Arc of Life, If You're Lucky
Arc of Life, If You’re Lucky “Did you get what you wanted?”
Age 3: “YES! Exactly! I LOVE IT SO MUCH!”
Age 43: “I think so. It’s all a lot harder than I thought, but we’re doing it.”
Age 83: “YES! It was work, and there were mistakes, but it all worked out. I’ve loved it all.”
*** My husband and I went on a date to the fabric store; that is, we had a baby sitter and I needed to look at fabric, so we went together to the fabric store and called it a date. We went into the city and started talking with the owner of the store. He has two children, both of whom are teenagers now. He was talking to us about having teenagers as compared to having young ones. Then, he said what no one else has ever said to us, but that was just about the most honest thing I’ve heard: “Yeah, so are you guys so tired that you get really mad about little things a lot? Actually, you [me] probably get annoyed at him because you are so tired. Is that right? Because, if you can, just don’t do that. It’s so bad and it’s just because you are tired right now. Gosh, I didn’t enjoy those times.”
When my children are in a mood, I commiserate with other mothers who have kids my kids’ ages. Sometimes, their mood is completely biological (think: a moody teenager); you can only do so much to counteract it. I try to remember this for my own self. Although I’d like to pretend that I am so unique that my feelings are individual and specific, sometimes the truth of the matter is that our overall mood is dictated by our place in the continuum of life. For me, this is both reassuring and a challenge. On the one hand, I know that this is a phase and that all phases move along. On the other hand, I believe that I can change my mood, but only if I’m ready to fight the biological imperatives that surround me. Sometimes, spending a day with a 3-year-old is exactly the mood changer that’s needed for a 35-year-old (and, sometimes, it is TOTALLY not, I KNOW).
Yesterday, I wanted to run errands and get ready so that I could join my girlfriends out at night. It was raining, and I could see that my kids weren’t up for my errand-running and that my night plans were slipping away because my husband wouldn’t be home in time. This happens a lot, actually, and I get super annoyed by it. I like a schedule; he doesn’t schedule. In all other ways but this one, we are a perfect fit. On this night, I knew I would be fighting an uphill battle to do what I needed to do and I wasn’t up for the fight, but I was here. With kids who wanted to play in the rain. No errand absolutely needed to be completed by day’s end, so I just gave in to my 3-year-old. She ran and splashed and got soaking wet in the puddles in our driveway. And she laughed so hard. When is the last time you’ve seen a 35-year-old do that? When have you seen a 35-year-old give it all up? We just don’t, unless we’ve had one too many. She ran and splashed, and then stopped and hovered over a puddle for a moment. “Mom, come here!” she shouted. “This puddle made itself into a heart shape for me. It knew I would love it!”
There, in our driveway that I’d like resurfaced, attached to our house that I find small was, in fact, a heart-shaped puddle that my 35-year-old mind never would have noticed because it’s too busy working, configuring, planning. In fact, I would have been annoyed by its presence when I dropped my keys in it while putting my baby in his car seat so that we could do errands.
If you’re lucky, you live long enough to witness the arc of life. But, not all of us will get lucky. When you can choose your mood, when you can choose to fight the biological moods that take hold, give it a go. You might find a heart-shaped puddle just for you. And when you can’t, when you are just too tired and annoyed to feel like you have any choices whatsoever, know that there is another 35-year-old – maybe even right down the block from you – that’s having the very same feelings at the very same moment. And, that feeling? It’ll pass. The fabric store man told me so.