The gash on my palm still hurts. It stings from drying out, getting tight. There’s a chunk of my flesh missing that looks exactly like the side view of a whale swimming in the deep ocean. In miniature, of course. Too small to photograph for you. That area burns. Continuously. It occurs to me only now that I should have gotten stitches.
I’ve noticed the pain has made me grouchy.
Tomorrow is my son’s birthday. He, being a foodie, asked for a lemon cake with a glaze, not too sweet. You know where I’m going with this…
I thought I knew pain. When I blew off the little glass citrus juicer in favor of my fingers, and squeezed the lemon over those on my left hand, I left my body. I had to. The pain was searing. I kept saying to myself, It’ll stop, it’ll stop, eventually it will stop…he is going to LOVE this cake…please stop, please stop, please stop…
It never stopped hurting, but the pain quieted down.
This wound is sticking around for a while and for a reason. To be a real reminder of the power of optimism, the very lesson it taught me as I hopped up fast after going down hard on the mountain, with laughter on my lips and a recognition that I have an infinite number of reasons to be grateful. I don’t have time for being grouchy. Literally and figuratively.
Literally because both boys are wrapping up seminal years in their schooling – pre-K and K. So we’ve got picnics, BBQs, concerts, pre-K graduation, etc. And one has a birthday tomorrow. These are the days from which memories are made. For them and for me.
While I was grabbing last minute birthday items, with both boys in tow, eyes closed so they didn’t see what I was taking off the shelves, I was feeling chored out. And weighed down by all I still had to do. Take the boys to Kid’s Appreciation Day at the local pool, get 10 lemons for the cake, pick up wrapping paper and replace the tape that the boys used to wrap up their hands like mummies, get chips for the graduation party tomorrow, find crepe recipe for breakfast in bed for the Birthday Boy, drop off the little dude for his class BBQ, take the Birthday Boy out for a relaxing – pft – birthday dinner, pick up the little dude, home for showers and bed, bake cake, wrap presents, write blog. Die. Hopefully by 2AM.
I stared at the wall of tape options. Pre-cut tape, scrapbooking tape, frosted tape, satin tape, pop-up tape, ‘green’ tape, and the kicker – gift-wrapping tape. All for $3.99.
I just want tape. Simple, freaking tape. On a roll. I can cut it myself. I don’t want it to pop or feel soft or tell me I’m hot, I just want it to stick the two ends of the wrapping paper together so I can eventually get some freaking sleep.
Holy Mother of God, where is a regular role of tape.
And then the little dude grabbed my hand. The left one.
Could, you please, for the fiftieth time, not. touch. my. left. hand. I closed my eyes. And I thought, This has to stop. I’m turning a beautiful time into a mediocre, blasé, slightly irritating experience where I am actually taking my precious time to scold Scotch Brands, as if they can hear me, for making too many kinds of tape.
What’s the point?
I paused. I looked at an imaginary list floating in the space between me and the wall of tape options. On it was each task I had to accomplish before I could go to bed. Every single task was fun. Except for the dying part. (Which will be fun, when I’m 98.)
What the hell was my problem?
I wasn’t being a total hag about everything, but I was not enjoying myself. And I know what a slippery slope that can be. Been there before. Oh, around 3 years ago. Right about the time The Genius and The Happy Dance Chick were hitting their stride. I could find fault in a snowflake. Everything was a chore. I was easily upended, ready to be clenched at a moment’s notice, on guard, and basically being a ‘shock jock’ about life. I pointed out the negative, with humor to polish it up, but I was becoming attracted to what was underneath the sheen. I was seeking out the negative. In everything. If I didn’t find it, I’d hypothesize about how something could turn negative, if it was only given the chance.
That behavior continued, with peaks and valleys, right up until about a month post-Pocket Call. With the exception of anything that had to do with moving to California. That entire process went like clockwork. I was thrilled to get the house ready for sale, delighted to sort through 10 years of excess, happy to pack, and pack, and pack. Three blizzards? No problem. Where’s the shovel? The top 6 feet of my prized magnolia tree snapped off? That won’t get in the way of selling the house. In the dead of winter. In the worst market ever.
I was optimistic that we would move to California. That it was all going to get done. And that the move was going to be the best thing that happened to us as a family. And so it did. And so it will be.
While I had that perfect example of the power of optimism, I hadn’t really thought about it as a potent trait until I had a conversation with Mr. Jackpot this week.
It’s reasonable to say that he’s experiencing some heavy s…tuff right now. I don’t need to go into the details of how or why, but I can say that I expressed to him that he has a massive opportunity to alter his course. To choose happiness. To make a game-changing move. There’s nothing preventing him from seizing on a passion and turning it into his life’s work.
I don’t have any passions anymore. They’ve been driven out of me.
When I heard that I wanted to end the phone call. I didn’t want to spend time listening to that kind of talk. In retrospect, it was because it sounded too much like me many moons ago. And also because I knew that talk like that accomplishes nothing. It wasn’t going to help him move through this tough time. It was just going to continue to roll out the red carpet of doom and gloom. I paused as I got up to walk to the kitchen where I could hang up the phone and sat back down on the chair, under the stars.
That’s not true. You have passions. I’ve seen you in action. You see things in Nature that some never pause to notice. Or even know how to notice. But more than that, you know how they all relate to each other, and what makes each species unique, and each climate essential. You can see the rings on Saturn without a telescope. Who can do that? You have talents and you have passions and you know it.
This is the perfect time for you to make a move. You have nothing holding you back. You’re not happy, so change it up. Go to Greece!
Greece isn’t exactly doing well these days.
I became exasperated. For two seconds. Then gentle. Then I recognized a need for these boundaries:
I expect of myself that I will be quick to listen and slow to respond,
that I will come from the heart,
that my words will be genuine and true,
that I will not judge people…
And I said, gently,
You’re being pessimistic. You know inside what I mean. Go anywhere. Go to a place that cradles your soul. A place that grounds you. A place that will support your desire to be happy. Doing what you’re doing isn’t working for you. It’s time to make a change. All the events of the last year are culminating in a massive opportunity. You can be free to experience joy or you can stay frustrated and feel trapped. It’s your creation.
I got up and went inside. I felt the call was coming to an end. Probably due to the two minutes of silence and the one grunt that came from his end.
Maybe you want to sit with this for awhile. But before we go, I want to let you know that I really appreciate you being open and receptive to my feelings and thoughts about where you’re at.
The next afternoon Mr. Jackpot called. This never happens. Not during the work day.
I just wanted you to know that I thought about what you said last night. I am being pessimistic.
There was a shift in him. I could hear it and feel it. A layer had been peeled away; just as the crisis of the Pocket Call began to peel away my layers, exposing the ways of being that had no point, no reason and certainly no benefit. I, too, had been pondering what we spoke of the night before. I looked at our conversation and saw how the pessimist could spin it. And spin it. And spin it right out of control. It caused me to reflect back on how I had written the very same style of dialogue in my head over whatever the ‘flavor of the day’ was, be it politics, a lost deal at work, corruption, a bad call on the field, an eyelash in my eye, or burnt toast. Yes, I could turn burnt toast into an entire bad day.
As I saw the correlation between Mr. Jackpot’s current state of being and my former state, I suddenly began to feel optimistic. It started in my core, where all good things begin, and radiated up to my head, where optimism is needed most of all. I could feel it, and I could see it. It was a purple fog that drifted inside the upper half of my body, moving up like steam from the pavement after a summer rain shower.
It captured my attention.
And there began my understanding that I’ve made it to where I am today on the blue marble, through the Pocket Call, the discovery of the affair, the lies and deceit, the doubts and anger, the mind-chattering and the heart aches, because I chose to be an optimist.
I was unconsciously competent at being an optimist when we began the process to move west. I didn’t become consciously competent at it until I took my to do list out of thin air, crumpled it up, looked at the myriad of tape rolls in front of me and immediately saw Transparent. This is exactly what I’m looking for, I thought. Not the tape. But, yes, the tape and it was only $2.00.
What I was really looking for was an understanding of the basic ingredient that makes everything rise. That makes a task go smoothly, a challenge less intimidating, a daunting negotiation destined for win-win.
It’s optimism, kittens.
And just like that, everything turned fun. I even got to take a shower today. And I don’t feel like dying. Instead, I feel like graduating. I’ll leave that to the pre-Kers, for now. I have a few more classes I’m happy to take.
So what if it’s almost 2AM. I bet I’m not even tired when I wake up tomorrow.