Just the way you are by Billy Joel, popped into my head this morning. Although I have never been a big fan, his songs flood me with happy childhood memories. Piano man, however, reminds me of drunk girls locking arms and dancing. But much of his music conjures up memories of riding in my mom’s station wagon as I marveled at the glow of the moon from my back seat window wondering why it chose us to follow home. I can hear it now…Don’t go changing to try and please me as we drove to the farm to buy corn and tomatoes after a day of swimming. I loved that station wagon partially because it was so much fun to sit in the way back and throw tennis balls out the window.
I realize now how helpful it would be to invite this song into my consciousness from time to time. Like the other day when my daughter was standing by my side while I was writing, and in mid-sentence said repeatedly and with increasing volume, “Fix my hair, fix my HAIR, FIX MY HAIR!” I told her if she did it again, she would get the hose again. To which she replied and with good reason, “What’s the hose again?” I didn’t answer. Somehow I didn’t think it would be considered mindful parenting or okay on any front to explain: 1.”Princess” the little white fluffy dog, 2. the lady trapped in the well who was instructed to rub the lotion on her skin, or 3. Hannibal Lector.
One night recently after my son threw up all over my mom’s living room from “too much popcorn and ice cream,” I was all out of sorts. After consistent nights of inadequate sleep, and bemoaning the fact that I was up yet again, my son with his amber colored puppy dog eyes and hand over his heart, said, “I’m sorry Mama.”
I felt badly that I wasn’t being the mother my son needed me to be in that moment. I thought about a conversation I had had with my oldest sister who is a mother of four as well as a therapist. She mentioned that it is important for a child to understand when they get in trouble that he or she is not bad, but rather it is the behavior that needs to be addressed. And it is the same advice for me to remember, I am not a bad mother, but sometimes I make mistakes and lose my temper. The guilt, shame, and blame is better to discard so as to leave room for forgiveness and unconditional love.
One of my favorite children’s books is called Mama, Do You Love Me by Barbara M. Joosse. In it the little girl asks her mom over and over again if her mom would still love her after doing all sorts of terrible deeds like putting ermine in her mukluks. (They live in Alaska.) Her mom listening with her whole heart replies reassuringly that she would love her even if she was mad. She will always love her because underneath the bad behavior, the little girl is just a little girl. A little girl with a beating heart and bright soul prone to mistakes from time to time but above all, spirited, beautiful, whole, and most likely trying to do the best she can.
And the same is true for us, behind our personalities, our insecurities, and all of our life-long baggage, lies our true selves, our essential and highest selves that want to be good, helpful, and loved.
It makes me wonder what it would look like if we could practice lovingly seeing our relatives and friends for who they really are during their tantrums, nonsensical chatter, unintended mistakes, annoying behavior, selfish actions, mindless moments, and clueless comments.
And what if we could also lovingly see and hear ourselves through these times? Knowing that beneath the noise, there is always calm, unconditional compassion, and love.
Maybe by becoming aware; simply, intently, and increasingly aware and with an air of openness and curiosity to our genuine feelings, we carve out a teeny bit more space to respond more gently. And by meeting ourselves as well as those closest to us exactly how they are in that moment, we also then get to love them just they way they are.
I said I love you and that’s forever
And this I promise from my heart
I couldn’t love you any better
I love you just the way you are.