The ability to course correct


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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  1. Kristin H. Macomber
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    These two quotes, from my friend Laurie Hadlock’s weekly painting blog, have provided me with words to pre-course-correct by. First, from Lou Holtz: “Life is 10% what happens, and 90% how you react.” And from Plato: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.”

    I’m feeling them both these days.

  2. Posted July 10, 2013 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    your Grace sounds a lot like my own Diana Grace, also 10, who wants to make sure that we “are ok” with each other, especially before ending the day.

    our daughters have both the capacity and capability to be truly present with us, to gently call us back from our own edges and envelop us in the love and compassion that surrounds us, if only we are willing to experience it.

  3. Anne
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Wonderful post, as always. But you’ve touched on an issue that I’ve been struggling with lately — professionally and personally. Thanks for offering your insight on it.

  4. Sarah
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Fantastic post! So important, yet so difficult to say “I’m sorry” without the qualifying “but…”. Equally important are the words “I forgive you”. I love that Grace is aware enough to reach out to you!

  5. Matt Russell
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    I love all the hydrangeas!

  6. Posted July 10, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    Radiance — in your smile, in those blooms, in your words. Of course letting go is key, and of course we need to be reminded. Loved this, as always.

  7. Posted July 10, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    A few nights ago, my son and I went from 0 to 100 on the anger scale in mere moments–started over clearing the table from dinner. We were both poised to step into positions of ridiculousness from which neither of us would be able to back down without losing face–and I said, “Let’s stop talking about this right now and revisit it when we’re not both angry.”

    Took all the air out of our conflict (and we did revisit it later, in a much calmer space). We’re both growing up.

  8. Posted July 10, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    A great reminder to us all to let go of the small stuff because it is all small stuff. And to grab hold and cherish the small stuff because that is all that matters.

  9. Posted July 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE this! I too tend to hold onto failure and then it just eats at the day. What a brave girl you had and yes, we can always begin again. Constantly.

  10. Posted July 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    I needed this today. Had a disappointment that’s made me crabby all day when the truth is that in the scheme of things it’s such small potatoes.

    Love the picture too!

  11. Posted July 10, 2013 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Of course I love this! We are always beginning anew. And how wise and mature of your daughter to say she wanted to “clear the air.” We have our rough days, but even your rough day reveals what you are doing it right. 🙂

  12. Posted July 10, 2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Simply beautiful. Thank you, Lindsey.

  13. Sally illits
    Posted July 10, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Love this picture of you and the message. Let the children teach us is a good motto. I am always amazed at the insight and good will of mine when I am impatient or rude!

  14. Posted July 11, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    As always, you have perfect timing. I am struggling with parenting guilt lately, feeling that I should have caught something sooner, should have done more, should have . . . you get the idea. I love this reminder to “move on with a light heart and an open mind.”

  15. Posted July 11, 2013 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Sometimes I get stuck in the quite imperfectness of myself as a parent…those moments when I with I’d done it differently, when my sheer humanness shines through. You’re teaching your kids a valuable lesson, and are an amazing role model. Keep correcting – it’s the gift of being human.

  16. Posted July 14, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    It takes a lot of courage and willingness to be vulnerable to come forward first and say, “let’s let this go.” How marvelous to be able to recognize that at Grace’s age. We could all take a lesson from her.

    Love the hydrangeas! One of my favorite flowers!

  17. Posted July 15, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Ah, Those are the toughest moments in parenting, when everyone’s tempers are fried. Good for both of you to make up like that. We’ve had a few tearful re-visits after bed time too. Bittersweet!

  18. Posted July 25, 2013 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been taking a break from blogging (both writing and reading) for various reasons, but today I felt pulled here. Loving catching up on your posts. The more I read about your relationship with Grace, the more I’m reminded of my own relationship with my mother. And I pray that my own blooming mother/daughter relationship proves as rich and textured and deep and trusting as yours with Grace. xx

    admin Reply:

    I’m glad that you read my relationship with Grace as deep and trusting – it feels like that most of the time, though sometimes I have this galloping fear about what lies ahead. Thanks for stopping by to read. It really means a lot. xox

  19. Posted July 29, 2013 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    I am amazed that your little girl seems to have more maturity in your story than I frequently do. It can be so hard to admit that we are wrong. Even more, it can be difficult to accept that and try to find way to move forward knowing that we are infinitely flawed. And yet, that is the only way that we can ever hope to achieve happiness. I think one word for it is humility. We have to accept the way things are and adjust ourselves, our expectations, and our responses to others with humility.

    It sounds so easy when you put it in writing but that amount of lightness in dealing with the heavy stuff that life can throw at you is difficult.

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