This week my card is Sorghaghtani. In a deck full of hot mamas, she stands alone as an elder, a crone, a wise woman. I love her thoughtful, wizened face, the tender map of her wrinkles.
She brings up the difficult question: How do we tolerate difference? For me, this question has come up with surprising frequency on the path of motherhood. It comes up with my husband, with other mothers, even amongst comparisons between my two children. One of my favorite all time quotes—not sure who even said it—is “You can be right or you can be in relationship.”
Or even better, find a way to be in relationship with the need to be right. That’s my take anyway, on the middle path, which I think of as a softening between two rigid positions.
It is so hard to sacrifice being right! I had no idea. Maybe because with kids so much seems to be at stake. And when they scream in that shrill, nails-on-chalkboard way, how tempting to try to escape into aversion. I was talking to one of my dear mama friends the other day—De West—and she shared her insight that underlying every tantrum is some kind of fear.
I kind of thought the tantrums would be over by now for my older son—he’s four-and-a- half—but they still come up almost every day. He’s into redoing situations his way, so if I walk out the door first and he wants to, he demands that I come back in. I’m trying to see the fear in that behavior—instead of just the ridiculousness. Maybe, as so many child issues center on, it’s about a fear of not having control. Kind of sounds familiar, actually. I think a lot of my tantrums are rooted in that as well.
Another word for tolerate is allow. That has a magnanimous ring. It seems more doable, more human, more accessible. As we wrote in the Tolerance card, “If you find yourself unable to tolerate certain behavior, you have become stuck in your own conditioning.”
Rather than become stuck, soften. Expand. If I can let in instead of shut out, I can learn more about what’s disturbing me, and ultimately release it. I can find a way to appreciate the other perspective, to drop my ideas of rightdoing and wrongdoing. It’s respect, I’m discovering that is the nitty gritty of love.
When tolerance comes to greet me, I know discomfort awaits. But if I can rise to her challenge, I have the chance to be the person I am secretly longing for: generous, forgiving, and gracious.