Remember that horrible winter a few years back, when it kept on snowing, and they couldn’t keep the streets clean? The one when it took me an hour and a half to travel the four miles between my toddler‘s 7:30 drop off and my kindergartener’s 8:00 school bell? I lost it. I truly, truly lost it. And, it wasn’t driving, or getting a ticket at the meter that I couldn’t reach because I kept on sinking into the snow bank, or falling on the ice on the way in to work. It was in Trader Joe’s.
It was a Sunday afternoon, and the parking lot was a mess, and there were no spots, and the cops were yelling at people, and half the shelves were empty, and they didn’t have the cereal that my kids NEEDED, and the lines were up the aisles into the freezer section, so that you had to ask people to move over in order to get the frozen chicken fingers, and they gave you the stink eye when you reached over them. And then, the woman in front of me was on the phone, and gossiping, loudly. When she got to the register, she sat there, chatting, chomping on her gum, while the cashier rang up her $200 shopping cart, with the food piling up all over that small counter. This is when it happened. All of the sudden, something just snapped in my brain. Did I yell? No. Instead, I left my cart, stomped by the woman, and began packing her groceries up, double bagged, with the bread on top. She looked up to me, and mouthed, “thank you.” Once I made it to the car, I sat there and cried….
I didn’t cry about the lady in Trader Joe’s. I cried about shoveling the walk, and working too hard, and potty training my toddler, and having a husband with cancer, and just not being good enough… ever.
Because, it’s not the big stuff that sets you off. It’s the little things… all the little things, that pile up, and build up, and drown you under it. Breathe. Remember that it’s all little stuff. Dig yourself out, piece by piece, until you get to the bottom of it.
The bottom of it is where the big stuff lie. The stuff that really weighs you down. Your inadequacies, your history, your major regrets. This is the real stuff. The things that build up your anger, your sadness, your dark side.
You need to learn to let go of these demons. And, for this, you might need some help. You need to talk, you need to learn, you need to develop skills to let it go. These are the things that eat you up inside, that make you sick, that bubble up into aches and pains and tears and anger.
I was an angry teenager. And I was sick. Chronically, painfully, sick for most of my adolescence. My parents were smart enough, and humble enough, to realize that I needed some help. Thanks to the support of a great social worker, I learned skills to let things go. To let the things inside of me out, to heal myself from the inside. These are skills that I fall back on even now; twenty-five years later. Skills that I try to teach my students and my children.
I see people all the time that are desperate for these skills. The guy who called me a bitch when I inadvertently blocked his left hand turn onto Dot Ave. Chill out, dude, it’ll be okay… The woman who got her order messed up in Dunkin Donuts. Honey, someone loves you…. The student who storms off in tears. Baby, you’re good enough, I promise you….
So, when things get tough, and the little things start to pile up, I go back to those old skills. Breathe. Move. Get outside. Listen to your body. Figure out what you’re REALLY upset about. Talk it out. Vent a little bit. Smile. Breathe again. And then move on past the little stuff, through the big stuff, and right out to the other side.