The Karma Project, week 5
First, before I get to the M&Ms, a digression. I’m writing this post at night, after a long day, one that I tried to start off in a positive way by setting my alarm for 6:15 a.m. so I could get up before my kid and meditate.
I actually did it, too. Then, I went for a run. Then I was a super writer for most of the day, handling some urgent work issues with focus. Then I picked up my kid and was a loving, caring, compassionate and, I dare say, FUN mommy for most of the night.
Then bedtime approached. After I got my kid settled into bed, I planned to write this blog. I knew the following day would be another packed workday.
I tried to be patient, to enjoy the whole bedtime routine, because, you know, mothers are supposed to enjoy that sort of thing.
And usually I am that sort of mother.
But tonight? I really just wanted to write the blog.
I managed to read Green Eggs and Ham and some book about Arthur having a bad dream about pickles without rushing TOO much. I even had my daughter laughing at the end of Green Eggs and Ham because I kept substituting the words “stinky toots” for “eggs.” You just try to read that book with that substitution and see if you can pull it off with a straight face.
Anyway, I might have gotten my daughter a wee bit too riled up. Soon she was crawling all over me, asking to thumb wrestle, jumping on the bed, and wanting to sit on top of me. I just wanted to hug her and get to the blog. I could feel my creative spark draining from me with every single “No” that came out of my mouth.
I knew Mean Mommy was about to make an appearance. I could feel her in my chest. I’m not proud of Mean Mommy, but she’s a part of me. She’s as real as my heart, lungs, and kidneys.
I kept Mean Mommy stuffed down in my chest, though, and managed to get out of the room before she said anything hurtful.
I opened a Word file. I typed the headline you see on this post. I thought about my M&M story. And that’s when it happened.
Deep breath. Sigh.
I walked to her room. I learned that she’d lost her monster truck.
I felt Mean Mommy’s presence. She was there in a strong, big way. Very little of the rational, kind me was left. I silently repeated a Buddhist mantra I’d learned. It goes like this, “I may die today. I may die today. I may die today.” Sure, it sounds all Goth and morbid, but it’s supposed to remind me that anyone—including myself—could die at any moment, so I should try to live without regrets. I reminded myself that I didn’t want to die in the middle of the night and leave my daughter worried that I’d been mad at her for losing her monster truck.
It helped. It seemed like the good me was back.
She said, “I can’t find it!”
Mean Mommy relied, “I don’t know where it is. Stay in your room and don’t come out. You know the rules.”
So much for the possibility of my untimely death helping me to remain compassionate.
Back at my computer I typed an email to a friend, telling her that I was a terrible mommy. She typed one back, telling me that she was even worse. That helped.
Then I heard a high-pitched wail. Now, the normal Mommy reaction to a high-pitched wail would be the thought, “OMG! What’s wrong?!”
That’s not what I thought. Instead, I thought, “What the [I’ve removed this word because I promised long ago that I would not curse on this blog, so use your imagination and put that word in all caps] is it NOW?” I thought about using my mantra, but the thought didn’t last very long. I did think that I might find her impaled on her bedpost, and then I would feel terrible about not having the correct reaction to her high-pitched wail.
But that didn’t stuff Mean Mommy back into my chest. I stomped to her room to find out that her monster truck had fallen on her lip. Exactly why that resulted in the amount of pain that would necessitate those high-pitched wails? I just don’t know. I gave her ice and stomped right back out.
I sat down at my desk.
I ignored her, figuring that she was probably done with the ice and that it was melting all over her bed and that is was making the biggest wet spot imaginable and that I so didn’t care.
I ignored her for a good long while. I wrote quite a few paragraphs. Then curiosity got the best of me and I decided to check on her. I learned that she’d called me to find out whether I’d found the “I’m really sorry” note she’d quietly left near me while I’d been typing emails. SHE was sorry?
In that moment? I felt like diaper contents, the kind that comes from the diaper of a baby who has been eating nothing but peas for a week straight. (Do babies eat nothing but peas for a week? I’m not sure, but I like the analogy so I’m keeping it.)
I hugged her. I told her that I loved her. I promised to be a better mommy. I told myself that I was the luckiest mother in the world. I promised myself that I would never, ever in a million lifetimes work at night again.
Then I walked right back to my office and I continued to write this post.
I was just pushing the bad Karma envelope.
So here’s what I want to know. Who IS this monster? I know some of you like me, so you will probably try to cheer me up by telling me that it was just a bad night, that Mean Mommy doesn’t make an appearance every single night. That’s true. Had I not been having such a busy workweek? I would have been a Good Mommy tonight. I just know it.
But still. I want to exorcise Mean Mommy from my soul.
And while I’m exorcising things from my soul, there are some other things I’d like to get rid of, too. In no particular order, they are:
- My quick instinct to backbite, especially when the other people around me are doing it, too. I keep catching myself saying nasty things about people behind their backs. I’d like to stop. I keep promising to stop, but the nasty things keep coming out.
- My irritation with really minor things. Like there’s this lady that I see nearly everyday who walks two small dogs. Without fail, whenever I see her, she’s on her cell phone and, without fail, I think something snide like, “Can’t even walk down the street with your dogs without taking a call? Can’t disconnect for 2 minutes? Is the phone glued to your ear? Was that call really all that? You just had to take it now, didn’t you? Do I really need to hear your conversation? No, I really don’t want my dog to play with your dogs just because you are on your phone and don’t have the two hands you need to control your two dogs.” It’s like that. And now I feel bad for even writing that because what if Cell Phone Lady reads this blog and recognizes that I’m talking about her to the entire cyberverse? That would be bad, wouldn’t it?
- How I hate walking behind slow people and often think very unkind things about their slowness.
I will say that, since I started the Karma Project, I’ve been more aware of these things. I’ve also held my tongue and redirected my nasty thoughts here and there. So I am improving. But it will obviously take a long time—perhaps a few lifetimes—before I reach enlightenment.
Oh, and about those M&Ms
So I was at the Asheville airport in North Carolina the other day. It was 4 p.m. and my flight to Atlanta was at 6:30 p.m. (Why I had to go to Atlanta in order to go to Pennsylvania is a topic for another day). The Asheville airport is about as big as my basement. Trying to kill 2 ½ hours there is harder than trying to waste some time The National Museum of Surveying. (No offense to surveyors. I really dig you people.)
I noticed that there was an earlier flight leaving at 4:50, and I figured it would be a lot easier to kill time in Atlanta as I waited for my connection than it would be to kill time in Asheville. So I asked the airport worker if I could fly earlier. She said she’d check. Another airport worker overhead my conversation and joked, “How much money do you have?” Yet another one said, “Or chocolate?” They all laughed.
I was told to come back in a bit. So I walked to the tiny refreshment stand, bought a package of M&Ms, walked back to the airport lady, and presented the gift.
“Oh, you didn’t have to do that,” she said.
“I know, but I thought I’d brighten your day,” I said.
As I walked to a seat, I heard her say, “How sweet!”
I got on the flight, by the way. She seated me in a row by myself. Thank you airport lady. I’m a Mean Mommy who probably did not deserve your kindness. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Ah, that was a long and rambling post, eh? Have you actually read this far, or did I lose you about 10 paragraphs ago? Well, if you are still reading, I have a reward for you. I noticed a week ago that a lot more of you started commenting on the blog when I offered to give away a free set of bed sheets. I love your comments. They help me feel good about this blog and all of the work I put into it. On nights like tonight, when the urge to write the blog triggers an appearance of Mean Mommy? It’s your comments that make it all seem worth the effort.
So I want to reward you for your comments. This is what I’m thinking. Once a month, I am going to send a prize to my favorite commenter. Note that I did not say, “Most frequent commenter.” I said favorite. Exactly how I will pick my favorite? That’s anyone’s guess, but I tend to like comments that are helpful, funny, deep or all three rolled into one. So that should give you some leads.
Sometimes I’ll announce the gift—especially if a company sent it to me to use as a promotion. Most of the time, though, I just plan to send it secretly, with a little note of thanks, because that seems like the truly generous thing to do, doesn’t it? Plus, it gives me more time to wait until the last minute to come up with the prize.
So comment away. For today, I’d really like to know whether or not you think I’m the Meanest Mommy in the World. Have you been there? Have any advice to share? Know how I might exorcise her from my soul? Let me know. Also, is there anything you’d like to exorcise from your soul? Telling me about it will make me feel normal, which is good Karma for you.
Now I’m done writing and all I can think is this: I wish my daughter were still awake so I could give her a hug. I guess I’ll just hug her little sleeping body instead.
Oh and to the lady who won the sheets: They’re in the mail.
Oh, and on Friday? I promise to write something useful about marriage, because that’s why you read this blog, after all.
A professional journalist, Alisa Bowman is the author of Project: Happily Ever After, a memoir of how she saved her marriage, and coauthor of Pitch Perfect, a must-read if you've ever had a sense of dread tie up your insides before a speech, presentation, or conversation. If you enjoyed this post, you will no doubt love her updates on Facebook and Twitter.