Here’s the wisdom of a child:
For days, my four-year-old grandsons Walker and Taylor talked about their planned play-date at their pals Max and Sam’s. The pool. Popsicles. The cool ride-on trucks. They had stuffed their backpacks with swim suits and towels, sneaked in animal crackers to share. Then Max and Sam’s mom called to say she had strep throat and had to call it off. My daughter waited for tears or a tantrum from her sons. Instead Taylor said, “Oh, Mom. I hope she feels better.”
When Taylor has a temperature and thinks of his twin brother outside without him, he says, “But I CAN’T stay inside because Walker won’t have fun if he’s alone.”
That’s Taylor, filled with light. And then there’s Tiki, his toy stuffed turtle. Tiki is cute enough, big round eyes, sparkly scaly green skin, a snug fit squeezed in Taylor’s hand as he drops off to sleep. But Tiki is filled with darkness. In Taylor’s fist, Tiki hits other stuffed animals. Taylor acts out Tiki in a sharp tone, “I win. You are OUT.” Tiki squeaks and squeals and wakes up 3-year-old Lawson and 5-month-old Brooke.
The last time I visited, I noted calm in the boys’ bedroom. I asked, “Where’s Tiki?”
Taylor said, “Susu, Tiki was not kind. I tried to teach him to be nice. I sent him on vacation so he could take some time to be with himself. He’s still pretty mean. But he’s ok. He’s learning.” Taylor knows how to forgive.
Here’s the mind-rant of an adult: My own dark side appears when I don’t feel well. My headache today means I’m dying. Not only am I dying; it’s my fault. I search for what I must have messed up to get sinusitis. If only I hadn’t gorged on that pint of Phish Food, or maybe I didn’t meditate enough last week. My husband catches my self-flagellation and offers, “That’s pretty harsh. I’d say you’ve done a lot of good things in your life.”
But my brain yells worst case scenarios and blames myself for them. So I can’t hear such reason.
I e-mail my friend Micki, “The worst part is thinking I did something wrong.” She writes, “That sounds difficult.” She wishes me spaciousness and equanimity. Yet my pounding Mea Culpa-ing outshouts the gentler call for self-compassion.
I text my cousin Nancy. “It’s enough to be sick. But I keep adding more pain with, ‘How did i cause this?'”
She texts, “Tell that voice to be quiet.”
And then I get it. My inner Tiki has hijacked my rational side. Under the spell of a Tiki-takeover, I cannot be kind or nice to myself.
I stop, listen, and cringe at the shrill fingernails-on-a-blackboard of a Tiki attack, “What? No salad today? And ice cream too? Really? What were you thinking?”
I know I can’t hush Tiki’s racket with my own Tiki mind. I need a Force other than “self.”
But I don’t know what. That’s it with human beings. We can’t fully heal ourselves with our own ego. Once I admit that truth, I hear a message. “Get out your beads.” Nancy and I share a grandmother whose key to almost everything was, “Pray to Mary. Say your Rosary.”
“Get out your beads” makes no sense. It’s been years. Ok, decades. Then a line from St. Exupery’s The Little Prince comes to me: “In the face of an overpowering mystery, one dare not disobey.”
So I dig in a drawer in the back of my desk in the back of a glass box and I spot my dusty beads. I slip the tiny black ovals through my fingertips. As I say Mary’s prayer again and again. I come to trust that Mary, full of Grace, can forgive the skipped salad. That, as a result, I can be like Taylor and say, “I’m ok. I’m learning.”
Then I rest. I breathe better. I feel the same calm as in the boy’s room with no Tiki present. I can then send myself a loving, “Oh, Susu, I hope I feel better.”
On our own, we can’t always let go of our unique form of human’s universal Tiki-talk. It took my husband, Micki, Nancy, and the beads for me to mature into forgiving the Ben and Jerry’s. Mostly it took the light in a four-year-old, who accepts his inner Tiki, to allow me to take the time to be with myself and to let the Force be with my own dark side.