We missed the PSAT registration deadline last week. Turns out there was an email, the information was at the bottom, and I had not scrolled down far enough. Apparently Son was also not aware… So we both felt badly, a little despondent, wondering what difference it would make in his future. Last night I finally admitted that my heretofore laissez faire parenting style may fail even harder pretty soon, so I texted my uber-school-engaged mom friend, and she saved me. I’m sending her a pack of washi tape cards to thank her.
Today I was prompted to consider my assumptions—the mindless ones I make and then fly by on autopilot. “The kids take the lead and tell me what they need for school, like I did when I was their age.” It’s not just an assumption; I have trained them to take responsibility and initiative for school related things. Rather than a helicopter or ‘snowplow’, I see myself as a drone parent—one with an occasionally glitchy camera and a fully operational weapons system. This minor lens failure served as a timely tune-up trigger. Humbled and grateful, I commit to doing more frequent and vigilant systems maintenance.
Looking back at five years of Healing Through Connection, learning emerges as a recurring theme. I focus on relationships as the primary application, and I’m proud of my progress in this domain, both personally and professionally. But these last seven months, I realize the profound importance of learning as the foundation of existential flexibility and adaptation. And I don’t mean formal education; rather it’s life learning: pattern recognition, empathy, communication, discernment, and connection. When we keep ourselves open to this qualitative, intuitive learning, integrating new information from any source at any time, we develop resilience. Resilient structures and people can bend without breaking. We take deformations, sustain scratches and dents. And like my favorite Coach leather handbags, life lessons make us supple and soft. Without losing strength, we gain elasticity.
For perfectionist overachievers (POAs), however, learning from failure can cost us. Failure triggers judgment, often snowballing into guilt, shame, and self-loathing. If we happen to hold positions of power, our failures may affect many others. Justified or not, we withstand wrath and hostility, which then compounds our humiliation. In this time of relentless anxiety, many of us are fraying at the edges, and some are actively unraveling. Relationships and wellness disintegrate in cascades of incidental destruction. How can we keep holding it together with no end, or even respite, in sight?
More and more I look for grace, toward myself and others alike. It feels akin to generosity and forgiveness, and also separate and distinct from these (which also really help at times like this). Merriam-Webster lists “unmerited divine assistance,” mercy, favor, and pardon in its definition of grace. That sounds about right. Sometimes we must call on forces greater than ourselves to get us through. I identify spiritually as Catholic and Buddhist—Cathuddhist. I have prayed and meditated a lot this year, mostly for peace, strength, compassion, resilience, and integrity. Now more than ever, I need to show up my best self for everybody around me.
And that starts with presenting my best to and for myself. I draw on the unconditional love and support of so many; I open and let it permeate me. Unmerited and divine, no question—and so deeply nourishing. Self-compassion takes practice and persistence for us POAs—more than we like to admit. It’s work. And the rewards, for us and all whom we touch, are more than worth the effort.
Make me an instrument of your peace, St. Francis asks of God. Amen, amen, amen. With flexibility and grace, let me live peace through and through, so that all who encounter me may benefit from it and me.
The only way out is through. The best way through is together. Let me do my part.