My usual struggle lies not in the comparison of my physical self to others, nor to their intellectual pursuits or material conquests. Instead, I unfairly berate myself about my lack of emotional resources.
Surely she does not have such special needs as I do. She always has time for her friends. He never struggles with the obsessive need to plan in the hopes that planning will allow himself to BE in the moment when that moment for which he's planned occurs, but he then realizes that the over-planning has created a rigid wall he is unable to traverse. She is never mean to others when she is stressed. He doesn't have to say 'no' to social things as much as I do. And if this is all false, at least these people reach their proverbial "end of the rope" much later than I.
I can manage my emotional end well when I am self-aware enough to realize I am nearly there, but if I wait until I hand-over-hand to the next bit of rope only to discover I have run out, I begin to despair. In fact, I'm presented with several options: I can either sit still and do the self-care necessary to weave myself a bit more rope, or I can reach over and request a bit of Joel's rope for loaner, or I can berate myself for being so short on resources. Why I am not as resilient as he is would take a doctoral statement to unpack, so I try to ignore all the whys. But it is the whys that turn into self-compassion; the whys allow me the vision of a candace-child in need of guidance and generosity; the whys are one of the only ways to blur the bitter tears of disappointment in my adult self, whose hands are (seemingly) less capable than others.
I manage my anxiety by removing myself from stressful situations and people. While it was once self-preserving to do this, I am now recognizing a few holes in this practice. I cannot avoid stress altogether, so instead of giving myself the opportunity to create more resilience by controlled exposure, I've mistakenly created an allergy to it. I believe that a child needs to reach a point of maximum frustration in order to encounter their personal resilience and resources, which are vast. I have allowed Bowie the privileged of this frustration when it comes to self-soothing for sleep. I cannot spend the rest of my life assisting her back to bed, and so the sooner she learns that within her lies the resources to care for herself better than I can, the better. Why would I allow Bowie this human right, but not myself? I've stripped courage from my bones by never demanding that I use it. I've been afraid of the dark, of who I am when I am stressed - which is honestly quite short, ugly, and mean. Perhaps avoiding stress is no longer helpful. I am seeing that Bowie has the potential to be raised by a very scared woman...a woman afraid to travel, to try new stimulating things, to spontaneously embrace life, to pick up more than she can carry just to see if she is strong enough. I don't want this for her. I want to stand beside her with a shovel and assist her in digging deeply a wellspring of resources from which she draws energy and love for others.
Disliking myself for the shorter wellspring of emotional resources I posses compared to others is an exercise in futility. It is as illogical as hating my human body because it requires food. I cannot change who I am. I can only care for the special needs I have. I think trying to keep Bowie from seeing my darker bits (as if I could) will only serve to cripple her when it comes to learning how to love people - that of holding their pain without being drowned by it. She is strong; she has weaknesses. All are lovable because I love all of Bowie, not just parts of her.
At the very least, she will see me loving myself through these needs; she will learn the subtle nuance between coddling one's own weakness as opposed to engaging the self-care necessary to empower personal growth. In the end, it is pride that tempts me to hide my shadows from my daughter. If I value personal growth above the eradication of darkness as I say I do, then I must find the courage to be myself in front of her, to live my life authentically before her observant eyes, to teach her the biggest lesson of all, how to love oneself so that she can love others out of authentic resources, and not from obligation or empty routine. There is nothing like teaching a child something to challenge your belief in it.
An authentic life, not just an illuminated life...my bones rattle with desire for this. I refuse to trust only light. It is only one-half of an existence. I will take brokenness based on reality over pseudo-wholeness based only on embracing positivism any day.
Hold on to me, child. We need to teach each other these lessons.