In the five minutes that I have sat down to begin writing this, during the girls' afternoon "quiet time," I have been summoned upstairs three times. One hit her head doing precisely what I had just cautioned her not to do. One jammed her toy exactly where I had warned her it would get stuck. One needed help in the bathroom not two minutes after being asked if she had to go. Sometimes I want to yell, "is anyone even listening to me?" but I don't really want to know the answer.
It is in these kinds of moments I feel and notice tangible changes since I began meditating daily in October. I had meditated irregularly before then, but last fall I made a commitment to myself to stick it out and see if they hype is warranted. It is!
There is a pause between the thing happening and the reaction where I can quickly discern the best way to respond. I yell a lot less. I consider what I want to do in this situation. I swear under my breath and hope they don't hear. I take a deep breath and fix what needs fixing with whatever empathy I can muster. They are learning, I remember. They are learning from me, I am aware.
I can't say exactly what is happening, in scientific, measurable terms. A lot of the time when I sit to meditate I either fall asleep, or I catch my train of thought drifting to 'to-do' items every four seconds. I sit for ten minutes, rarely more. I catch my wandering mind, or my sleeping posture crumpling down and start again. I don't reprimand myself. Just start over. I don't give up. I don't doubt that I'm getting anywhere with it, because I know I am. Creating a space between an action and my reaction is big, for me. I know I will never master this, so I don't try to. I just practice finding that space and exhaling before saying or doing something unintentional.
I can say with confidence that bringing meditation into my days has made a difference in the way I approach just about everything. I don't often reflect on this, so it feels good to recognize. I am focusing less on what I am not doing (it's a long, long list), because guilt doesn't help motivate me to do better next time. Guilt makes me feel defeated. Gratitude, and remembering that I am practicing, that keeps me moving onward. I am trying, even when it's hard. Because (as Glennon Doyle wrote), I can do hard things.
Days aren't meant to be taken stock of, evaluated on some rubric with a grade given at the end. I admit, I often felt this way. I was hard on myself, which led me to doubt myself. I'd cuddle up with guilt at night and let hot tears wet my pillow. That is not how to be a good person. I shouldn't do that to myself. So, I try not to.
Instead, I am trying to take those pauses when I feel them and act deliberately. This effort is always worth it, and makes me feel proud and intentional. I have noticed it gives my girls more comfort, not wondering if they're gong to set off the Mama bomb. (Regretfully, their comfort with me has also meant they are more comfortable lashing out, testing boundaries, and acting coo-coo bananas to see if I really mean to be more mindful).
I call upon my mantras: this too shall pass, serenity now, I can do hard things, they only need love, the days are long but the years are short. I get myself where I want to be, so that when things in my life aren't the way I'd want them to be, I can get through it with dignity and with intended responses. Like writing this blog post: I had to go up another three times (bathroom help, Summer crying about a hurt finger and referee a disagreement) but I did it the way I wanted to, not the way I instinctually would have responded. Progress.