Here is something else parenthood has taught me: Inadequacy is the great equalizer.
You might, understandably, be wondering what on earth I mean. Let me start here: The word adequate is from the Latin, ‘adaequatus,’ “equalized” – as in “to be equal to what is required.” Parenting shows me my own limitations at every turn. Daily I don’t feel equal to what is required. I don’t mean this in a self-deprecating way, I mean it practically. I can’t respond to three requests at once. I can’t do as much as I once did. For me, parenthood often feels like a constant fall on the face: a literal trip up the stairs, dropping so many balls as I try to carry too much. There is food on the wall (and pummeled into the floor). The laundry piles creep out of baskets. Work tasks take longer to check off. Phone calls go unanswered. Letters written three weeks ago are still not mailed. “Where are my keys?” “I swear that diaper was in my bag.” “Mom! Why didn’t you wash my sweatshirt? You said you would!” …
With less and less room to ‘get it all done,’ there is more and more space for humility. And, with that emerges the invitation to dance in the freedom of just being yourself, regardless of and independent of what you are able to ‘accomplish.’ Ultimately, freedom arrives when I am just myself, moment to moment. Nothing more or less, just doing one thing at a time, calmly (or not) juggling all the balls thrown up in the air. I’m reminded of Nataraja, the Lord of Dance, an expression of Shiva who dances a cosmic dance of bliss, with one foot on the ground pointing to his embodiment, with the other foot lifted in the air, pointing to release. His dance is meant to release us from the illusion of separateness. (How can we be ‘unequal’ to anything?)
So – we can be equal dancers in the seamless, never-ending field of current familial chaos. We don’t have to be thrown under the bus of overwhelm and the feeling of not measuring up. We can instead just do the Dance. And we can do it from a level, ‘equalized’ playing field. We can do it from an orientation of no-separation.
For me, the experience of feeling inadequate in the face of what life requires has rendered me smoothed out, laying me flat on my face on the ground of being. Like the priest who prostrates himself before the altar, so too do I feel utterly surrendered: splatted out into what is ultimately an experience of being equalized: “made the same in quantity, size, or degree throughout..made uniform in application or effect.”
My friend Edwige sums it up well. “I looked at this beautiful baby next to me and I just said to myself “let go, just let go.” And so I relinquished myself over to my life—and to not being able to control everything around me; I accepted that I cannot be perfectly rested any more, or perfectly prepared. I am a parent.” I love this. Even when we are riding along the edges of overwhelm, exhaustion, or a feeling of ‘not measuring up,’ we can choose to let go of trying to control all of the outcomes and instead dance our seamless, perfect dance within life’s ongoing variables – meeting what comes with undivided attention and love.