HOW TO NAVIGATE CO-RAISING A CHILD WHEN YOU CAN BARELY HOLD A CONVERSATION WITH THAT PERSON, AND WHAT IT ULTIMATELY MEANS FOR ALL OF US AND THE RELATIONSHIPS WE FOSTER
This one sucks. Just being real. It sucks because there is nothing in the world that I would want more for Margot than for her to have love and respect modeled for her by the two people she cares the most about. It sucks because it represents an ongoing tension that doesn't have a clear expiration date or hope for reconciliation. And it sucks because what's at stake is the holistic well being of the sweetest tiny human to ever walk the planet. But it's real. And I've had enough others mention the same tension that I think someone should say something about it. Not only is it real life for co-parenting, I think it holds a few truths about the nature of all the relationships we foster -- whether it be a significant other or just a friendship. Here's one key that I'm learning and re-learning...
Duh. Of course. That's something we all talk about... letting go... moving on... etc... but how do you let go when you still have to engage with that other person constantly? How do you heal? How do you reach a place of personal freedom and release when the "go" part is impossible and you know that they'll actually "stay" a part of your life? Answer: you release your personal expectation of them, not the human themselves. We all carry a set of expectations into just about every relationship we have. And that's not inherently a bad thing. Expectations are simply what we believe will transpire based on our previous history or knowledge of that person or circumstance. It's a tool that we employ without even realizing we're doing it. And we employ it because it is a form of self-protection. It's saying, "I know I am safe because my history with this person is safe", or conversely, "I must keep my guard up because my history with this person is volatile." The darker side of having expectations is this: it leverages the past to determine our posture towards that other person in a way that might not actually be helpful in the present. For me and my ex, there is a lot of lingering pain, even these years later. I hurt her deeply, and she has hurt me as well. And even still there are verbal arrows that are fired. What I cannot change is our history. But I do have complete power over today and the current moment. If I don't let go of my expectation (that the interaction will be difficult and I'll have to dodge verbal arrows), it might just hijack everything. The more I'm able to release any expectation of how I think we "should" interact, the more I am free to treat her with respect and engage from a healthier posture. I believe this is true with every meaningful relationship we have. There are seasons where things are great, and there are seasons that are challenging. The only way to make it through is to let go. And when a tiny human is watching and listening, I'd sure better take it seriously.
Here's how I release expectation and "let go". I take a moment to pause and reflect on what I know to be true about the nature of our dynamic. I don't dwell on what I wish it were, I simply acknowledge what it really is. I then ask myself if I want to allow that narrative to continue, or do I want to create a new narrative? And if it's a new narrative, what must I do differently to see that come to life. Some things might include not responding if verbal arrows are hurled. Or perhaps it's choosing to say something kind, or, just not say anything at all and simply carry a spirit of peace. After I take this moment and make this mental shift, I pause to express thanks for what is good. MARGOT is good. There is much about LIFE that is good. The neuroscientific research behind what our brains do when we are grateful is pretty incredible. It releases "happy chemicals", and it causes our brains to fire. And they say "what fires wires" -- in other words, the more we exercise certain parts of our brain, the more natural it becomes to do that, and the more it becomes our norm. When we choose to let go and when we choose a better way, it rewires us for better outcomes in the future as well.
Life is hard. Relationships can be too. But the choices we make today will affect our right now, as well as our tomorrow. Cheers to making good ones and loving well, dear ones.