When I was in junior high and high school and my mom was driving me crazy, one of the ways we could find connection was through shopping for clothes. I remember many times standing with her in a boutique or big box department store contemplating whether or not to buy the pair of pink Hang Ten jeans or floral sundress I was holding in my hands and hearing her say, “When in doubt, do nothing.”
Her words flooded back to me this week when I found myself triggered –again–by something my middle school son had done. As we navigate his inevitable and natural push for more freedom and desire to differentiate from his dad and me (his primary job at this stage I have to keep reminding myself), this is happening more and more often. (Granted we’re dealing with molehills, not mountains-but we know there’s more to come!)
So this week, feeling confused and a bit lost, I took my mom’s advice to heart. And I experienced how much wisdom there is in these five words. Often, when I get hit by a wave of anger, frustration or am overtaken by my desire for things to be different than the way they are (what author Byron Katie calls the definition of “hell”), I am best served by having my first and immediate response be to simply do nothing. By waiting. Sitting. Breathing. When needed, talking the issue through with my husband or a friend. And then, eventually, after I’ve come into a neutral space around the incident (which can sometimes take days), asking, Is there an action that I’m being called to take around this? And often, the response is “no.” Or sometimes it’s not an action that is required, but a shift in perspective on my part.
Speaking to a group of nonprofit leaders and parent educators this past weekend in Nashville about how to create balance from the inside-out reminded me how much the practice of self-care has helped me to embrace this concept.
My commitment to self-renewal (read more) has affected my life in so many ways. But one of the biggest is how it’s allowed me to cultivate the ability to pause. It’s taught me how to create space around how and when I respond to others. It’s helped me reflect–even it’s for a split second–before I pick up the phone, hit “send,” make a comment, or indulge in a full blown emotional tsunami. Do I pause and do nothing every time I get triggered? No way! But does it happen a whole lot more than it did ten years ago? Absolutely. The art of self-care–which I define as attuning and responding moment to moment to my needs and desires–has allowed me to cultivate a gentler, kinder, sweeter relationship to myself … and in turn, to others.
And this is something that makes my son and husband very happy.
P.S. Interested in cultivating more spaciousness around how you react and getting comfortable with going inward for the answers? Join me at Kripalu Yoga & Wellness Center Oct. 18-20 (almost sold out!) for our upcoming Women’s Self-Renewal Retreat or view all our upcoming retreats.
Subscribe here to Live Inside Out, a weekly blog written by life balance teacher/speaker, author Renée Peterson Trudeau. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping and numerous media outlets. Thousands of women in ten countries are participating in Personal Renewal Groups based on her first book, the award-winning The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal. Her newest release is Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and son. More on her background here.