When I was in my twenties, I got all tied up with social services per the sexual abuse of my oldest child. To be perfectly clear, I was the accuser, not the abuser.
This was the 1980’s and the social landscape was quite different. What likely would have been a slam dunk now was a long, drawn out and extraordinarily ineffective process. I was 26 years old, and a single mother with two children under the age of two. Although not outclassed, I was outwitted, insomuch as I put my faith in a system that frankly, was not deserving.
You have no idea how many times I have imagined just taking my children and running. But instead, I went through the paces, including an evaluation of my own parenting skills. One comment in particular has always stuck with me—that I had a tendency to ‘overreact to emotionally loaded situations.‘
Hell to the yeah; given the context, how could one not overreact. In retrospect, perhaps I should have reacted more, not less.
However, even in the midst of all that shit, something about the word react made a huge impact.
Yes, I subscribe (and always will) to complacency equals complicity. We simply cannot stand by while bad stuff happens. This lesson is more subtle than that. There is an important difference between react and overreact. Think nuclear reactor—generating power versus meltdown.
In November I shall turn 61, a rather ripe old age. And I am finally gaining a modicum of self control as to how I respond to situations.
Being fully present, asking more questions, pressing pause. Not failing to act, but rather making every effort to act wisely. First do no harm, either to others or (and this is vitally important) to self.
It’s a tough balance to maintain. I am an enthusiast and patience has never been one of my virtues. But I am committed to becoming a better, smarter, kinder version of myself. With clarity and candor. But also calm.