What determines YOUR happiness?
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it.” ― Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
Last week my teen son and I were getting along smashingly. He was affectionate, appreciative, communicative and practicing good self-care. But knowing what a roller coaster ride it can be to parent a 9th grade boy, I kept hearing another voice say, “Yeah, this is great, but can you be just as happy when he’s treating you like crap?”
I grew up in a sea of emotional enmeshment. I remember often thinking on the ride home from high school, “I wonder what kind of mood I’ll find my mom in this afternoon (i.e. I wonder what kind of mood I’ll be in this afternoon)?!” Enmeshment is something that happens with family members when personal boundaries are diffused and there is an over-concern for others; basically, you allow them to dictate how you feel. Enmeshment can cripple your ability to cultivate autonomy and a strong sense of self, and make it hard for you to know what you really need. It took me years to develop strong boundaries with family members and others, but now I’m able to realize what it feels like to be in my own row boat and when I’m trying to leave mine and crawl into theirs.
I’m reading the book How to Raise an Adult right now (a great read, especially for parents of middle or high schoolers) on how we ALL over-parent in one way or another and how helpful it is to “normalize struggle” for our kids. As I see the next four years of my son’s life stretch before him, I’m realizing how essential it is that we let him have his full range of experiences as a 14-18 year old human being: grand successes, dismal failures, triumphant joys, trials that bring you to your knees and massive disappointments. I see very clearly how key it is that we maintain our strong boundaries, continue to be a loving presence in his life AND let him fully feel his feelings—-alone, in his rowboat. This is to support his emotional development — and ours, as well.
Observing the last decade, I’ve noted that I don’t feel the wild highs and lows that I did in my twenties and thirties. I still get excited about things, but I see experiences, circumstances and emotions as fleeting—kind of like the weather in Texas. Enjoy the wild euphoria, because it will soon be gone. Be with the dark despair, because it’s not here to stay, either.
I know happiness is one of the most overused words in our vernacular right now, but for me it is really about being ok; being content with what is (read more). And, remembering that even when those around me are riding choppy waves, it doesn’t mean I can’t be sunning on the beach right next to them, reading a good book.
THIS WEEK’S CHALLENGE: Ok, this is hard, I get it. And we all crawl in and out of one anothers rowboats at times–especially our kids. But this week, just get curious. The next time you feel triggered by another person and your mood takes a nosedive, notice what thought you had immediately prior to this feeling (mine is often “Things shouldn’t be this way!”). Then ask yourself, “Who’s business am I in? Is this my business, their business or God’s business?” (Thanks Katie-read Who’s Business Are You In?) The three things that help me keep strong boundaries and perspective are a morning meditation practice, yoga/walking and talking to like-minded parents.What helps you stay in your own rowboat? I’d love to hear!