Today, I was reminded of how strongly the stories we tell ourselves affect our emotions, our demeanor, or thoughts, and our actions. Our stories are intricate, personal, and messy; it is our brain's way of making sense of a situation, validating anxiety, justifying anger, or preparing ourselves for the worst.
So, here is how it all went down...
I took my daughters to the pool today to spend time with their cousins who live out of town and are visiting for the week. My youngest is 2-about-to-be-3, a free spirit, a wild stallion, a strong-willed, creative, lively, hilarious child who, needless to say, challenges my sanity on a daily basis. It was lunchtime and the kids were getting hungry therefore the adults were discussing food plans. As I was distracted for about 20 seconds, my young lovely aforementioned decided she'd take this opportunity to sneak away from mommy and jump into the larger pool approximately 50 yards away. Did I mention she cannot swim without a lifejacket or floaty or whatever those things are called? The lifeguard fished her out, unbeknownst to me, and my sweetie was back by my side before I realized she was gone. However, I was quickly made aware of the situation by the lifeguard who walked over to me and told me in a nice and professional manner that my children must be accompanied by an adult in the pool at all times.
Searing with embarrassment and anger, I sat both my girls out of the pool to have a "discussion"; perhaps I made a point to do this within ear shot of the lifeguard. Here is where the story I told myself unfolded: I thought to myself, "How dare this guy judge me to be a bad mom! He assumes that, just because I was not on top of them at that particular moment, I am negligent, stupid, lazy, or that I don't know how to take care of my kids! I'm sure I have three times more degrees that he does. That jerk....Oh, wait. I wonder if he's right? Maybe I am a bad mother. Maybe I should just take my kids home right now. Great, this day is ruined. What's the point in trying to do anything fun with my kids?"
Welcome to crazy town, right?
Of course, I eventually realized that I was not being very mindful and that is when I was able to take a step back and become the silent watcher (thank you, Eckhart Tolle) of my thoughts. Then perspective happened. The lifeguard was DOING HIS JOB. That was it. Why did I have to make up an elaborate story to justify my anger and embarrassment in this situation? The fact of the matter is I screwed up and my kid screwed up. End of story.
When we judge ourselves and others and when we create stories in our heads based on those judgements, suffering occurs. The lifeguard did not suffer at all. It was no skin off his back to tell me to keep a closer eye on my children. I suffered because of the story I told myself. I know this is a lesson I will have to learn over and over again on this journey but I am okay with that because I am a work in progress, just like everyone else in this world.
Now, off to search online for a kid-leash (just kidding...maybe).