Over the past week and a half, although it's been a bustling time with holidays, cooking, and a preschooler on "vacation" from school, it's also been a time of personal reflection for me.
I once read about something called Impostor Syndrome in which people feel as though the world views them one way, while in truth, they are somebody quite different (and usually worse). While this is a real psychological disorder, I think that on a lesser scale, some of us really do put on minor guises that can be deceptive.
One of our Yom Tov guests remarked that I'm very calm with my kids, and it got me thinking that I know that that's not the case, but that it may seem to be so, to others, some of the time.
Being a calm, upbeat person is not my nature. In fact, the expected redheaded temperament is much more like it. Plus, worry is my middle name. In short, the way I see it, I'm a crabby, easy-to-anger, anxious person, even as I realize that people would be surprised to learn that.
It's an ongoing effort to be more of the person I want to be, and to be "on" for my kids in the way that I know I need to be. It's also a struggle to retain the genuine side of myself that I see as more interesting because it's a little more biting and edgy, Being better can sometimes get confused with being sweet and bland, like a stale, cheerful cookie. The trick is to still be me, but a version of myself that doesn't make me feel guilty and uncomfortable in retrospect.
We were lucky to be able to share a meal over Rosh Hashana with a family that I consider positive and inspiring, though not in a saccharine way. In some neutral context, the wife mentioned that she'd recently seen a refrigerator magnet at someone's house that said "The very thing you're complaining about is what someone else is praying for right now." (That's paraphrased.)
It took me some time to really try to internalize how true this is for me. Whatever irks me - a mess in my house, RaggedyDad not helping "the right way," a child showing chutzpah - while irritating, I'm lucky to have each and every one. And even though I'm human and I can complain, I'd be crazy to only complain, and not quietly (humbly) realize the truth of that saying on the magnet.
That thought, and the fact that these years are forming the basis of my children's experiences and memories, is what hopefully propels me when I'm feeling like being more of who I want to be, and trying to cut down on the hatefulness, negativity, and resentment. And to be able to mentally agree when someone compliments the real me.