Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Thinking before I speak (well, attempting to)

(A word of warning before I get started -- I started this post more than two weeks ago and wrote various sections in five minute increments. It's been like short-burst training, minus the gasping for breath, achy muscles and awesome booty. I blame the holidays for the fact that I haven't had a linear thought in weeks -- instead they resemble Billy's circuitous routes home. That was a Family Circus reference. I'm sorry. It's looking bleak for my brain. Short story long, this is gonna be a choppy one.)

Onward ... 

Those who know me (especially those who've had the unlucky experience of sitting next to me at work) would probably say I'm a bit of a pill, who's prone to speaking exactly what's on her mind no matter how inappropriate the moment is.

The managing editor at the paper I worked at routinely described me as a mean girl (a designation that was well deserved because I took cheap shots at him at every opportunity). 

But for all my sarcasm and at-times prickly exterior I'm a big 'ol ball of mush inside. In fact, after taking said cheap shots at my boss, I would often send a contrite e-mail letting him know I didn't actually mean what I said.
See what I mean? No respect.

The almost two years I've spent as a work-from-home mom have really dulled my barbs, though. It's funny how having "co-workers" who are only 8 months old and 2 years old really tones down the swearing and scathing insults. The worst I can do now is blow raspberries at the kids. (They do it right back. No respect).

While there are days I miss honing my professional wit, I know the girls are molding me into a better, kinder person.

Like I mentioned the other day, I think the biggest gift children give us parents is empathy. They slow our quickness to judge others. They allow us to experience the world as a more joyful, wonderous place. They force us to be touched again, as Lincoln so eloquently put, by the better angels of our nature.*

This week I've felt desperate to find those better angels. It's been difficult to find hope. A friend -- probably sensing I was in a dark place -- shared this thought with me the other day: 

"As much as there is evil and horror in the world, there is also a great deal of love and goodness. It's quieter than the violence, but it's just as powerful, if not more so."
Of course he's right. 

Case in point, another friend recently invited me to join Do One Kind Thing, a Facebook group started by a woman from York in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy. 
"We can not change the past, I personally can not change gun laws or politics of God in school, but personally, everyday, I can show LOVE to others and teach my children to do the same. I am starting this group in hopes that it will be like a pebble in a pond and create a ripple effect. If I do one kind thing each day, it will start another, and another, and another. We must do something to change our world," she writes. 
The group has 6,865 members. That's 6,865 people who, if they aren't trying to be the pebble, are at least interested in watching the pond. (Learn more about the group in this article)

Group members are encouraged to post kind things they've done for others: Paying for the person behind them at the Dunkin Donuts, giving a Walmart greeter hot chocolate, leaving big tips, giving people their spot in line. Scrolling through it's hard not to be inspired to do your own kind thing. The positive energy is palpable. 

And I've tried to do some pebbley things myself, too.

Between the stress of the holiday rush, mourning along with the rest of the country, exhaustion from Jovie's insistence on 3 a.m. wakeup calls, and every night this week, and deadlines tapping their feet impatiently, my cup has been empty**. 

I don't like being Crankenstein's Momster, but lately not a day goes by when I haven't thrown a tantrum (if not out loud, than mentally) about something or other. Yanking myself out of my internal drama by just acknowledging the rest of humanity -- saying hi to strangers, making eye contact with cashiers, getting down on the floor with the girls and being a part of the melee -- helps refill my cup and makes me feel empowered to be the change I want to see in the world.***

The list of things that I can't control in life stretches to frightening lengths. The list of things I can control is much shorter. I can control my actions and reactions. And so, if I want the world to be less ugly for my girls, then I have to be accountable for my actions and reactions. I have to show them how to be the pebbles. 

I've been thinking about all this the past couple weeks and then I read this wonderful column by my old editor (who frequently told me to think before I spoke) that echoed everything you just read -- but much more eloquently and with fewer Family Circus references. I probably should've just stuck that link at the beginning of the post ... but then maybe you wouldn't have gotten to my various astericks. 

*My high school AP history teacher Mrs. Gray read our class Lincoln's first inaugural address. It's a testament to how wonderful a teacher she was that 13 years later, I remember the day she read it to us, and that I've found comfort in Lincoln's words many times over the years. History can be both reassuring and terrifying.

** I'm borrowing this metaphor from my sister Laura -- mother of six. After a particularly trying week, she says going to church refill the cup that daily life emptied out. I love the imagery (obviously).

*** That bumpersticker-ready quote is most often attributed to Gandhi -- but according to this story, that's not what he really said. What he really said is actually more nuanced.: 

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

1 comment:

  1. Great post! And "mean girl" would be the last phrase I'd use to describe you!