By Joy Wong
I am used to reading signals from other people — whether their facial expressions, body language, words used, etc — to assess how they feel about me. While this sounds normal for the average person, I tend to do it in excess. For instance, if a friend passed me by at a church gathering without so much as a nod, my mind would start scrolling through all our past interactions as I thought to myself, Did I do something wrong? Maybe he didn’t like that I did such-and-such…or maybe when I said this, he got offended, etc. If a person looked my way with a scowl on her face, I might think to myself, Maybe she doesn’t like that I’m different in this way, or maybe she doesn’t think I belong here.
In this way, I have been hypersensitive in the past, over-analyzing interactions with others. But as of late, I’ve become much better at letting things go and cutting myself and others slack for less-than-ideal interactions. What happened? I became a mother — first of one, and then now of two.
Now when I read potentially negative signals from others, I may initially wonder if I offended them somehow, but then I’m brought back to all the times during pregnancy or parenting when even my best efforts at trying to put on a cheery face resulted in a tiny (though arduous) lift of the corners of my mouth while the rest of my face communicated doom and gloom.
So now I think things like, Maybe I didn’t do anything wrong. Maybe she’s suffering from first trimester nausea and can’t tell anyone about it ’cause the pregnancy hasn’t been announced. Maybe he’s got painful canker sores in her mouth from sleeping less than 1-2 hours at a time throughout the night. Or maybe for some other reason, he or she is just having a hard day.
In essence, I feel freer now. Freer to let things go. Freer to assume that things may not (and probably are not) about me. Freer to not sweat the small stuff, simply because I don’t have the energy or time to do so — there are other things more pressing.
It’s a gift of parenting I didn’t expect. But it’s a gift I appreciate, nonetheless!
Joy Wong is a contributing author to Mirrored Reflections: Reframing Biblical Characters, published in September 2010. She has an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary, a BA in English from Princeton University, as well as managerial experience in industrial distribution. Joy and her family attend Northland Village Church.