Tag Archives: Flaws

parenting my own delinquency

7 Feb


I am thinking about Achilles today.  What if I had the story wrong?  What if an Achilles’ heel does not point to a spot of weakness but instead a spot of strength?  How could one see it like this when the Achilles heel is what caused Achilles’ death?  I am thinking today that  Achilles’ humanity might have lain in his unprotected spot, even if it took him out.  I don’t have much to support this view, I readily admit, from his tale anyway.  If Achilles were my lover, I would kiss that tender heel everyday!

What is weakness?  What is strength?  These questions play in my mind this morning as I make breakfast for Eden because she is amazed that I am  capable of making a quick and tasty omelet for her.  She thinks that I am hopeless in the kitchen.  The weakness I’m wondering about is not my cooking ability, but rather my willingness to accept her youthful teasing me for lack of skill.   Isn’t the life journey funny?  We can go from strong to weak and from weak to strong at the flip of an invisible switch.

Eden has taken over much of the cooking in the past few years, in ever growing amounts.  She finds recipes that I would shake me head at saying, “too much trouble,” and goes to it with abandon.  Last night, she fried dough in coconut oil to make “from scratch” cannoli shells.  The whole house has a sweet smokey smell; one of my pans looks forever altered.  No matter; I cheer her on from another room.  Her slate clean of experience  stands in contrast to my many years that lead me to ever increasing simplicity.  Food is sustenance anymore, not a hobby.

Part of her transition into “cook” has been in jabbing at my own cooking skills.  Tis true, I’m not the greatest cook anymore; I think I’ve hung up that apron of identity.  As she explores her own interest and talent, she pushes off against me to define herself.  I am still quite capable, but she likes to make fun of my recent fails of substituting ingredients to stave off trips to the store, resulting in less than pleasing dishes.  I bow out; I relish my slippery identity and story that gives me an internal grin as I allow her free reign in the kitchen, even if it comes with a comparison to me.  There is not pride here in letting her know about all the years I did know my way around a kitchen.  Have at it, girl.  🙂

I don’t mind being the butt of the joke here, but for years, my lack of ownership and slipperiness of identity seemed a huge fault.

In our world, stepping up to the plate in an overt way is honored.  I understand the value of overt, forthright power, but my flow has always been a bit different.  In part, I may be this way because I found myself born into a family with lots of activity by the time I got there, the youngest of three, loved dearly but a bit of an afterthought.  I fit into an already established group versus altering the family dynamics much myself.  I have always enjoyed watching…

(No, I’m not Chauncy Gardner:)


Surprisingly, once I  had a job in sales.  I was supposed to go to college campuses and convince professors to select the textbooks that my company had published amidst a large stack of competitors.  I listened and learned about sales techniques and steps for “Closing” people, but this process just never fit my flow.  I went and met with the professors, but I found myself asking questions and listening instead of closing.  Even though I still made sales, the premise of trying to influence another in this way would have always caused me discomfort – to make myself into something so foreign made my stomach rumble.  In the process, I came to understand the role of professor and decided to get into teaching instead.

What I am trying to say is that, at that point, my inability to SELL felt like a flaw.  Every time I met with a professor and I was so far off script, sitting and listening and engaging in real conversation often unrelated entirely to my purpose there, I felt deeply flawed as a human.

I have memories of people picking up on what I think may be a sensitivity to others and scoffing at me.  One lunch sticks out in my mind  where I waited for a conversation to organically finish before I asked for the salt to be passed, which resulted in a woman saying how weak it was to not ask for what you want.  She couldn’t believe that I did not interrupt the conversation.  I was in my 20’s and her observation of me in what she perceived to be a lack of self-confidence left me feeling exposed and worthless.

From these callings out, I sometimes tried to do the flip in behavior.  I came on strong, I voiced my opinion with insensitivity, I didn’t hold doors for people as I had places to be, haha, but that never felt true.  I often didn’t want to voice my opinion; I usually could see the other side just as easily.  I wanted to hold doors because that felt true to me.  To wait for natural breaks in conversation is organic to me.

I also take a moment here, internally, to recognize how my lack of agenda and flexibility made me vulnerable to the unhealthy dynamics in my marriage.  I had trouble seeing the motivations of another person who not only had strong intentions for himself, but worked diligently to convince and steer me in directions he wished  for me to go, as well, that did not match my internal compass.

What a gift my life has been!  I can look at how this weakness did give me an Achilles’ heel.  I was given the gift of a marriage with a person that would force me to step up to the plate in a sense and say, “No, I may be easy-going, but I do still get to steer my own ship.  Amen.”

There is a shadow aspect that needs examining, here.  Finding the strength here means understanding where this sensitivity is appropriate and where I need to speak out and say, NO!

When I was proceeding through my dark night of the soul, one place I ventured was a Thich Nhat Hahn Meditation group that met in the basement of a Baptist Church.  My very first visit, I noticed a person coming in late, going to great lengths to make sure that the door made no sound at all upon her entry.  She slowly held the knob and turned it at a snail’s pace to not allow the slight click to sound as the door shut fully.

The click from the door may not have been heard, but one click that did occur was the sound of a light being turned on above my head.

There was value in the time she took to enter without disturbing others.    I recognized her sensitivity to the experience of others in meditation, and thus could see this value in myself.  She mirrored the beauty of a sensitivity that I possessed as well, and her gesture allowed me to see it in myself.

I am sensitive to others, I am strong in this, yet I can also choose when and where I am sensitive; I can choose with whom I wish to spend my time and donate my listening heart.  I can understand the strength and weakness in the same quality.

I kiss and bless my own heel, my best feature, for sure:)

“If you try to avoid or remove the awkward quality, it will pursue you. The only effective way to still its unease is to transfigure it, to let it become something creative and positive that contributes to who you are.
Nietzche said that one of the best days in his life was the day when he rebaptized all his negative qualities as his best qualities. Rather than banishing what is at first glimpse unwelcome, you bring it home to unity with your life…..One of your sacred duties is to exercise kindness toward them. In a sense, you are called to be a loving parent to your delinquent qualiites” 
― John O’Donohue

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