When our daughter was in the hospital, we were allowed brief visitation periods. Visitors were corralled in the hospital's gymnasium: brown and beige, old and funky. For the first few minutes all I could hear were the sounds of vintage student chairs scraping the wooden floor. We all stood in an awkward line, as if we were signing in late for school. Parents craned their necks into the small window that separated Gym Occupiers from Patients, trying to catch a glimpse of their child approaching.
During that first visit, my husband and I were both in a rage. We had no idea how our child was being treated. All communication from the hospital was muddled. Calls were dropped, messages were cut off, nurses on one floor weren't communicating with nurses on another floor. It had been days since we'd seen our baby girl, and the only things we were sure of were: she's locked in, she has no personal effects and she needs help.
It would have been really easy to lose our minds. Looking around us, parents were gripping onto each other in sobs. Their grief was palpable. A grandmother sat swaying with her grandchild in one corner, both quietly crying onto the shoulder of the other. In our new-to-this state, we imagined that those parents & that grandmother had stories much like ours. Hi, we're confused. We have no idea what's going on and we're terrified. The staff was combative or dismissive, depending on the topic of conversation. This only amplified the worry and frustration filling the gym.
We chose joy instead. I don't say this lightly. In that dank room full of hurting families, we decided to hold tight to one another. We decided to smile instead of cry. We decided to express gratitude instead of shame our child. We decided to pray and hold fast to faith. Love became a verb that night, with all signs pointing to "GIVE UP, you've been beaten". We made a different choice. We chose joy.
When you direct your focus towards thoughts of love, acceptance and joy - you have no spare energy for opposite thinking.
The marvelous thing about deciding to change your mindset during a chaotic moment is that it's constantly available to you. It's not only available, it's accessible. There is no earning joy. Joy doesn't belong to any particular person, object or place. Choosing joy does not have to make sense. All that is required of you is to be still, take a breath, and CHOOSE.
I'll be the first to tell you: I make a lot of mistakes.
Some days, it seems like I can't get out the door without mucking up the entire day. The house is a mess, we're running an hour off schedule, I've missed a playdate the kids were looking forward to, and I can't find my glasses (which are usually - hahaha - on my face). Somewhere between losing my ever lovin' mind and calling it quits at 11am, my 10 yr. old son will touch my arm and say:
It's okay, mom. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone has bad days. In fact, I'm having one right now.
Bless his heart.
Unfortunately, there have been mistakes I've made that aren't laughed away by a dimpled-face kid with a healthy grip on sarcasm. I've participated in some really stupid shenanigans. I've been a bad friend. I've been a selfish wife. I've been judgmental and cold where I should have shown humility and kindness. I've held on too long to relationships that were toxic, or simply no longer served a positive purpose in my life. The ripple effect of these decisions can be heartbreaking when you're single ... and absolutely gut you from the inside when you're a mother. You realize that fumbling through life is no longer "okay". You're here for something big, something you can't quite name yet. It calls to you on sleepless nights and lets your mind race with ideas.
And what of these mistakes? Have they rippled so big and so loud that you can't reverse or re-route their effects? I'm here to assure you that isn't the case. There is always, always a way to glean the lessons from those bumps in the road (or Grand Canyon-sized blunders, in my case) and utilize them towards your ultimate purpose. I like to take these baby steps towards loving myself, re-routing the ripple effect of my mistakes and ultimately experiencing joy from the process: