I can remember back to when my twins started crawling. They were into everything. Fortunately for me, they mostly stuck together. When one of them got curious, the other followed. One time, they both got stuck under the bottom shelf of a weirdly huge desk we had. All they had to do was crawl out, but instead, they cried up a storm under there until I rescued them. It was pretty cute.
During this time, I found myself saying NO a lot. There are so many things toddlers can get into. I found myself on a loop. “Don’t touch that. Don’t put that in your mouth. Don’t hit the cat.” Or simply the mom eyebrows and head shake followed by NO. Just before the chubby hand reaches for something hot, or before the Lego piece goes into the mouth, or just before the cat gets a whomping.
It took me a number of years to realize how much the NO had permeated my life. As the fellas got older and wanted to make potions, or play outside in the woods alone, or eat sugar cereal, without even thinking, my answer would be NO. Eventually, I found myself saying NO to art projects, living room forts, rearranging bedrooms. It was just easier to have a ready answer – NO.
Listening To Myself
Thankfully, one day I started listening to myself. Realizing that my overwhelming response to requests was NO. I remember having the revelation that every time that little word jumped out of my mouth, I was setting up a wall. A barrier not only around myself, but around the fellas too.
I was weaving an insular boundary around us. Instead of being present to myself and others, I was stuck in a NO loop. Somehow it felt easier. It took less effort. Raising twins and traveling around the country on tours is exhausting business. Life can be a demanding exhausting business.
I started trying to bring a mindfulness to my mouth. Anytime the NO would come up, instead of sending that out of me, I would pause and ask myself why. Why NO? So much of the time there wasn’t a good reason and so I began to try out the words “sure” and “yes” more often.
This opened up so many opportunities to teach the fellas instead of just shutting them down. “The reason we don’t eat sugar cereal for breakfast is because it’s not only hard on your teeth, but your body has to work so hard to process that sugar. It takes more from you than it gives by way of nourishment to your body.” In this way, I was giving them an opportunity to engage and learn without just sending them away.
The more I was mindful about my responses, the more dialogue I was enjoying. I was feeling connected and aware. I was certainly more open and present to the people around me. To my great surprise, I wasn’t more exhausted with the effort at mindfulness. I was actually energized.
I think about this quite a bit when I’m tired or overwhelmed. I know that the first response out of me in these times is probably not my best one. So, I pause. And ask, what is actually happening here? I try to move forward with my truest, kindest words. Whatever they are for that situation. I find there is much more peace here. And rest too, if you can believe it.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have my grouchy, snarky, sarcastic retorts from time to time. I’m really grateful that the people around me have grace and a good sense of humor. Still, it feels much better to take the pause. That briefest of moments where I can be present with myself, and what’s happening around me. Then, from the truth of that place, respond. There is so much opportunity for kindness in that place, and peace too. In this way we can be light and love in our spaces and places. One mindful moment at a time.
If you find yourself saying NO more than you’d like to, or if you need grace in your life and a sense of humor, or if you want to be light and love in a demanding and exhausting world, let’s be friends~