Sometimes our best work happens when we simply show up, open up and connect with our heart.
I am not a mother and I don’t, for a minute, pretend to understand what it must be like to have a child love you unconditionally, then challenge you, then love you, then hate you, constantly changing the rules of the relationship.
A client recently called in a panic. She was on her way to dinner with her daughter who wanted to talk more about her upcoming wedding plans. She was expecting a large wedding, fully funded by her parents, even though my client, recently divorced from the daughter’s father, was not in a position to pay.
Recent conversations between mother and daughter had been ugly, insensitive and undercutting, and my client was not looking forward to another battle.
“She brings out the worst in me,” my client said. “And she sounds just like her father, putting me down, even suggesting I get a second job to pay for this.” Through tears she said, “I don’t even like her right now.”
I asked her to breathe. For several minutes we sat together as she slowed her thoughts down and calmed herself. “Now breathe into your feet,” I suggested. “Feel yourself grounded, stable, supported, out of your emotions.” Her shoulders relaxed, her face softened.
“Imagine your daughter as a baby in your arms. How do you feel about her?”
“She used to be so cuddly and close and now she’s like a…” I stopped her, mid sentence.
“Close your eyes and feel her as a baby in your arms. How do you feel about her?”
This time she paused and moved into the vision and a smile broke across her face. “Oh my God, she’s everything to me. I just love her.”
She stayed with that vision for a few minutes and then I asked her to remember a time when her daughter was two or three, challenging her, because that’s what toddlers do. “How do you feel about her now?”
She took a moment to remember, then said, “I’m a little aggravated, but I know she’s just being her.”
“And do you love her?”
“Oh, of course. Absolutely,” she said, still smiling.
“This is what kids do,” I said. “They challenge you, they push your buttons, they try to get their own way. And no matter what, you love them.”
“So can you breathe that love down into your feet so that, during dinner, when she challenges you, you’ll remember that, no matter what, you love her?”
I watched as she pulled her breath deep into her body. “Oh my God,” she said. “This reminds me of a book I used to read to her when she was a kid, The Runaway Bunny. It’s about a bunny who tries to get away from his mother but she is always there for him. The baby bunny says, I’ll run away and be a bird, and the mother bunny says, then I will be a tree so you can perch on me.”
Her whole face lit up with recognition and understanding.
This time I smiled. “So can you remember this when she is pushing your buttons?”
“Yes, yes, of course. I’m the mother bunny.”
The next morning I received this email from my client. “Baby Bunny and I had a good dinner together. She actually started out by joking around. It was the first FUN conversation together in a very long time.
When the topic turned serious, wedding money and numbers, I uncrossed my legs and firmly planted my feet on the floor and took a deep breath, and then another. I pictured her in her striped shirt and sweet smile when she would run into my arms. And so, I filled my heart with love. I’m sure it showed in my eyes and softened gaze. She spoke vulnerably and without malice.
How do you show up in challenging situations? How do you come from a place of unconditional love? Please share your own story by clicking on the Comments below.