I’ve been having an epiphany of sorts for the last few months.
Is that possible? To have an epiphany that stretches out over days and weeks? Perhaps a true epiphany is more like that typical “Aha!” moment. The lightbulb winking on and whatnot.
But the mommy brain I’m working with these days isn’t the speediest of creatures. Just this morning, I locked my scooter keys inside the seat compartment before I even pulled out of the garage.
And let’s not even talk about Monday, when I parked the scoot on Mission Street and walked away from it, leaving the keys dangling in the side lock ALL DAY LONG. How people passed up that opportunity for free wheels for 8+ hours is possibly proof that everyone else’s brain is just as sluggish as mine.
So it’s no wonder that this particular lightbulb has taken a looong time to illuminate. But now that it has, I can’t get the buzz out of my brain.
Being gracious. That’s the long and short of it.
I’ve been obsessed with the idea, turning it over and over as if in doing so I will discover some new meaning, a hidden key.
Becoming a parent makes you think of yourself differently. In some ways, it spotlights your biggest flaws, or turns up the volume on small eccentricities that you previously thought of as cute but now realize are just juvenile.
I have never made any bones about being a bold-faced misanthrope. I’m not a people-lover. Especially not en-masse. Crowds make me twitchy. Parties make me crave a quite nook and a book.
In my twenties I wore my misanthropy like a shiny silver badge. I flaunted it. I reveled in it. I embraced my inner grinch and dressed him up in big black boots.
I toned it down when I hit my thirties. I got more comfortable in my own skin and discovered that I was fine just being who I was instead of showing and telling all the time.
But I could still whip out the grinch at a moment’s notice, withering strangers with a glare. My sister has dubbed it the “Bugle Boy look” because of the time ages and ages ago when she and I went holiday shopping and for some reason ended up in a very long line at a Bugle Boy outlet. Someone tried to jump the line in front of us and I melted the skin off their face with my stare.
The thing I’ve begun to realize as I’ve gotten older and, yes, as I’ve become a mum, is that I tend to glare alot more than necessary. It’s my default setting, especially under duress.
And it’s not only strangers who feel the sting. I can whip it out on those closest to me, too. Even more so sometimes because I tend to filter my thoughts alot less around the people I heart the most.
But now I’ve had this epiphany about graciousness, and I’m trying very hard to be more selective about my misanthropy and grinchitude. I’m trying to save that withering glare for the occasions that truly call for it, such as keeping the skeeves out of my way when I’m strolling the baby.
I’m finding that I can be really good at being gracious if I stop to take a breath and put some thought into it.
Taking a few seconds to think before I speak or react or even blink gives me a chance to remember that it’s not all about me and how I’m feeling today. The stranger to whom I’m about to give a verbal smackdown might be having a much shittier day than I am, and I, in these few seconds, can either add to that pile of shit or shovel some of it out of the way.
So I’m working on it. It’s hard, especially when that default grinch setting is so easy to flip.
Recently we had a house full of people who have a history of putting me on edge, and that tense, prickly feeling has only increased now that my baby has been added to the relationship equation.
When I admitted to myself that I was going to be unable to defuse the grinch in this particular situation, I opted instead to stay silent so I wouldn’t say something stupid. In my head I kept hearing that old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Going mute isn’t exactly gracious, but it’s a step up from bitchness, so I’ll take it. This new attitude will take some time to cultivate, after all.
But I’ve had the epiphany. I’ve seen the light. And I know it’s time to grow up. It’s time to be gracious.
-Lo, who will still wear stompy black boots, don’t worry. She just might remove a few of the pointier spikes.