Mornings were often difficult for me in the first few years of adjusting to having a family after living 48 years on my own with only a big white fluffy dog and myself to manage. Having three, sometimes four people in the house, different schedules and (here’s the worst part) different styles and rhythms, is a lot.
My stepson has a deliberate, contemplative pace. In other words, he’s freaking slow. He takes his time, with everything – with eating, waking up, chewing food, finishing a cup of coffee, getting to whatever chore I’ve deemed an emergency.
And as you may have surmised, this is not me, at least as it relates to my expectations of other people.
Why can’t everyone be perfect, like me? The world would be a much easier place to navigate, right? Maybe there’s a reason I stayed single for 48 years.
Most mornings, when I’ve done everything I have to do because I wake early and have literally hours to prepare for departure – don’t get the wrong impression here. Most of that time consists of sitting in bed with a cup of coffee reading the news – I’m ready to go before Sean has even surfaced from sleep. Never mind that it could be an hour before we absolutely need to leave. I have nothing to do now but wait, and I choose to spend my free time complaining, nagging and judging his speed, which, in case I hadn’t mentioned it before, is always slow – without the decency of apology, shame, or any suggestion of an inkling of altering his natural rhythm for anyone or anything.
I admire this, when it’s not driving me completely bugshit.
One morning, by the time we’d loaded into the car and were well on the way to dropping him off at school, I realized (as usual) that we had plenty of time to get everyone where they needed to be on time, I shifted into regret and shaming myself for my behaviour. Over a lifetime of practice, I had basically become an expert at making myself, and by extension the people around me, feel shitty.
I managed to stop my brain from its self-flagellating long enough to apologize to Sean for setting such a negative tone for the morning.
He listened, thoughtfully as is his way (another thing I absolutely admire about this kid) and after a (much too long in my impatient opinion) pause, replied softly “Well, it’s not too late to turn the day around, is it?”
So much ease, so much acceptance, so much forgiveness and softness and gentleness in that one statement flowing from this beautiful soul.
(There is song by Hawksley Workman called Oh You Delicate Heart that I’m sure was written about Sean. Look it up. It’s beautiful.)
I often return to that moment when I find my brain racing to punish and shame myself with false deadlines, impossible to meet and pretty much unnecessary in the first place. I hear Sean’s voice reminding me that it’s not too late to turn it around; and I’m able to pivot.
Fast forward ten years. In March, days before the stay at home officially began, we drove to Montreal to bring the boy – now an impressive young man – home from university for an undetermined duration to ride out the pandemic in this new house he’s never lived in; the new house I have had a hard time warming up to. We moved in order to have better access to community, public transit, walkability, and this neighbourhood has all that. But the old house was perfect; this one is not.
Adjusting to sharing the smaller space, adjusting to having two other adults at home full time with me, has been a challenge. And I’d reached my limit.
Last night, on getting ready for sleep and searching the house for my earbuds, required to meditate my perpetually stressed-out ass to sleep, unable to find them, I of course opted to create a crisis.
I’m storming around the house looking for the fucking ear buds – noisily, grumpily, in full-on drama queen mode, not expecting (but really deep down expecting) the household to upend itself to find my earbuds and none of them are moving off their asses goddamn it.
Sean and David had already retired for the evening, but Sean walked back upstairs with his set of earbuds in hand and offered them to me “to use for now.”
In case you’re getting the idea that I’m all bitch all the time, I will say that my brain had the decency to be appalled at itself. It just didn’t have the will to stop me.
Instead I yelled “But I don’t want them! I WANT MINE!” to which he responded in his gentle soul way, “Well yeah, I get that. But these might work until you find yours tomorrow when it feels easier to look.”
And just like that I’m hauled back to sanity by his grace, horrified at my behaviour, thank him and take my phone, my borrowed earbuds, and my sorry ass to bed.
I find my own precious set of earbuds tangled in the bedsheets where I’d left them that morning.
And David laughed. And I said “I’m a horrible human being.” And he said “Yeah, and I love you.”
And I fell asleep without using any earbuds at all.
I am so grateful, so blessed, so lucky, to have been welcomed heart, soul and warts into the lives of this family that has so much to teach me about living more softly and being gentler with myself.
I know there must be some hope for me – after all, I attracted them into my life, right?
This morning I sit in this imperfect house, in my imperfect body, celebrating my imperfect heart and soul that can appreciate that the sun is shining brightly, the plants we put in the garden yesterday survived the night, the cardinals are singing at the windows.
I have books, pens, a teacup full and a quiet comfortable corner to contemplate life and write clumsily about it, a hammock ready to set up in our imperfect yard with the sometimes noisy cigarette-smoking neighbours, David out for a hike along the river, Sean not yet awake even though we’d planned to get out to the bike shop first thing to replace his tires and it’s now well past first thing in the morning.
I can let it go.
My heart is happy and grateful for all this goddamned imperfection because it means there’s more growing, more learning, more healing, and more loving to come.
I leave Sean’s earbuds where he’ll find them easily on waking, with a little note that says thank you in a hand-drawn heart, and remind myself to tell him over and over and over again how much he is loved, exactly the way that he is.
And I walk down to the beach to greet the morning.