Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ying and Yang

My father came across as relaxed, easy going, and laid back.  Telling crude jokes, drinking beers, telling stories, and laughing big hearty laughs.  And he was all of these things.  (Ok, maybe relaxed isn't exactly how he came off).  I am not sure how many people saw that he was also extremely stressed, concerned about the state of the world, and tirelessly working himself to the bone.  He embodied the ying-yang that he so passionately discussed in his classes: the contradiction of a laid back nonchalant attitude and a passionately hyper work ethic, creating an inability to rest until justice was found (and it never was, at least not completely).

I can feel my father's stress, a stress passed down from generation to generation, the stress of longing for humanity and justice, of sewing together the material from several 100 pound bags of rice to make bed sheets, of having to be hyper vigilant when cops were anywhere near, the stress of alcoholic binges to numb painful traumas and the stress of rage filled fits of alcoholic aggression and violence; the stress of witnessing these cycles over and over and over.  I can feel this stress.

I know that I need to embrace my lighter side, my light hearted nature.  I know that it will literally lighten my heart, and allow for me to truly rest and enjoy life.

My life lately has been very full.  I have taken on a new position at work that requires more of my time, and at home I have been enjoying creeping around on the floor with my two youngest boys, quite literally, as we are participating in a program that has encouraged us to creep, like little babies, for at least 30 minutes everyday.  My days and nights are filled, with work and family.

When I took on the new position, this January, I promised myself that I would make my family a priority.  My promise, my commitment to myself and my family, was inspired by my wife.  She asked me, just after we found out I was offered the new position, "What do you need to do to make it work, to be successful?"  I hadn't even thought of asking myself that kind of question.  Naively, I assumed that I could continue to operate as I had and be just fine.  And for the most part my sincerity and genuine joy for life, my excitement to serve others, is how I can continue to operate; still, that does not mean that I did not (and still need to) rethink how I will make changes in my habits and my daily operations.

After my wife asked me what I need to do to be successful, to be happy in my new position, I told her that I need to make sure that when I get home (which is already later than I used to) that I am present.  That when I get home from work I will be home with my children and with my wife - present with my family.

Our daily creeping, and the work that my wife and I have had to do in our parenting class, have made my commitment a reality.  Creeping with my boys, and making significant changes in how we articulate our interactions and relationships, has been some of the most intense quality time that I have experienced with my family.  And I have been genuinely present.

Still the stress creeps in.  My need to focus on relaxation, on the lighter side of life is even more important now than ever.  For me the struggle is in the moment, the moment before I consciously realize how stressed I have become, and I am feeling and thinking that this moment is so important, so serious, that it is about life and death!  And it's not.  It's not even close.  My overreaction to whatever the event is: one of my sons running off moments after I ask him to complete a task, or when I cannot find my keys in the morning - no one's life is in danger.  No one's.  But my brain is convincing me that someone's is - and it is conveying this life threatening energy to everyone in my house, conditioning them to embody similar overreactions.

Tonight my little boys were laughing just before bed, giggling so joyously!  It brightens my heart and serves as a reminder that lightening the load on my heart is a matter of life and death.  So I thank my wife for daily reminders of our need to be light hearted, and of my boys, all three of them, for living their lives in ways that demonstrate how to enjoy being light, whimsical, and joyous!