What happens when you are not the best you can be with someone you love?
This evening, while driving N home, I asked if he had spoken to his coach about missing practice, like I had asked him to do. N replied that he had, but in his own way, leaving out what I felt was an important detail.
The frustration of a long day caught up with me. With a raised voice, I pointed out, where, several times in the recent past, N hadn’t done exactly what I had asked him to do. By the time I finished, N had tears in his eyes.
I remember a Q&A session at a meditation retreat. I asked the monk how I could protect my children from hurt and suffering, since I am not with them during most of their day. The monk replied that I couldn’t save anyone else from suffering. I could only save the person I was with 24 hours a day – myself.
Not only had I not protected N, I had contributed to his distress. I had modeled a focus on missing details, instead of complimenting N on his independence in talking to his coach. I had demonstrated how to carry troubles of the past, unresolved conversations, unfinished tasks, anxiety for the future, all the disappointments of the day; I had illustrated how to unload this ammunition onto an unsuspecting loved one.
After I apologized to N, because of his big and generous heart, he accepted my heartfelt apology.
But I carried the disquiet of my behavior into the evening. How to forgive oneself?
First, with acceptance of the hurt from my thoughtless words to my son.
Second, by letting go of the deep regret I felt for the way I had behaved.
Third, by resolving to be more mindful and in the moment, by not carrying the burden of a frustrating day into my next conversation.
Finally, by accepting that I am less than perfect, human, still a work in progress.