I thought this would be “my” year.
Both boys are in school. I drop them off, get coffee and have a delicious gluten-free zucchini/cherry/chocolate muffin from the tiny art-filled cafe where the lovely Argentinian barista calls me “Mommy” and tells my friends, when they join me, what a wonderful person I am. I hike and bike and listen to TED talks. I’m logging at least twelve thousand steps a day on my Fitbit as I traipse through the wild woods of suburban New Jersey.
Instead, it’s been a year of surprises. I wish I could say we met each with exuberance.
My husband’s parents moved in because Mom’s doing serious chemo. My step-sister is recovering form a life-threatening accident. My six-year-old wraps his arms and legs around my lower body koala-bear-style if he gets within one hundred feet of an elevator. We cannot erase his memory of being momentarily stuck inside one — with me standing next to him the whole time. The dog pees on the guest bed and now he has something “similar to” (but not) Lyme disease. My fault — because I schlepped him up and down mountains all summer and neglected to give him the preventative tick treatment.
Last week when I drove out of the parking garage in the city I noticed but ignored the repeating beep of my annoyingly conscientious German car. When I arrived home in Jersey and turned off the ignition I felt guilty for resenting the car because it had only been trying to tell me, in its German way, that the ignition key was no longer inside it. I realized, with horror, that my car key was likely still in the pocket of the incompetent garage attendant in a parking garage I could not identify because I had payed cash and discarded the receipt. I enlisted a fleet of bike messengers to troll every parking garage on 58th street until that key was secured.
Do you remember Judith Viorst’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day?”
That crybaby Alexander vows, with each of his day’s challenges (lima beans for dinner, kissing on TV, a run on blue sneakers with red stripes at the shoe store), to pack it all in and move to Australia.
And then his mom reassures him, as moms do, that “some days are like that. Even in Australia.”
This is still “my” year.
Notwithstanding the above.
I used to wake up and think that if I made the beds and swallowed all my vitamins and my hair was bone-dry straight rather than slightly frizzy-wavy and I’d done my time on the treadmill and my nails and toes were painted flawlessly in subtle “mademoiselle” and I’d made a few networking calls and donated some hand-me-downs to the neighbors and the boys held hands and skipped themselves into their little school in the woods that it would be a good day.
But I have the power, each moment, to choose to have a good day. Because I have the power, each moment, to choose my thoughts.
Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist, wrote that “between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Our circumstances do not create our reality. The thoughts we train ourselves to think in response to our circumstances create a cascade of feelings, actions and results.
This is still my year because I’m taking care of my family as we navigate these unexpected curves.
This is still my year because as we take care of each other we feel our love tested and strengthened.
This is still my year because we’re more vulnerable and honest and appreciative in the face of grandma’s illness and the accident.
This is my year because of these tests, not despite them.
There’s no escape from the hurt and growth and love. Even in Australia.
© Liora Powers