A random photo, both recent and unrelated. Though, really, don’t hydrangeas meet what is in their path and, with mute implacability, correct their course? They wind around looking for light, they change color, and they live on.
I am increasingly convinced that the key to happiness and success in this life is the ability to course-correct. Last weekend, we were in Vermont at a (wonderful) family reunion. I was putting Grace and Whit to bed in sleeping bags on the floor and Grace was tired and cranky. She gave me attitude and was pissy, and, exhausted from a long drive and day, I didn’t have the slack to be generous with her. I snapped back and, with a genuine but short “I love you,” left the room.
About 30 minutes later Matt came down and whispered to me that Grace wanted to see me. He had gone upstairs to get something and had talked to the still-awake children when he was in our room. I walked upstairs and crouched by their sleeping bags. Grace’s face was wet with tears, and Whit looked anxious and somewhat upset.
“Everything okay?” I leaned over Grace and hugged her. Hiccuping, tearful, she told me she was sorry, she felt bad, and she did not want to go to bed angry. She wanted to clear the air, she said. She was sorry and it was the Fourth of July and she did not want to mar it with an argument.
I am not sure I’ve ever hugged her harder. I owed her an apology, too, and I offered it. But I thanked her for having the ability to say hey, let’s put that behind us, let’s not hold a grudge, let’s move on. And I meant it. We hugged and she went to sleep and I went downstairs and all was well.
I thought about the maturity it took for her to say: I am sorry, let’s let go. I thought about the days I’ve ruined by attaching to my own failure to concentrate or to my own wounded ego or emotions. I am sure we’ve all had the experience of something going poorly and of deciding well, hell, it’s all lost. I’m equally sure that the key to success and to happiness – hell, to life – is in the ability to say: you know what? That sucked. I’m doing X or Y badly. But I’m going to let go of that disappointment, hurt, or dismay, and try to move on with a light heart and an open mind.
This is one of those insights, muted rather than blinding but absolutely essential, that this season of my life has held for me. Learn how to let go of our failures rather than to let them bring us down and to let go of how we wanted it to be so that we can have it as it is. Because I don’t want to ruin these days by attaching myself to all the ways that they – and more importantly, I – disappoint me. If I do that I miss their extraordinary, astonishing brilliance.
Really, I think what I’m saying, is that we need to learn to begin again. Every day. Over and over.
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