Yesterday was our second snow day. My school and each of the boy’s schools are closed due to snow. Eldest son was sent home from school early on Friday as the buses didn’t want to be out and about and I had already cancelled what I was doing that afternoon after skidding out onto a dual carriageway without being able to stop the car.
So Friday was OK as we were all excited about the snow. I even baked lemon cake to be all Hyggerlich and we wrote our Christmas cards and wrapped the presents we had. I went to bed that night feeling a bit smug at how organised we were and how snugly. Saturday was also fine. the snow wasn’t so bad and so we managed to get into town and even go for a swim.
But Sunday it all went wrong. By then the snow had come in really heavily and so the kid’s dad and I had both decided that it wasn’t safe to get the cars out, which meant the kids couldn’t see him. I understood that they were disappointed, but boy it isn’t easy when they are sulking and blaming me for stopping them doing what they want. It wasn’t until they had watched a car, wheel spinning on the ice to see why we weren’t going to be trying that.
So they were grumpy because they couldn’t do what they wanted to do, and so was I. I was looking forward to going to see some friends and to having time to myself at the end of a long week. I was also premenstrual which for me means that every little noise, movement or emotion is magnified…mine and theirs. I sooo needed that time alone.
But the day moved on and youngest and I went out to make a snow man and the day started to look up. Until, just as the youngest had had enough of the cold, eldest wanted to go out and sledge and so did I. I love sledging and there are so few sledging opportunities in one life time that it seemed churlish not pass this one by. But youngest son dug in and point blank refused to move again.
When they were younger I would just have wrapped him up, and dragged him out, but it doesn’t work like that now they are older. So then the torment started. I felt so resentful at youngest son being so un-cooperative, at having to stay home when I wanted to go out to play, at not being able to see my friends, at not having time alone, at feeling trapped.
My thoughts spiraled downward as they are wont to do when I am premenstrual, to the point where I took myself off to my yoga hut at the bottom of the garden and instead of doing yoga as planned, phoned Partner who was away caring for his elderly parents. ‘I feel trapped. I hate the kids. I hate being a parent. I never get to do what I want to do’ I sobbed, watching the birds on the feeder through the frosted glass. He listened and was really good at empathizing and validating how I felt without trying to solve the problem.
Finally, all sobbed out, I returned to the house to tell youngest, assertively that we were either going sledging or for a walk in the snow and he skipped downstairs as happy as Larry as if there had never been anything to argue about and off we went. And the day got better.
Then today and yesterday have been so much fun. The snow was beautiful, we have seen friends locally who we haven’t seen in ages, Eldest did a sleepover and youngest and I watched a film and we all sledged and snowballed our way through the days. Even though I’m still premenstrual.
So what changed?
Acceptance of what was and letting for of attachment to what we wanted.
As soon as I (and to some extent, the kids) let go of insisting that we got what we wanted (and weren’t going to get) the more we were able to focus on what we could do. Instead of hankering after what wasn’t possible, we began to enjoy what was possible.
Which brings me back to the Buddhism which I first encountered in the Himalayas over 25 years ago and the concept of Dukkha, or suffering, which I have written about before, but clearly needed to re-remember.
The Four Noble Truth of Suffering are:
- The truth of suffering
- The truth of the origin of suffering
- The truth of the cessation of suffering
- The truth of the path of the cessation of suffering.
The truth of suffering…
…is that suffering exists.
When I was 25 I didn’t want to be believe this (even though I was on the trip to India after my first love had committed suicide). I thought it to be too pessimistic and continued with what one colleague affectionately teased me as my Pollyanna outlook. But now, aged 50, I know it to be true. I know that even a day, when my kids and I are well and safe, can turn into a day of suffering when I want life to be other than it is.
The origin of suffering…
..is impermanence. Life is not as it should be, we get ill, grow old, lose loved ones and suffer emotional and physical pain throughout our lives.
Desire causes suffering. Whilst it is fine to have preferences; I would prefer it to be sunny rather than rainy, attachment to WANTING sun NOT rain, causes me distress. Insisting on our wants, attaching to our wants causes suffering. WANTING it to be warm when it is cold, to be cold when we are too warm. WANTING to be with people when we are alone and then alone when we are with people. WANTING per se means that we are reaching for what is missing, rather than appreciating what is here. Which is what I was doing crying in my yoga hut.
Ignorance causes suffering. When we do not know how to steer ourselves away from wanting. I meditate, and I do yoga and still there I was sobbing and resenting. And yet…I did know enough to cry, to articulate and to write a diary entry full of those feelings. And then to let it go and move forward. Which I did. If we don’t know how to bring ourselves back into the moment then we are stuck in wishing things could be other and so we suffer.
The cessation of suffering…
..happens we stop craving and wanting, when we can detach from our desires, when we can prefer them without HAVING TO HAVE THEM. When we can be with what is no matter what is happening. In a small way I was able to do that this weekend when decided to accept the new situation and get on with it. I swung off balance and then found my way back pretty quickly. but snow is a small thing. We cease to suffer when we can accept pain, when we can say ‘yes’ to heartache and loss, when we can absolutely allow the death of a loved one and the pain it bring us.
Sometimes it is the really hard times, the times of death of illness where we are most able to accept what is, as there is no where else to turn. I was in India, devastated, but fully accepting that he was dead and that life was short and that I was not going to die with him. In accepting his death as final, I was able to be free of my fear of death, enough to travel alone to India to meet a friend.
So many clients I see suffer because they WANT people to be different, they WANT their life to be different, they WANT to be different themselves. They are so attached to their WANTING. When I first started coaching it was all about how to make changes that would allow them to get what they wanted. I fed their desire. Now we try to find out way home to what is. What they can control, what is the reality of their life, themselves and the people around them. And in finding themselves looking at the truth of the situation, then new possibilities occur, but there is no ‘wanting’ or desiring, just seeing the obvious; like a magic eye picture where if you look at it in a certain what you see a 3D shape you didn’t see there before.
The final truth; about how we reach the state of the cessation of suffering…
…is the eight-fold path:
- Right understanding
- Right intention
- Right speech
- Right action
- Right livelihood
- Right effort
- Right mindfulness
- Right concentration
I knew I was being grumpy and premenstrual and resentful…I understood that my thinking was causing those feelings. I went to the yoga hut to make that call to allow my feelings so that they could pass through. I had a positive intention. I went to the yoga hut to make the call so I could say the mean things I was thinking about the kids without them hearing. I then took action to turn the day around and brought myself back into the moment and we’ve had fun for the rest of our snow days.
I was back to content within a couple of hours.
I can not stay in balance all the time, which is why I practice meditation and yoga, because the more mindful I am, the less I cause suffering for myself and others. I am a work in progress.
So here’s to snow days for reminders about equanimity, acceptance and how easily I can make myself miserable by wanting what I can not have…whilst missing the beauty that was just waiting to be seen.