Excerpt from Lessons of Labor: Resistance

The following excerpt comes from Julia Aziz's book, Lessons of Labor: One Woman's Self-Discovery through Labor and Motherhood.


Somehow, even though I was breathing through the contractions, staying upright and mobile, varying my position, receiving massages and emotional support, listening to calming music, and experiencing a healthy, safe, naturally progressing labor, I wasn’t happy at all. I was furious. I could not get on top of the experience. I felt like I was at war with the contractions, and they were winning. They came at me like the pounding surf, over and over again, each one stronger and each one pulling my fighting attitude down with it. When I wasn’t struggling to subdue my body, I was fiercely wishing to escape it. 

This is the only moment I have.
Resisting my experiences, even the really hard ones, won’t make them go away.
It will just make them harder. 

I once heard a Buddhist teaching about learning to ride a horse as a metaphor for resistance. When I refuse to embrace a difficult challenge, they say it is like trying to ride a horse on top of another horse, instead of just learning to ride the first horse alone. How silly is that? Since the obstacle I am facing is demanding enough as is, adding on resistance (I don’t want this!) provides no benefit.

Like most wisdom, this is something I can easily recognize when I pay attention to what I am doing. Noticing how I make things harder for myself, I can consciously let go of some of my resistance. The hour before bedtime is a good example. When the three children are all safely tucked away at night, I can relax, finally free from all obligations. The hour just before, though, is full of responsibilities: cleaning, bathing, teeth brushing, helping with pajamas, reading stories, tucking in, helping with the bathroom, tucking in again, bringing water, tucking in again, and so on. Sometimes, bedtime feels like the finish line of a long race, and that last leg is the hardest.

The children are often still running gleeful circles around the house when the clock says they should be getting ready for bed. While I feel tired and want to slow down, they seem to be catching a second wind. I often want to erase this part of the day, this time when my energy is already low and the children still need so much assistance. My muscles clench in frustration as I try to herd the children toward their chores, and I start internally counting down the minutes until silence reigns. My resistant attitude just intensifies the bedtime battles, though. I start taking the last-minute requests and refusals to sleep personally, as if the children are purposefully trying to steal my downtime. What began as just a physically effortful hour becomes also an emotional struggle. I find myself straining to maintain a patient tone of voice while inwardly raging at the injustice of it all.

When I consciously release the resistance to my nighttime duties, I can choose to take a different approach. I can just stay with the moment, doing the things that need to be done and not judging the goodness or badness of it all. If someone needs some extra help after we turn out the lights, I just give it to them. I don’t need to mentally rehearse all the reasons why my work should be done by now. By letting go of the arguments inside my head (or sometimes out loud, with the children), I can escape the struggle and just do what’s asked of me.

It doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t still prefer to be lying on the couch with a good book in the early evening hours. It just means that I stop thinking so much about what I can’t do or don’t want to do or would rather be doing. Do the kids still run wild, claiming late night hunger and bathroom urgency? Sure. But they will do so regardless, so I might as well use my energy to do what needs to be done instead of adding on the extra work of resistance.

Read more by and about Julia Aziz and her book HERE.


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