Lj and I decided to take Syntia and the dogs for a walk around the farm. Something we were both looking forward to – the weather was perfect and we hadn’t gone for a walk with all of us together in quite some time. Of course, there is nothing like personal emotional reactions suddenly rearing their heads to spoil a perfectly good afternoon walk. So, here’s what happened:
When wrapping Syntia unto me in the Mei-tai I started getting increasingly irritated, annoyed, frustrated and… pissed. The type of anger/frustration where I just wanted to dig my nails into something, or break something – get that yuck energy ‘out’ by acting on it physically. But I didn’t, I tried to calm myself. I re-tied the mei-tai and it was a bit more comfortable, but the energy still lingered.
While we were walking, anything I experienced as a slight tightness, or pulling, or place where the fabric was digging a bit more into me – I felt that energy wanting to build up again – I was reacting again in the same way. I voiced to my partner that I was in an experience, in a reactive state, that I am sorry and aware of it and looking into it. As I was talking to him to try to describe the experience, I realized it was similar to my experience of frustration when trying on clothes in a shop that don’t fit my body. As I shared this, I started to already open up the pattern and get a better view of this particular construct.
The anger and frustration is two-fold, it’s an anger on the one hand that I want to take out on myself with the words ‘Why isn’t this just working/fitting on me?!’ As a teenager in particular, but even before that already, buying clothes was very much part of a process of creating myself to be a particular picture, a picture that was more socially accepted. If I could only make myself look a certain way, then people would accept me, I would FIT IN. So, before going to the shops, I would have an image in my head of me looking a certain way, and this was now my goal and desired outcome, that which I was to attain while shopping. I would in the shops look out for the clothes that match the image in my head and then try those clothes on. With each item that I found in the shop that kind of matched the style and image that I had in my head, my excitement would grow – “Yes, it is happening, I am well on my way to attaining and creating this awesome picture”. But then, when in the FITTING rooms, more often than not, the clothes I had picked out did not fit me – AT ALL. They would pinch, dig, be too short, too long, pull over here and be too big over there, one item at a time, my hopes getting shattered and with each disappointment an anger growing and rising: Why is this not fitting me? Why does my body have to be this way? Why can’t I have a normal body that can fit on anything? I have the perfect clothes right here – it’s just my stupid body that’s not cooperating! I generally would storm out of the fitting rooms, telling the person I am shopping with, (usually my mom) that ‘nothing fits’ and that I didn’t want to try anything else on in this shop. Lol, it must have been comical for her – seeing me go into the fitting room beaming with hope and joy for finding ‘the right clothes’ and then storming out looking like a volcano about to burst! Yup – I was throwing a FIT!
On the other hand and on a deeper level, it was an ager with myself exactly for compromising my body and my own expression, for the purpose of fitting in and being accepted by others. Often I would end up buying clothes that did not fit my body well, that did not complement it, that did not feel comfortable, but that ‘looked right’ – and while I would be aware of the discomfort and feel all the places where my body was being irritated, I would tell my body to kind of ‘shut up and take it’. These are the clothes I would often wear only one day and then in absolute irritation, anger and annoyance (cause that would all be there when wearing the clothes, of course, and build up during my day) take off the shirt or pants and in exasperation throw it to the bottom or back of my cupboard, only to find it again a few months later and go through the same thing again.
All this, opened up in the moment of talking to my partner during the walk. Great – I could kind of see where this originated, but I was still feeling like crap. I then asked myself, ‘okay, what word can I live instead?’ The word that came up was ‘Kind’ – and my reaction was… ‘KIND?!? Pfft, that’s a stupid word, I don’t want to live that’- LOL! Well…. that was interesting… to say the least.
We were still walking and Syntia started to push with her body against the mei-tai, as though she was trying to make more space, to loosen it up. The top I noticed was pushing into her neck. In the design of the Mei-tai there was an extra ridge meant as ‘neck support’ – but it seemed to instead curl inward and poke at her neck, bothering her more than anything else. Syntia has come to like having more space at the top when she is wrapped in, so this was not to her liking. My first instinct was to tell her that this is just how the mei-tai is and that she must just stop fussing about it…
That stopped me in my tracks. That is NOT how or who I want to be with my daughter.
Where was this coming from? I realized I wanted to treat her in the same way as I have been treating myself. Just like how I would want to fit myself into certain clothes, fit myself into an image, fit myself into the judgments of others, I was now asking my daughter to fit into this mei-tai when it wasn’t actually supporting her. With her, it was just so much more obvious how mean and degrading it is, whereas with myself, I had been doing it for years, I got so used to it that I couldn’t see the extent of the problem.
While my reactive behaviour with clothing and shopping has gotten much better over the years – this event shows that the underlying pattern is still actually very much alive in me. Only, where I am now in my life, clothing is no longer what ‘binds me’ with my peers. As a teenager – you dress the same, you listen to the same music, you have the same hobbies, the same opinions, etc – these are the surface behaviors you adopt when you want to ‘fit in’ with your peers. In my life currently, as a mother, my peers are other like-minded mothers all over the world, and the mei-tai stands as a symbol of something that binds us. While yes, I have investigated baby-wearing and the use of a mei-tai from a perspective of creating something that would be beneficial for both Syntia and my life – that sneaky dimension of comparison with other women and what they use to wear their babies in, was still present.
While I wanted to focus on how I had managed to complete the mei-tai, how well it had turned out and how convenient it is to use – the reality of my experience with using it was far more cumbersome than I had expected. It takes a learning curve, and in hindsight, I made decisions of how the mei-tai should be that are perhaps not what is most practical. For some reason, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that this mei-tai must then be discarded and that I’d have to make a new one – and the thought of starting all over, considering again the time investment, got me completely demotivated. Hence, wanting to tell Syntia to ‘suck it up’, that this was it and I wasn’t going to make another one. But then I realized, wait, I can just adjust this one, I don’t have to start over, just change the parts that aren’t working… so obvious… why didn’t I see that before?
Seeing how mean and degrading my behavior towards myself and Syntia had been in this entire ordeal – I figured that kindness is maybe something I can use more of after all… I am aware, however, that this word needs purifying and redefining, because just saying the word ‘kind’ out loud, triggers spontaneous gag-reflexes…
To be continued.