Saturday, 7 June 2014

Walking home.

I think I’ve written about this before on this blog. Apologies if repetitious. To recap. 

There was a day when, as I young mother, I stood waiting for a bus. I’d come to live in this sprawling, straggling town expectant with my first child. Now I had two children – a baby of a few months old and a toddler. It’s not an easy town to make friends in, as it has no centre, strings out along the coast – and I was not a driver back then. Plus, I was shy. But I had made one friend, and once a week used to catch the bus to visit her. In those days, strollers on the bus were unthinkable; you had to fold them down and carry them on. It was hard to do this with a toddler whose hand needed holding by the busy roads, and even harder carrying a daybag of nappies and wipes etc, and a babe in a sling. The walk to the bus stop from our house was about half a mile – a long way for a two-year-old, but we made it.

It was harder still for a two-year-old to stand still at the kerbside waiting for a bus that did not appear. An hour went by. In the end we gave up and walked home, as by then the baby was awake and crying. My toddler cried too. The day was hot. She didn’t want to hold my hand any more. I judged it not safe for her to walk alongside the road without holding my hand, so I made her do it – just by gripping on tight. All the way home, she screamed and I gripped. Her eyes were screwed shut, her cheeks red and shiny, her mouth wide in a ceaseless yell. For half a mile. At two-year-old pace. All the way home. I had a bag to carry, and a baby. I said nothing. We just had to get through it. I remember that day.

Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

Thich Nhat Hanh said: “Be present for yourself and for the Sangha. Practise for elder sister is practice for younger sister.”  He said: “If we are an elder sister or brother, we have to act in such a way that our capacity to communicate remains solid and the bridge of understanding is maintained between us and other members of the Sangha. When this bridge collapses there is no help for us.” (from his book Joyfully Together)

Sometimes you can build it again. I was not present for myself or for the community in the form of my child, that day. I let the bridge collapse, even though I kept her safe from the traffic and held on tight to her hand. Well: I guess, the least you can say, though she yelled steadily and I stomped along in stony silence, we were still holding hands, still walking each other home – after a fashion.

Thich Nhat Hanh also writes very helpfully about anger. He has the best chapter I’ve ever read on the subject in his book Peace Is Every Step.  See his steps of anger management/mindfulness here.  

He says, when we are angry, the tendency is for the anger to be bigger than us; we become consumed by anger, and therefore identified with it. So the first task is to notice the anger. In so doing, at once we have separated ourselves from it, and made it safer. We are no longer consumed by it, no longer inside it and identified with it.

He suggests we treat our anger as a parent would treat an angry child. Take it on our lap and speak soothingly to it, wait for the storm to pass, find out what is wrong.

I have noticed, recently, that my (uh-oh) inner child (dang, how I hate that phrase!) is angry. Actually, enraged. This last few days I’ve caught myself out looking for things to be angry about – and finding them. Pegs to hang it on.

I think for a long time my inner child has been very, very angry. We walk along together, elder sister and younger sister. I cannot escape the task of walking my inner child home. My actual child is a grown up woman now. But here’s my inner child – I’m stuck with her – screwed-up eyes and bright red cheeks, yelling and dragging her feet, trying to wring her hand out of my grip. I have no idea how to deal with her. For fifty-seven years I’ve been trying to walk this child home. I sure am sick of her. I wish she’d shut up. She wants to be heard. She wants to be noticed. I haven’t the foggiest idea what’s the matter with her. I have tried Wise People but they all turn out to be quite normal really; not functionally wiser than me. I’m elder sister. It’s my job. We still have a long way to go. Whatever can I do?


Julia Bolton Holloway said...

Stoop down to her level. Put your arms around her. Dry her tears. Say her name. With love. She is you.
I used to be able to manage with two, carrying one, the other in the stroller. But three became impossible. One can't carry two while pushing a stroller. I remember this, too. Daughters/Sons mirror mothers/fathers. Can I hug you? Love.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) What nice friends I have! God bless you, Julia xx

Ganeida. said...

Yes, one in sling, twin stroller, obstreperous 4 yr old with no road sense: boat & bus. Whatever anyone felt there was only one way to get through it. *sigh*

Cait was my screamer. She liked to do it on the boat. Good acoustics. ☺ Did everyone's ears in. What I used to do was croon in her ear an octave below her screams. When she dropped to harmonise with me I would drop another octave. Over & over till she was singing.

Sometimes all our children want is to be seen. Our recognition that they are there. Ditto for inner child. Mine likes to throw whoppers of tantrums. She needs to grow up. {{{♥}}}

AbiSomeone said...

Dearest have described my situation exactly. Exasperated with an angry inner child! Though I am a year older "elder daughter" than you, I started my children at an advanced age, so I have three teenage boys at this stage....

I don't know what I would have done without my double stroller....the eldest son was almost six when the third was born and the second was two and a half. And I was terribly broken, we didn't go on many adventures....

Hugs to you from afar, sister. Know that we have many ways of holding each other's hands in the storm. You books have been that for me -- and many others, I'm sure! And the sharing of the hard things in this transparent way is a blessing that is a form of being present in your anger.

Be blessed as you learn to be present with your elder and younger selves. Both of you are precious and dearly loved by Father, Son and Spirit as well as your Kingdom brothers and sisters.


Pen Wilcock said...

Heh - mothers often have so much in common!

I struggle daily with the tension I feel between my lifelong and absolute need for solitude, silence, beauty, peace and stillness - and the world's need for involvement, activism, engagement, contribution and attention.


Judy Olson said...

Your writing (your books and this blog) puts you into the world. But you need to write from the solitude, otherwise, there will be nothing of value to write. A happy balance already, nothing to fret over, at least that is the way I see it.

Jenna said...

Awesome post, Pen. It was a revelation to me that my screaming 18-month old daughter was really me. She had a genius for knowing when the keys were come out from the purse or the shoes went on--signals of an impending departure--and would literally throw herself on the floor, screaming "Don't leave me! DON'T LEAVE ME!!" until she was literally blue in the face. My strategy at the time was to bundle her up (because it wasn't like I was actually leaving her anywhere--I was a SAHM), put her on the front porch with her older brother to keep watch, and then race around getting my keys and shoes and whatnots. That was okay by her.

Now I realize I did actually want to leave. I was burdened by two in diapers, a difficult marriage, financial difficulties, the car went with the husband every day so not readily available leaving me in an isolated rural area, and absolutely just wanted to get in the car and drive until I couldn't go any further. She voiced me. She still does. Dammit.

DaisyAnon said...

I found arranging a meeting between my 'inner child' (who is not so inner a lot of the time :) ) and Jesus, was very effective.

Also, in the AA programme, our inner child is our ego which needs to be smashed in order for us to grow into a greater spiritual maturity.

So both these things have to be held in tension. Quite exhausting as you say.

It also seems like a never ending process, there are always deeper levels of spiritual immaturity and the child me having a tantrum.

Good luck, or may the Spirit be with you!

Pen Wilcock said...

Good thoughts, friends! xx

DaisyAnon said...

Pen wrote "I struggle daily with the tension I feel between my lifelong and absolute need for solitude, silence, beauty, peace and stillness - and the world's need for involvement, activism, engagement, contribution and attention."

Perhaps you need a certificate letting you off meeting the world's needs.

Rapunzel said...

Probably the angriest I have ever been, inner child and outer adult simultaniously, was years before my divorce when our marriage counselor observed "Good girls are usually quite angry on the inside."
How DARE he say such a thing! I'd spent my Whole Life up to that point trying hard to be a very good girl indeed, and in fact was quite good at being good. I was a good wife, a good mommy, a good daughter, a good sister, a good Sunday School teacher. I was good all over the place.
What I was not, was happy. If I'd had the guts I could have cheerfully slung my four kids ages 8,7,3 and 1 into a little red wagon and walked away from the husband, the huge house and garden, the church work, the community work, all of it. But I was regularly reminded nice girls do not leave their husbands or homes. They are obedient and they are givers.
It took me years to figure out I could either be someone else's definition of "good" or I could be me and be happy, but I just could not have it both ways.
It also took leaving the man for whom nothing is ever good enough and the church that insisted we stay together till death do us part.

Here's the thing about your angry inner child--she may not be a pesky imp, she may simply be right. When you do figure out what she's angry about, remember to thank her for bringing it to your attention.
<3 <3 <3

Rebecca said...

I'd weigh in, but alas I'd show myself quite normal really, not functionally wiser than you :)

Just another Elder Sister with a long way to go also...(Somehow, I suspect you already know that.)

Pen Wilcock said...

Ooh, how I love this circle of wisdom! It is developing such hope in me!
I have downloaded that permission certificate and will keep it where i can see it!
You are - all - my circle of blessing!

gail said...

Oh Pen, you've done it again. I get angry at this world the way we hurt each other. I get angry at myself because I don't know what to do about it. I just want to let go of anger's hand. That's not who I want to be. Is there not at least two types of anger. Good anger and bad anger and maybe even more. I read something this weekend that really made me sit up and take notice of my anger.
"Anger is the only toxin that destroys what it's carried in"
I have not had sisters or children for that matter, but I love those Mums and Sisters who will hold on tight in the difficult times and again I've enjoyed all the responses. Such wisdom.
Blessings Gail

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Gail! Waving! xx

Anonymous said...

"I struggle daily with the tension I feel between my lifelong and absolute need for solitude, silence, beauty, peace and stillness - and the world's need for involvement, activism, engagement, contribution and attention."

I think we all struggle with this. All we can do is trust that life (God) places us where we need to be at any given time.

Unexpected health problems and continuing long term treatment are forcing me into a quieter way of life at the moment. It is hard, and I'm certainly not finding it any easier to settle into a pattern of quietness and prayer.
What is helping me Pen, is reading "The Hawk and the Dove" which a dear friend has kindly let me borrow.

God bless

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Thank you, Stella. I'm so glad it's proving helpful. x

Anonymous said...

Hi Penelope,
As much as our societies want to deny, pacify or medicate them, I believe God gave us the full range of emotions for a reason. I look at it this way. I get to be sad when I am sad. I get to be angry when I am angry (but responsibly, not to the harm of others). What others often think of as negative emotions can be useful if we let them serve a purpose. Things like righteous anger and guilt can be catalysts for healing, growth and change.Those emotions are mine. I get to have them. When we stop fighting them and let ourselves experience them they can teach us something, serve the purpose they were designed to serve.
be blessed

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) Thanks, friend x