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This year I have been reading Pema Chödrön’s Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on Cultivating Fearlessness and Compassion. I try and read one of the teachings each morning before I get up.
Number 29 struck home so deeply that I realized I had to keep reading it every day until I “get it” to the point that I am living it. Number 29 is about lightening up, in part it says:
“This earnestness, this seriousness about everything in our lives … this goal-oriented, we’re-going-to-do-it-or-else attitude, is the world’s greatest killjoy. There’s no sense of appreciation because we’re so solemn about everything. In contrast, a joyful mind is very ordinary and relaxed. So lighten up. Don’t make such a big deal.”
In general I am very goal oriented, but the area of my life that Pema’s words most resonated in was parenting. Like most parents, I love my daughter and want the best for her (Goal). So lately, in all my goal-oriented “earnestness” and “seriousness” I was always thinking about what she “needed” to do in order to reach my goal of attaining what’s best for her (things like homework, summer job applications, eating better, exercising, getting more fresh air, getting more sleep – you get the picture – pretty much every aspect of her teenage life). Oh, the intention was good, but you know what they say about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.
I realized that I have been completely sucking the joy out of our relationship. It seemed that every time I interacted with her it was just to recite a list of things that she still needed to do. She had become a living, breathing “to do list” for me. I had totally lost my appreciation for what a good kid she is and for all that she does accomplish. No wonder she was rebelling and constantly telling me to stop trying to control her.
Of course, I kept thinking that I wouldn’t have to nag if she would just do what she needed to. I was nagging in her best interest. Then Pema’s words hit me like a freight train. I was becoming a killjoy!
Reality check – she’s not three years old anymore. She will be learning to drive in three months. She knows what she needs to do and she knows the consequences of not doing it. My nagging was only ruining our relationship; it wasn’t getting anything done any faster or any better.
I’m still reading #29 most mornings and reminding myself that life is a journey and not a “goal-oriented, we’re-going-to-do-it-or-else” destination. The journey is a lot more pleasant for both my daughter and me when I lighten up. Homework is still getting done, as are all the other important things on my list, they are just getting done on her schedule, not mine – as they should be.
Lisa Ivaldi is a Writer and Virtual Assistant in Guelph, ON. Click here to download a free copy of her Wake Up to What You Love workbook.