“Only by complete surrender to our changed situation can we embrace the beauty of the place we are now.” – Shefali Tsabary from The Conscious Parent
Recently on one unassuming summer afternoon, my cell phone slipped from the white slick porcelain top of the toilet into the basin just after my daughter had peed in it. I daintily picked up the wet phone with my thumb and index finger, flared nostrils, and pursed lips. I then asked for a bag of rice from a woman at the bar and placed my phone in it hoping the rice would magically suck the moisture out of the phone. The rice trick didn’t work, and the opening where the charger went now had pieces of rice stuck in it.
It was one of those days where I found myself constantly annoyed by external and uncontrollable circumstances. And after a few more hours in the relentless sun, it was time to go home and go to bed. When we reached our house, my husband, kids, and I jumped out of the car and ran to the front door anxiously awaiting the sweet reprieve of cold air. But instead, a suffocating blast of heat hit us as the door swung open. Earlier that day, our noisy and temperamental air conditioner had been replaced, but, unfortunately, after the workers had left for the day, the thermostat mysteriously switched from cool to heat and now was set at 90 degrees.
So we packed our bags and quickly fled the sauna that was our house opting for a night in a crappy motel close to home. There we settled in for a long summer’s night while visions of cigarette smoke and bed bugs danced in my head.
But before I could fall asleep, I grumbled along unpacking my car, and then walked up the flight of stairs to our room. As we entered the hotel room and stepped into the frosty air, my daughter exclaimed in a sing-song voice while appearing as if she was spinning on an Austrian mountaintop, “We have everything we need.” And then my son, genuinely pleased with our well-appointed accommodations said, “This is a really nice room” while admiring the stained tub, yellowish shower curtain, and old T.V.
As I complained about the headache of the day and the hassle of our unexpected hotel stay, my kids heard none of it. Instead they eagerly jumped into bed ecstatic about getting to watch T.V. as they fell asleep. I realized later than I would have liked, how grateful I was to be having that moment and how much worse it could be.
When I think about my own childhood, I remember the moments that didn’t go as expected and the ones that happened in-between all the plans. Like when I picked my dress for prom, I never envisioned a broken ankle and having to wear one of my dad’s black work socks over my walking cast. And as fun as our family trip to California was that one summer, it was the seven-hour car ride in my dad’s Oldsmobile, sandwiched between my brother and sister without digital entertainment, while the song “Captain of Her Heart” played on the radio that brings a smile to my face today.
The memories that keep me company when I am lonely are often the mundane, awkward, funny, and unexpected ones that happened on unassuming days in places like the car or in my family room. And they are replete with the reminder to appreciate what is instead of wishing for things to be different. Because where we are, and not where we aren’t, is where the good stuff resides.