There are times in life when things feel so out of control, you wonder what it all means. Are we put here on earth to suffer or to find joy? Or to experience both?
When a child becomes seriously ill, or a friend dies, or our financial situation becomes so untenable we have to make drastic and immediate changes to a previously comfortable life, it’s easy to become wrapped up in the unanswerable question: Why me? How can I handle all this responsibility, all this worry and pain and still find happiness? What’s the point of it all?
That’s when it’s a true blessing to have kids. They zoom through life, so energetic and curious and trusting, so wise and silly and intent on immediate joy. They recalibrate our tendency to get wrapped up in the big-picture miseries around us. They remind us to laugh, to see beauty in small things, to be loving and forgiving and trusting–even when our soul is mired in anger or confusion.
The immediacy of kids, the beauty of their open hearts, makes life’s challenges more bearable, and at the same time heavier.
A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to see the Dalai Lama at Gillette Stadium. Much of what he said went right over my head (I’m just beginning to explore Buddhism), but I was struck in particular by the focus on how to balance our desire for things–for success at work or with our kids, for happiness and love-with an acceptance of fate. How to harness our striving so that the energy it produces is not nervous and vulnerable, but strong and self-contained. It’s virtually impossible for me, and so I know it is where I need to do the most work as a parent and as a writer.
“When fear, hatred, jealousy dominate our mind, then the best part of our brain which can judge cannot function properly,” the Dalai Lama has said, explaining that such emotions are destructive to wisdom. “You will never get satisfactory result.”
So as a parent, I try to focus on the good qualities of my children, and help them with their struggles, knowing always they will find their own way with or without me. The biggest favor I can do them is to operate from love not fear.
As an individual, I need to slow down my mind, reign in my anxious striving. As our book Mothers Need Time Outs, Too says, I need to remind myself constantly to take care of my spirit so I can be of use to those I love, and to those who need me. Dreaming should be fun, not riddled with fear of failure. There has to be enough of me left at the end of the day to help a dying friend, to sit with my children in peace, to be able to rest my mind.
Without a healthy mind, nothing seems possible. So as I contemplate summer and more time with my family, I look forward to making some decisions that will allow me to sink into the moment with a calmer heart.