Reflection from Early Winter:
The wind is blowing hard this afternoon but my son still wants to go outside and kick the soccer ball together. Sundays can often be hectic for us — Brian works at the parish and we often both teach on Sunday evening. But this afternoon, I’m slowing down. It has been a long few weeks accompanying one of our dearest friends who passed away last week. And my world is shifting.
It feels good to put on my sneakers and hoodie and run outside in the cold with my son. It feels good to just be together playing for a long while.
When we get tired, we go inside. We get out books and just sit beside each other. My daughter is playing the piano.
And then son leans over to me, puts his hand on my shoulder, and says, “Thanks for just being beside me today, mom.”
My heart melted.
I sat there for awhile reflecting on how this is what I so often hear – with or without words – from my children, from my clients, and from my own heart:
“Just be beside me.”
Isn’t this what we all desire?
Someone to just be beside us…and BE.
Be okay with big emotions, uncertainty, insecurity, doubts, sorrow, and “imperfections.”
And love us with presence.
Years ago when my daughter was a toddler, she would cry as toddlers do and I would try all my “positive parenting strategies” in my toolbox. I tried the ones that worked with my son – offering a hug, reflective listening, helping her name emotions. But I could tell it wasn’t what she needed. And then, one day, I didn’t know what else to do. I heard from within me, “Just be beside her. And do nothing.”
And that’s what I did.
I just sat with her. I said nothing. I sat in a way that let her know I was beside her and I would be with her. I sat in a way that communicated to her, “I’m beside you no matter what you are feeling or experiencing.”
As I was “just beside her,” I also was “with myself.” Whatever emotion or desire came up (to “make it better,” the feeling of being incompetent, the desire to be a “good mom,” frustration, hope), I just stayed with it.
Eventually my daughter’s cries ended, she cuddled in my arms, and I gently swept the hair away from her face. We stayed like that for a long while. I could feel her softening, her breathing slowing down. I could feel the exhale and relief in her. I don’t remember if that day we talked much or not. Maybe we named some emotions that day, maybe we didn’t. What I remember is this: the sense of connection between us – she knew I loved her. She knew I was beside her.
My daughter taught me a great lesson that day. It’s a lesson that therapists don’t really learn in graduate school and we spend a lot of time and pay a lot of money later to learn how to sit, how to be present, how to just allow, how to “not merge but join” with someone (that’s a whole other post! It’s something I so often share with my Compassion Coaching and Somatic Psychotherapy clients), and how to just be beside someone in a skillful way – with attention, focus, compassion, and regard.
My daughter taught me how to just be beside someone when I am seriously triggered. She taught me that sometimes, the greatest gift we can give someone amid great suffering is just to be beside them.
Today, just be beside someone.
Just love them with your presence.
Don’t jump to fix anything or “solve” their problem.
Don’t be so responsible for their emotions and experiences.
Just be beside them.
Just offer your loving presence.
Here are three beautiful resources for cultivating a sense of “just being beside me:”
Regarding Our Girls: Feminine Embodiment Practices to Empower, Uplift and Connect with Our Daughters – An online course for empowering you and your daughter.
This short self-compassion meditation – when you need to nourish yourself and extend compassion to yourself.
This lovingkindness meditation – feel the soft glow of your heart gently opening — offer your loving well-wishes to others — from your dear ones, to the stranger on the street, to someone you have a difficulty with, to every living being.
May these meditations and course nourish you as you feel the gentle way these meditations open the heart and let your light and love shine.
And in our world today, we could sure use a sense of just being beside each other. We could use a dose of just offering our loving presence. And we could use a whole lot of lovingkindness in our hearts, homes, and world.Blessings,