This Premeditated Meditation is one section of a series of sample meditations designed to bring us down from our most common unhealthy reactions. We write them to ourselves, while we feel great, and therefore have access to all of our wisdom. Then, when we’re upset, we have only one job: read the letter we wrote to ourselves.
This letter is from a frustrated, home-schooling, middle-aged Dad, who is growing concerned about his drinking as he faces the loss of his company and home due to the financial pressures of dealing with COVID-19.
I honestly didn’t think we’d be able to grab this letter while we’re mad. Anger can be so blinding. If you’ve got to do your breathing exercise a few times while reading this –cool. Do them. We really want what’s in this letter. This isn’t us failing, this is us training.
First off, you know the rule: Put on Johnny Cash’s ‘Hurt.’ It calms you down and we need the perspective. Do it.
You can’t say that I don’t understand how bad it is. Losing everything we’ve worked for, marriage strained because we’re both snapping at each other. All true.
Also true: grandpa lost everything in the war. His entire family. Watch that video about Johnny Cash’s life. Remember buddy, there’s still down to go from where you are now. It isn’t a lie to be grateful it isn’t worse. At least a quarter of the country is right there with us.
So let’s not make it worse by screwing up. When I calm down half the time I’m wondering if we’re not just getting mad just as an excuse to drink. Because you know that’s the impulse we always get and you know where that came from.
This COVID thing can be our gym. We can use it to exorcise some demons. That’s something we really want to do. Let’s come out of this as a better man than we were when we went in.
Let’s accept it one more time. Maybe enough times and it’ll feel less terrifying. But the odds of getting out of this intact are basically zero. Yeah, I know. Ouch.
But okay. If we’re going to lose almost everything anyway, let’s at least show the kid how to lose with some dignity and character and God forbid, maybe a little humour. Remember that Will Smith movie with him and his kid being poor.
What that awesome son of yours does not need to learn is how to reach for a bottle every time he’s upset. Family traditions are nice etc. But let’s not pass on the potential alcoholism.
You see what that’s done to your brother’s and sister’s lives. What his drinking did to Mom. No way. Not to Levi. Not to Levi.
Okay now, let’s start with the most important things. Breathe out that ‘he’s an idiot‘ feeling, and breathe in that calm dad quality you wish you had. Don’t act like our Dad, act like the Dad on Growing Pains. Levi is not stupid, he’s 10.
If you want to feel a repellent reason not to scream at your kid: just remember that his memories of you will be like the ones we have of dad when he screamed at us. Take a moment and stop and think about that from Levi’s perspective.
Do you remember how much that made our brain hurt when Dad was yelling at us for just not understanding stuff? What is he supposed to do if he just doesn’t understand?
He can’t weave math skills out of our screaming or pencil-hurling. Mom always taught us the stuff. And there was no yelling or insults. The problem is not his learning, we have to get better at teaching.
There’s no point in dwelling on the mistakes or running ourselves down, the point is to change. Remember, teachers do this for 30 kids. You can do this. Keep breathing.
Just keep trying to find new ways to describe it. If he needs time to learn it, we gotta give ourselves time to learn how to teach it. At some point it’ll just ‘click.’
We know for sure the kid is not stupid. He’s smarter than we are. Re-read this 10 times if you have to, but you know the rule: this always ends the same way. If we’re not calm enough to go put our arm around Levi and apologize to him, then we’re not calm enough.
He deserves that –any human being deserves that. If you want a kid to grow up to treat people well show then him what that looks like. We are teaching him how to be a class act and apologize sincerely.
I wish I would have kept that dumb meme of the empty desk off of pinterest. It’s something like ‘This is not a failure. This is where a soul learning to teach and a soul learning to learn, come together to be each other’s students.‘
It’s corny, but it’s way better than describing what we’re doing as an ‘idiot Dad terrorizing his son for math formulas.’
Okay. So watch for the ‘oh my day has been so hard’ justifications on the booze. Work on a new way to teach math instead. If you’re too intense, do a Sudoku. Relax. Relaxing will do more than drinking, and it’s free. And free is what you need right now.
We’re going to come out of this financially battered. But I hate losing, so if we’re going to take a financial hit let’s buy something with the money. Let’s buy more resilience. Let’s buy more patience, more tolerance, more acceptance and yeah, even more love.
Especially for your kid. I often wonder what we might have done if we had more love. All four of us….
It should be easier to love him than to yell at him, but we’ve had that backward. We’re fine with yelling at him in public on a sports field, but we get all uncomfortable telling him we’re proud when we’re alone. Grow up. Model being who you want the kid to be.
Yeah. It’s bad. That’s okay. It’ll also change. So be patient. Focus on the day you’re in. Forgive yourself when we fail. And try to be tolerant of when others fail too. We’ll be okay. From this calmer perspective I can see that we’re going to be okay. It’ll be different, but we’ll make it work.
Are you ready? Last time it only took one reading and the kid got his apology and there was no drinks drunk. (The song works GREAT!) Can we do that again? It felt really good.
Trade the calming effect of the liquor for the feeling of loving Levi. It’s a much smarter use of your time. So go apologize. It’s starting to get easier for both of us. And that is more of a relief than booze.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.