It started out as an innocent enough walk through town. Objective: To obtain food. And what happened was I followed my family through those sweltering alley ways and booths holding everyone’s stuff until I felt like a trash can/closet/servant, and walking next to kids who rambled on incessantly without even a second for me to hold a thought of my own, and constant complaints and “but I wanted to walk next to Mommy” and me feeling that my opinion and desire to find a place with a salad were totally insignificant. It was a very personal inferno of hell, a traumatic stuckness that begged for some wild insane outburst to relieve me from myself. But no. I just walked on, one foot in front of the other, ‘anicca’ing the entire way.
‘Anicca’ing is my superimposed Buddhist verb-i-zation of nouns and adjectives to make things make sense for me. ‘Anicca,’ now coincidentally tattooed on my husband’s right shoulder, is the Pali word for ‘impermanence.’ It means that all passes, changes, flows, comes and goes, and for me, it helps me learn (slowly) that there’s no reason to get all hung up on this or that really painful or really tempting issue for it will all change anyhow. So, when things get tough, I fall down, I get depressed and desperate, I lose myself in temptation, I annica it, and, somehow, it passes, and life carries on. The frequency, duration, and intensity of my fall-outs have significantly lessened. Significantly, and how this happens, I’d like to share with you: Six Ways To Regain Sanity When You and Your Family Are Falling Apart
1- Just Shut Up
My family is having argument number 23 of the day. God, this dejavu is exhausting. Maddeningly so. Abuses, words, hysterical emotions, glares, fighting over semantics, finger pointing, and who’s foot is too close to who’s pinky. The entire hostel hearing the crying and yelling floating out from the space under our door doesn’t help. I don’t really want to walk out into that lobby. Ugh.
At moments like this, should I open my mouth, I know that very little loving, kindness and wisdom will flow from my lips. At moments like this, I hiss, not speak, I burn, not soothe, so I choose not to speak. As much as I can, as much as you can, don’t talk. Don’t announce to the world that you are not talking, cuz then you know that your family will push you over the cliffs of insanity (less funny than in Princess Bride), and all your efforts will be lost. Tell yourself, “Speak only from love, or just shut up lovely self,” and listen to your wisdom. Don’t speak unless you have something amazingly wise to contribute.
I realize, now as I enthusiastically inch towards 40, that silence is the most mature expression of my wisdom.
The Zen says we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen more and speakth less. When we spend more time silent, we become wiser observers of that which is. (I did when the homeless guy and I got lost for 58 days and when I did the life-changing 10 Day Silent Vipassana Retreat) What roles do people in my family play? What are they saying under the ugliness? What unspoken (or screamed) unmet needs do my family members have, and how, in my infinite reflective wisdom can I find a creative solution to meet those needs?
I choose to stay silent.
2- Bow To My Growth
And even with the elbow shoving in the taxi tonight, and beforehand, the driver waiting, taxi on, we’re standing in the middle of the street while the kids fight over who sits next to the window, I must bow. I must, for otherwise I’ll yank, slap, or snap at one of them or inflict pain upon myself. “Get. In. To. The. Taxi. ” I say, trying to sound even-toned and authoritative. “But she! It’s my turn! Not fair! I just!” “Get. IN. NOW.” And I sit there between the shoving and whining, listening to my heart pound in my ears, and stay very silent. “Anicca, Gabi, Anicca. This will pass. ”
And yet, I know, know, know that I am meant to learn through my family (even when you want to kill your kids but you’re too grateful). We all are. Our souls picked our families so that we could learn the lessons and teach the lessons we were destined to. And my dear friend Val went on a three-month sorjourn and returned to her corporate life recently. She cried for a week, and just decided that she’s selling it all and moving to Mexico where she’ll settle somewhere for six months- do soul work and cleanse and heal her heart, and then travel. And I’m jealous for I’d love 6 months for my soul. God, I’d love that. But, as I wrote to her, “I am meant to learn through my family. I am meant to be here right now, as a glue, as a source of light, to guide them to some enlightened wisdom that I am meant to share with them right now. I am meant to be here, though I sometimes feels so very stuck, I am meant to be right here and learn through this family stuckness.”
So, the grass is not greener anywhere, and even if it seems so, it’s not. This is the pasture I am meant to roam in. This is the pasture I am meant to learn in. I invited this, I even created it through the actions, thoughts, and decisions of my past. I created this, and in this, through this, in spite of this, because of this, and in honor of this life that I now live with my family, I shall grow and learn.
To this growth, I choose to bow.
3- Find Inspiration
Another fight. We’re not getting passed this, are we? Ever? And I look across the room at that one child who pacifies my soul. Her sweet smile, her unearthly ability in storms of hell to connect to herself and be that silent calm eye of the storm. How does she do that? How does she sit there? I use her as inspiration. I work very hard not to outwardly express it. Kobi says I take sides in her favor. I will put every ounce of effort not to create favoritism that will only expound the already hysterical sibling rivalry. But, still, for me, silently, I can hold onto the gift I got in this life, that one member of my family, like an old familiar teddy, can return me to myself like no one else can.
I’m listening to Jason Mraz a lot these days- 93 Million Miles, Everything is Sound, I Won’t Give Up On Us, I’m Yours. I put his playlist on YouTube and try to melt into the frequency of his inspirational, soothingness. I’ve stopped entering forums with people who answer self-righteously and don’t bother answering those who comment or otherwise tell me from arrogance their way. That is not the voice that inspires me, so I send them love and deep understanding that they too are doing it their way, the best they know how. But I won’t feed it, and am learning (again, slowly) to be in the places, with the people, in the music that inspires me to find my greatest light.
4- Feel the Universality of Pain and Hope
When living in the village with the locals in Koh Rong Island, our home was a lovely little run-down shack off of pier three. There was no water, no electricity, and our toilet was a plank with a hole in it. My landlord, a beautiful young mother, lived there alone with her three young children, and niece or two. Her husband was working inland, and she needed the extra rent money to make ends meet. So, she moved all of her stuff out of the house, and moved in with her mother.
Fast-forward 3 weeks later: She’s sitting on a table on the beach, holding baby number three, and crying. Her cousin translates for me that she needs for us to move out, that she can’t live with her mother anymore, that her mother is so mean to the kids, so impatient, and yelling at her all the time. She said she can’t live there anymore, and needs her space back. Who could not understand the universality of that? I asked her to move back in that night, to the back room. We hugged, she cried, I cried. We’re just women trying to raise our kids and dealing with those intimate relationships which sometimes teach us too much at one time.
A dear friend wrote to me that she is depressed and struggling and slowly, pulling out of it, with lots of anti-depressants and much soul-searching. Another women who found this blog shared with me her deepest pains in life and how she feels she’s losing every ounce of sanity, and barely holding on. A lot of amazing women wrote to me privately, in different forums, and in the comments to the post Learning of Rape Through The Massage Table. How wonderful to connect with others souls on their journey towards the light, too. Who could not understand the universality of that?
We’re all just doing the best we can, using the resources we have, facing the mistakes we’ve made, and hoping to learn, slowly, every single day. Know that you are never, never alone. Leave a comment here, read another article online anywhere that inspires you, reach out to someone else, for that’s what I’m doing here, you know, reaching out. Or don’t actively leave your footprint, but know that thousands of us are doing the exact same thing, going through the exact same thing that you are, right now.
We can curl up in shame or we can know that pain is normal and universal. We can feel defected or know that we are perfect in our imperfection and that through this, we also will get through it, like we’ve done before, and like thousands of others like us, are doing every day, one painstaking damn step at a time.
5- You Can Be Fully Inspired When Happy
I studied Self-Conscious Sabotage Freedom Technique through The First Key with Dr. Dafna Slonim. She’s remarkable and I’d deeply recommend her work. When doing the healing exercises, you say a series different statements about happiness. Dafna teaches us that because of the power of self-conscious sabotage saying “I want to be happy is not enough,” and therefore I must go on to “I can be happy” and “I deserve to be happy” to teach that little inner voice that every reason it may have stacked up against why happiness should elude me, won’t hold water. Dafna teaches us how to go to the deepest level of our psyche and declare, and reteach my soul, that happiness is a natural and acceptable state of being, also for me, also in my imperfection.
Strong Wings asked me one day, “What is your art?”
Me: “I don’t have one.”
Strong Wings: “What do you create?”
Me: “I write”
Strong Wings: “Yes, of course, you write. I see.”
Strong Wings: “Because often an artist gets his deepest motivation from pain, and often, fear, sub-consciously, that without the pain, they won’t be inspired, that they won’t be able to produce great work.”
And I thought about that for months, and still do today, when I recognize the age-old soul-myth deep inside me that says ‘only when you suffer, can you rise to the occasion, Gabi. Only when it hurts, can you find strength and truly inspire yourself and others,” and that is not true. Granted, some of my best work has and does come out of pain. It helps me connect to my deeper self and helps me be proud of myself cuz I overcame the obstacles, but I’ve produced fine work, taught deeply inspirational classes around the world through pure joy. I have and I will and don’t the need as a prerequisite for greatness. I wrote in How Not To Fight that sometimes it’s the only I think I’ll get great sex, for, you know, make-up sex has a charm of her own. But no, that’s not true. I can create greatness from light and inspiration without darkness, and so can you.
And so, I choose inspiration from happiness. In my music, in the music of others, in the people and books and thoughts and mantras I place near me. So can you.
6- Love Is A Verb
Stephen Covey is amazing in many ways. He’s not so much into multitasking as he is into meaningful-tasking. So while we may be wary of him him for being a corporate icon, he brings soul and healthy relationships and light into an otherwise often soulless world. I’ve read his books, particularly Seven Habits of Highly Effective Families, multiple times and have used his tools successfully with clients and groups. “Love is a verb” is a favorite that says that if I don’t feel love towards my daughter, my spouse, or myself, than act like I do, for ‘love is a verb.” How would I treat a spouse I adore? Would I pet him, make him tea, scratch his back, cuddle close to him at night? Well, even if you need to through gritted teeth, put your flaming pride on mute, and do it, as hard as it may be, do it. Create that love not by waiting for it to magically one day appear, not by waiting for him, or her, or yourself to beg your forgiveness, but by acting the way you would if you felt deep love for your child, spouse, father-in-law, or self.
Act that way, and the emotions will come. Invest in that relationship, no matter how unnatural it may feel, and it will come, with time, it will come. And, let’s say it does not. Let’s say the recipient of your love is more stubborn than you (if that’s possible) and maintains that finger-pointing self-righteousness, than what? Then you know you and your soul went beyond the call of duty, and truly expanded the boundaries of love in your heart. You put aside that ego and that pride and expand yourself to a whole new realm of awesomeness, and you can bow, and be very proud.
Pick one relationship that is not working, and ‘love-is-a-verb’ it and watch what magic unfolds.
I choose ‘love is a verb,’ can you?
So, I’m done and feeling enlightened and refreshed. This article was started and stopped because of all the guck and muck that kept splashing into my face all day, and, today, on the battle field of my family life, I survived. I did. I forced my family into two family talks, my husband into two heart-to-hearts, and I stayed silent most of the rest of the day. I looked at them with love (or looked away when I knew I had none in them eyes of mad mother), and even scratched a couple of backs tonight. Slowly, with silence, with bowing to my teachers of truest growth, with continued inspiration, with connecting to the universality of pain and hope, with creating inspiration from happiness, and with living from love as a verb, slowly, I’m going to make my way out of this hard patch of family life into the next promised land of breezy fields and butterfly kisses. I will. I will. I will. And so will you.
Speak. I am here.
Or stay silent as most of you lovelies do.
I know you are there. I can feel you smiling right about now. And now, even bigger.
Gabi is a certified trauma therapist, family communications expert, energy healer, and life coach with a Masters in Psychology. She shares her personal life stories and insights to inspire others to share their honest, neurotic selves and do all that is necessary to Clean Your Soul. She believes that all of us are on our journey from pain to the light, and by staying inspired and aware, we can all reach our fullest, cleanest, most beautiful free selves. Don’t miss a single chance to be inspired. Gabi takes a very limited number of one-on-one clients for transformational parenting, family, life, and trauma therapy. You may reach Gabi directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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