My sister and her kids, The Stackmaniacs, are spending their last few weeks in the US at our house. It’s been wonderful and stressful. Little kids are tough. 3 little kids, 2 dogs, 2 older kids and a 3 emotionally charged adults is a total shit show. And at the same time, we are doing okay. We are taking care of each other and making it through.
A couple of weeks ago after a busy weekend, I had a moment where my exhaustion and lack of self-control caused a shitty comment to my son Owen. It was one of those times when it felt good in the moment to push the pain I was feeling from being lit from both ends for too long. Because the truth is, something will give when you are under stress or pressure and not decompressing from that. You cannot sustain that long-term. So you will push that pain somewhere – to your kids, to your liver, to your Amazon cart, to your Doritos consumption or your productivity and attention.
“Pain that is not transformed, will be transmitted.”Brene Brown
I heard Brene Brown recently on this podcast (click here to check it out) say these brilliant words, “Pain that is not transformed, will be transmitted.” And I know that to be true in my own life. I’ve learned that when I’m suffering (from sadness, disappointment, stress, anxiety, overwhelm, uncertainty or whatever) if I don’t make taking care of that suffering my top priority, I cannot fully connect with anyone else effectively. I’m too busy trying to push that pain away to be open and curious with others. And that lack of connection just makes the suffering worse and it offloads it to those people closest to me.
Now, because I know better, I do better. I’m much more likely to take care of myself first vs.telling myself to push through and be better. Instead of pushing through I step back and feel what I need to feel, name it and work my way through it. Sometimes it’s as easy as a shower or a nap. Sometimes it’s a few months and requires a conversation with a coach. Sometimes is adding back in the discipline of self-care to make my daily practices part of a balanced wellness routine. Although the treatments are different, there is one common element to all of my pain transforming work…self-compassion.
It’s the loving kindness I show myself. It’s perfectly normal to get stressed and overwhelmed. And it’s okay to mess up sometimes when I don’t manage the pain and overwhelm and transmit some of it. We are imperfect and I can love myself and care for myself first.
But when I mess up, and I know I will, I need to do what I can to fix it as soon as possible. To own what is mine, apologize for it and ask how to make amends for it. Sincerely. When I was shitty to Owen recently, I did this and I’m so grateful I did.
The cool thing is that as I was owning, apologizing and making amends with him in that moment, I was also taking care of myself too. Because I got to share what compassion and grace look like in action. And I realized that together we are imperfectly unraveling the pain-pushing cycle that’s been transmitting suffering across families for generations.
Life is stressful, suffering is transformable, people are resilient, cycles are breakable, family is precious, and most importantly, time is all we really have so do all the rest with as much compassion as possible.