“The world is falling apart. By the time I’m old enough to take care of myself, there might not be anything left. The stupid people that hurt the earth, hurt other people, and even tell me what I’m supposed to do with my own body…they make me so angry I can’t stand it!”
These were the words shared with me in a conversation I had a couple of nights ago with my 14 year old son. He spoke through tears, expressing a deep pain. As a mother, I could only sit in compassion for his pain, and listen for guidance to support him. How deeply his words and pain ring true for so many young people today!
As mothers, we are constantly wondering if our children will be ok.
I hear new mothers wondering how to navigate their children’s growth and development through the turmoil of our times. I hear want-to-be mothers wondering if they should bring children into this world. And here I was with my teenager, wondering if I could be a vessel for the wisdom that he so needed in that moment of pain.
How do we hold a bigger perspective, and maintain hope for the future in the midst of what takes us so easily into despair?
First, we listen.
What is the message being communicated? What are the emotions telling us? How can we work with the emotions, and have command over them so they are not driving us? As my son expressed his anger, and said “How can I live my life if I’m so full of anger about what life is?” I responded by saying, “What if that anger is teaching you something? What if you are being given that anger about how things are as a force of energy to be used to do things differently in the world?”
Then, we ask questions.
We cannot assume, under any circumstances, that we know what’s really going on. We don’t have the full picture of the feelings of another. We don’t have the understanding of why decisions are being made that are being made. We don’t know what we would do in another person’s shoes because we are not that other person, nor have we experienced the totality of their experience. Our view is limited. We are but one pair of eyes looking at life from one vantage point.To judge others is to view us as separate from one another. We are not separate, but we do have different viewpoints, talents, skills and gifts to share, all necessary as part of the whole. How can we see beneath the surface to the message, gifts or teachings of the situation?
Only with interest and asking questions can we begin to see a bigger picture.
I was reminding myself of this constantly as I sat and listened to my son. The teen years are a time of finding oneself. It is a time of confusion, chaos, struggle, awkwardness and birth. Teens are working to birth themselves. They are seeking to find who they are becoming in the world, and how they fit in to the bigger picture. They will birth the “I Am” aspect of themselves at roughly age 21, and will navigate the mass of emotions and new experiences that come with the teen years in order to prepare for this birth.
My son went on to say that he feels like he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do, only that he’s supposed to do something. “I don’t understand what school is for, or all of these stupid things like money, insurance, or taxes. Why does anyone think they own the earth? Why do I have to go to school where someone tells me what to learn rather than learning what I want to learn? Why does someone think I need to pay for insurance rather than just take my own responsibility for what happens? How am I going to afford all of this when I’m older? How will I ever buy a house or land or a car or pay all my bills? What am I supposed to do? How do I know what to choose so I can make it in this world?”
Wow! What does a mother say to all of these questions?
I could feel the fear underneath his questions, recognizing my own from when I was his age. I went on to share with him that there is no time more difficult than that of the middle school and early teen years. He had just finished his block on physiology at the end of school, and I took full advantage of describing the analogy of the birthing process. I said to him, “This is a time of struggle and pain. It’s like getting ready to be born. You are being squeezed and pushed through this tiny space that is dark. You can’t breathe. It’s messy and incredibly uncomfortable. You have no idea what’s coming of this. All you know is that you can’t do anything to stop it, so you have to find ways to deal with it.”
I realized in that moment that this is not at all unlike what humanity as a whole is going through. We are seeing unprecedented times of challenge, suffering, turmoil and change. I also realized that women may have an advantage in dealing with this because of the very birthing process I was describing. When I gave birth to my babies, while in many ways the pain was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, in other ways, it was the most beautiful pain I’d ever experienced. I felt a willingness to bear it, knowing the value of the life that would come forth as a result.
While I could definitely find solace in the knowing of the life coming forth, the reality is that, as with any birth, we don’t really know what’s going to happen. We don’t know if the baby will be strong and healthy. We don’t know if we’ll have any clue as to how to raise the child. We have no manual or guide book. We cannot see the future or predict the events that will unfold. We don’t know the challenges ahead of us. If we did, would we do it? Isn’t that why mother’s seem to forget the pain of childbirth, and mostly remember the magic of the child such that they go on to have more children?
My son asked me, “What happened for you that you knew it was all going to be ok, or does it just stay like this forever?” Wow!!! An even bigger question. On the inside, I was honoring the truth that in some ways, as long as we are longing to grow and evolve, we will always come up against the question of whether or not things are going to be ok. On the outside, I was very aware that this young man was looking for a ray of hope in his moment of despair. My response:
“In some ways, the pain can continue for as long as we keep wanting to grow and learn, but there will come a point in which you know yourself, who you are, what you stand for, and what you are here to do. When that happens, you become like a pebble in a pond. You stand in your goodness, doing your best, setting boundaries for yourself, living life according to your values, loving the earth and those around you as best you can, and living the best life you know how to live such that your goodness ripples out into the world. You don’t always know how it ripples, and you cannot force the ripples to go where you want them to, or keep them from being bumped up against by the ripples of others, but everything we do matters. Once you know that, somehow, you begin to know that as long as you stand in that goodness, everything will be ok.”
May you persevere through the birthing process with the knowing that new life is emerging.