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We do feel we have an amazing life and do some very interesting thing, but of course we are human and sometimes struggle.
I am trying very hard to bring a level of acceptance for the things that happened in the past and concentrate on being present and proactive in the now. The now is the moment I can change, I do have a choice when difficult moments arise, I don’t have to react in the same old way every time!
This is easy in theory, in practice my mental template (by this I mean all those feelings and behaviours that arise spontaneously, the way my subconscious reacts to events based on my childhood experiences) really really wants me to get upset and cross. The weight of all the things that have come before sometimes is heavy indeed, it takes a good amount of self-awareness and optimism for me to believe I can go against the template and react differently. Maybe one day I can change the template completely.
A recent example: Reuben yesterday became very stressed, he was tired and had to leave the house against his will (we were taking some friends back to the train station), he had a complete and utter meltdown. My reaction was to get upset too, and rather depressed at the fact I had not provided this child with a peaceful start in life, therefore feeling utterly responsible for his feelings. Ok, to a certain extent this might be true, but was getting upset and depressed the best way to help him? A wonderful friend of mine pointed out that I had made his upset my own, this is not very helpful to either of us.
So what to do? I personally practice mindfulness, this comes from a Buddhist perspective but doesn’t have to be connected with religion or even spirituality. The idea is to be very aware of everything that is going on around us, of our feelings and inner voice too, and trying to keep a level of detachment from them. This helps me to distinguish between what is real (Reuben being upset) and what is a construct of my mind (oh woe, I am a terrible parent, our lives are ruined!), being able to see this I can focus on the real and dismiss the construct, I can then help Reuben get over his upset and hopefully give him tools to help himself next time. I am still very much a work in progress here, but I can see it works and I will persevere. You wouldn’t have wanted to meet my mental template of 10 years ago!!!
And what things do we struggle with? Here’s a few:
Tiredness. We struggle to recharge the old batteries, the boys are in a pretty constant state of excitement and activity (I am always fascinated by parents who complain their children, and themselves, are bored). Isaac is pretty self-aware and will have a nap when tired but Reuben just keeps going until he drops (often at 11pm) and it can make him cranky to say the least.
Fighting. I absolutely hate this, I am the biggest pacifist you have ever seen, I cannot kill a mosquito. But the boys spend a good part of the day squabbling and whacking each other (not with spite, they just bang into each other a lot). I am still to find a way to deal with this, I get upset (here’s a good strong mental construct) and possibly make it worse by being emotional, I play fight with them, take them to the woods to run around, try and put their feelings into words (the biggest guessing game in the world, are you cross with Isaac because he took your book? No, I just don’t like him…), read too much child psychology, and ultimately just separate them and say: Child X, Child Y is really hurt, look, he’s crying… Maybe one day they will stop, maybe they won’t.
Travelling burn out. This is mainly me, everyone else seems very happy in the campervan! I can get quite anxious, worrying about the boys destroying the Kentucky, falling off cliffs or being kidnapped. I need time to recharge. A good solution would be not to get stressed in the first place, I will work on it.
Anxiety. Here’s another of mine. I love travelling and meeting people but I get very shy when I first have to speak to someone (not always, but enough that it gets in the way), my hearing is not great so I worry I won’t be able to understand what they say… but ultimately this is another mental construct, yes people have been mean to me in the past but realistically most people I approach today are kind, or at least polite!
Lack of a family or community nearby. I feel this quite strongly, it’s hard alone with the children (it’s much better with Martin but even two adults struggle), I think that one of the reasons why we travel is to find our own holy grail, a place where we finally feel at home, near people who are like-minded. In the meantime I visit my family in Italy as much as I can and Martin has a wonderful Kundalini Yoga network.
I actually thought this list was going to be longer, but as I write I see more positive aspects of our life than negatives, the mindfulness must be working. And you might be surprised to find I don’t struggle with any of the things we do that are outside of the “norm”. I never worry about the children’s education, about discipline and structure (we don’t have any), and I never worry about relationships, there are many people I love deeply and I find that when you are open to connections, they come, and they are positive and strong.