Bah. Kids returned to school today after the two week holiday hiatus. I made a strict, concerted effort to not think about school over those two weeks. It had been a rough semester for one of our precious angels and I just wanted to give her (and us, her parents) a break. So then, I thought we were all set to return yesterday. We had some preparatory conversations about how we planned to approach this semester and I thought we were set.
You know how a dog with a bone will take the bone to a special place in the house and gnaw on it? When he's done, he'll tuck the bone away for later. He'll return to the bone, find a quiet spot and gnaw some more. He'll smack his lips. He'll drop the bone and grasp a better spot and worry that one a little bit. He'll carry it into a patch of sun and gnaw some more. Yeah. That was me, last night. I clicked off my reading lamp after lulling my mind into submission with a book (Bel Canto if you're wondering). I had, oh, maybe five minutes of sort of sleep and then, my mind awoke with a furious and probably neurotic frenzy of worry.
I started writing mental letters to the school, listing all the ways they'd fallen short. I thought of different tools we could implement to help her get and stay organized. I berated myself for not making some helpful phone calls over break, and for being a goofy mom who was out of touch. My mind raced with anxiety. I could feel my pulse quickening under my skin, and all I really wanted, what I knew I really needed, was sleep.
So, I resorted to techniques I used when pregnant. Deep breathing, mental imagery, praying, reciting Scripture. Nothing helped. My mind circled back again and again to what was wrong and how we'd fix it. I started counting out my breaths. Then I started counting backward from 100. Finally, I turned to my only source of solace at 3:33 am; twitter. Well, first I went to si.com, but as the Steelers had just missed out on the playoffs, that did little to help. I opened my twitter feed.
What I saw there in those wee-hours tweets was sadness. And longing. And a reaching out, a begging for help. None of the tweets were obviously desperate, but there was an aching in them. Many of the tweets were basic calls for more business, or to lose some pounds, or for a spouse to get home, or other mundane every day worries. Some were deep cries for friendship or help or advice.
What I did then taught me something I already knew and forgot. I started praying for these people and their hearts and their hurts. I know some of them personally, some I'll never, ever meet. Turning my heart outward changed my situation and how I approached it. It also let me flex my compassion muscle and do something real for strangers. In shifting my focus outward, I came to realize that all this junk I was gnawing on could be handled in the bright light of day. I hid the bone and started to pray. Hope I don't forget next time.