Saturday, February 03, 2007

Karma's Kick and Life Lessons

So maybe I felt a little too sorry for myself over the last couple of weeks. Husband gone, one mom staffing this lone parenting outpost and urban farm by myself, trying to do it all, not exercising as much as I usually do, and that always puts me a little more on the edge. But underneath it all is the layer of knowledge that I have a good life, a wonderful life, a filled with abundance of family, friends, activities, good times, and yes all the things that make life easier (money, a roof over my head, healthy food to feed our kids, that kind of thing). But I was feeling sorry for myself, and that's probably why I got a swift karma kick to the rear this week.

In one day, an amazing number of things happened to remind me of all that is truly important. It started in the early afternoon. After our morning karate class, I stuffed my van full of 4 families' kids and took us all to the park to enjoy the sunny weather. We had so many kids in the van that my friend K. (whose kids were part of the menagerie) rode her bike and met us there. The kids ran around like crazed animals and a good time was had by all. On the way home in the middle of the road, an older gentleman had fallen out of his wheelchair, so we pulled the car into an alley and K. and I got out and helped him back in.

Lesson #1: Can you imagine how helpless you would feel if you fell out of your wheelchair in the middle of the road and couldn't even stand up to get back in? So Robin, you've been complaining about how hard your workouts were this week, how tired your legs were feeling. Don't you really think you should be appreciating your long, strong, healthy, go-the-distance legs?

Later I went to work at the pool with one of my coaching clients. After I was done with coaching, I donned my cap and goggles and settled in for a few laps. Because I've been a lifeguard and swimmer for more than half of my life, there's a third eyeball somewhere on my head that always keeps track of where people are in the pool area, especially kids and elderly people. A kid that was bobbing up and down in the hot tub disappeared from view and I stopped mid-lap. His mom was in conversation next to the tub, and I couldn't see his head. Turned the bubbles off in the hot tub and sure enough he was under water. There's a ledge that goes around the outside of the tub and he had probably just slipped off of it and into the water that was over his head. With the jets on, the water is so bubbly you couldn't see him at all. He was fine, just a momentary scare. I'm very grateful for that 3rd eyeball.

Lesson #2: Do you really take the time every day to appreciate your kids? I feel so lucky that in my unschooling life with them, we spend a lot of time together. I get to be involved in their projects and passions, watch them play and interact. But even so, in two weeks of solo parenting, I probably snap at them more, get irritated at the constant chaos and mess that is living with young, active, eager and curious kids. Every day is a gift. Even every mess is a gift. Every blob of toothpaste spilling out of a tube with no lid. Remember that, Robin.

After swimming I go into the locker room and shower. There's a wallet and keys on the counter when I go in, still there when I get out of the steam room and then the shower, still there after I get dressed. After calling around to everyone in earshot, I take them up to lost and found.

Lesson #3: Don't forget to be thankful for the life you're able to live and the money that makes it possible. You might be alone Robin, but it's because your husband is out there somewhere flying, making a living that enables your life to be relatively easy. You know what it's like to live with no money, and even with no house and no food other than some Top Ramen and government-surplus rice and cheese. Like that lost wallet, such things can come and go quickly in life and you know this too.

I ride my bike towards home, I stop at my friend's house to pick up my son. We start walking towards home in the dark. Up ahead in the round spotlight of a street lamp, a man staggers into an intersection, face bloody, and falls down in the middle of the road. We rush toward him, pulling out my cell phone and dialing 911. The man is about my age, crying, face a bloody mess, smelling of alcohol from 10 feet away. He's sobbing something about his wife and kids leaving him. I don't know how or why he's injured, or what his mental state might be (other than distraught). I move my son a safe distance away, and every time the man's hand goes toward a pocket, I tense. Another cyclist stops, then a motorist, three neighbors come out of houses, one goes back for some blankets. We use our blinking red bicycle lights to keep traffic away until the police and ambulance arrive.

Lesson #4: Tragedy and sadness abound in life. Everything we think we have is temporary. Today is what matters. Even in the face of tragedy, the kindness of people can become a healing balm. Feel thankful that you live in a city where people come out of cars, homes, off of bicycles to help a drunken bleeding man in the dark of night. Community and basic human kindess are the answers to many things.

It was a long day, and at the end of it my mind felt more blank than anything. The day swung from beautiful sunshine in a park to blood and vomit on a dark roadside. It has taken a couple of days for the lessons to be revealed to me. Today, I hope I can walk forwards with a new appreciation for all that I have.


Donald said...

What an amazing day. Thank you for sharing all the fine lessons. You have great perspective.

TriJack said...

quite a series of potential tragedies there... wow! we all at times need a helping hand, and we all at times have a helping hand to lend... nice post robin

TriGirl 40 said...

Thank you for sharing some true lessons - of why we should be grateful for all we have - and how we should never take it for granted.

Ginger Breadman said...

What an amazing post, after an equally amazing day. Funny how karma seems to work that way - sending you messages when you need them the most. Your post really made me think about life and all I'm grateful for.

13akbal said...

Wow, what a day. Thanks for sharing and keeping things in perspective.