The Spiritual Warrior vs The Temper Tantrum
Yesterday before the clock even struck 9am, my worst self reared her ugly hot-headed head. She is not someone I normally talk about - let alone discuss in a public forum - but in the spirit of sharing openly and honestly... fuck it. Share I will.
My husband, son and I drove upstate after work on Friday to spend the weekend at a good friend's beautiful, rustic home. He's a few years younger than us, unmarried & childless. God only knows why he wants our noisy, messy, diaper-wearing crew disrupting his peace, but you don't look a gift horse in the mouth, right? The drive was objectively miserable. Horrible traffic, screaming toddler, and my husband I taking turns on long, loud work calls for most of the ride. About 20 minutes from our destination, my son projectile vomited all over himself, the car and the carseat. I share this only to set the scene and context for the following morning.
I had it all planned out perfectly. I'd wake at 5:45- as I normally do - slip out into nature to do my meditation, then go back to bed for an hour or two. I'd awaken feeling rested and centered for my idyllic weekend in the country with my idyllic little family. The morning started out as expected (check my Insta stories for the proof!), but as soon as I crawled back into bed - around 6:40am - my son was up like a light. He was full of his normal, rambunctious curiosity but with his volume and his volatility cranked up a notch, presumably because our host and the other two childless guests were sleeping peacefully AND we were in a house full of precious, antique, fragile items. Most of these items resemble animals (MUST TOUCH ANIMALS) but are actually made of carved & intricately-painted wood, porcelain, or other breakable non-child friendly materials and are thus, like little land mines - impossible to avoid but certain to erupt. This leads to the age old parent-toddler drama cycle known as the '"don't touch that" tantrum.'
I tried to dress him and rush him out the door so as to not disturb my innocent (childless) houseguests in this big, old, echoey house. For those of you who are also childless, take it from me that rushing a toddler never goes well. As someone who has a tendency to move too fast (Capricorn, pitta, type-A) this is the part of motherhood I struggle with the most. I don't want to rush him - in theory, I WANT him to be present in the moment, stopping to smell every rose and admire every antique duck sculpture - but in practice, I want to get the F outside where his tantrums are heard only by me and Mother Nature, who surely won't judge. After about 20 minutes of chasing him - myself only half-dressed - from one corner of the house to the next, ripping objects from his hands, shushing him, barricading off occupied bedrooms - everyone in the house was awake...except my husband. My husband has many gifts but his ability to sleep through ANYTHING - particularly the noise of a child - is truly remarkable. Should I resent him for this...no. Do I? FUCK YES.
We are finally dressed and outside, me feeling guilty for waking the house, and Drew feeling cranky from all of the "nos" and "don't touch thats" and "shushes". The property is vast and although I put on the dinosaur rain boots that he begged LOUDLY for (even though it wasn't raining - yet), once we got a good quarter mile from the house, he refused to walk anymore. "PICK ME UP!" he shouted, heaving his 40lb body to the muddy ground. "My shoes not working. MY SHOES NOT WORKING!" This is of course toddler speak for, "something is annoying me and I don't have the vocabulary to articulate it yet so I'm going to make up some nonsensical complaint and heave my body onto the ground." And honestly, I don't blame him. Sometimes it would be super awesome to just heave yourself on the ground and not make sense when you're feeling tired, cranky, or PMSy. But as the adult on the receiving end of this behavior, it's hella frustrating. It makes you want to heave yourself onto the ground next to them and halt adulting until further notice.
I carry him back to the house, where everyone (except my husband) is now up, staring sleepily into their iPhones, too groggy to make breakfast or interact with one another. No one actually says anything sassy to us, but I *feel* like a pariah bringing all this toddler madness into their energetic space. I put on his OTHER dinosaur shoes and we head back outside, piggy-back style to avoid another walking-induced meltdown. Outside, where at least I can pretend I'm a great mom whose child doesn't scream incessantly for 2 hours upon waking or break precious farmhouse-chic objets d'art.
We head up a big hill towards the pool, which is surrounded by a thick hedge. The hedge is over four feet tall and completely encloses the pool - or so I thought. Drew, tracking about 10 big steps ahead of me, proceeds to find a sparsely leaved corner of the hedge and wedges his body through. "NO!" I scream, my mama fight or flight switch fully engaged. I dive bomb through the hedge to stop him from the sudden drowning that I've already envisioned in my head. He managed to get one leg into the pool before I grabbed his opposite wrist pulling him on top of my thorn-pricked body and yelled something overly dramatic like, "DON'T YOU KNOW YOU COULD DIE!". I pause for a moment and hold him close to my chest, taking a deep breath and kissing his soft little head. At that moment, it starts to rain down on us. At that moment, a thought comes into my head: fuck this I'm out.
I put Drew in our bedroom where my husband is *still* sleeping and start packing our bags. "Where are the keys," I say loudly. At this point my ego is in the driver's seat and even though I know I'm being dramatic and irrational, I have set the wheels in motion on this temper tantrum and I am fully invested in completing it. Anyone remember the Chappelle's Show skit "When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong" (watch it if you don't). Well this was me, indignant AF, like Brenda when she didn't like people playing on her phone. I proceed to load all of our items into the car, including the perishable groceries we brought - a sign that I am clearly not fucking around. "Babe," my husband says, finally awake, "you're being crazy. Stop it."
I give him my reasons: I'm at the end of my rope, there's not enough technology or toys here to entertain him, it would be easier back at home, I feel guilty for waking everyone up, the house is not child-proofed enough, it's gonna rain all weekend, nobody wants us (read = ME) here. We MUST go home. "It's all in your head babe, but with that attitude you should just go," he says. This is NOT the response my Ego-self wanted which would either be: A) For him to fight for me to stay! Tell me I'm wanted...no, NEEDED. The weekend will be miserable without me! or B) For him to tell me I'm absolutely right and let me ride off into the sunset on my high horse. It's best for you, the family and the rest of the houseguests for you to leave. You assessed the needs of your child and your situation, and you're making a calculated and mature decision to leave.
Thankfully, he did not feed my Ego that bullshit. And I've done enough self-work to know that he was absolutely right. I was being crazy and it was all in my head. The Ego voice in my head was telling me to be embarrassed of my very amazing, if very spirited child. The Ego voice in my head was judging my parenting skills. The Ego voice said, "Everyone is annoyed at you. You are not wanted." The Ego wanted to get back into control: to be in our child-proofed Brooklyn bubble, where our weekend plans would play out as they normally do. My Ego likes routine, predictability and above all - being in control. Back home, the tantrums would be fewer and further between and at the very least, they'd occur in private (or in front of the other stroller-pushers who get it). And finally... the Ego voice in my head was thinking, normally you drink or vape to make these types of feelings go away. Normally on vacation with a toddler you are buzzed or even shit-faced: You. Can't. Handle. This. Sober (DAMN, she went there).
It's in these moments that we have a choice: to do all the things our Ego tells us to or to drop the mask and let the moment - however cranky and uncomfortable - just be. We can dissolve into the things that feel easier, more safe, and more habitual. We can run away from the situation rather than acknowledge, hey that was a rough morning - but it's cool - this too shall pass. In these moments, we can even say screw this sobriety thing (screw reality altogether, basically) - I DESERVE a mimosa, or 3. I don't like this reality so I'm checking out with my substances of choice... OR we can choose to walk the path of the Spiritual Warrior.
For me, the path looked like this: swallow my pride, unpack the car, repack the fridge, apologize to my husband, hug my husband, hug my son, go for a long walk in the woods with my husband and son, eat a good breakfast, then take a 3 hour nap. I'm a firm believer that anything can be improved - if not fully solved - via a 3 hour nap. Every time we recognize the Ego is in play - even in the process of "losing a battle" against it - we are making progress on our path. Every time we embrace humility - admitting we have succumb to our inner demons - we are pushed forward on our journey. Every time we are gentle with ourselves when we want to beat ourselves up - we are earning our stripes as a Spiritual Warrior. We don't make excuses for our bad behavior, but we don't dwell on it, adding insult to injury either.
As Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the Four Agreements says, "A Spiritual Warrior learns to retreat, rest, recover, learn from their actions, regroups, then stands up again to take another step on his path." A Spiritual Warrior is not ego-free -far from it. She just knows when her Ego needs a nap.