Thursday, July 29, 2010

Personal Lack

Conflict creeps into our home when we coming from a place of lack. When my children feel that they aren't getting something they need, or that there will not be enough of something, or they don't trust that their needs can be met because of past experience or because the thing they need feels bigger than what they think they can reasonably request, the feeling of lack affects their ability to stay calm or react reasonably or share or be patient. Knowing this I have been focusing on filling their cups to over flowing. I say yes, try to anticipate needs so that I am better able or available to meet them, and support their passions even when neither of us have a clue where following that passion may lead. This takes a concerted effort on my part because there are still patterns in our relationships that were formed in less positive parental moments. Actually, they were formed in less than positive parental years. It takes more effort because we are still working to recreate trust and respect and connection. However, as we get away from those out dated patterns and move farther into the life of a family where everyone's needs get met, the hours of peace and harmony, and crazy silliness, expand. I know that it is absolutely worth pushing through in those moments when I am feeling like it's too hard or too much or I want to say "no" just because it would be easier in that moment. Every "yes" builds trust, every "yes" moves us forward into the life that we have chosen to live. Every "no" is two steps back. It is vital to the life we want to live that I continue to meet the needs of my family so that everyone feels that their cup is full and their needs will be met and they are loved unconditionally. But there's more to it than that, I need to meet their needs with joy in my heart. If I don't want to meet their needs but do it anyway they know. If I grumble about preparing a snack, if I complain about getting up from the computer to give attention to my children, if I snap when they all want to go to the grocery store with me, that is not meeting their needs. Truly meeting their needs involves a certain amount of grace. For me, meeting their needs with a cheerful smile often takes a huge amount of grace.

The truth is that while I've been mulling over lack and its presence in our family, I have come to realize that I am the root of all lack. I am the originator of the feelings of lack in our family. And while I have at times been accused of having an over developed sense of responsibility (we'll get into that some other day) I don't think that is the case here. Deep down I do not believe that my needs can be met. Here I am saying to my children, "Everyone's needs can be met. We will figure this out so that everyone's needs will be met." and I don't believe it for myself. How can they possibly trust that it is true in their own life if it is not true in mine?

As a child I was taught about joy, but we were actually taught about "JOY" which stood for Jesus, Others, You. Put Jesus first, put Others second, put Yourself last and you will have joy. As a middle child who wanted to keep the peace, make everyone happy, meet the needs of her friends and family, I was primed to internalize this message. I don't know if anyone else in my family remembers this, but it is still echoing in my brain 16 years after I stopped believing that Jesus was a real person in history. My needs were not important. I internalized this before I could talk, it was reinforced throughout my life, and here I am, as an adult, trying to prove it isn't true. Constantly meeting everyone else's needs did not bring me joy as a child, and yet I'm trying to joyfully meet the needs of my children as an adult.

I grew up, got married, moved across the country, got divorced and finally started living life according to my needs. For a little over a year I lived my life my way. For one year my needs were all that mattered. That ended when I became pregnant. Fast forward 4 years and two more babies and you'll find me living in 900 square feet with no yard, no garage, a car that left for work every day with my husband, and no friends or family close enough to help. My needs were not only unmet, I stopped admitting they existed. It didn't seem that there was a way for my needs to be met so I gave up trying. My needs weren't important. My children and husband had needs that were important, but even then, I was so depleted that I could not meet their needs adequately and we all learned to live a life of lack. I tried to show them that their needs were important, but I also taught them that they could not trust that their needs would be met. If their needs were met, chances were they would be met while I cursed and grumbled.

This is the past that we are healing from. This is the reason that while other adults may say that my children are "old enough to do things for themselves" they still need me to get them snacks and bring them water. They need to have their simple needs met, they need to know that they can ask and I'll say "yes." We have to repeat that over and over and over so that they relearn that their needs are important and they trust that their needs can and will be met. However, I'm still healing, too. My needs continue to go unmet. I did not learn as a child how to get my needs met. I did not learn to express my needs. Often I can't even identify my needs. For me the patterns of the past are over 40 years old and I do not have anyone else in my life now who is consistently able to say "yes" to my needs. I have to be that person for myself. I have to say "Yes!" to my own needs. Many days my creative solutions fall short and I do not trust that my needs are important and can be met. Sometimes, for a moment, for an hour, I truly believe that everyone's needs can be met, even mine. Now I am trying to cheerfully meet the needs of my children when the behavior of putting the needs of others first caused scars of my past. It comes down to being authentic. As a child I would behave to please other people because it made them happy, because it met their needs. As an adult I can choose to meet the needs of my children because it makes me happy, because it is my gift to them and in choosing to give that gift I am free from obligation, expectation, freed from the patterns of the past. It is my choice. It is authentic to who I am and who I want to be. In that sense, it meets my needs and theirs. Our needs are being met. From that small place I begin to let go of my feelings of lack. I say "yes" to their needs, I say "yes" to who I want to be. Yes, this is the life we choose.


  1. Can I just say: I can relate.

    I noticed right away with unschooling that the world was wider, more available to me. But it took a while for me to really start to accept what it offers. Hmm. I didn't know it until I wrote it, but that is what it feels like. I haven't achieved this sudden ability to recognize my own needs, but I have begun to accept, or allow myself, the things and experiences that I find attractive.

    So, maybe that's the trick. Don't think of yourself as lacking (heh) the ability to identify your needs. Just think of yourself as abundantly supplied with opportunities to have them met. And you are! If a met need is a pebble, and your years of unmet needs are a big empty jar, you begin to fill the jar with every single pebble you collect. And, boy-howdy, does unschooling supply the opportunities for collecting them!

  2. :) I definitely collected pebbles today. I wrote for at least 5 hours out of the day. The girls slept in so the morning hours were mine, then when they were up I tried to focus on their needs when asked and proactively meet the needs for food and drink. I feel like I accomplished so much today and I had plenty of time for writing two blog posts! That definitely came from focusing on the opportunities and not on the lack :)

  3. Great post as always! I'm trying to really work on saying yes but I am finding that I sometimes feel yesed out.I'm missing the connection of always finding the joy in saying yes. There is a fear of not being able to say yes to myself that keeps me from breaking through. I'm working on it and am so thankful for your latest posts!