A couple months ago I read a book called “The Velvet Rage – Overcoming the Pain of Growing Up Gay in a Straight Man’s World”, by Alan Downs. It was one of those “life changers” for me.
Toward the end of the book, Dr. Downs has a chapter of various “Skills for Leading an Authentic Life”, which are not necessarily “gay life skills”, so anyone of any orientation could/should benefit from looking at these with me, unless you’ve already got it all figured out, in which case, “Well done, you!” For myself and the rest of us, I’m going to take one “skill” a day and blog about it. Some may be brief, some may be more protracted, who knows?
Here is today’s:
Take a nonjudgmental stance whenever possible.
Actively resist the temptation to place everything in your life on a “good-bad continuum.” Instead of evaluating your experience according to your expectations, focus your efforts on being present for what is, rather than what you wish would be.
OK, rather than “teaching” what I think this still is about, I’m going to get REALLY vulnerable about my parenting instead. It’s my blog – I can do what I want, right? (contentment over approval – see? Practicing.)
Parenting is hard.
Parenting my kids is harder.
Maybe not – I don’t know. Maybe every parent feels like this. Maybe there is nothing “harder” about my kids but rather something “off” in ME that makes the process “harder”.
For the sake of today’s skill, I’m going to assume I am the one making parenting harder than it needs to be. You can feel free to apply this to any area of your life.
I was an “All ‘A'” student in high school (no need to mention the two B-pluses in Algebra I and Algebra II, right?). I generally obeyed parental instructions. I was respectful (Mom? Dad?). Never stayed out late, never drank or did drugs, no crazy house parties, I was an Eagle Scout, first chair in band… you get the idea.
I was a nerd.
My children are not nerds. My children are not me. My children will never be me.
And that’s….. OK?
On the “bad <—-> good” continuum of life, I was a good kid. My kids (because I measure them against my own experience) are someplace else on the continuum. Hence, my parenting is someplace else on the continuum as well. And I beat my kids and myself up pretty good over it (figuratively speaking).
What I need to do to begin working toward being truly judgment-free is to:
- STOP COMPARING them to myself as a child (or any other children or parents, for that matter).
- Look back at Skills #5 & 6 and combine them while refusing to parent my “children of the future”
- #5 – Accept reality on reality’s terms. When life doesn’t turn out the way you want, stop insisting that it not be so. This is a skill rarely practiced once and accomplished successfully; rather, it requires repeated use until you finally relinquish the demand that life be something different than what it is.
- #6 – One thing, one person, one conversation in the moment. Make it your goal to do only one thing in each moment. STAY IN THE PRESENT
- Spend more time at the gym (Planet Fitness – the judgment free zone®). Kidding, not kidding.
Accepting things AS THEY ARE and BEING PRESENT IN THE HERE AND NOW will almost automatically (at least I think… I’ll let you know if I’m ever able to do it) keep you from always putting things on the “bad <—-> good continuum”.
WARNING – to others, you will look like:
- you don’t care, or
- you are lazy.
Resist their judgment.
Skill #4 – Contentment over approval. Choose those investments in life that contribute to your sense of feeling contentment, rather than those investments of your time and energy that promise to earn you the acceptance or approval of others.
See how these all start to work together?
Yeah, pretty cool.