Yesterday I dropped off my daughter at summer tennis lessons, went to pay the fee, and found out that I would be charged a $45 surcharge each month because I wasn’t a resident of this particular suburb. I impulsively blurted out with irritation, “Oh Shit, you must be kidding me? This is not what I had budgeted for at all.”
My 12-year old was absolutely mortified: she rolled her eyes, moved 10 steps away from me and then muttered under her breath as we walked away “Mom – that was SOOOOO embarrassing.”
Those words rang in my ear.
I felt that kind of horrible where your stomach turns and your skin heats up and your mind starts racing. In the past, this is where I’d either negate her experience (“No it wasn’t, don’t be ridiculous”) or go into shame (*silence* followed by a lot of inner criticism and outward tension).
Compassion practice in this situation meant three key things for me:
- Presence: Slow it way down. I took a deep breath and felt my body. I knew that shame and anger were both coursing through me. Knowing and naming it allowed me to separate from it enough to just experience and feel it, but not be driven to more impulsive action around it.
- Translation: I took a guess at what she might actually mean, what she might be trying to tell me about. I imagined her saying to me “Mom, I felt insecure, worried and embarrassed when that happened because it’s my first day here and I really want to feel like I belong and can fit in easily. I am scared about other people’s judgments before they even know me.” She may not be able to articulate that yet, but I can certainly work on hearing it that way.
- Reconnection: First, with myself: I give myself full permission to be authentic and expressive, knowing that I am constantly calibrating as I go. Embracing a learning mainframe, I know that each moment can powerfully redirect me out of an old pattern and into a new one. Then with my daughter: “It sounds like you are wishing I had handled that differently …” followed by genuine curiosity about her experience.
Turn Insight Into Action:
- Practice slowing down this week. Imagine internally pressing a pause button on every conversation: internally, you buy yourself as much time as you like. When we get present, we get empowered.
- Practice the art of translating what people say into the underlying feelings and needs they might be pointing to. When we hear the feelings and needs, we hear what is in our collective hearts.
- Practice the art of connection. When we reach out with curiosity and humility, we make ourselves available for grace, clarity and healing.
Words matter, but our deeper intentions matter even more.
Relationships are the foundation of well-being. Growth is both a personal journey and a communal one: our individual growth benefits our whole community. Join me in bringing more empathy, compassion, collaboration, acceptance, and service into the world.