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infused with tenderness

“You don’t have to let yourself be terrorized by other people’s expectations of you.” ~Sue Patton Thoele

As the rain is falling with soft urgency this morning and the bright green birch leaves outside my window flirt with me, I sit here in my warm bed sipping coffee, listening, reflecting and looking at my Facebook newsfeed catching up with life a bit. This morning, I saw this quote and realized how apt it is for this particular moment.

This moment is peaceful and feels soft and yielding which surprises me given where I was yesterday. Being around my family of origin is usually a drain for me and I usually steer clear of exposing myself and my children to that experience. My path to self-love has taught me to notice who is supportive and loving and to be with those people most of the time. Yesterday, I made an exception because my mom is moving to another state and I wanted to support her desire to have her loved ones around her.

Many of the same dynamics that have been around since childhood are still there. One of my family members puts the “dys” in dysfunctional, by taking every opportunity to try to assert his perceived dominance and to cut other people down. He reminds me of Javert from Les Miserables–always judging harshly and thinking himself righteous when, in fact, he is the one creating pain and suffering both for others and for himself. I feel sad for him. I can see how, like Javert, he holds himself in a kind of prison and is terrified that if he lets anything or anyone in, he will have to feel. I know that place. It’s very painful.

What I noticed yesterday is that while family dynamics don’t always change, something inside me has. I didn’t feel terrorized. I didn’t feel like I was punched in the stomach with his insults or the other dynamics present. I felt free, open, compassionate and also strong. I saw so clearly how I have let myself be defined and, yes, terrorized by not only the expectations of others but by their judgments and criticisms. I saw with absolute clarity how that is a level of consciousness I don’t want to be a part of. Instead of engaging in power struggles and letting the poison in, I chose to go outside and let myself feel good and connected to my own core self. I went outside for a brief walk, let the wind touch my skin and picked a bouquet of dandelions for my mom. I gave her a massage and rubbed lotion into her dry skin letting myself really love the person and the body that gave me life. I loved what was in front of me, including myself, and just let this person who once held so much sway in my life, be who and where he was without the need to change it. It was very freeing.

I saw how much tending the garden of my own psyche has helped me grow. My roots are deep and I am nourished. I have learned so much about love–both giving and receiving. When I talked to my mom last night, she told me that she appreciated the massage, the roses I brought her and “being touched with such tenderness”. She’s moving soon. I hope to have many more years with her and many chances to offer her love in this way but we never know what the future brings. I’m glad I was able to say yes to that moment and offer love in this way.

If my journey has taught me anything, it’s that the legacy I want to leave is love. Love that is free of expectations and infused with tenderness. Love that notices power and terror and just sort of engulfs it and softens the callouses. I’m not sure there is anything else worth living for.

[edit] Right after I hit “publish”, I saw this quote on Facebook and had to add it. It’s perfect.

There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness. ~The Dalai Lama

Here’s me and mamala:


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