Those who don’t know how to suffer are the worst off. There are times when the only correct thing we can do is to bear out troubles until a better day.
– Deng Ming-Dao, Chinese-American author, artist, philosopher, teacher, and martial artist
Jacqui Naylor, San Francisco jazz-pop vocalist and songwriter, wrote a song called “Don’t let the bastard get you down,” which she released on her 2005 CD, Live East/West: Birdland/Yoshi’s. It’s a song about lovers and totally unrelated to my here and now, but when I started thinking through this particular blog topic, the catchy refrain stuck in my head.
I had a bad day at work this past Friday. It’s not really important to recap what happened. Suffice to say that an unexpected event occurred on a morning in which I was already exhausted from a chaotic week. It was the proverbial last straw that broke the camel’s back. But the silver lining was that it had happened on a Friday. As the day played out, I realized that I was going to need a mini vacation from work the moment the clock struck 5. I texted David: “Let’s watch Selma tonight.” Before he had left for work that morning, he brought up catching the Civil Rights historical movie, which was opening that day, about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, AL, to support blacks’ right to vote. I wanted to see it anyway, but I thought it timely to see it Friday evening. We took the kids. All four of us thought it was a great movie, and we appreciated its theme of equality and justice for all.
But it was important for me to see this movie on the heels of my crappy day because it put everything into perspective. People were getting severely beaten up. People lost their lives over a right that many of us take for granted today. My problem and my work day shrunk as each scene in the movie played out. By the time I came out of the theatre, I saw my work-related problem as a miniscule issue that will get resolved one way or another. On this I was clear: It wasn’t worth exerting another tear or another moment of weakness or anxiety.
What a cure, I thought to myself, as I went to bed that night. But it didn’t stop there. On Saturday, we took down the Christmas decorations. We all agreed that we felt sad to say goodbye to a what seemed like an extremely short holiday season. The house is so bountiful and festive when decked out. It always looks so stark and empty come January. At the same time, I enjoy having my clean, decluttered house back. I brought up Pandora radio on my mobile phone and hooked it up to the speaker. I chose my Peter, Paul, and Mary station, and was immediately immersed in folk music of the 1960s, much to my son’s chagrin, who took to his earplugs and listened to his own music. For me, I was in heaven. “Blowin’ in the Wind.” “If I Had a Hammer.” Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Teach Your Children Well.” Every song by Simon and Garfunkel. Arlo Guthrie’s “City of New Orleans.” Songs I sang as a kid. Songs that were rooted in the turbulent era of the 1960s. Songs that took me back to my childhood.
Choosing this station Saturday morning was an extension of watching the movie Selma the night before. I was in the moment. I was mindful. Life was full of vibrancy. I was in an exuberant, hopeful mood as I put away the Christmas ornaments, the Santa and snowman collection, the Department 56 Christmas in the City village settings. While boxing everything up was a sad chore, the promise of the New Year lay before me. A clean house, which translates to a cleared mind and head, allows me to focus and move forward. I also snuck in some Zen weeding in the front yard on Sunday after I took down the outdoor garland on our railings, which also made me feel cleansed.
I told the kids Friday evening that I’d had a bad day and it was something I had to get over, like a bump in the road. I gave them hugs. I told them I was grateful to have them in my lives because they are far more important than a lot of little things that trip me up in life. David allowed me to vent. He listened patiently. He made a point of clearing off the remaining obstacles on my road this past weekend. Gratitude is a wonderful thing to feel. It makes you buoyant. It makes those other problems shrink to the size and weight of gnats – ones you can smote with a flick of your finger. When you have a mindful weekend and are surrounded by supportive family and friends, you are ready for Monday. You breathe om with inner peace. And you say, “I won’t let the b@st@rds get me down this week.” Bring it on, Monday.