Wow, just wow. What a time in history we have all found ourselves in. I think we are all half expecting to wake up from this dream, laugh about it, then go on our merry way….. business as usual. I liken this time to those old Road Runner cartoons, where the Coyote is chasing the Road Runner, focused only on his pursuit, then pauses in midair when he realises he has been led into danger. Everything freezes in time and you can tell he is asking himself “How did I get here?”. One moment he is frantically running, the next he is in total pause reconsidering his life choices.
We are now in the biggest pause our lives. A great unsettling, reshuffling, reassessing pause. Life will never quite be the same after this. Long after, people may well hesitate before a hug, quite possibly avoid crowded places and not brush off a cold. Businesses will look different, if they survive. Schools may even look different. But it is the changes within households, within families and within ourselves I wanted to discuss in this post.
In my own journey, I have found that I have been so busy racing, focussed on the next moment…… until now. For the past 16 years I have been one driven mumma. I have been either pregnant, breastfeeding or planning the next baby. Moving house, or searching for the next house. Running from one meeting to next. Filling up our lives with commitments for the kids, convinced it was all part of making them well-rounded humans. Not to mentions, trying to save our business from the brink. All of these ventures, valid causes in their own right but I have never really had the time, place and opportunity to stop and reflect until now.
This giant pause happens to have coincided with the time we would usually be starting to pray and consider whether there is another little life destined for our family, now that Elsie is one. So this really is a time of contemplation and reassessment for me. And I am pretty sure I am not alone in this. I know so many people whose foundations have been rocked, or completely demolished. Things that were once considered to be in their control, have now been taken away. Businesses, income, access to resources and education. Everything as we knew it, removed for a time, but what is the one thing that remains? Relationships…..with loved ones and ourselves, and thanks to Covid 19, they been put under immense pressure.
We are now in lock down, or locked away from, our nearest and dearest. No way to escape, no way to distract and it can be beautiful yes……. but also very confronting. My guess is, that although there will be many moments that will cement and bond relationships, there will also be hairline cracks that will become obvious, glaringly obvious in fact. It could be with our spouse, our children, our parents or even ourselves. The outside noise has stopped, but what has the inside noise revealed?
This period of time has not been quiet for us. There is no quiet (at all) in lockdown with 8 kids, especially when one of them is named Benji. However, the pulls to the outside world have stopped and I have now been faced with these 9 humans in my midst. Each different, complex & unique, and so is the relationship I have with all of them. And boy, I have discovered a few things that I would not have picked up on otherwise. Some painful, some surprising and some a delightful discovery.
One of the painful ones, is that I have realised that one of my older boys cannot make eye contact with me. I knew, being more shy than many of the others, this is something he struggled with in general, however this darling boy will absolutely squirm under my gaze. It seems almost painful for him, and it has been a heartbreaking discovery for me. How could someone I love so dearly, someone I’d be willing to die for, be so uncomfortable with me? Thus started my quest…… searching my heart, his heart, talking to Sime and praying. Eye contact is one of the most intimate forms of connection with another, which is why the eyes are called “the windows to the soul”. However, in society, making eye-contact is also a sign of respect, which is why it would be a trigger for me when he would refuse to connect with me in that way. I would react and attack with my words out of hurt and rejection. I was convinced he was refusing just to bate me. However, during this iso time, I have more time to watch and observe. I have also had time to breathe, not constantly racing the clock, allowing me time learn to respond to him rather than react. From my experience, avoiding eye-contact is usually a symptom of shame, distrust or rejection. I just needed to discover which one of these was the cause.
This particular boy has been one of our more difficult ones to raise. As soft as butter underneath, however, with a tendency towards a melancholy disposition and stoic stubbornness, it’s been a challenge to say the least. And to be honest, I have caught myself lately waiting for his next misdemeanor, ready to pounce most of the time. Yes many times it has been valid, but regrettably if I’d refrained from even just a handful of my negative responses, I am sure our relationship would be much better. I had become an incessant siren to him, not a safe place. And who would want to look a siren in the eye? When had I last looked at him with a soft loving gaze? If you’d challenge me a month ago about this, I would have laid the blame firmly as his door, but in this time of pause and reflection, I will admit it lays entirely at mine.
Some may judge me, but to my defense I would say all the right things. “I love you”, “I am proud of you”, “I believe in you”…… but my eyes told a different story. They spoke of my disappointment, my hurt and even some unforgiveness. No wonder he avoided my eye. He was dealing with and avoiding rejection, and rejection from the person who actually loves him the most. It doesn’t seem right that the two can co-exist, but they can. I am truly thankful for this time, where the light has been shone on this. A hairline crack that started long ago, that if let unattended to, could lead to a complete divide. So much of our identity is born out of our relationships with our parents growing up, and this has been my repentant moment; I feel like I have have a second chance to relay the foundations. I am consciously making an effort to turn down the siren, and turn up the love (and eye contact). He is not a huge talker, so forcing him into interrogating dialogue is not an option. I have instead, playfully been catching him for a stare off competition. I am refraining from (some of) using words of constant correction and strangely enough……..wrestling him! I have realised physical touch is huge part of his love language, and wrestling/play fighting for boys of any age plays a signifcant role in their emotional wellbeing. Previously I left the roughhousing up to Sime, but I have realised this exactly what this boy needs from his mumma. Not confrontational, not serious interactions…… just time, playful love and the siren turned well and truly down. Yes his chores may not get done, and his schoolwork sloppy but first thing’s first. This is a time of wooing our quiet, introspective boy.
I could share something about what I have discovered about each one of our kiddos in this period , but this one has been particularly poignant and close to my heart. I am not victorious yet as relationships take a lifetime, growing and changing with the seasons. However, this season is unique and unexpected and I truly believe it will bear much fruit that we could never have conceived otherwise.
A very wise and insightful friend recently referred to this time as the cocoon period. We have been drawn inward. It can be suffocating and uncomfortable. We are being stretched. Growth, adaptability and change is required. BUT if we are courageous enough to identify those hairline fractures, and face them, we may very well emerge from this time a much more beautiful version of ourselves. Relationships may be transformed and strengthened.Fears may be overcome and priorities put in their correct place.
Covid 19 has been the most horrible, even evil, thing of our time but I believe life-giving things can come out of it. And where better to start than with those we love the most? So Until I see you beyond these four walls and the world emerges again, spare me a thought as I go in for a smelly-teen wrestle…….all in the name of love.
Much love and iso-hugs to you all,
Greta, the Butchers’ Wife xx