Somewhere between 6:02 a.m. and the time I spilled grounds all through my coffee today, I got mad. Really mad. I didn't wake up that way, like I sometimes do either. I climbed out of bed in the wee hours to read a magazine article, because when you have a 4 year old, a puppy and business to run, the possibility of reading anything for pleasure is to dwell in hope. Out of bed in hope.
At 6:07am, Lucy climbed out of bed too, a FULL hour early, woken by the dog. Can't a mama even get through the editorial? Just one editorial column, please!? I felt annoyed, but I was going to survive. We could go to the gym, to the park, to eat lunch with our friends. Right then my husband texted me to let me know that he took my car keys to work out of town by accident. I was stuck at home. Stuck with a sleepy, weepy kid. Stuck with a dog that peed on the basement floor and ate a shrew carcass. And friends, I was stuck with myself. My angry, stewing, self. Bad company. I was seething.
Not to be outdone, Lucy was seething too. I cut her apples the wrong way. I asked her to finish her yogurt before I made oatmeal. Her preferred dress for the day was still unlaundered. She declared:
"This is the worst day of my life! I can't think of anything good! There is nothing good today!"
Now friends, we spend a lot of time in the Vogelsang abode talking to Lucy about being responsible for her emotions. We say things like:
"No, I didn't make you cry. I can see that you're crying. You look frustrated, and that's valid. But I didn't make you that way. Don't assign your blame, or your joy, to other people or external circumstances. You gotta own that, babe!"
I remind her of those things while I am super pissed because of a changed circumstance. Mis-sliced apples? Grounds in the coffee? The world is the worst? Yup, I'm freaking raging. I'm blaming. I'm planning on accepting zero responsibility for this anger.
Being in true ownership of your emotional affairs is a hard thing, even for a grown person. It's culturally a challenge as well. Blaming others for our own feelings is endemic. We hear it in phrases like "You're pissing me off!" "My kid is annoying me!" and "Don't make me [insert bad behavior] to you!" Better to believe that we're flotsam, just drowning at the whims of the world. But we aren't, really. Not even me.
Accepting responsibility is a hard thing to practice. I'm no good at it. But the opposite side of taking charge of your negative junk, lies the potential to take charge of your positive. That's the beautiful thing. It gives us courage to face disaster should it arise. This week I've been frustrated because it's cold outside, I've had to readjust some plans today, and I can't decide if I want to travel to Iceland for a workshop this summer. Now friends, if I can't practice peace in the face of deciding whether or not to take an extravagant vacation, imagine how well I am going to fare when faced with an actual disaster. It's not good.
But it's like I tell Lucy, the world has some hard stuff.
And we can do hard stuff. Happy springtime my darlings!