Yesterday, on my way to work at about 7:30 am, after a bad night’s sleep, I was Citibiking on the Central Park bike path loop. I felt like a failure (for some parenting issues I’d rather not go into*.) Behind me, the Parks Department truck honked. I was slow. And now I was mad and frustrated. I was struggling to pedal up a hill — that one where the runners pass me on my bike — and this dude is honking! Really?!
Any way, I rode to the left side of the road and the Parks Department truck pulled up next to me. The driver leaned out of his window, “Hey, sorry. I was not honking at you. I saw my crew in the field and I was honking at them.” Then he drove off.
I began to cry. Because the dude did not have to apologize or explain but he did. And because — even after some perceived parenting failings — it’s not always about me. And that Park’s Department worker’s one random act of kindness, of apologizing, flipped my day.
So remember this — the next time a person honks at you, don’t curse yourself. Or pile on the self-pity or frustration. The driver may not be trying to get you out of the way; they may be simply saying hello to a friend in a different lane.
*I know that when a writer says ‘I don’t want to go into it,’ it makes the story more interesting. For a hint as to my parenting transgression, you might get the idea if you watch my Listen to Your Mother story, Taking out the Trash on YouTube. See, I had lost my patience with one of my darlings And I wished that I didn’t.
One special night Chris and I took the kids to see the Big Apple Circus. The show was spectacular and Grandma, our favorite clown, was so funny. It was warm although it was Thanksgiving weekend. A golden moon hung over Manhattan.
“Look at the moon,” I told my son, who was eight or nine years old at the time.
“No, c’mon. Hurry up, Mom. I have to get home to see Drake and Josh.” That was his favorite TV show.
Duhrr! What did I do wrong? I had given my kids EVERYTHING — including the moon and what did I get? No ‘Thank you.’ ‘Gee, I’m so lucky.’ ‘You’re the best.’
I just read this Karen Weese article in the Washington Post about raising kinder kids. I love it. I relate. I know, too, that kids at certain ages are simply caught up in the here and now. And they cannot fathom that something wonderful is not right in front of them at any given moment. They deserve it. We all do. Even though something wonderful might just have happened for us. Are we all so entitled?
We have to learn to SAVOR. This is a stage I learned about at Global Ministries on the Marketing Team. Working for the United Methodist Church, I had worked on lots and lots of marketing campaigns. On the team, we needed to remind each other to stop and pause and savor how well we had done before we started some new project. It was hard to do.
Probably in all jobs and in all families, there’s this feeling — I’m on a treadmill. I just hopped off this one treadmill. And now I must jump on another. That’s life. No time.
Let’s remember to pause every day. Pause between our runs on the treadmill. We must savor. And in that savoring moment, have gratitude for the circus, for the moon, for our favorite TV shows, but mostly for each other — and for Grandma too!
You might set the timer on your phone for five minutes. Try these three things:
Sit quietly (Or lay down)
Close eyes (Or half close eyes)
Breathe (Or simply relax)
Yup, that’s it. Try to stay awake. And when the timer goes off, find a renewed sense of energy. Or feel rested. Maybe you’ll find clarity to a problem.
I love the image of the lotus flower as a symbol for the meditative mind. Like a lotus, let all cares rest on the surface. Let the mind be calm water. Or a cloudless sky.
I heard Thich Nhat Hahn once say that when troubles strike, let the troubles be like a storm that may toss and turn the top branches of a tree but your trunk, your center, stays strong. You bend but do not break.
Last year I dedicated the month of October to mindfulness. It worked. I felt more at peace — for a few minutes, for a month, for a while.
Last year when Patrick Kennedy spoke about his family’s alcoholism on 60 Minutes — and his own — it totally inspired me. It made me happy that a man was telling his family truths. That he was seeking to heal by being honest.
Does every family think they are a little bit like the Kennedy family? I think my family is. And by family I mean the family I was born into, the family I married into, and the family I created. All three of these families share a legacy of intelligence, humor, and service. And yes, a dynasty of not talking about feelings but forging on and accomplishing greatness no matter what.
Every family has their health struggles. How do you handle yours? Do you put on a brave face? Do you speak your truth? This topic often comes up when teaching writing to adults– What if writing my truth hurts someone? Maybe we should ask instead, What if it heals someone? What if the truth does set you free?
And then there is, of course, this advice (from Anne Lamott?) ‘If they didn’t want you to write about them, they should’ve treated you better.’ But some people can’t treat you better because they’re not in treatment.
I thought it was interesting that Patrick said his father Edward Kennedy suffered from PTSD because his two brothers were assassinated.
Talking about your family illness — whether is be Parkinson’s, alcoholism, depression, or cancer — is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength.
Little things, like eyelash extensions, make my day.
I’m not ready for Botox or even a night-time moisturizer, but I do like a little something something now and then.
Small acts of kindness — to yourself, to others — make a difference.
And small acts of beauty are good for the soul.
I treated Charlotte to the eyelashes, too, and the technician kept saying, playfully, to my daughter, “You’re so spoiled.”
“It’s true. It’s true. She’s so spoiled. All of my kids are. I blame their parents.”
I’ve been dealing with some family members’ health issues lately. And I am not in the mood to apologize for indulging myself. Although, at times, I do feel I should focus on solely on others and never myself. Yet I work hard for the family. I am the main breadwinner.
If little things, like eyelashes, please you, too, then go for it. The only downside? After a couple of weeks, it begins to feel like a caterpillar is crawling over your eyelids. That’s when I switch back to mascara. Or plan to get myself a mani-pedi or a massage? How do you indulge yourself today?
Years ago, I went to this New Age Spa and we did this laughing meditation. We said Ha! Ha! and pretty soon we were all rolling around the yoga studio, laughing hilariously. It was like magic. A little laughter and everyone was laughing.
I don’t know how it works, but laughter is contagious.
The weather is cold today, like 32 degrees. And I’m not in the mood for winter before fall.
So I am going to think of things that make me happy:
The Mets vs. Cubs – my two favorite teams (I am going to be happy whoever wins!)
My art teachers, especially the smart, crazy Heidi Bound. She always shares her supplies
Reading books to Kindergartners, especially No, David!
My son’s going to visit from college this weekend
Chris and I are going to perform in and produce A Christmas Carol as a fundraiser for refugees this Christmas-time
I have 60,000 miles I have to use or purchase a flight before January
I am going to try and get me and the girls to Cuba
I am part of the #Write31Day challenge. Hundreds of us are encouraging each other to write every day of October. I chose the theme of mindfulness. And it’s not easy. And I’m not always feeling mindful. But I’m doing it. So there’s that. Today’s inspiration was:
It was time to line up and one kindergartner was pushing another.
“Hey, be loving,” I said.
So he made a kissing mouth to the other boy, “I’m loving. Love. Love Love.” Getting in his face, annoying, now with excessive kindness.
I was going to post about extreme kindness, but then this happened. And I realized sometimes you can go too far in the loving business. An excess of loving can be intrusive.
I forget this. I try to make my children be friends with other children — my friends’ kids or coworkers’ kids. They hate this. I do remember my mother doing this to me too. Any child that was roughly my age — at a church function or the playground — “Why don’t you go play with them?” Did she not realize my own right to choose? My own autonomy? To make my own friends?
Fortunately, I have become someone who can make friends with anyone. I can find common ground with just about any person I meet. I don’t really want to thank my mother for this, but she is the same way.
Maybe I learned it at St. Joan of Arc Kindergarten class. Maybe my teacher told me when I was wiggly, “Hey, be more loving.” I’m trying, God knows, I’m trying.