“It’s funny: I always imagined when I was a kid that adults had some kind of inner toolbox full of shiny tools: the saw of discernment, the hammer of wisdom, the sandpaper of patience. But then when I grew up I found that life handed you these rusty bent old tools – friendships, prayer, conscience, honesty – and said ‘do the best you can with these, they will have to do.’ And mostly, against all odds, they do.” – Anne Lamott
As wonderful as the holidays are, they also bring with them a lot of work and added stress. It’s not only the fact that there are more items on our to-do lists, but the everyday tasks don’t go away (the nerve!).
To give you an idea of where I’m at, I’m writing this on December 21st, and I still haven’t wrapped one present. It’s also been a rummage-through-the-dirty-pile-of-clothes-to-see-if-my-son-can-wear-those-pants-again kind of week.
Yesterday I was determined to mark some items off of my to-do list.
I even braved the mall for the last few items I needed to purchase.
I had plans to go out to dinner with a couple of families in the evening. I was already exhausted from attending a holiday party the night before, but this is what the holidays make me do: squeeze in fun activities on top of everything else.
My friends wanted to meet for dinner at 5:30 p.m. and I knew that my husband wouldn’t get home from work in time to make it by then, but I told them we would hopefully arrive by 6:00 p.m.
When 6:00 p.m. rolled around and my husband still wasn’t home, my stress kicked in, and I decided to go through my mail.
I opened an envelope and felt sick to my stomach to find out that someone had fraudulently set up a cell phone account using my information and purchased numerous expensive phones.
I was already stressed that we were running late for dinner, and opening this envelope sky-rocketed my stress level.
I immediately called the cell phone company and was placed on hold for 20 minutes around which time my husband finally walked through the door after sitting in traffic for an hour and 20 minutes.
I told the woman on the phone that I had to go because I needed to look up directions to where we were going to dinner. She said she would call me back, but not resolving the fraud issue left me feeling unsettled.
Dinner was only 10 minutes away, but because the law of attraction always applies when I’m in a stressed state of mind, we had trouble finding a parking spot.
My husband suggested that I get out of the car with my daughter and let him go find a place to park. We were both in terrible moods at this point, feeding off of each other’s negative energy.
I got out and my daughter’s water cup fell out of my diaper bag. Shoot.
I picked it up, but when I leaned back in the car to grab the paperwork from the phone company, it fell out again along with my Chapstick. Both rolled under the car. It was a real live S show.
I walked into the restaurant as a ball of stress only to find my friends had finished dinner and were about to leave.
Now, I’d like to be able to tell you all that I handled this with grace and maturity. After all, I was an hour late to dinner and I’m a mother myself and entirely understand that bed time is important and dinners with young children are painful past a certain point.
But alas, I’ve chosen to write an honest blog, and the truth is that I was horrified that my friends were leaving. In that moment, I couldn’t handle one more single thing going wrong. I’d reached my breaking point.
I felt my face flush red with stress and I responded to my friends in dramatic fashion that if they were going home, I was too.
I was needy and moody and felt like breaking down in tears. (Keep in mind that a sleep-deprived Kristen is not an optimal version.)
My friends are kind, and they likely saw the pained expression on my face and decided to throw me a bone and stay for dessert.
I was grateful, and even more so after I downed a glass of wine.
When my family left the restaurant that evening, the rain sprinkled down. It hardly ever rains in San Diego, and it almost felt like the weather gods whipped up a rain cloud just to match the mood of my night.
If I can sum up the action of my friends when they decided to stay longer at dinner I would give it one word: grace.
They offered me grace in my moment of weakness at a time I needed it most.
I spent most of today figuring out how to handle identity theft (Hint: It’s a pain in the butt).
But the amazing thing is that I worked with an identity restoration specialist that walked me through every step of the process in a manner that restored my faith in humanity. There it was again: grace.
The moral of the story is there are dishonest people in the world, crappy things happen, things don’t always go according to the plan, and sometimes we get rained on.
This is when grace (often in the guise of people) sweeps in, picks us up, and carries us forward.
If we only give one gift to ourselves and others this holiday season, I recommend we give grace.
Grace for ourselves, because the more we can offer it to ourselves, the easier it is to offer to others.
Grace for others, because we never know what kind of battle someone else is fighting.
Grace because although this time of year is wonderful, it’s also exhausting.
Grace because it’s impossible to do all of the things without losing sight of what this time of year is really about: love.
Grace because people aren’t perfect and life isn’t perfect. The only thing that is perfect in this world is love in its purest form.
Love feels like grace and grace feels like love.
I vote we give it a whirl.