We all have patterns that seem to have been established early in our lives.
Mine is to 'Wing it'.
I like to throw my hands up in the air and say "Well, let's see what happens if I do this?".
This approach has led to many wonderful and enlightening happenings in my life as well as some messes of epic proportions.
I packed up all my stuff and moved to Portland, Oregon via Amtrak when I was 23 and have no regrets.
Most of my most memorable performances when I was younger and spinning fire were improvised.
When I teach a yoga class or give a lecture, I usually have a bit of an idea of what I will do but for the most part I teach with an open heart to gauge the energy of the class and those are the classes that tend to be the most transformative for everyone else so it works for me to be a bit unbridled and organic in how I let things unfold, however, my impulsive nature has also led to some MAJOR catastrophes...
Me and my 'Fuck It Bucket' mentality (to steal from David Sedaris's brother The Rooster) has led me into some very dark and scary places both literally and emotionally.
I've had many lessons in 'Perhaps, I should have thought about this a bit more'...like that time I drunk emailed my longtime boyfriend who was again out of town for several weeks and decided to propose marriage.
The wedding happened but the marriage didn't last.
Of course, there are always lessons and I think for me, my ability to try to understand them and find the positive is also a habit that has offset the disasters.
Despite years of dysfunction between my ex-husband and myself, I now have a son who I adore as well as a new boyfriend who loves me as much as I love him... so much like the Buddhist story about the son who breaks his leg but escapes going to war...you never know how things will turn out except that eventually we will all die.
Oh gosh, I sure hope this doesn't come to a surprise to anyone.
Now, one of my first memories of saying 'screw it to consequences' was around the age of 5. I packed up my Mandy dolls, their clothes and headed North to Mrs.Weiderman's house to begin a new life. I figured with my new freedom, I would be free to eat snacks when I wanted and not be left to sit 2nd-Fiddle to my new brother, Paul.
Sadly for me, Mrs. Weiderman didn't have the same sense of adventure I had and promptly called my mother and I was picked up and had to face my punishment with my nose in the corner for what seemed like hours.
The amount of times I abruptly tried to find adventure in the small desert mining town I grew up in are countless.
In school, if I didn't like the project we were working on, I would destroy it or refuse to do it the way the teacher had demonstrated.
Those kinds of outbursts got me sent to the principal several times to bend over and receive THE PADDLE...but I still didn't care so it's not surprising that like me and many of his relatives, my son has inherited the same impulsive and curious gene that led my mother to leave Newport Beach, California at the age of 19, marry my father 2 weeks after their first date and have a baby (that would be me) some 9 months later.
My son, much like myself, seems to be focused on learning things the hard way.
We get an idea and go with it, manuals and mentors be damned...we both would rather fall down several times, raise our hands up in the air and say "I'm ok!", fall a few more times until the bruises are so painful that we finally look up and ask "a little help, here?" with a look of confusion wondering why all those offerings of assistance from those around hadn't been a bit louder so we could hear it through our protests of "I can do it myself!".
So...here we are.
Atticus. Me. Kindergarten.
Who knew, it would be so hard?
I figured he would be just fine.
He is smart, social and funny but he is also prideful and didn't want to tell me that he was scared out of his mind.
His 1st preschool experience was less than stellar.
It was dirty, understaffed and cost me $10 a day which as a single mom in the middle of filing for divorce and bankruptcy was all I could afford. We left after finding out he had been bullied by teachers and students.
His 2nd preschool was equally traumatizing as he was kicked out of for instigating a classroom revolt:
He led his classmates out of their room, down the hall, outside to the playground and then promptly locked the teachers inside of the school.
To be honest, I wasn't sure if I should High-5 him or ground him but when he finally found a new preschool that encouraged independent thought, I knew things would be better and they were.
I figured he was done with the impulsive behavior...but why?
Considering that I continue to struggle with my own need to fight or run when I am unexpectedly startled by my own insecurity, it was an unrealistic belief.
We are both aware of our strengths but sometimes our weaknesses become all consuming and we freak the fuck out.
The difference is that he is 5 and I will be 40 in a few months so my expectations for him have been unfair just as they were unfair when my mother had me pegged at an early age as our housekeeper, cook and general emotional glue for our Head-In-The-Sand family.
I expected Atticus to keep it together...to walk with his breath the way we have so many times at home when we have had a hard day but instead I received a phone call on Day 2 of school that not only had my boy had a meltdown but he kicked his teacher.
His principal called to explain the details of his behavior and as she explained them I realized that they weren't far from the last time I threw my own tantrum but instead of kicking someone, I threw my iPad across the room.
Monkey see...Monkey Do.
Is it in our genes?
Maybe...but it can be dealt with.
My brother and myself have received many emotionally abusive emails from our mother over the years and then watched her without remorse justify her meanness so I can say that there is at least progress in that both Atticus and I have emotionally evolved into people who understand when we are hurtful, it only hurts more and longer when we cause someone else to suffer.
I have become much better at not becoming overwhelmed with anger or sadness to the point of reaction and I have taught him that even though it will still happen, we must always take the initiative to apologize and do some self reflection so we can learn and be kinder.
Atticus is only 5 but he seems to get it.
This last week was better.
The weekend following his kicking incident was followed by a new ritual to sit and practice Lovingkindness Meditation.
Its not a cure-all but it's good for all of us.
His teachers and counselor have given him responsibilities that encourage his need to be in charge by allowing him to care for the chickens and the school garden.
He's good at it.
We are finding our way and I realize that just because it's been my habit to improvise my way through my life that when it comes to him I need to pause more.
I wasn't shown much in the way of coping skills, preparation or patience.
My mom, however unfair, believed I was smart enough to take care of myself and in many ways I AM stronger because of that but I see now that I also adopted that habit of not always recognizing that despite my child's need to be independent and figure it all out in his own, he still needs a mother to guide him and set a good example.
Me, the woman who rallies against 'magical thinking' has been thinking that my kid would magically charm his way through school without my support.
I was wrong.
I still want to embrace our curious natures but I have a duty to establish a foundation that creates stability first so I'm working on that.
I am fortunate to have a partner that helps ground us.
He recognizes that sometimes...I am exhausted after working all day and my reactive nature is going to be more easily awakened so he, unlike me, prepares to give me time alone.
It's been life changing.
Without any bravado he gives me space when I need it and I have learned from his example to give Atticus the same gentle support.
Again, Atticus and myself...we are stubborn and a bit prideful but once we realize that there are people who loves us regardless of how sloppy we may appear at times, we become comfortable. We are able to stay and not run away.
We can be still like a pebble at the bottom of a stream but also allow for our passion and ideas to flow with ease instead of manifesting like a flash flood full of destruction and aimlessness.
I still enjoy the unexpected outcomes that come from being spontaneous and I don't want to discourage the need to spread our wings but hopefully I can establish a new routine for us both to look first and make sure we won't smack anyone else mid flight as we take a much needed soar into the unknown.