Zahra is now just over four months old. In this short time I have learned so much.
Allow yourself to feel (without attaching a story)
I’m fascinated by my daughter’s ability to go from tears and pouty lips, to smiles and delighted shrieking in seconds. Sadness is gone in a flash once her needs are met. The emotion doesn’t last, as she is not telling herself a story about what it meant. When we get upset we tend to interpret what this means, ruminating on something for hours, days, or sometimes even years. Zahra will express her emotions readily, without shame. We try and resist the feeling rather than sit with it, feel it and move through it. Distracting ourselves, or numbing the pain with tv, exercise, alcohol, work etc. Yet the feeling persists. We bury it a little deeper, and find it slipping out in unconscious ways.
Zahra is determinedly trying to crawl at the moment. She flips herself over, lifts her bum in the air and like a caterpillar, shuffles along a few centimeters. After a while she gets pretty frustrated with this and needs rescuing, as she’s not yet able to turn herself back onto her front. What story might we tell ourselves about this? Why does this always happen to me? I can’t do it, I’m useless, I’ll never be able to crawl! If only I was slimmer, prettier, smarter, richer I would be able to do this.
Babies don’t live in the future or the past, they are fully present in every moment. Zahra’s life is simple and happy. She lives in her body not her head. Enjoying the sensation of touch and exploration. She has not yet experienced the disconnection of mind and body. One morning during a heat wave, I lay her down on the end of the bed and turned on the fan. She lay there blissfully enjoying the sensation of the cool breeze and the morning sunlight. Not thinking about what she needed to do, not preoccupied by ‘the things’ in her head.
I have a tendency to live in the future. In the ‘what if?’ and ‘omg, what about when this happens!’ (Spoiler alert: it never does). Having Zahra has allowed me to live far more in the present. Just looking at her snaps me back into the moment and out of the constructed future in my head. The more I increase this habit of presence, the easier it is to stay there. When something does trigger anxiety, I look for a way to come back to the now and revisit the situation later when I’m in a calmer state of mind.
Rely on your Intuition
There are two ways to make a decision. Firstly, look at all the external facts and gather as much information as possible. Secondly, trust what your gut is telling you. It’s important to do both. But the former often overrides the latter with confusion and overwhelm. The little voice inside gets drowned out with information. I imagined having a baby would be a constant guessing game of finding out why they were crying. This wasn’t the case at all. I just seemed to know what she needed. People always remark on what a happy baby she is. I have hit the jackpot with her easy-going temperament, but I’d like to think this is in part down to my intuition, and anticipating her needs before she becomes distressed.
The fine-tuning of my instincts translated into other areas of my life in unexpected ways. I became very attuned to what felt right and what didn’t, prompting several changes in my life. There was one area in particular where I had felt stuck for a long time. Going back and forth between one decision and another. I had spent so long asking for opinions, researching and listening to others, I had become completely disconnected from my own truth. I stopped needing to talk others, or hear different interpretations of events. I trusted that little voice and it bought me great peace.
Having Zahra unexpectedly changed my standards in life. I wanted the very best for her, and realised that in order to give it to her, it meant the best for me too. Anything that detracted from the joy of being with her no longer had a place in my life. One relationship in particular fell away, as it bought me too much stress. Time became limited but also more precious. I started saying no more and more. Going against my inclination to people please. It had to be a clear Yes! or not at all. Some things were very hard to say no to. But I knew what they would cost too much in time, and I’d end up just feeling resentful. I wanted my life to be simple and not overwhelming.
Brene Brown does a wonderful talk on boundaries, watch it here: https://vimeo.com/274228723. In this she states that from over 13 years of research, her shocking finding was that the most compassionate people she had interviewed, were also the most boundaried: ‘boundaries are not easy, but I think they are the key to self-love, and they are the key to treat others with loving kindness.