Be the Lady in the Minivan You Want to See in the World

I had a rough week a few weeks ago. My Stuff just got so big and I had a hard time dealing.

This is just part of my process. I know what to do, and I know who my people are (I have a lot of people). So it’s going to be ok. I want to tell you a story though.

One of the Things I Can Do is to go to yoga class. Because having someone remind you to breathe for an hour straight is SO HELPFUL when it feels like you’ve forgotten how. So I took myself to a yoga class at Abide Yoga because I called them the morning after a bad night and had approximately this conversation with H, Yoga Studio Owner and Kind Phone Speaker:

K: Do you have any yoga that’s good for….anxiety….? I mean, I’ll be ok but right now I’m just…ugh…
H: Yes. Please come here.
K: Are you sure? I might cry. I’ll try to be quiet though. Because yoga.
H: Just come here. It’ll be ok.

So I did. After an hour of steady reminders (I did cry, and it was ok), I felt like I could breathe well again. I headed home in my van.

There’s a neighborhood I cut through to avoid the lights on the main streets by my house. I arrived at an intersection where there is no light, but it’s close to another light which was red and cars were lined up. I began to edge into the street to turn left.

A lady in a metallic blue jeep laid on the horn and started yelling at me through her open windows. “What the F*%< do you think you’re doing? STOP!” For her sake, I kind of hope she was just having a terrible day. But I digress.

I was…caught off guard. I called out feebly, “But…the light is red…” She was not convinced. She continued to yell while pulling directly in front of me and sitting there, middle finger extended angrily, until several seconds after her light turned green. Then she pulled away.

What the what?! I thought…but then I looked at the lady in the grey minivan behind her, who had watched the whole thing. She shrugged at me, gave me a kind smile, and waved at me to go in front of her.

I drove home, bemused.

I went back to yoga that afternoon because Abide was having a special day of free yoga for their first anniversary, because my husband is awesome and played with our kids all day, and because I still needed to remember to breathe more. After class was over, I told them the story and said, “Thank you for being the lady in the van today.”

Sometimes the world seems full of stress. It feels like one big middle finger. Ladies in metallic blue jeeps will yell at you, figuratively (and sometimes literally!) speaking. But if you look hard, after that, you can often find well-placed acts of loving kindness. A glass of water. A kind word from a friend or stranger. A yoga class. If you are stressed or otherwise unwell I hope for those things for you, and I hope you are given the grace to see them. It really makes all the difference.

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A Princess Worth Mentioning Again: Rosamond

Another excerpt from The Lost Princess by George MacDonald. For me, where I am now, anxiety = group of some dozen wolves and hyenas. As Robert Frost tells us, “The best way out is always through.”

*****

Then said the wise woman:—

“Below there is the forest which surrounds my house. I am going home. If you pledge to come there to me, I will help you, in a way I could not do now, to be good and lovely. I will wait you there all day, but if you start at once, you may be there long before noon. I shall have your breakfast waiting for you. One thing more: the beasts have not yet all gone home to their holes; but I give you my word, not one will touch you so long as you keep coming nearer to my house.”

She ceased. Rosamond sat waiting to hear something more; but nothing came. She looked up; she was alone.

Alone once more! Always being left alone, because she would not yield to what was right! Oh, how safe she had felt under the wise woman’s cloak! She had indeed been good to her, and she had in return behaved like one of the hyenas of the awful wood! What a wonderful house it was she lived in! And again all her own story came up into her brain from her repentant heart.

“Why didn’t she take me with her?” she said. “I would have gone gladly.” And she wept. But her own conscience told her that, in the very middle of her shame and desire to be good, she had returned no answer to the words of the wise woman; she had sat like a tree-stump, and done nothing. She tried to say there was nothing to be done; but she knew at once that she could have told the wise woman she had been very wicked, and asked her to take her with her. Now there was nothing to be done.

“Nothing to be done!” said her conscience. “Cannot you rise, and walk down the hill, and through the wood?”

“But the wild beasts!”

“There it is! You don’t believe the wise woman yet! Did she not tell you the beasts would not touch you?”

“But they are so horrid!”

“Yes, they are; but it would be far better to be eaten up alive by them than live on—such a worthless creature as you are. Why, you’re not fit to be thought about by any but bad ugly creatures.”

This was how herself talked to her.

All at once she jumped to her feet, and ran at full speed down the hill and into the wood. She heard howlings and yellings on all sides of her, but she ran straight on, as near as she could judge. Her spirits rose as she ran. Suddenly she saw before her, in the dusk of the thick wood, a group of some dozen wolves and hyenas, standing all together right in her way, with their green eyes fixed upon her staring. She faltered one step, then bethought her of what the wise woman had promised, and keeping straight on, dashed right into the middle of them. They fled howling, as if she had struck them with fire. She was no more afraid after that, and ere the sun was up she was out of the wood and upon the heath, which no bad thing could step upon and live. With the first peep of the sun above the horizon, she saw the little cottage before her, and ran as fast as she could run towards it, When she came near it, she saw that the door was open, and ran straight into the outstretched arms of the wise woman.

The wise woman kissed her and stroked her hair, set her down by the fire, and gave her a bowl of bread and milk.

When she had eaten it she drew her before her where she sat, and spoke to her thus:—

“Rosamond, if you would be a blessed creature instead of a mere wretch, you must submit to be tried.”

“Is that something terrible?” asked the princess, turning white.

“No, my child; but it is something very difficult to come well out of. Nobody who has not been tried knows how difficult it is; but whoever has come well out of it, and those who do not overcome never do come out of it, always looks back with horror, not on what she has come through, but on the very idea of the possibility of having failed, and being still the same miserable creature as before.”

The Things I Can

Got some really great advice from an ER nurse this weekend. This is heavily paraphrased, as I was pretty overwhelmed and don’t remember exactly what she said, but she really helped me a lot.

Nurse: Don’t try to do everything at once. Do one thing at a time.

Me: But sometimes there are too many things. Like right now. My husband is on this side of the ER and my friend is bringing my daughter to the kids’ side. I can’t be in charge of both of those things! Who do I go with? I want to be both places.

Nurse: That’s true. A lot of times it does seem like everything comes at you at once. When that happens you just have do something about the thing you can do something about.

Me: I guess you have a lot of experience with having to prioritize stuff like that, in a high stress environment like this.

Nurse: Yes. I’ve never been through AA or anything, but a lot of times I just say the Serenity prayer anyway, because it’s really helpful when you’re overwhelmed.

Me: Yes! That’s really concrete and helps me a lot. I can’t make my husband ok, and right now he’s drugged and sleeping anyway. So I should go get ready to do the best I can for when my bleeding kiddo gets here.

I would also like to add that I mentioned during that conversation that it must be a tricky part of her job to deal with people who are often at their worst and that she was being really kind and clear and helpful when I was certainly not at my best. 

ER nurses and staff in particular and medical professionals in general, I salute you and thank you for that graciousness.

 

serenity prayer

**I found a lot of these graphics online…and mostly they seemed to favor the serenity, wisdom, and courage. Those are good things, but I’m more about verbs than nouns, solution-wise. A personality thing, I suppose.

 

Just for my own running reference:

Some things I can’t control

~whether or not my husband experiences pain

~whether or not my kids experience pain or sickness

~whether my family and friends (or their kids) experience pain or sickness or even death (oh, it hurts my heart to write that)

~whether other people will assume the best or the worst of my intentions and actions

~what other people learn about who God is because of their suffering

 

Some things I can control

~Learning as much as I can to help my family to live well and pain free

~asking for help when I need it, and accepting help when it’s offered

~cutting myself a lot of slack when I am not at my best

~cutting other people a lot of slack when they are not at their best

~assuming the best of other people’s intentions and actions

~letting other people know when I am not at my best; not so they can cut me slack necessarily (though that is nice sometimes), but so they don’t think that whatever social or relational sins I commit are about them

~what I choose to think about God amid (and because of; or at least taking into account) my own struggles and doubts, and those of the people around me

~Doing the dishes (though if 3/4 of my family is injured or in the ER over the weekend I’m gonna go ahead and give myself at least until Tuesday before I even think about it!)