“How can I get everything back to the way it was?” Well, we can’t really. But life is a cycle, like the tide. Yesterday everything was great and now everything’s awful. But it won’t stay awful, just like it didn’t stay great. We learn to step through the good times and the bad times knowing that everything changes.

 

By David Jones

 

One night long ago, one of my sons was sick, and at bedtime he needed a dose of medicine. He hated taking medicine.

As I poured the thick purple liquid into a dosage spoon he started edging away. I told him to stop because he needed to take this.

“Will it taste bad?”

I looked at him and said in my soothing voice, “Yeah. Yeah it’s going to taste nasty. But you need to take it to start feeling better.”

It didn’t matter what I told him, he was going to fight it. He fought a lot of things growing up. I’m glad he was too young to know how to get a good lawyer. But I tried to mindfully deal with his resistance with the truth and compassion of someone who has also fought sometimes.

Recently my other son hit a rough patch. His pending 21st birthday plans might have been derailed because of a misunderstanding he had with his friends. Now he isn’t welcome around them. The same thing happened at his mom’s house. Finally he came to me. He saw me and just broke down sobbing.

He won’t tell me exactly what was said—probably worried I’d tell him to kick rocks too—but he did have a lot of questions because his world was collapsing around him and he was totally lost. The thing he did know, though, was that I’d be honest with him. I’d also be even-tempered and willing to listen without yelling at him.

Here was essentially how we sat together with his broken heart:

“Why does it have to hurt so bad, dad?”

I said it hurts because he cares, because he has always cared about the feelings and needs of others. But even then, it’s possible for us to accidentally hurt or anger others. If he didn’t care about anyone else, he probably wouldn’t be hurting so much.

“Why can’t I just stop feeling?”

Ah, Son, how often in my life I wished I could stop feeling. I put walls around myself and try to take my emotions off line. Being an unfeeling robot sounded way better than the absolute emotional shipwreck I was. But it takes so much energy all the time to keep those walls up; eventually they’d fall, and he’d have to face stuff anyway, except now he’d be too exhausted to handle things well.

“Am I a bad friend?”

No, I don’t think he’s a bad friend. A bad friend probably wouldn’t be so torn up about hurting his friends. Remember though that, while we have some responsibility over hurtful things, it’s also up to the other person to either take offense and walk away or try to understand and choose to act accordingly, and that’s something we don’t control. We have some responsibility, but not all of it. “It’s all my fault” isn’t always true.

“Is there a magic wand or a magic word to make everything good again?”

Ah. No, I’m afraid not. Kind of wish there was, but I’m afraid we just have to work through all the times when things get painful and lonely.

“How can I get everything back to the way it was?”

Well, we can’t really. But life is a cycle, like the tide. Yesterday everything was great and now everything’s awful. But it won’t stay awful, just like it didn’t stay great. We learn to step through the good times and the bad times knowing that everything changes.

“I don’t know what to do now.”

Here are some things I suggested he might need to do now:

Time is what you need. Nothing will be solved tonight. After a big dust up, the dust won’t settle unless you give it time to. The way forward isn’t very clear when we’ve just suffered calamity.

Rest. When everything hurts, getting some sleep will help. Rest your mind with some nice music or prayer or meditation or YouTube videos about cats—something for the mind to chew on instead of itself.

Eat. If you’re queasy from the anxiety and pain, you can wait until you’ve slept. But having something in your tummy can give you one less thing to suffer from.

Keep to a routine as much as possible. It’s why I try to keep routines like bedtime. Especially when everything is falling down, it’s good to keep the comfort and familiarity of routine things. It can help you stay grounded.

Instead of trying to run from it, let yourself be free to experience the hurt and the sadness and the regret. Learning to sit with it, instead of fighting it or letting it consume us, is a great way to help get through it.

I held him and we breathed together. I didn’t tell him to do breath exercises, but I started and invited him to join me if he wanted to. Demanding he do something would’ve just been another controlling voice in his maelstrom of pain. Hearing and feeling my breathing led to him doing it too.

After a few nights of rest and care, the sun is shining again (well, actually it’s cloudy and rainy, but you know). His friends are taking tentative steps to getting him back to the group, and his mom just has Covid for like the 19th time. There had been misunderstandings all around.

But a mindful parent can help their child get through the trials of life. And really, a listening ear, and soothing voice, and open arms might be just what we all need sometimes, no matter how old we are.

 

 

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