My youngest son witnessed a side of his mother no child should ever have to see. Especially from a mother who prides herself on setting a good example to her family… a mother who extols the virtues of patience, courage, and personal responsibility in the face of adversity. All three of these virtues went missing though on the day my computer crashed, with no warning or backups.
If you have ever woken up to a blue computer screen, or watched words scroll across your screen reporting “an error has occurred and the computer needs to shut down”…chances are you will understand exactly how I felt last month. My initial reaction was total disbelief and shock in what was happening to the most important piece of equipment in my home. Both my son and husband heard me repeating over and over again “no, no, you can’t do this to me”. Since they were used to my vocal outbursts in response to emails and cyber-news, neither of them was too concerned.
Slowly, cold fear began to course through my body. I could not breathe, and my fingers began to tense up over the keyboard. I tried unplugging the computer quickly, hoping that whatever was occurring would stop. I pushed those keys on the top of the keyboard, the ones marked F1-F12, without even knowing what they stood for, jabbing them fiercely and without discretion. At one point, my son even heard me pleading with the computer screen to please stop doing what it was doing, and promising this inanimate piece of machinery whatever it wanted if it would only return to my main screen.
No longer able to ignore what was occurring, my son walked in and told me to vacate the chair. Taking my arm he steered me out of the room and reminded me of my yoga class. In tears, I kept repeating over and over to him that I didn’t understand why this was happening to me. I had virus protection, I ran daily scans, I even disconnected from the wireless servers every time I left the computer on. I did everything the experts said to do; I had been a faithful practitioner of computer maintenance. Speaking very calmly and slowly, Derek assured me it was not my fault, I probably did not do anything wrong. Sometimes, he said, these things just happened.
Knowing his knowledge of computers far surpassed my own, I took his advice. I went to class and practiced deep breathing and thought calm thoughts. I focused on my yoga poses and almost succeeded in pushing my computer problem to the back of my mind. Derek would fix this minor problem, and in the great scheme of things I reasoned, a morning without a computer is not that important. I was sure when I returned home my familiar screen saver would greet me and Derek would pat my head saying all was well. Deep down, I believed we would laugh about my outburst over lunch.
I was not so lucky. Instead he informed me that my hard drive was fried. Although he had tried reinstalling the original factory settings, nothing was working. Ninety minutes of calming yoga went out the window and I began to yell out words a Catholic mom should never even know, let alone vocalize. For thirty minutes I begged him to try something else. When he tried to convince me to take it to an expert, I began a full throttle temper tantrum. I threw papers to the floor, repeatedly banged computer programs on the desk, and eventually stomped out of the room verbally cursing all things electronic. It was not pretty, but this was nothing compared to how I reacted when my husband called to see how my day was going.
Basically ordering me to calm down, he tried to convince me a new hard drive was not that big of a deal because we could reload information from my backups. Hearing me wail louder he guessed correctly… I had never performed a backup. In my defense, every time I tried to do this task I received an error message saying “the path chosen was not supported”. Instead of trying to figure out a solution to this error message, I chose to ignore it. I always pushed the “postpone this task” button. It was at this point my anger turned to both men in the family who could have done a backup for me. Didn’t they know how hard I worked, yoga classes aside of course. I had asked many times over the past few months for one of them to do it for me. It was now their fault!
During this heated telephone exchange, Derek gingerly placed the now defunct computer into my briefcase and informed me he would take it to our local computer repair service. They confirmed his diagnosis. The hard drive was dead, but the computer itself was fine. I could reinstall the operating system, but as Derek had discovered, this would require me to buy a copy from the manufacturer because my backup discs were compromised. That’s a nice way of saying that the backup copies I had made were useless. The computer repair service would try to retrieve information from my ruined hard drive, but nothing could be promised. Derek on the other hand promised to install a new hard drive and more RAM.
While I waited for my computer to be fixed, I felt as if I was going through withdrawal. I worried about how I was going to pay my monthly bills since I always received my bills through emails and paid through online banking. I was used to checking my bank balances on a daily basis and now I could not even do that simple task. I became mildly depressed to discover the extent to which I had allowed myself to become dependent on accessing the internet. I would enter my office and find another task not being accomplished because my computer was dead.
Slowly though, as the days passed, I found myself thinking less about what I couldn’t do, and more about what I could do. I had plenty of projects requiring my attention. Boxes needed to be unpacked from our move six months ago, summer clothes needed to be sorted and either put away or donated, and the weeds in our gardens were soaring to new heights. In addition, Derek was returning to college in a few days. Since he had worked so hard on my computer, I had promised I would help him install our new electric dog fence.
More importantly, I found time to reflect on my truly irrational behavior. In this instance, the parent had become the child, and my child had become the adult. He acted intelligently, calmly, and rational. I on the other hand did not. Instead of putting my problem in perspective, I chose to get angry and blame everyone except myself. At first it was the computer’s fault, then my antivirus program’s fault. Ultimately, my son and husband were responsible for my predicament because they had not backed up my files, pictures, or emails. I discovered I am truly great at deflecting blame.
It was not a pleasant insight, but one I will remember. I guess it doesn’t matter how old we become, there will always be room for improvement…and the need for forgiveness. Derek graciously accepted my apology, although he admitted the story of mom’s meltdown will find its way into family lore. His only regret now is his lack of foresight in not turning on his cell phone video camera during my tirade. His siblings are still complaining about not being able to view it on Facebook. My husband also graciously accepted my apology, albeit with the caveat that I will, from this moment on, use a web-based download service daily. I do believe he may be right.
Copyright 2009 Carol S. Bannon