Some days I just get completely, utterly overwhelmed. Today is one of those days. I am hanging on by such a thin rope woven out of effort and sheer force of will, a rope that is attached to all the everything – kids, job, family, sleep, health, exercise, police brutality, beautiful friends with sad things happening in their lives, income inequality, pollution, war and illness. To name a few. Of course not all of these things affect me directly, but what does that matter? They are still very important things that are okay to be sad and overwhelmed about. Maybe if all of us felt this way, even just sometimes, the world would be a little more compassionate and a lot more peaceful.
But stressed out and overwhelmed tends to build on itself, to ratchet up the stakes higher and higher until you find yourself behaving badly toward people that love and just want to help you or be loved back.
This morning it was raining. There was traffic, which meant that (a) I was going to be late to meet my parents to drop off the kids, (b) the kids would be late to school, and (c) I would be late to work. I sat there on the road, just getting later and later as the digital clock in my car somehow managed to tick loudly. That may have happened in my head, but, whatever. Little Ben has a cold, and hasn’t quite managed to learn how to blow is his own nose. I’ve showed him a lot of times, but he’s six. So he kept trying to do it, I kept trying to explain from the front seat how his little hands could do it better until I just couldn’t anymore. I got too mad at him, way more mad than he deserved, which was not mad at all. I was mad because I don’t even want to go to this stupid job anyway, I want to stay home and take care of my sweet boy, I don’t want to even send him to school today, I want to stay HOME with him and make Christmas cookies and read him Christmas stories and let him watch whatever movie he wants and do his laundry and make a healthy dinner for all my people. I want to tell Sadie, who was sitting calmly calmly in the back seat doing homework that was not even DUE YET, how creative and curious and bright she is, how thoughtful and kind and witty, how she is my most favorite girl in the world. Instead I found myself yelling at Ben about how to blow his nose. HOW TO BLOW HIS NOSE. It would be ridiculous in a funny way if any of this was funny. Except it wasn’t. It was sad.
I called my mom and dad to tell them we were late, and they offered to meet me somewhere else so that we could be less late. Great idea, except that I got very annoyed and angry when we were trying to figure out where to meet because I just couldn’t THINK. I just wanted it all to stop so I could think. My parents, the helpingest people in the universe, just wanted to help me by taking my kids to school and letting me get to work. I was rude and angry and altogether unpleasant to people who didn’t deserve it, people who deserve the exact opposite.
So I will just have to say I’m sorry. That’s pretty much all I can do. Say sorry and have a conversation without making any excuses. Because excuses just get us to the same place as saying “I’m sorry you were upset,” which we all know is not an apology at all. It’s more of an insult, implying in some way that YOU and your weak constitution are the problem, not ME.
And I hope that what I remember is true, which is that a real apology can bring you to a much, much better place. When you say you’re sorry and you mean it, when you say what you’re sorry FOR, you’re admitting right then and there that you are not perfect. A real apology illuminates your ugliness, yes, and that is really hard. But it also shines a floodlight on the love, which so often is found in the form of forgiveness.