I’ve had a few. Most that remain are mistakes made by my younger self. I’m grateful for mindfulness because it helps me live with fewer regrets, and also be grateful for what I learn from those I still have, new or old.
I regret that I wasn’t a kinder person in high school. I fell down a rabbit hole inadvertently when I posted the latest version of ‘Fruits of the Practice’ on Facebook this evening. In two short clicks I was reading a fifteen-page list of deceased graduates of Annandale High School. It’s disconcerting (though it shouldn’t be) to see that the two football stars of my years there are both dead, and a girl I barely knew died the year after graduation. I remember her vividly, though I didn’t know her well. She had a frail, dramatic look, and I wondered if I was kind to her back then, or if I just ignored her as I did so many.
I don’t blame myself: I was who I was because of the conditions of my upbringing, which were less than ideal for instilling selfless behavior. I was a spoiled white girl, but it took me a few decades to realize and begin to rectify that. Also, though, I was myself made fun of often during grades one through ten, ostracized by the cooler cliques, never felt secure or that I belonged, (except in the newsroom which I ruled senior year). So I forgive myself for my missteps back then, when I didn’t know better. I just wish I had been kinder in my early years, especially to people who I realize now were just like me…
I’m always grateful for lunch, day after day. Today I was grateful that some weeks ago I made and froze a batch of burritos, so that I could pull one out of the freezer and heat it up for a quick lunch in a busy day, and top it with fresh avocado, sour cream, and fermented hot sauce. I’m really grateful for avocados, and for having finally figured out that I only half-heard the admonition to not refrigerate them. You can’t refrigerate them before they ripen, but after they are ripe they’ll last a whole lot longer in the fridge than on the counter. Duh. Turns out I’m the last to know that trick! I’m grateful for taking a scheduled lunch break every day around noon, and giving myself a whole hour to chill out with making something (or heating it up), and sit down to watch an episode of Star Trek (whatever series I’m on, currently nearing the end of Star Trek: Enterprise). It’s a little ritual that gives me a nourishing break between morning and afternoon work or whatever else the day requires.
Today it required a trip to town to mail some packages, and interact with a surprising number of people, all of whom were unmasked and seemingly unconcerned about the rising ‘triple-demic‘ of Covid, flu, and RSV which is currently crowding hospitals across the country. Acute care and Intensive care units in Colorado are reported to be at 90% capacity right now, and pediatric units across the country are at or exceeding capacity. Health care workers are once again (still?) experiencing burnout and trauma. I can’t help that this information crowds my head when I step outside my comfort zone and see how regular people are ‘getting on with their lives.’
But I digress. I am also grateful for good examples. A friend recently set a wonderful example that I thought of today when I had to make an uncomfortable phone call to talk with a wood supplier about the size of the ‘cordwood’ he had delivered. I was able to navigate this conversation with kindness, respect, and grace, while explaining that while the quality of the wood itself was wonderful, the length of way too much of it was not okay. Below is an entire wheelbarrow load of ‘cordwood’ that was supposed to average 14″ long but measures eight inches or less. If this were the leftover dregs of four cords of wood, there would be no problem, but there is a huge amount of wood this size in every load I bring in. Instead of feeling grateful for each load I bring into the house and build into a fire, I was experiencing afflictive thoughts and emotions of resentment and even anger. I finally realized that I couldn’t go through the whole winter getting pissed off every time I handled the firewood, which is at least a dozen times a day–even more, given the small size and fast burn of this wood. I thought of my friend’s good example handling a situation in which she felt (and was) wronged, and I followed it. After girding my loins and opening a friendly conversation with the supplier, I was left free of the burden of resentment, and he was left able to acknowledge the wrong and assure me that it won’t happen next season.
Maybe they dumped a bunch of scrap wood on me because I ordered late in the season, and they figured as a woman I wouldn’t know the difference. Or maybe it was an honest mistake. Either way, I’ll burn through this wood knowing that I was able to set a good example for myself, planting the seeds of kindness, respect, and benefit of the doubt, instead of letting my old habits, attitudes, and tendencies determine my actions and scattering seeds of discord and anger all around.