Losing Drama, Finding Stillness

This morning, my older son slept through his alarm, well on his way to be late for his 9 am class. It would have been so easy to lay into him about responsibility and better planning, or use guilt as its usual weapon, or snarky humor in an attempt to mask annoyance for wit. Instead, I offered to drive him.

Last week, my younger son forget to check the family calendar before buying the entry ticket for the PSAT at the high school. When he did look at the test date, he realized he had a commitment that he couldn’t change and would not be able to take the PSAT. Nor could he get the ticket refunded. My initial internal response was to launch into a lecture designed simply to make me right and him wrong.

All of those choices might have felt good, in an emotionally cathartic sense, at least for the moment. They might even have felt like some kind of victory. As if every moment of every day is a battle in a larger war.

Am I annoyed that I had to shift my schedule to drive one son to school? Sure. Am I annoyed that the other son didn’t take 30 seconds to check the calendar before buying a ticket he cannot use? Sure. But here’s my life lesson: being annoyed is my emotion. Displacing it as anger on my children accomplishes nothing useful.

I assure you, I’m no zen master, able to serenely glide through a universe of strife with a beatific smile on my face. I’m your typical harried, middle-aged woman, coping with responsibilities and obligations. (Easier to juggle chainsaws, some days.) Yet, something held me back from lashing out. Because that’s what those responses are: lashing out from anger and fear in a fruitless attempt to control what cannot be controlled.

I’ve spent too much of this year wallowing in negative emotions. My writing career isn’t where I want it to be. In over 4 years, my agent hasn’t been able to sell any of my work. The title I self-published sells  a handful of copies in any given month. It’s all too easy to look at what does sell and drown in either despair or envy.

 There’s an old joke about a man who complains to God about all the misfortunes in his life. The details of the joke don’t matter, it’s the punch line that gets me. The man turns to God and shouts, “Why me?” God’s answer? “Why not?” The past two years have been enormously difficult ones in my life. It started with a house fire in December of 2010, continued with family crises and illnesses, and just one month ago, my mother passed away. I don’t think it matters how old you are when you lose a parent. Losing your first and most emotionally charged bond in life is an enormous blow. One that I’ve been moving through with the support of friends and family.

 I’d like to think that my newfound sense of stillness is a result of that process. I do know that ridding myself of the false drama of that adrenaline-laden nearly automatic response has been extremely freeing. Not just for me, but for my family as well. The son I drove to school? He apologized and thanked me. The son with the scheduling snafu? He will be taking some practice tests on his own and has offered to repay me the ticket fee from his own money. As far as my writing goes, one word, one sentence, one chapter at a time.

LJ Cohen

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16 responses to “Losing Drama, Finding Stillness

  1. Wow, I really love this piece! How clearly you capture the way we often tend to go on auto-pilot in our reactions to what others say or do. Even more importantly, you model a way to LISTEN when we catch ourselves about to act in a rote way (one which society would be quick to condone!). This ‘catching’ one’s self is the key! There is that quivering instant when we are hovering between displacing our own emotion onto another OR admitting that it belongs to us. An instant where we’re caught in the tug of war between our conditioning and our freedom! Your story shows how torn one can feel, and emphasizes the value of opening to ‘that extra little push’ it takes to follow our deeper intuitive leanings. I applaud you for sharing what, I too, am finding to be an exercise in an ever deepening of Awareness! And in showing us how this focus can effortlessly enrich the lives of everyone else.

  2. Powerful and thought provoking. Well done.

  3. How important it is to understand we don’t need to be “right” every time. When we make others wrong, we lose the opportunity for discourse and cooperation. Bravo, LJ!

  4. All so very true, and very, very wise. Beautifully said.

  5. Marci Jefferson

    Wow, this really touched me. My deepest sympathy for your loss. I want to simply capture your wisdom and insert it into my own self, but at least I can seek stillness. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Thank you, LJ. I will be turning to your words of wisdom often in the weeks to come. Hugs.

  7. This is a beautiful post, LJ. Thank you for the reminder that I need to maintain a real sense of focus on what matters “for real” and not just let myself get distracted by the momentary bumps in the road.

  8. @akrummenacker, @ray, @lisa, @marci, @julianne, and @susan–thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your gracious comments. I would have replied to each of you individually, but WordPress yelled at me for making too many comments too quickly. 🙂

  9. This post reminds me of the quote “Never make a decision while the reckless steeds of emotion are thundering in all directions.” – Joseph Panek

    As someone who is extremely emotionally sensitive, I struggle with this on a daily basis, and it can easily create a snowball affect that is difficult to contain. So taking the time to think about my emotional response before acting, being still as you say, is most effective for bringing the emotions of a particular situation to a containable level where you can see clearer.

  10. First off, GREAT title! Snappy and contemplative all in one. This is something that I have been struggling with my entire life (Thanks, PTSD!). In recent years, I have been training myself to step out of the situation emotionally by listening to my body. If I feel negatively charged, I attempt to slow down and BREATHE. If that doesn’t work, I shift my energy by taking a walk or turning on some music to dance. As always, I admire the adult way you handled both of these situations. It’s no wonder that your boys are such lovely young men!

  11. Lovely, tender, contemplative and shot through with hard-won wisdom. My condolences for the loss of your mother. And my admiration for your restraint during the two instances you describe … it IS/WAS a victory. Thank you for sharing such an intimate experience.

  12. Pingback: The Most Annoying Things My Son Does « A Mom Who Just So Happens to Be a Gamer

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