I Need a Break
Thoughts & Reflections
We’ve all been there. When the pilot comes on the announcer and asks us to settle in for a short 12-hour flight. When we forgot one necessary ingredient the day before a holiday and need to make a quick run to the store. When we’re just in need of one more coffee, and the whole neighborhood thought the same thing.
When we’re on our way into school and a sudden, unexpected response from a child is, not today. When it’s time to leave the library or the park or the friend’s house. When there are no more chocolate donuts.
This is when the baby starts crying. Screaming. Peaceful protest, not-so-peaceful.
The empathy wells up. The family is embarrassed, pleading, scolding, begging, negotiating. Nothing will stop the tears, the wailing, the words, the lack thereof, the whole-body-rigid, the total meltdown.
Perhaps there is some judgement. Perhaps there is purely compassion. Perhaps there is irritation. Perhaps we have the ability to leave the situation, perhaps not.
Perhaps the reason all these emotions are stirred up, is because, we all feel that way. We feel all these things for the family, because we feel all the things the child is feeling.
Children are beautifully fierce and present this way, aren’t they? They feel everything fully, right now, on the turn of a pin, with their whole self.
The true wish and whole-body-inhale before blowing out the candles. The shriek of delight and hands extended, wiggling with anticipation, when handed the ice cream cone with sprinkles. The utter pain and distress of, I’m done. I just need a break.
Whatever it is, it is felt 100%. It is palatable. It is contagious. It is Right There.
Perhaps we’re irritated with the toddler on the flight because they’re not old enough to adhere to the social norms of bottling up frustration about a “short” 12-hour flight. We ALL feel annoyed, uncomfortable, in need of being somewhere, anywhere but here, and this child isn’t holding it in.
The child feels the temporary pain, or temporary joy, and expresses it. Could we learn from this? Maybe not drop our lunch and collapse on the floor, but maybe be honest with ourselves about our feelings.
That, no, this isn’t the longest meeting in the history of forever and our colleagues or partner don’t “always” or “never” do whatever is rubbing us the wrong way at this particular moment. But maybe, admit, sigh, I need a break.
And take that moment to breathe, as we encourage the children to do, and give ourselves a hug, as we give a child, and extend to ourselves and those around us the same empathy we extend to the child, and to the parents of that tearful, inconsolable child, and think, yep, I’ve been there. Sometimes, I need a break.
That’s all the child is saying, with the tears and the moment of distress. It is fleeting, as is the utter joy that comes with the ice cream cone. This, too, shall pass. She cannot contain the waves of emotion, good or bad, all she does is Experience. And the child that still lives in us all, the Child that emerges when delighted or distressed, she Experiences, too. She awakens with Empathy. We acknowledge her presence, a polite nod of recognition, to the tired or the frustrated or the giddy or the playful, and we notice what she is calling us to.
Written by:Charlotte Wood