What I wanted to do and what it looked like I needed to focus upon was not adding up.
I wanted to spend time networking and writing before I headed off onto a busy day of auditions and creative output. I knew it would take a lot of high energy so I thought writing and tending to business would fuel me.
I realized by 7:15 that wouldn’t be possible.
My daughter was facing challenges I knew she couldn’t face alone. I knew I would need to face them with her in order for her to be successful. I didn't realize in coming alongside her to face her challenges I would come eyeball-to-eyeball with some of my biggest challenges as well.
My daughter was scheduled to retake her SAT exam on that cold, foggy day. She didn’t want to take it, didn’t feel up to it and was facing a big disappointment in her social life outside of the stress of taking a very important standardized test.
We stopped at an intersection and I prayed silently, “God, I hate to barge in on your more important work and bug you here but I really need your help with this one.” End of prayer.
We got to the location of the test and she started to balk. “I don’t want to take this. You are (insert expletive here) annoying and I don’t know why you are making me do this! It’s pointless!”
My instinct was to balk with her, to tell her she didn’t have to take the test, that it was unnecessary and we would just turn around and go home.
I realized that was what I normally did. Usually when she upset I would worry about getting her more escalated so I turn away with her. Instead of being afraid of further escalation, I needed to be aware of what may result if we didn’t continue to move forward.
Saturday I managed the situation differently.
“You have to push through this,” I told her. “Come on. This way.” and I started walking. She walked with me, angry and frustrated but I knew this changed behavior was the right thing to do.
She mentioned she didn’t think I wanted to spend time with her anymore and didn’t like her.
I responded, “Why do you think I rearranged my schedule? I want to spend more time with you!”
She seemed to hear me. She seemed to realize I was speaking directly from my heart but most importantly she kept following me, albeit behind me and probably muttering a mile a minute in her brain. She was no longer publicly escalated and we had entered the testing zone where a public meltdown was less likely.
We stood outside the classroom where the test would take place. She wasn’t close to me but through some miracle a friend of mine saw me. “Julie!” she said, “What are you doing here?”
I smiled and hugged her and saw the young man next to her. “Is this your son who paints?”
He and I started speaking and I waved my daughter over to join the conversation. She did the requisite eye roll, but when I introduced her to this boy - a senior, like her, from a different local high school, and they started having a conversation, everything slowly improved in her countenance and demeanor.
I was finally comfortable leaving. Everything would be just fine, including my new method of managing the day-to-day fear of “what if she escalates more and I am even more uncomfortable with what she is saying and doing than I am right now?”
Later in the day she told me everything went well, that the boy enjoyed having her companionship as they sat side-by-side during the test and in conversation during breaks.
Maybe he was praying as I was, “God, I hate to barge in on your more important work and bug you here but I really need your help with this one.”
I am, as I often am, tsk tsking myself for taking so long to change this behavior but I suppose I could instead have never changed it, right?
It is like the old saying goes, “Every day in every way, getting better and better and better.”
These conversations amidst uncomfortableness yielded several positive results.
- My daughter understands now how much I want to spend time with her and how much I have grieved not spending time with her lately due to a highly impacted schedule that kept me absent more often than I would have liked.
- My daughter felt better about being a place she didn’t think she wanted to be.
- My daughter got to be the answer to someone else’s prayer - even though she is a passionate atheist who would probably guffaw that I used her person and prayer in the same sentence.
Making incremental changes in my day-to-day relationship with fear has the power to change the moments of what may feel like overwhelming anxiety or fear. I learn that facing these "small yet huge" moments with curiosity rather than complacency and habitual patterns things improve, oftentimes immediately like they did this weekend.
Reflect upon your day so far. What behavior or response might you change next time?
I would so enjoy hearing how it goes --
Julie Jordan Scott is a writer, creative life coach, speaker, performance poet, Mommy-extraordinaire and mixed-media artist whose Writing Camps and Writing Playgrounds permanently transform people's creative lives. Watch for the announcement of new programs coming Fall and Winter, 2014 and beyond.
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