Part of healing is finding one’s unique gift and then giving it. The masters always advise finding a way to help and serve others because that’s what makes us truly happy. This is a tricky one for those among us who have had codependent tendencies for much of our lives… sublimating ourselves in relationships and jobs where we over-give, over-extend, over-serve to the point of unhealthiness. It can be hard to identify opportunities for true service where we aren’t just using the other person / community in need to make ourselves feel better and worthy.
For me, teaching is one of these opportunities, and it’s not necessarily what I thought it would be. I have had to learn to have a boundary and not to take on the emotional lives and problems of my students, regardless of how much their circumstances and pain move me. I’ve had to learn to create space for the unknown… for the alchemy of their contributions with the content that I bring. Part of that learning has been improvisation… leaving room and space for things to emerge and grow. Recognizing that I don’t have to do everything and I’m not responsible for everyone. Some students need to learn the lessons that failure provides. Who am I to deprive them of that?
The other main way that I help and serve is in raising children. Part of me feels regret over how unhealed I was and have been with my two older kids. I was not very present and engaged in their emotional lives when they were little (in part because they were already 5 and 7 when I met them). Plus I was working and very self involved for the first five years we were all together, and then the second five I was more focused on giving birth to and raising their younger sister. I have the persistent feeling that I surrendered them to their phones. They have more intimacy with their phones than they do with their stepmom. Sigh- it’s not over and I can keep working on it and seeing what each new year brings. With my youngest it’s different because we connect deeply on an emotional level and share our everyday. I haven’t worked full time out of the home for four years and consequently she gets intense attention and care. As I prepare to return to full time work, we’ll see what shifts. She needs to be a little more independent now so it is well-timed.
But I digress. Being a parent is a sure fire way to help and serve. It is such a demanding role. Yes, I chose it. Yes, I knew it would be hard and yes, it truly requires profound patience, discipline, and humility. In many ways our kids are our mirrors reflecting back at us our own habits and beliefs. Yikes! So hard to be faced with our own shortcomings on a daily and hourly basis. And then the guilt for not teaching them better, for not being a better example for them to emulate. Sigh.
Today I find myself taking my 8 year old and her friend to see an abysmal movie. It’s a way to pass the time over holiday break. Sadly there aren’t better entertainment options for kids, and I don’t have the energy to do something more active with them. I want to be more engaged with my daughter than my parents were with me… I had little or no guidance in my intellectual and emotional life and had to navigate all the shifting moods and difficulties in our home and life by myself. I want it to be different for her. The hard part is determining the balance. Don’t want to be overbearing and deprive her of the opportunity to grow into her own person, but also don’t want to be so self-involved that I neglect her need for gentle guidance.
In any case, I feel lucky to have both of these roles- teacher and parent. They take a lot out of me but they also give me purpose and the biggest laughs and joy of my life.