I’ve been reading Loving What Is by Byron Katie. That’s “Loving What Is” as opposed to my own personal mantras; “Hating What Is” and “Loving What Isn’t.” It’s an amazing book about dropping into the beauty of reality. I am noticing all the ways I am arguing with reality and how that hurts me. Here’s a great example from my own personal history book. My oldest son, Theo (he’s 11 now), was a horrible sleeper as a baby. I really started going nuts about it when he was around 9 months old. He woke up at night…multiple times…for months…years…decades! Ok not decades…but let’s say 1-3 years. It was bad. It was all the things all the books told me was wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong (and definitely not right). I had read all the books so I thought I knew what to do. But I didn’t. So I turned to: MORE BOOKS. More books gave my lots more ideas which didn’t work at all. I felt awful because I believed more sleep was the key to Theo’s future success and I believed that I should be able to make him SLEEP! I was SURE I was just doing it wrong. I was also pretty sure there was something wrong with me, causing all the methods to not work for me.
When I look back I see that I was in a deep state of “Loving What Isn’t” and “Hating What Is.” I loved the idea of him sleeping through the night every night, falling asleep peacefully at his bedtime and napping solidly for 2-3 hours every afternoon. I loved the idea that his brain would develop so well with all that sleep. I loved the idea of the peace and downtime and SLEEP I would get if he slept better. I loved the idea of me being the mom who could take care of business. It was a beautiful vision that I LOVED. And I hated: everything that was reality. He was AWAKE at 10 pm, after having cried for 2 hours (sleep training). Then he was AWAKE at 1 pm. Then he was AWAKE at 5 am and ready to start the day. And finally: He was NOT NAPPING at 1 pm, after having cried for 2 hours at last night’s bedtime, awoken at 1 pm, and awoken again at 5 am to start the day! And I hated the reality that all of the books I read and the things I tried didn’t work. I hated the reality that I couldn’t control his sleep.
When I look back I remember how Arnor treated me with the sort of kindness and compassion that you have for someone who is completely insane. He spoke to me in a gentle voice, agreed with everything I said, tiptoed around… He had not read any of the books and would have just rolled with the under-sleeping baby, had I not been 100% convinced that reality was wrong and the picture in my brain was right. Theo eventually grew out of it. That is to say with 100% clarity and assurance: I did not TRAIN him out of it. He grew out of it when he was ready to. And since then he has slept fine.
When I went on to have my two other babies, I found that I felt so much more peace and enjoyment in that baby phase. I had gotten the idea of a perfectly-sleeping baby out of my head, so I didn’t have that vision to love. So when they didn’t sleep very well, I just accepted it and moved on. I remember talking about the whole baby sleep drama with my college roommate, Jenny, and she said, “Your kids sound just like you.” (If I remember right, she also pointed out that me fighting endlessly with reality didn’t surprise her much either…ahem). It had never really occurred to me that maybe my kids had just inherited my high energy, borderline hyperactive tendencies. And I realized: those tendencies have actually served me pretty well through the years. I started to find ways to make my life better within the confines of reality. I think this was the equivalent of loving what is.
It turned out that I was so much better at coming up with creative solutions for my life once I stopped fighting with reality. Elise and Gus both loved to sleep in the car and their naps never survived the transfer from car seat to crib. Some of my friends from back then will tell you, I was the mom who removed that giant convertible toddler car seat (the one that’s not designed to be conveniently removed) at any and all times and lugged it around with the sleeping baby in it. I found a method of balancing it on our other stroller, which didn’t endanger their safety too much. And you know what? It worked a lot better than the advice in all the books! I was happier and I had more time to myself. I could plan my day around those car naps.
As I think back on this, I start to notice all the ways I’m “hating what is,” now. Or let us say, fighting with reality rather than accepting it and moving on. I’m challenged by remote learning and remote summer school because I have limited time to work on my company. And I see how I’m fighting with it rather than finding the clever workarounds. I’m so disappointed by the evaporation of our summer travel plans that I can’t even imagine a clever workaround for summer fun right here at home..even though we have such a lovely home, this should be a no brainer! And on it goes. Byron Katie says that reality is never wrong. Reality is always right, because it just IS. Clearly I’ve got my work cut out for me….I hope you are all well and I wish you a lovely summer! Thank you for reading!