Have you ever spent years being mad at someone or something? Perhaps resenting someone (or something)… I’ve even hated something…or someone for years only to find out later the target of your anger wasn’t really the problem.
Now that I’m old(er) I find myself having the time and space (and necessity) to reflect on some of my strongly held beliefs. When I lay awake at night (c’mon who’s really slept through an entire night here?) one of my coping mechanisms is to talk to the imaginary therapist that lives in my head…She has a lovely office and I visit it in my mind when I’m trying to go back to sleep. My conscious mind here’s what my subconscious mind tells her and I am sometimes surprised with the revelations I experience. So when I talk to her and try to define the root cause of my current angst, I find myself coming up short in the rationale department at times. One of my favorite quotes: “Change your perspective on the things you see and the the things you see will begin to change”, and that’s what is happening in my mid life years…also known as if I knew then what I know now…
‘Lean In’: Sheryl Sandberg’s privileged manifesto has also played a hand in my perspective shift. It’s getting a boatload of buzz right now and at face value, I can appreciate the need to light a fire under women to become masters of their own destiny, not necessarily in a Seinfeld kind of way, but in the spirit that harkens back to some of the pushing we (the middle sages) had to do back in the day to get ahead… And I’m talking about the “everyday women”, not the small percentage of women who have risen in the ranks to become head of companies like Yahoo or IBM. “Everyday women” who were told “no”, found a way around it, pushed and worked and didn’t stop until we got what we wanted… Now, so many women I talk with today, the women that now have their days of glass ceiling breaking behind them, say the same thing…We’re exhausted and realize we missed so much trying to have it all…I know that I really failed to define what I wanted in life because I thought I had to want it all…so i kept chasing it “all”…and “all” keeps changing, the more I got, the more I succeeded, the more I did, the more I wanted.
I have 6 grandchildren and I count the days (literally) until they visit..14 days till touchdown right now! My children are now 39 and 37 years old, and I can’t help but look back and see not only all the things I missed chipping away at that glass ceiling, but all the angst I had chasing the illusion of having it all. What memories did I build for my children…for me?
And it is with this combination; Sheryl Sandberg, my imaginary therapist and the impending Easter vacation visit from my kids and grand kids that turns my session with said therapist to my 35 year old feud with the Easter basket.
First, let me tell you how this feud got started…
It was spring of 1978, my children were 4 and 2… Easter had passed, but the basket that held their goodies remained. One afternoon as I was coming up out of the basement on the seemingly endless laundry regimen, my son, then a 2 year old toddler, wasn’t moving as fast up the stairs as I wanted him to go…as I thought I NEEDED him to go…so I scooped him up in my arms as I was running up the stairs. I negotiated each stair with him in my arms made the turn into the small galley kitchen with him in my arms and then I lost control…I failed to see the Easter basket on the top step! My foot caught the handle of the basket and as my center of gravity was already thrown off by my 2 year old passenger, I started falling forward…falling forward toward the yet to be renovated kitchen counter top…the kitchen counter top that was still linoleum with the metal band on the edge…and since my center of gravity was off, I was falling face first.
Of course, I had only a split second to asses my options, but I vividly remember running through all the possible scenarios in that split second…I could hit the counter top, coming at me fast, doing nothing and my son would take the hit…I estimated his head would take the brunt of our combined weight as I began to fall…I could drop my 2 year old son like a hot potato, thus leaving my arms free to break my fall, but leaving to chance he would not be hurt when I dropped him…my third option was to protect his little head with my arms leaving my face to take the full brunt of our combined weight. The choice was clear…protect my son and take the hit. I hadn’t calculated the scenario that had me dropping him upon impact. The impact had me meeting the countertop just below my nose and because I tried to turn my head as I fell, that metal edge just removed a good portion of my nose. Both of us collapsed unto the floor and I didn’t want him to see me so I kept my head down…he thought we were playing pony and tried to hop up on my back…as I struggled to get back up I could see the half of my nose still clinging to that metal edge. I think this is about the time the pain really started to set in….I made my way to the bathroom to see the results of my decision in the mirror. Half my nose was gone and I had two black eyes…I still had my teeth so I had that going for me. Delightful.
I went through the normal recovery…went to the emergency room and since theres really nothing they can do for a broken nose, hid in the privacy of my home for weeks until I healed and had three subsequent sinus surgeries. I know now, I had only healed on the outside.
For the 35 years that followed, there was never an Easter basket, candy or anything that even resembled something I could trip over and repeat my nose altering event.
So here we are today….strolling through the stores and seeing all the Easter baskets and candy….the pretty little Easter dresses….waiting for my clan to arrive. I hated those Easter baskets for 35 years and all it did for me was deprive me of 35 years of great memories I might have made, but didn’t because I thought I hated those baskets. Since my son was too young to remember our fall, he has no memories of any family Easter events….I not only robbed myself of precious moments, I took them away from my kids.
If I had known then what I know now, I would have known that day, the options I ran through in my head were every clue I needed as to what was important in my life, and I’m sure so many mothers would agree. Without hesitation, without consideration and without regret I chose to protect the little 2 year old I held in my arms. This should have been my road map as I worked to have it “all”. I did have it all….it was right there in my arms all along. What they say is correct….”Holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die”. Never let anybody else define you, your priorities or your direction in this world…Pick your priorities and then stick with it. Enjoy the moments….even the bad ones, they’ll make a better story one day.
What have you been holding onto? I’m going out to buy Easter baskets!