Last Day of Vacation!
If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am on a brief vacation and have collected several guest posts to share while I am taking a break. They are all from different parts of the world. Yes world. People are yelling less and loving more from Montana, United States to Ireland to Mexico to Australia and more. Pretty powerful if you ask me. We are ALL in this together. Have a fantastic week and if you ever feel alone, know that somewhere in the world, literally, there is an Orange Rhino awake working hard too. All my best for a great week…I’ll be back online around July 8th!
This guest post by Carla of Massachusetts, United States really spoke to me for one reason and one reason alone. It is kind of an embarrassing one but hey, it’s the truth. I can’t take deep breaths. Nope. I have tried and tried. My OB tried to help me through four deliveries when the epidural only worked 50%. My husband tries weekly to help me. I try to help me learn to take deep breaths. It just doesn’t come natural to me. In fact, I hate it when someone tells me to take a deep breath. That said, I read this post and thought “you know what? I REALLY need to try. I really need to try HARDER to take deep breaths because there could be really upside.” Thank you Carla for inspiring me! After I read this I tried taking a deep breath…with my kids doing it with me. It was a great start and calmed me down a bit in the moment.
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Several times each week, I sit down on a small maroon cushion in my daughters’ playroom and pay attention to my breathing for about twenty minutes. Every time my mind wanders, I try to come back to my breathing. Yep, I’m meditating.
Let’s be clear. I am not the meditating type. I talk fast and eat fast and few things give me as much of a thrill in life as checking tasks off my to-do list. I can’t be trusted with a TV or a pint of ice cream, and I’m not a fan of drum circles or patchouli.
I didn’t start meditating because I was searching for enlightenment or inner peace; my ambitions were more banal than that. I just wanted to stop yelling at my kids. I was never a yeller before I became a mother, but somehow the combination of fatigue and frustration resulted in me raising my voice far my often that I wanted to.
I felt terrible every time it happened—it’s just not how I wanted to treat my girls (ages 3 & 4.5). I would immediately apologize and we’d have a nice snuggle, but there are only so many times you can say you’re sorry without changing your behavior before your words become meaningless.
That was the last thing I wanted—literally—because if they wouldn’t listen to my words, then I would probably end up yelling even more.
I had to find a way to make a change. I talked to my therapist about it, and she had some great thoughts about why I was yelling (I grew up with two yelling parents, for example). That’s useful to know, but it didn’t actually help me stop. I read all sorts of books and blog posts (including many here on The Orange Rhino!) with really great tips and tricks for how to yell less, but my problem was that by the time I remembered to take a deep breath or count to ten or give myself a time-out in the bathroom, the deed was already done.
What I found, time and again, was that I had plenty of ideas about what I should be doing instead of yelling, but in the heat of moment, I wasn’t doing any of it. Instead I was snapping at my daughters and then feeling horrible about it and then getting annoyed at the girls again because I was in a bad mood. It was a terrible cycle, and I needed to find a way out of it. I needed to find a way to create space—space in my brain, in my frustration, in my response to my daughters when they were making me completely insane even if they were just behaving in ways that are perfectly normal for toddlers and preschoolers.
As I continued reading and researching, it became clear to me that meditation was the answer. This was not the answer I wanted. I wanted some fast and easy trick that I could do and move on. Meditation is like exercise; you have to get your butt off the couch and do it on a regular basis if you want to see the benefits. I definitely didn’t want something else like that on my plate.
The good news is that when I do meditate (and I won’t lie to you – I don’t get to it every day), especially for a few days in a row, I definitely notice the benefits. I’m calmer and more patient with my girls, and significantly less likely to yell. In fact, when I have been meditating, I hardly yell at all.
Every time I sit on my meditation cushion and pay attention to my breathing, I’m learning to tolerate boredom and frustration (and trust me, there are few things as frustrating than sitting still for half an hour at a time when the rest of your family is still snoozing in bed and you’ve got a to-do list a mile long racing through your brain), which means I’m less likely to get frustrated with my daughters once they wake up. I’m learning to pay attention to the little things, which means I’m more likely to notice when my girls are just starting to get hungry or tired so I can take care of things before we end up in a three-way meltdown.
And so, most mornings I get up early, stumble downstairs with sleep in my eyes, and do my best to stay awake so I don’t fall over. I focus on my breathing, and then about 3 seconds later, my mind wanders. I find myself thinking about taking out the garbage or an ex-boyfriend from high school or a blog post I should be writing. I go back to my breathing, and four seconds later I’m wondering if my favorite color is bright blue or turquoise. And then I breathe again. It’s boring, it’s frustrating, and I feel ridiculous sitting there as the cat keeps nudging me to pay attention to her.
In the end, it’s all worth it, though, because I’m yelling less.
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Carla Naumburg, PhD, is a mother, writer, and clinical social worker. She writes the Mindful Parenting blog for PsychCentral.com and is a contributing editor at Kveller.com. You can follow her writing on Facebook and Twitter.