I moved over the weekend. Just when I thought I had maybe reached a new threshold of equanimity and spiritual maturity – or at least a rudimentary baseline of emotional stability – I was struck, yet again, by stressful and annoying life circumstances (imagine that), which summoned forth my wrathful inner toddler like a kraken from the sea.
The move went fine, really. No crashing of the U-haul or breaking of the furniture. No bodily injury grave enough to warrant medical attention. But still, even when moving goes well, as it did in this case, there is something inherently and existentially taxing about the process of sorting through, gathering up, and physically transporting the entirety of one’s worldly possessions from one location to another.
I tried my best – I really did. I tried to be light and flexible and affirming of my helpers. And I was! Mostly. But as the day wore on and I became more and more tired and hungry and frightened of this new thing my life was becoming, I started to slip. My reserves of stalwart willpower began to plummet exponentially, and through the fuzziness of my frayed nerves, I watched in horror as my two year-old toddler self took apparent possession of my body. I heard myself spout testy utterances at my brother (who had generously traversed state lines to help us heave cumbersome furniture through narrow doorframes) and my sweetheart (whose eternal and ever-flowing patience is truly unparalleled) as I spiraled into a full-blown crabbiness rampage: The couch doesn’t go there, you fools! What took so bloody long at Home Depot!? Why is this not done yet, dammit!?
Ashamed of my wayward volatility, I was humbled, yet again, by the inconvenient fact that I live in a human body that is not always obliging to my agenda for the day, one that inevitably and predictably reduces me to a crabby cucumber when it does not get what it wants and needs.
So naturally, instead of doing what I needed to restore my equilibrium – relax, sleep, wander aimlessly through my new home to get acclimated – I charged ahead, taking on too much the next day, pushing through in a haze of sleep-deprivation and frazzled overwhelm to force myself back into a stream of tasks I wasn’t yet ready for.
Guess how that went.
So yes, mistakes were made this weekend. I totally screwed up is what I’m saying, not only in my crabby outbursts at loved ones but also in my neglect of my own recovery and restoration the next day. But the nice thing about mistakes is that they always seem to pull me back into a truth (or several) I’d forgotten and need to remember.
Here’s one thing I learned from the error of my ways this time around:
Life is not a game of transcending the toddler. That is a losing battle, my friends. You will die on that hill. As disappointing as this may seem (and it certainly often feels disappointing to me), no amount of personal evolution, spiritual growth, or self-actualization will silence our inner toddlers or evict them from our very human bodies. Our inner toddler is always there and always ready for their next tantrum. And thank God. We totally need them to whack us upside the head when we start acting like a disembodied robot who is deluded into thinking we have no need or no time for things like nourishment, rest, movement, space, silence, cycles, creativity, connection, etc. You’ve been ignoring this? Well, no need to worry. Your inner toddler has it handled.
My toddler reminds me to check in with my levels of exhaustion, hunger, and irritability on a regular basis. She asks me to have a real relationship with my body (like, one that involves authentic communication and active listening). She demands that I pay close attention to my emotional landscape. She requires routine, transition time, regular meals, patient slowness, and naptime. She needs loving-kindness, gentle directives, and soothing reassurances.
And when times are turbulent and tumultuous, she asks for what is most essential and stabilizing and brings to center what I most need in the present moment.
Most of all, she reminds me that my full humanness must be allowed.
After all, I was not born into this world to push away what is most real and essential about living a human existence on planet earth. This experience of being alive is not something to bypass or transcend. It is something to live into.
And this is a thing we get to relearn again and again, so don’t worry if you forget. Your inner toddler will always be there to remind you.