Staring out the train window, I watch an image from the morning play itself out, its imprint forever left in my heart. I kiss my daughter goodbye as she takes her lunch bag and runs toward school. My son, who I no longer have permission to kiss in public, takes his bag and quickly backs away from me with a big, sheepish smile on his face that says, "no way you're going to kiss me!" I laugh and stand there with our dog by my side as my boy starts walking slowly backwards toward school not taking his eyes off of me. He usually runs in full force leaving my "goodbye" trailing behind him, the words left lingering in the sky, as if unable to keep up with his pace. Not today. He walked slowly backwards keeping his eyes on me as I stood there wondering if he would really go the whole length of the school's driveway like that. People passed him by in both directions and I just stood there in the distance meeting his eyes with my own. He finally stopped when he could go no further, at which time the bell rang. He raised his hand in a slow gesture of goodbye, turned, and ran to find his class line. I stood there, my heart in awe. In awe at the way we heal. In awe at the complexity of relationships and the power of love.
The night before, my son and I hit one of those all time lows. A power struggle moment where frustration, anger, resistance, and pain come down like an avalanche. Quick reactions fire like a gun out of control. Bullets fly without the space of a breath before the trigger is pulled. The moment passes leaving destruction in its wake. In the aftermath, with my son in his room, myself stunned in the living room, and my daughter terrified at what she is not used to witnessing, I think to myself in shame, "and you taught a mindfulness class today?" How can this happen? I comfort my daughter and apologize for my actions and for frightening her. Then, I know I need to comfort myself before I can return to my son. We both need to let the embers cool. I reach out for help, knowing that if I don't, the old ghost of self-loathing will soon take over. Nothing good comes from that place...for anyone. On the phone, my co-parent reminds me that it is okay if our children see us lose it. It is okay if they lose it, too. It is a part of life. Though it feels awful, I do know we will heal from the moment. A mindful life does have this suffering in it. Just like forest fires cause regeneration and growth, these moments of rupture can do the same. I am told that studies show that relationships that have rupture and repair are healthier than those that have no rupture. In each experience I learn about love. It is tougher than I think. It can handle arrows.
In his 7 year old body, my son seemed to know something of this. He would not let me kiss him, as he normally doesn't at school, but he also did not want to turn his back to me this day. He showed me his forgiveness, his apology, his love in those slow, backward steps. As the space increased between us, my heart was opening more. I blew him kisses and we both went on with our day, his heart in mine and mine in his. I am reminded that a mindful life also looks like this. Perfectly imperfect. Walking backwards, I can bow humbly, again and again, at the lessons I am here to learn.