A post most emphatically NOT from France (as you’ve probably gathered, I wasn’t posting directly from vacation, due to technical difficulties).
The whole point of the last two years plus of my life has been to realize that I control both everything–and nothing. Nothing, in that what happens outside of me–external career stuff, traffic, other people’s emotions, quarantine, illness–I can’t control any of that and I never will.
Everything, in that what I do control, completely, is my own reaction and contribution to all of the above.
And so, this morning, I did not control the distances among all the places that we had to go. I did not control the battle Rory and Wyatt engaged in in the car over a paper airplane. I did not control the fact that external forces arranged the things we wanted/needed to do in such a way that we had to leave the house at noon for multiple complex destinations.
I did control the fact that a) I didn’t consult the iCal, think things thru and realize that I needed to pack up and prep the night before. Far more importantly, i control b) my reaction to all of the above.
Which was DREADFUL. I spent the morning rushing madly at the grocery store and packing and preparing for lunch in the car and a sleepover at the sitters for R and W and a potluck and swimming and then we rushed out, leaving the house and yard a scene from Tobacco Road. It was drive to town two for the day, and so it was all fighting and singing and picking and nudging on the road. Sam sang “Humpty Dumpty” in his worst, squeakiest, craziest voice the whole way. By the time we reached Rob’s office to drop the potluck stuff for refrigeration until the party I had HAD it.
I tore the offending paper airplane from Rory and Wyatt and flung it into the street.
“You littered!” Wyatt said.
“Yes I did! And look what you have done to my car!” I scooped up debris from the floor (which I detailed myself a matter of weeks ago) and dumped it over his head. Paper. Notebooks. Old french fries. Wrappers. Shoes. I did the same to Rory and then turned on Lily. When I opened her side of the car, shoes spilled out and I flung them back in, nailing her squarely in the head.
“You hit her in the head,” he said.
“She deserved it!” I roared. “They fussed and screamed the whole way HERE! And now I have another half hour drive and we will be late and I did not do anything wrong! I don’t deserve this!”
Children began frantically cleaning the car. I passed out their car lunches. “Do you want to eat this,” I asked, “or should I just dump it out on the floor and rub it in?”
“We’ll eat it!”
By now I felt ridiculous (and I should probably say the shoe didn’t hit Lily very hard–not hard enough, really) and guilty. There was apologizing. Sam was trying, as he always does, to soothe me. But I was still seething, driving along, looking for someone to blame. Rob! He got to work in his nice quiet office all day! And I knew he planned to play tennis that afternoon! And yesterday he want for a bike ride! And my whole life sucked because I had to take care of these KIDS and I would have a better job and more work and make more money if it weren’t for that and no one CARED and…
So on. It was, as it so often is, a fantastically helpful inner dialogue. I still felt like crap and nothing was different. And then came the enlightened part. The part that’s learned something, grown up a little. I hate that part.
You know it doesn’t matter if you’re late, it said. It only matters to you. You don’t even have to go. You said the kids would come play tennis because you thought it would be fun. You could tell Sam to stop singing. You could hire more babysitting. You could even have someone else driving them now. You choose not to.
You could take a deep breath and not yell. You could have them clean out the car without screaming first. The person you make feel worse when you scream like that is you, and Sam’s a close second. You could choose to do the things you DO control differently.
But you didn’t. So suck it up.
I’m not sure which part of me I hate more.