Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mental Break

OK, so I nearly went nuts the other day, trying to do too much at once. I thought I would end up doing laps around my house, screaming and blathering, and that someone would come and "swaddle" ME and take me away.

Thankfully, I knew enough to do what many a girlfriend has suggested before I even had a baby: take a mental break.

What I've found over the years doing this is that stepping back and taking stock has evolved into a physical, spiritual, AND mental phenomenon. Let me go ahead and suggest this to any of you struggling to stay afloat--it's well worth the pause in your life. Taking the break, though, reminded me of perhaps the most sobering aspect of motherhood (or adulthood, for that matter). There's more to life than just me.

Hear me out--this isn't a downer.

Of course that ice cream (ok, Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich) and walk in the park was something I absolutely needed and deserved-- I'd spent all day grading miserable papers and caring for a cranky little girl--but while I walked I saw others walking and talking about their own predicaments. Overheard everything from financial and health woes to family difficulties, people making sense of their lives on that beautiful early Spring weather of an afternoon.

Then, during some alone time later on, I shut myself off from making my usual social banter, and did the classic head phones on, forget you mode you sometimes see on buses and in crowded places. I realized, sitting there, listening to some of my favorite music before my exercise class started, that I'd seen people do this before and judged them for not interacting with the world. What I hadn't though of was what that person might have been through that day or in general. How can we judge anyone without knowing what has made life difficult, even unbearable, for the moment--without coming to understand another's struggle?

Better yet, how do we come to know each other's struggles, put judgement aside, really listen? That's a just faith kind of thing, if anything is. Sometimes the listening involves silence--not really speaking, but understanding through an acceptance of another. I can't describe well enough what that moment looks like or who that person is. I just know they exist, everyday, all around me.

Having been there myself, I want to take time to honor another's suffering, even if all that means is offering a complicit smile on a quiet sunny day to the grimacing passerby moaning on the inside. Maybe driving with respect for others--as if they, too, had a little one in their backseat. Maybe doing a tedious task that helps someone improve something about herself (read: my students, oh, my students!). You can imagine more.

Just pay attention, is all I'm sayin'!

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