It’s not an easy thing to let go of what seems obvious, especially when it stirs those emotions deep within us. I was given an opportunity to do so last night and this morning following a very unpleasant experience. Our son is home from college, and while visiting with family at our home after dinner last night, proceeded to answer my brother’s question “how are things going with your friend and his dog?’ ‘Oh, well, he went away and locked the dog in the bathroom for the entire weekend, she destroyed it, ripped up tile and chewed on stuff (the dog is a puppy), so he took her out in the woods and left her.’ Ugh. Ouch. Oh, my dear friends, I still feel my heart break as I type this. There was an audible gasp in the room by all who were present, and then an onslaught of disbelief, anger, heartache all directed toward our son. He’d been quite flat in telling us, as though it was of little consequence. Our older daughter is one who will become very passionate and at times quite aggressive in advocating for something she believes in. The heat quickly rose and all that warm family-all-together energy dissipated into heaviness. My brother walked out. He was too angry and hurt to say anything. I finally stepped in and told the two older kids that was enough. There’s no point arguing about it and pointing fingers at one another.
It was quiet as I struggled to maintain composure while cleaning up the kitchen. I couldn’t do my usual dance of trying to smooth it over without being confrontational. Generally, I can honor both sides and allow them to speak whatever they have and not be too swayed. Not this time. Too close to my heart, and I’ve moved too far away from the ‘usual dance.’ Instead I came upstairs and let the tears come. I could feel my own anger at our son for not having more compassion, not doing something, not at least feeling as heartbroken as I was. Surely from the outside, it looked to everyone in that room that he was cold and didn’t care at all. It definitely felt that way to me.
When I woke this morning and began writing about it, it became crystal clear. It’s not at all that he’s cold. He’s still the same boy who was terribly disturbed over his friend’s parents happily watching a chipmunk drown in a barrel of water because it had torn up their yard. The difference is that he lives out in the real world now, and has yet to find his own center. He has no idea just how to stand firm in what his heart tells him. Not only is he young, but he’s a male and that makes it ever so harder when it comes to expectations for how to be. We are coming out of a time when men were forbidden to have hearts. My husband’s father told him to stop crying at baseball – there was nothing to cry about. It wasn’t ok. It still isn’t in some environments. At college, away from home and security, trying to just survive, it isn’t ok to have a heart and speak up for an animal who is being mistreated–at least in his perspective at the time. Whether my son knew it or not, that was the defense. He was protecting his own need to survive, to be accepted and be ok.
It would have been so easy to let my emotions decide how to be with our son, to be angry with him because my spirit was so pained. That would only have served to become a power struggle. My way, my truth pitted against his. Instead, it felt right to share with him how it made me feel and to ease into letting him know I understand how difficult it must be for him to make it at college. He’s been quite homesick over the last several weeks. His whole reality has shifted in a way we sometimes forget occurs when our children leave home. To the world, it may look like an exciting time to get out on your own and have new experiences. But to some of our children, it’s empty, frightening and uncertain. It’s a natural thing to seek the best way to survive and get through it, and I know that’s what he’s been doing. To have responded with harsh judgment would only have created friction between us and deepened the inner turmoil I know is there beneath the self protection. Letting him know I understand what he was feeling and I still love him seemed to allow him to put down his internal weapons and consider some alternate scenarios.
GRACE is what allowed me to shift my vision. She whispered through my pen, letting me ‘see’ the truth of what his energy was saying. GRACE. A mystical substance with the power to alter our reality. And, I believe, with the power to heal. So I’ll continue to heal my own cracks and wounds, while channeling grace to all animals who are in the way of harm, and to all beings who seek to become whole. This is my prayer. xo