Judgment

Once upon a time there was Someone…

Someone who was kind, gentle and smart, Someone who had a heart of gold. And wherever that Someone went, people saw the good in them and they recognized it.

Then maybe this Someone did something wrong because they were hurting. Or maybe they were having a bad day and didn’t shine like they usually do. Maybe they cried or they yelled or they melted down. Maybe they were carrying around secrets or confusion or pain and it came out wrong.

And maybe everyone stopped and they stared and they looked at that Someone like they didn’t know them anymore. As though that one day, or that one meltdown, or that one hurt that lead them somewhere they didn’t expect to be had dimmed their light. As though their good could be less for a little imperfection.

Someone felt heavy. They felt the weight of stares and voices real and imagined. Maybe it was in a supermarket, with a melting down child. Maybe it was an argument with a loved one that turned to wars of words. Maybe it was the worst of them sneaking out when they were tired, or aching on the inside. Maybe it was something stupid they did without thinking it through. And for a short while they allowed themselves to believe the doubt and judgment.

Then something shifted. It might have taken a moment, or a day, a week or a month, but Someone realized that it was OK.

They realized that they were OK. That their light was so bright there wasn’t a shadow in this world that could dim it. That their good was so big no amount of hurt or bad decisions could make it less.

They realized that they were in this life to learn, and grow, and that that involved falling down as much as getting up. That feeling low, no matter how long it lasted, was a perfect place to build a foundation for something higher.

And as Someone felt stronger and breathed easier they realized something. They realized that everyone who judged them was just as kind, gentle and smart as they were, but so lost in their own imperfections that they forgot sometimes, just like that Someone did. That all those people who judged them were also judging themselves, were also hurting and had gotten it wrong too many times to count.

It reminded Someone to be kind, as they sought kindness, to recognize the good in others even as they fought to recognize it in themselves.

Someone realized that they would always be judged, just as they would always judge. They would always have moments of feeling weak, but they’d look back on them and realize that those moments built their strength more than they could have imagined.

Maybe you know this Someone. Maybe you are this Someone. Maybe you’ve seen this Someone at their worst and thought you knew them because of a misplaced moment. You’re in this story somewhere – we all are.

Judgment affects all of us at sometime or another, from inside and out. But we’re bigger than it. As people and as a society we don’t need it. Each and every one of us is so much more than any moment, any choice, any high or any low.  The more we remember that, the more we can enjoy each others light rather than wasting time casting shadows.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

The gift of misplaced words

To my Son,

You gave me a gift today, little one, and I almost didn’t notice.

We had been grocery shopping, a necessity despite you not being yourself due to a headcold… or the wind… or your teeth coming through… or maybe just getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

And I asked you to be good and to focus at a time when those ideas made as much sense to you as saving fish from drowning. So you tried, with your mind elsewhere and your hands all over your brother who was NOT in the mood to be your human stress ball. I asked you calmly to give him space, once, twice, probably five or six times before I announced the loss of a privilege for not listening. I’d handled all this pretty well so far, I was calm and in control and explained things peacefully enough for you to completely ignore.

Then you lost it, and so did I.

We all have challenges, and one of yours is magnifying life’s stresses when you’re not at your best. So this loss of privilege, which really wasn’t so bad, seemed ENORMOUS to you in that moment. You melted down, and as you did you said some really awful things.

I should be used to your use of words as weapons, and remember how quickly they fall when the moment passes. I should remember that your attempts to hurt with them just mean that you’re hurting and you need to get it outside of you as quickly as you can to lessen the burn.

But we all have challenges, and one of mine is taking what is said at face value. So I got hurt along with you. I got loud along with you. And as you fought to get all your anger out I fought right on back. Not in the same way, of course, and to an outsider I probably handled it just fine… but the truth was I lost myself in those words of yours, and that wasn’t fine at all.

We drove home with both of us fuming and not much talking going on. After a while calm returned and we talked about the reasons why what you said wasn’t ok. That was true, it wasn’t, but neither was my response.

Most of us go around as adults thinking we’re doing pretty alright. We learn to play to our strengths and push our weaknesses aside or justify them. We make beautiful masks to wear for the world and they hide a myriad of faults.

And you, little boy, are particularly skilled at making my mask slip.

Taking words at face value is fine, it’s not a fault as such, but it misses a LOT. A lot that you deserve and that I do too. It reaches to other relationships and to my marriage. Responding to someone losing their cool and over reacting by losing my cool and over reacting… well, that doesn’t work.

Your gift to me today was reminding me of something I could do better. Reminding me that sad doesn’t always have tears, and hurt doesn’t always shrink back. Reminding me that small things to me can be huge things to someone else, and that grown up concepts and instructions sometimes don’t fit little people whose minds are in the clouds that day. You showed me that anger is not always about the one who receives it, but sometimes about just getting something out before it hurts you more, and that a moment and a deep breath can change everything.

I snuggled you in bed shortly before you went to sleep tonight and we talked about today. I reminded you that just as Dad and I talk to you about things you could do better you have every right to do the same to us, because we’re all learning no matter how old we are. I acknowledged your feelings from earlier than you’d hidden behind your anger, and asked you how I could have handled it better. I reminded you that just as you owe others respect they absolutely owe it right back. Your lip trembled as you told me how I could have handled it better, and I promised you I would try my hardest next time.

Growing up isn’t easy, and the truth is we never really stop. We will get it right together so much of the time and we will get it wrong an awful lot too. It’s all part of pulling off the mask I guess. And each time we’ll get to know ourselves a little more, become more patient, more kind, more humbled by this huge life thing we’re doing together. It’s just about being honest, really, and the trust that goes with it.

So thank you for your gift of misplaced words today little one, they made my mask slip perfectly.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

Spending Habits

Not long ago a friend of mine posted an image on Facebook. It was a screenshot of a spreadsheet her husband was working on to ensure that the way they were spending their time was in alignment with their core values. It was late, I scrolled past it, my brain registering a quiet grumble of protest that that sounded way too structured for me.

But my mind keeps coming back to it.

We talk to our children a lot about the spending of money. About the value we place on things. As a society we focus on a lot on those numbers, those figures we associate with value and happiness, security, intelligence. There’s a huge focus on dollars, which is interesting, because you can earn more.

You can’t earn more time, you can’t even borrow it.

We enjoy the luxury of believing we have a certain amount of it, but the truth is we don’t know. No one does. What we have with certainty is now – this day. The sad person, happy person, unfit person, healthy person, rich person and poor person, the bored person and busy person – they all have this. Their experience of it differs greatly, but we all build what we have from these moments.

We get caught up in the idea that we are what we think, that we’re our ideas, concepts and wants. It’s true, in part, but in a bigger part: we are this day. 

We’re what we do with the time we have.

How we spend it is our truth. The rest is words, assurances or excuses we use to build ourselves up or tear our dreams down. I’m talking about you, about me, about all of us.

Our time doesn’t lie, what we do with it is the most honest reflection of what matters to us.

When I was growing up my mother used to say “Whatever you’re doing, do it well. If you’re working, work hard, if you’re relaxing, relax fully.” I’m still getting the hang of this, most of us are.

I’ve admitted to myself in the past couple of weeks that I need to work on my spending habits, and not the wallet kind. I spend the most part of my days joyfully focused on my children, and I wouldn’t change that for the world, but there are still wonderful little pockets of time that I don’t use to lift myself up – and I can. There will always been housework, study or work, but in every day time exists that’s yours. How are you spending it?

That spreadsheet doesn’t seem like a bad idea after all….

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013

To the Dads

To the Dads,

Let me take a moment to remind you how important you are.

I’m sure you’ve had flashes of it, the practical importance of the hands on help, the cuddles, the giggles and secret jokes between you and your kids… but sometimes in amongst all the busyness you might miss the enormity of those moments.

You likely grew up in a time where ‘boys don’t cry’ and we should ‘toughen them up’. You likely were told to quit it or cut it out when your heart ached, or to pull it together when you needed to be held. Maybe over time your walls went up. Maybe it changed you, even if you were loved beyond measure, to grow up  when ‘good’ meant quiet or stoic, not sad, not vulnerable, not needing more.

And maybe your walls get in the way sometimes, when you try to connect to those close to you. Maybe they divide you and your wife, or even the parts of who you are. Maybe they’ve been there so long that you fail to notice them, until someone breaks them down just enough for you realize that it’s ok to feel what you’re feeling. That you’re worth it just as much in your angst as your joy.

Your kids are building right now, Dads, they’re building themselves. Allow them to chip away at your walls with you, so they don’t feel the need to build their own. Every hug, every ounce of compassion and connection, every ‘are you ok?’ ‘it’s ok to feel like that’, every ‘I love you’ helps shape them. Every time they feel like you’re their safe place, where it’s ok to be soft even if the world feels hard, moulds them into someone to be proud of.

You see they learn a lot from you, and most of it happens when you don’t think they’re watching.

Your sons are watching you and learning what it means to be a man. Over the years the world and their peers will bombard them with images, ideas and falsehoods, but right now, when they look at you, you’re it. You’re their first example of the richness of growing up. In you they see strength, love, commitment, hard work, laughter, and romance. Let them see the hand holding and the arms around your wife or partner. Let them see the thoughtful gestures between you and the dancing in the kitchen or snuggles on the couch.

Every time you help in the home your sons learn a little about responsibility, every time you treat someone with respect they learn a little about integrity, every time you show them how precious they are, even if they might be driving you mad in that moment, you show them the fierceness and beauty of love.

Your daughters are learning about men from you. Before the friends and the boyfriends, TV shows and romance novels they see you. They see how you live your life, treat their mother (or your partner), and value yourself and them. They learn about body image from remarks you make, about true compliments when you see the wonders in them, and from hugs that ask for nothing. Because as they grow up they will be flattered, and the authenticity of your interactions with them will ground them. They will hurt, as we all do, and they will remember the strength and love you showed them and accept nothing less from those around them.

Life is busy, especially with work, and sometimes the conversations, connections, board games and adventures feel like they may take the last out of you at the end of a long day. But remember that these aren’t small things for your little ones. These are their memories. Those bedtime stories, lego building, bush walks, sword fights, star gazing or cubby houses will feel all the more rich to both of you as time passes, and it does pass oh so quickly. One day, all too soon, they’ll be too busy for silly games or adventure stories read by lamp light. One day they wont want to hold your hands as you jump on the trampoline, and they wont need that push on the swing.

And now, the time that they do? That matters. You matter. So much more than you realize.

They’re building themselves right now out of moments Dads, and your moments with them hold it all together.

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Copyright 2013 Nirvana Dawson