I know that the next few weeks and months, I will be oddly vulnerable, prone to feeling things, all things deeper than the moment may warrant. Coming to terms with the physical reality of death, even as I know the greater deeper reality, will provoke this if I’m not vigilant, and even if I am.
Thus when last week felt overwhelming, I plunged into the equivalent of a pity party. It was all too much. Bills, decisions about college for one who is also battling a slew of hard assignments and the sincere desire to indulge in senioritis, decisions about high school for others, the prospect of me going back to work in the fall, the stress of one child being so disorganized, we’d gone multiple days with missing assignments even though I asked, he worked with a teacher, and I’d made extra trips to help right his ship.
Everyone, it seemed to me in that moment, felt intent on drowning even if I threw them lifelines, taught them to swim, gave them life preservers, and called the lifeguard.
Older children, who were at that point the source of my stress, responded in kind with equal snapping and more melodramatics ensued. The air in the house was thick with trembling, with anger, with hurt, with fear and confusion, and I felt my whole family crumbling. That’s an overstatement and yet not, because everyone’s pain, fear, anger, and hurt in that toxic moment was real. It is how I felt in that moment, like why had I done this? Why had we done this? Why were we doing this? It all felt so stupidly hard, so horridly a waste of time, effort, money, all of it.
Then my 6-year-old daughter came to me with a note she’d written. It came from her, but also, from God:
Mom, I love you. I want you to have joy in you even if mean people fight. heart heart heart.
Just like that, the cloud lifted, the pain subsided, and a peace came with the reassurance that this was not the end, but the middle, a trial, and love was food for the journey.
Her notes fed what felt in that moment keenly hungry. I broke into tears, and with it, the apologies flowed. We made our peace, we planned out the work that still needed to be done that day, and life resumed a more normal flow. We laughed, we read stories, we got through dinner, we got through bedtime, and I kept the three notecard note for her memory box. It is a trophy, of her small Big success. Blessed are the peacemakers.
I’ve often taught my children that bad moods are contagious, in an attempt to help them recognize to reign it in, rather than indulge in a long stewing. Yes, I’ve belted “Let it go. Let it go, don’t let the bad mood sit and stew…let it go. Let it go! Or it will poison you.” That tune is so easy to rephrase.
But perhaps I should also teach them that good moods shared are like a warm fire passed from one person to another, warming all who willingly take it.
This week’s small successes include:
1. A date night with my husband and a couple we haven’t had the luxury of seeing often, it was a fun adult evening of good friends, good food, and good conversation.
2. Hosting a birthday party for nine 4th grade boys – I took them to see Mr. Peabody and Sherman. It was a perfect 4th grade boy party, capped with cheese pizza and ice cream cake.
3. Made it to confession.
4. Spent the week with my 20-year-old son, as it was his spring break. I really enjoy his company.
5. Started working on The Book of Penelope again: it had been put aside for about a month.
This week, I’m looking forward to learning about all those small successes, those moments when you either were the warm light to someone else or had the grace to receive it from another. Thanks for joining us in sharing your small successes. They are warmth for all who read it in addition to being a source of light and comfort within your own homes.