Take Off the Mask: Enter Self-Love

“What makes you think it’s ok to talk to me like that?”

No answer. Eye-roll. Whatever muttered under the breath.

As the two Tweens alternate between loving me and hating me and back again, the little guy whines his way through breakfast, getting dressed, shoes on and school bag packing. Please stop, I beg him. Be sweet.

The minute we pull up to school, however, the little guy calls to a friend with a bright smile on his face and starts up a peaceful, pleasant, loving conversation.

This is called Parenting WTH.

Lately, my children have been infected with the Tween Angst Syndrome. Three of them, at least. The little guy still snuggles in, but the older ones love me and hate me in equal measure and they are not afraid to show it.

I am trying hard to draw lines between proper and unacceptable behavior, but I feel like I’m treading in quicksand and sinking fast. I love them so much. I know parenting is all about letting go, from day one onward, but this part is uncharted terrain, hilly and full of dips and spills that I never saw coming.

A friend suggested that the little guy’s about-face in front of school could simply be the putting on of a mask. At home, she said, he might feel free to show his true feelings. Safe.

At school, however, it’s best face forward, even if it’s not true face.

Maybe. It made me wonder how many masks we wear on a daily basis and whether we might remove the disguise in exchange for a healthy routine of self-love. The same friend mentioned that as the key to a successful life.

So how do you achieve self-love?

In this week of reflection and fresh starts, I think about how much I cater to others, how many times I play the martyr, and how often I take care of myself.

Whether it’s my early morning meditation or a restful night of complete sleep, time alone under the waving trees or time with friends without the mommy guilt that often comes with it.

There are whole weeks of serving everybody else. Yes, we are here to serve others, but not at the exclusion or detriment of the self. Without a solid home base, we are no good to anyone.

I’ve also been noticing how often the stories we tell ourselves don’t match up with the real deal. You know what I mean – the stories where we think a friend no longer likes us and we feel bad for ourselves when really, that person is running crazy in their own life. Or the story we tell of how something, anything, is another person’s fault – never ours. Or the woe-is-me story, applicable to any part of our lives – look at how tough I have it, having to cook every night, having to do all the laundry, so much work, so little pay, blah, blah, blah.

The other day, I walked along the river banks with an old dear friend, who shared Carl Sagan’s famous quote that puts everything in perspective. Do any of the insecure, sad stories really matter, in the end?

It’s the notion that from far away space, Earth looks like a small blue dot, so insignificant in the scheme of existence, so very small. And yet, we make mountains out of nothings into fears and imaginings that paralyze us from accomplishing all the good that we were brought here to do. We get sidetracked by angst-riddled Tweens and forget our only job is to love.

Inspired by Voyager’s incredible picture of Earth as such a tiny destination, Sagan wrote this book to put us all in our proper place. We are so much less important than we think – and so much more important than we can imagine.

Here’s an excerpt from Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space by Carl Sagan:

“That dot…That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there-on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”

We can turn the tide if we want to. If we want to. That’s all it takes to step inside the eternity of Right and Brilliance and Love-filled Light.

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