39 years ago today, I was the uncomfortable addition to my mother’s torso, the months long anticipated sibling to my brother, but I hadn’t yet actually arrived. 39 years ago today was the last 24 hour period my family was just three.
Yesterday, I finally made the time to catch up with Mom on the phone. We had a nice chat, but the thing that kept circling in my monkey mind this morning was a feeling of irritation I had. Annoyed because I felt as if she told me to relax over the election, I conjured up defensive details listing all of the reasons why I felt her to be wrong. I started imagining the post I would write about how important this election is, and how anyone who . . . then I stopped myself.
I thought, “Ruth, a public blog is not the place to work this stuff out. Besides, you’re wrong about what she was telling you.” See, I interpreted what I thought she said, and decided how I felt about it without ever really stopping to understand what she meant. Check out Katie Byron’s, The Work, for more on the topic of how believing our own thoughts is so often the source of our own discomfort.
So I chose to think about other parts of our conversation. The way she listened patiently and graciously to all of my overly detailed stories about the minutiae of my life. The way she’s always, always, so kind to me, no matter what’s going on in her life, no matter how idiotic I may be acting at the time.
She told me the sweetest story about how recently she had chosen a birthday card for me and brought it home, only to have my father veto it. He wanted something with a more profound sentiment, and he wanted to send Hallmark. He takes the “very best” slogan seriously. We laughed about that. So she ended up finding a different card, one Dad liked better. It’s an especially sweet one.
When I was a child and I got myself worked up into a physical state of rage that would spoil the moment for everyone around me, or when I was in heavy complain mode, I remember Mom saying to me, “You have a choice.”
“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” — Kahlil Gibran
What a wonderful gift – to help me to understand from a very young age that I, alone, had the power to determine my own moods and actions.
So this birthday, my choice is to bask in the gift of my family — those three who anticipated me 39 years ago today, and the two (one furry, one human) who share my mornings and evenings here in the place that is now home. I can’t even be conscious of all they’ve taught me and given me throughout my life, but I can offer my gratitude as often as I speak. That’s my choice.