads like me can lean into that compassion in order to make better choices as a mom, a leader, an employer, a lover, and a friend.

When I say lean in, I mean feeling the full breadth and grief of our sadness.  Leaning in is not ignoring.  It is breathing into and meditating upon the things that anger us.

Then suddenly another dark thought crept in: “I’m so sick of things pulling me.  Tugging me.  Suckling off of me.  Nuzzling me.  Nursing off my breasts.  Perpetually interrupting my conversations and my sleep.  Touching me.  Being in my PRESENCE!  I want to be alone!”

Deep breath.  I leaned into this new negative frustration.

I considered my poodle, and my son.

Yes, they’re both overly attached.  They’ve both got separation anxiety.  They both exhaust the shit out of me on the regular.  But upon leaning into this darkness I began to see things in the light of personal responsibility.

I became empowered with the following thoughts:

I created these attachments.  I nurtured these souls from birth.  I caused the separation anxiety.  I needed them.  I needed their love and I hoarded it.  I need to build confidence in them.  They deserve to be confident.  I am their leader.  I am responsible.  I breathed these truths in and out.

I have the beautiful responsibility of loving these two souls, as unruly and frustrating as they can be.  I have the pleasure of making sure they stay fed and sheltered and alive because I am alive.  And that is a miracle on so many levels.

Recently I met one of the smartest women I’ve ever met.  She has a similar story to mine; has had a similar struggle with addictions.  She has a pacemaker.  I do not.  She was in a hospital.  I was not.

When my son was crowning I grabbed my nurse’s arm and told her that I was going to die.  “You’re not going to die”, she assured me.  You have to remain calm, though.  We’re worried about your heart.

“No!  You don’t get it.  I didn’t tell my doctor but I’ve suffered from eating disorders.  I shouldn’t have had an unmedicated vaginal birth.  I’m going to die on this table!”

She looked down at me and said, “you have to push, Stephanie.  You’re going to be fine.  I promise.  It’ll be over in a few minutes.”

That child arrived at long-last and now he’s two.  He just fell down and got two manly little scabs on his knees and a bump on his head that’s turning colors.

He’s throwing a tantrum.  When he began throwing tantrums, my blood would boil.  They’re truly so much more emotionally and physically exhausting than I’d ever imagined.

Instead of walking into another room, exasperated as I was, I leaned in with every ounce of effort.  I tried to engage the child’s left brain as he went out of his mind.  I talked about his fall.  I talked about the boo-boo’s.  I talked about going to the dog park and playing with the lab and the golden and the pit.  I stared lovingly into his eyes and wouldn’t take my eyes off of his.

Suddenly (and to my utter surprise), the baby looked at me and screamed, “kisses!  No medicine!  Kisses!!”  (I had been applying Aquaphor to the wounds; we just moved and I didn’t have anything else to work with.)

I held his knees together and kissed them.  The specks of dirt, the blood, the scratchy mangled skin.  I kissed it all and shared with him all the patience and love I could muster.  In an instant the thought occurred to me that I wanted to be kissed on my boo-boo’s too.  By a man.  By the Creator.  By love.

In a sense, rising above the anger and emotions and going into a heavenly place with this tantruming child was a spiritual experience.  I’m rising above my training.  I’m modeling love to my son.

I spent today leaning in after that moment with my poodle on the running trail.

Leaning into the tedium and mindlessness of being with my son all day, every day for over a week now as his father is traveling and we’re in a new city with no family, no sitters, no daycare established yet.

Leaning into that boredom and chaos of toddler years and allowing it to be a sacred time for meditation, prayer, and growth with no “distractions” of doing what I “want” to be doing: reading a book, writing a book, dining with friends, working out uninterrupted by my damn self.  Napping.

Leaning into my friend not calling me back.  Why do I need to talk to her?  What am I really looking for that I’m not getting?  How can Love fill that void?

Leaning into the anger.  Leaning into the judgment.  Leaning into the wind that’s been torrentially blowing through my world for seven months.  Leaning into the chaos and creating the most of my time here, there, wherever the wind blows.

I lean into what is, and I lean into what is not; trusting God has a plan in this infinite universe even for me.

Leaning into what feels like deep loneliness and isolation in my life; it’s so hard to cultivate the friendships and loves I want while mom-ing alone most days.

Leaning into the opportunity I have to water color paint for exceedingly long periods of time on “mommy’s canvases” because it offers the chance for me to teach the baby about flow state.  Watching him patiently as opposed to carting him around to things I want to do precisely when I want to do them.

Later that night I lay in bed with the baby on my side and a suite of Dora The Explorer books in our hands.  As we read I don’t comprehend the words I’m saying.  But I feel God’s love so strongly.  Today I leaned into anger and turned it into love. I’ll keep practicing, and soon it will be my nature.  It’s not the way I learned how to deal with anger.  But I’m changing my composite experience.  I’m a new creation.

After a day of reflection, meditation and mindfulness I lay back and read to the boy.  I rub my belly wistfully.

I feel a kick.  A hand.  A foot.  Somebody is in there.

I’m not pregnant, though.

The child inside is me.

And I’m nurturing her with the full breadth of God’s love.  Finally.

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