When to feel like the Worst Wife-Mom/Fakest Buddhist in the world? First, attend the opening meditation and teaching of a weekend Buddhist retreat, totally at the mercy and blessing of your husband and children, then return home to completely annihilate their warm, expectant welcome. How do you do that, you say? Aren’t you brimming with inherent goodness just waiting to be spilled upon your family? Maybe, but you’re not the Mommisattva you aspire to be in this story; you’re the Worst Wife-Mom/Fakest Buddhist in the World.
So when you walk in the door, instead of shining your love light, you decide to be really mad that it is almost 10 o’clock and your kids are still watching a loud, obnoxious Disney sitcom peppered with irritating laugh tracks. And you are less than amused (though actually slightly amused and eternally grateful) that your husband is running from the kitchen (prepping greens) to the back deck (barbecuing salmon) in his underwear, and the house smells like bleach. We’re expecting company the next day, and I immediately know that he has cleaned the bathrooms. Seriously, do other husbands scrub toilets? I’m pretty sure not too many. I am a lucky woman, and I know that (he should know it too, but I probably need to tell him more frequently and in increasingly creative ways). In any case, I am grateful for his efforts, but not grateful for the smell of bleach, which immediately threatens to disinfect my recently awakened, essential-oil-and-incense-infused soul.
I’m refusing at this point to let go of the expectation I had of coming home—that the kids would be in bed, the house would be dark and quiet, Chris would be sitting on the couch working on his laptop, and, when I walked in, he would set his computer on the coffee table and tip the screen down to a dim glow while we enjoyed a glass of pinot, and I shared with him the profound teachings I’d just received from the Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. We would walk hand-in-hand along the path of enlightenment together, toward the philosophical sunset of our lives. That was my expectation of what would happen when I got home from my 3-hour meditation.
Instead, my entire beautiful family is awake, enjoying the last of a hearty and busy evening, waiting to welcome me home from my “special event.” Here is where I am supposed to smile and say, “Namaste, family! Blessed be to you, my darlings, I have brought home the sun in my heart. Let me share with you what I have learned and we shall rejoice together as one!” Instead, I half-smile (mostly scowl) and say, “Why aren’t you in bed? You have an early morning tomorrow!” I immediately go into Nazi Mom mode. Not, “OMG, I love you guys, thank you so much for staying up for me and welcoming me home with hugs!” But, “How much longer on that show? Turn in down, and when it’s over go brush your teeth! You have a canoe race tomorrow!”
It is immediately clear to me that I am, in that moment anyway (and likely in most moments), more bitch than Buddhist. (And yet, maybe they don’t need to be mutually exclusive identity traits. I’ll explore that later.) In any case, I was not prepared for my family’s energy when I arrived home, and I blew a spiritual gasket. Bad Mommisattva! My inherent goodness could not shine through the shit. Therein, I realize, lies the largest lesson. Buddhism is all about maintaining your calm in the midst of any number and size of storms. And in this moment I couldn’t even sail into calm waters without making a fuss out of my sails. I’m on my way back to the retreat tomorrow. Hopefully this time, when I return, I will loft into the bosomy marshmallow of my family with equal squish and sweetness rather than piercing them with a skewer and roasting them over the fire.