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Have-To’s Are Stupid

I get a feeling of anxiety when I perceive I HAVE TO do something; when I have no options.  My vision tunnels and my chest constricts then fire starts coming out of my ears.  (Two truths and a lie…you choose which.)  This happens when the baby is crying and the toddler is dumping out smoothie on my white apartment carpet at the same time.  (Again, why?!?) This happens when I have to use the restroom, or talk on the phone, or focus on anything other than the children.  I think it might be common because I hear other ladies talking about it.  And I don’t think it’s the kids’ fault (though they are perfectly designed to trigger it).

This week I felt the vines of anxiety and “have-to’s” and “performance metrics” tightening around my torso, creeping and squeezing and terrifying.

This week I also experienced what it feels like to let them go.

Like a Chinese finger trap. You have to relax to get out.  Maddening. Beautiful.

Last Monday my cousin had us over for dinner with her friends.  Sweet Husband wasn’t feeling up to it, so I took the two older boys.  It was a perfect evening in California.  Beautiful weather, awesome food, interesting people.  And cake.  My oldest little one, who is three, wanted cake.  I told him he could have cake after dinner, no problem.  But then chaos of cousins and pretty things and new circumstances overruled and major meltdowns ensued.  And the kids had a hard time too.  I felt the suffocating vines as I recognized that all my emotional energy had been spent caring for my beautiful, absolutely appropriately needing family that day, and contributing much to a social occasion was completely overwhelming.  My bandwidth was spent.  Well, what was overwhelming was that I felt a bunch of “have-to’s”.  “Should’s.” “Worth-determiners.”  Those are serious contenders that strike me at times of fatigue or insecurity.  Basically I listened to the bogus lies of Satan that told me that I wasn’t cute, fun, friendly, creative, patient, or forward-thinking enough to belong.  The lies that said my kids were embarrassing and loud and inappropriate.  What!?!  Even as I type it, it feels bogus. BOGUS!  Kids are awesome and fun and fine!  I’m a mom and a friend and enough!  Silly Satan.  You rascal.  Anyway.  I felt the vines and then my kids got scared.  How do they always know when I’m trying to fight off a flesh eating jungle?!  They do.  And they freak out. We left in a hurry and in a flurry of tears from all.

Contrast.

Today, my baby was crying, trying to wriggle out of a blanket and snot all over everything and wouldn’t take his BFF binky for the life of him.  I felt the vines creeping again, especially as I heard loud thumps and squeals from the next room over.  Sweet Husband was asleep and I didn’t want to wake him up (because, healing).  Squeezing vines.  Pressure.

“You should be able to do this!””Why are my kids so impossible?!” “What am I missing?!  If I was only better none of this would be happening.”

And then I did it.  I don’t think I meant to, but I recognized it.  A breath.  An embracing.  A looking-at-the-situation-but-not-being-owned feeling.  And the vines left.

I like this picture because duh… strawberries.  No one has to make me eat that.  I want fiddy.  It’s such a different feeling than being quick-sand attacked by death ivy.  I have an offering to make, and my anxiety over controlling things or being perfect or performing have-to’s totally gets in the way.  I want to feel like I’m extending my family strawberries in kindness and warmth and present-mindedness instead of force feeding fruit to the unwilling masses with threats and scheduling.

They know.  Those kids know when we’re fighting our demons.  They also know when we feel peace and love.  And they behave accordingly, don’t they?  Maddening.  But awesome. Beautiful. This week I’m trying for less vines and more strawberries.

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