Do Better December 4th 2014 – The Blessing of the Forgotten Backpack

4 Dec

To listen to the audio version click here:

One of my biggest fears when I decided to embark on Do Better December was finding something to write about every day. If you know me in person, you know I can carry on a conversation with almost anyone about almost anything. I am a people person first, and I embrace that part of me fully. It’s only been in the past 10 years or so that I’ve learned the value of solitude. I have come to love that word because solitude, to me, is a choice and feels much more loving that being alone. Alone, to me, is the precursor of lonely. Lonely, to me, means feeling disconnected from everyone, including and especially God. When you’re disconnected from the Divine, nothing makes sense and the darkness seems ever so much more ominous.

When I re-kindled the idea that maybe I could be a writer, I knew I would have to spend some time by myself, and for me, that would be difficult. I have friends and family that love their time by themselves and are irritated when their phone rings. I was always a person who nearly did a happy dance when the house was empty except for me, and the phone rang. It meant human contact for me, something I craved and missed after even a few hours without it. Now, I would have to voluntarily seek out that kind of time so that I could put pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard. I would have to choose something I had never chosen before and it felt uncomfortable at first. Some days it still feels uncomfortable, especially when I would rather be doing anything than sitting by myself trying to crash through the blocks that writers have, some more often than others. Some days, I’ll take any distraction to draw me away from being a responsible adult who writes, but some days, I actually enjoy it. Some days I find that being by myself gives me time to re-boot everything. I can eat healthier. I can take a nap. I can catch up on blessing my home and family by cleaning up and doing laundry. Some weeks, when everything is crazy and hectic, and I occasionally feel like even adding one more thing to my plate will make the entire smorgasbord of my life topple over like a house of cards on a windy day, I crave a day of solitude. I yearn to set my own schedule and follow my own plan. I want to feel like I’m the boss of me instead of everyone else, and this is one of those weeks. The exciting part was that today was supposed to be that day. Today I was in charge of the day. I had my radio show to do, but that is always a great joy for me. I am picking my mom up at the airport, but that’s after dinner and gives me plenty of time to get things done and kind of gives me a deadline to keep me focused. It was shaping up to be a perfect day, until I got the call.

What call you ask? That would be the call from my son as he was driving home from work last night as he remembered he left his backpack in his car, which is at the repair shop for the day today. Unfortunately he remembered this about 10 minutes after the dealership closed and doesn’t open until 9am this morning. Fortunately for him, he only has one academic class early in the day at school, and he can definitely deal with that particular class without his backpack. Then he has band, which means he needs nothing from the backpack, but after that it’s game on. I must say that when he called me there was a part of me that thought he would learn a lesson by making him go through the day without the backpack. There was a part of me that thought it would teach him responsibility, but then a different part of me kicked in, and I choose to call that part conscious awareness. You see, yesterday, that same son got kicked out of school, but not in the way you would think. He had an appointment at the orthodontist to have his braces off after five years of having them on. I was scheduled to pick him up at 9:40am, and he called me five minutes early to check where I was because just a few minutes before he was scheduled to leave class, the principal announced a lockdown drill. The teacher told my son to get out of her class or he wouldn’t be able to leave for at least 20 minutes, and as my son was walking toward the front of the building, the principal saw him and told him to run to get out of the building before the police and their dogs caught him in the hall, so off he went and got out of the building as fast as he could. Unfortunately for him, it was cold and rainy so he did what he could to stay dry until I got there. He spent two hours at the orthodontist and we grabbed a quick lunch before he had to head back to school.

This son has early release from high school because he is a senior who scheduled a study hall for the last period of the day, so, since his high school is already half way to the dealership that would be working on his car, I met him when he got out and we dropped off his car. Then, to complicate matters even further, we met my husband back at the high school so that he could drive our youngest son home and I could take his dad to the airport. When we met up at school he jumped into his dad’s car and his dad put his luggage into mine. We all went our separate ways and by the time I got home from the airport, he was leaving for work. How’s that for a crazy day? It’s no wonder he didn’t think about the backpack until he was driving home from work when it was too late to do anything about it.

You know, I really wanted to be ticked off about that backpack. I really wanted it to be his fault for leaving it. I wanted to complain about having to leave early and having it mess up my day, but that backpack became an opportunity instead. That backpack gave me the gift of understanding that I have the choice of how to view this entire situation, and that understanding changed everything. That backpack helped me define once again the mother and human being I want to be. I don’t want to be the mom who harrumphs and complains about what she has to do for her family. I don’t want to be the mom who slings guilt and/or anger on my children. I want to be the mom that my kids know will help them be successful and will support them in positive ways. I am so excited that I was able to see this situation that way. I am grateful for that awareness, and it is a challenge I want to share with you.

This holiday season as we go through Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and the New Year, we will all be faced with situations, big and small, that will challenge and define us. We can experience them in so many ways. We can let life live us as victims of our circumstances. We can rail against the injustice of the world when things don’t go our way. We can learn from every situation that we have the choice of how to react or respond and that responding always feels better than reacting. We can also learn that if we react badly, we can do our best to fix it before it becomes a wound that takes forever to heal. Case in point with the same son; when we were helping our younger son with the project he was doing, I had a point where I realized how late we would have to be up to finish. I was aggravated and irritated and my middle son had just gotten home from work. In a moment of frustration, I lashed out at our middle son who did nothing to deserve that treatment. As soon as he walked away, I knew I had done something inappropriate. I took a deep breath and called my son back into the room. I told him I was sorry for the way I talked to him and that he didn’t deserve it. It was over in a moment, but the apology took the sting out of what I asked him to do and cleared the tension in the air for the rest of the evening. From the way things went from then on, I think my son forgave me, and I am grateful for that.

One of the things I remember that I hated as a kid was hearing my parents apologize without really apologizing. I don’t know if any of you had the same thing happen or if it bothered you if it did, but it was something I did not want to pass on to my kids. I remember my parents saying they were sorry for yelling at me or punishing me, but what I did made them so angry as if their anger was my fault. As an adult now, I understand that everything and I mean everything is a choice when it comes to our behavior. It may be an unconscious choice, but it is a choice. Nothing anyone does makes anyone sad, angry or happy for that matter. That is not something anyone, including and especially me, wants to hear when we’re feeling bad. We want it just to be the way things are. We want to feel justified in our grief, our anger or our bitterness. I know that because I feel it when I’m in those states. Often, because I am generally a happy person, especially, people assume I don’t have those awful feelings, but I have and occasionally still do. I even make the mistake of thinking others don’t have those thoughts either if they’re happy people in public, but I know they do, and here’s something else I know. You can’t go from depressed to giddy in a matter of minutes, unless you are drugged or mentally ill, but you can take one step up at a time to get to a better place. When my dad died almost 18 years ago, I was sad because my children would never know him, and I was angry because I felt like he didn’t fight hard enough to live. I was angry for my children. I was sad for my children. Do you hear all of the I’s and me’s in there? If you are a person of faith, and I am, you eventually realize that your grief is completely about you and not the person who passed. The person who transitioned to the next realm is happy and often free from pain, either physically, emotionally or both. The grief and the tears are for you and your resistance to what is, your life moving on without that person physically present. For my dad, I choose to think about him having a better life in his new life than in his old one. I choose to celebrate his life more than think about his death. I choose to love more than mourn, and it helps. I’m not telling anyone how to grieve. I’m just telling you how I get passed it just like I share how a forgotten backpack helps me decide what kind of mom to be, with awareness and grace.

So today, take a moment to decide what you want the rest of this month to look like. Decide what kind of a wife or husband, mother or father, daughter or son you would like to be. If you are not currently in any of those roles or if you are in multiple roles like that, decide what kind of human being you want to be and plan and act accordingly. It won’t all be perfect. It won’t all even be pleasant, but when it isn’t and you can connect with the very best you want to be, you can bounce back quicker and love deeper than you ever have before.

On a practical note and this is one I have to do myself, if you haven’t put your tree up yet, make sure you spend time clearing the space where your tree will go. Spend at least 15 minutes in that room today and make way for it. In our home, we celebrate St. Nick night so tomorrow is the deadline for hanging up our stockings. I’ll let you know tomorrow how it goes, and if you don’t celebrate Christmas or St. Nick, you know you have an area that needs attention somewhere. Maybe it’s your basement. Maybe it’s your closet. Maybe it’s your kitchen junk drawer. Find a place and spend 15 minutes clearing your space and leaving room for more blessings to come in. Until tomorrow, thanks for being you and have a great day.


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