You know you’ve had a rough go of things when you come home from working all night to find a cop waiting at the end of your driveway and your first thought (after the instinctual “Oh shit!”) is “At least it’s not CPS”.
My life has been stressful and a little bit harder than usual lately. To be honest I’m feeling somewhat beaten down by it. I try not to complain (much) because I know and fully understand that many of my problems are a direct result of the choices I make and some are temporary sacrifices for eventual gain (hopefully!) but this whole adulthood shtick, it kind of sucks. It seemed like the adults in my childhood were having way more fun than I am now.
As I was driving home form work this morning I was feeling especially wallow-y. I had made a mistake with my schedule that caused me to be an hour late for work last night. That’s an hour I can’t afford not to work and ,of course, my yearly review is coming up soon. I was mentally berating myself for not paying more attention to the work schedule, which I had plenty of opportunity to peruse, at the time it was posted when I noticed the vehicle blocking my driveway. I pulled up alongside the SUV saw that it was a city police officer, she was busy filling out some paperwork. I rolled down my window and all hopes of simply being able to ask for the vehicle to be moved a few feet to allow me access to my drive quickly shrank as she inquired if I lived there. Saying no seemed like a bad idea; I was way too tired to park around the corner and wait the lady out.
The officer explained that there had been a complaint about a car parked in front of my house, it looked abandoned and there’s a city ordinance prohibiting abandoned vehicles. I told her that I was planning on scrapping the car but had been waiting for the title to another car that was being scrapped with it and that I’d get it off the street as soon as possible. Thankfully she only suggested that I move the car, even just a few feet, every couple of days and did not write me a ticket. She had every right to as that car does in fact appear abandoned. It’s been sitting in the same spot for a while and I’m not sure if it even starts anymore. Weeds are beginning to grow up around it. I should have thought to weed around the junk car. Maybe that would’ve helped. Too late now I guess. In general my house does not look great from the outside. The bushes in front are way too tall, my yard is mowed less often than all the others, the porch has lost more paint than it’s kept at this point and some of the boards are starting to warp, there’s a loose one on the top step that pops out of place, every couple of days I kick it back in line with the others but that’s the best I can do right now …When I look at it all I think “Stereotypical single mom house” and feel slightly embarrassed. I’m not even attempting to keep up with the Jones but I would like to be able to take pride in my home and how it’s kept. I’m just not there yet. There’s only so much I can do, right?
The enormity of it all (the whole house, not the pseudo abandoned car) was weighing heavily on me until the next door neighbor poked her head out the front door, probably for the inevitable comment about the cop in my driveway. I was preparing to explain the reason for the visit and formulating my excuse for the eyesore of a car that’s been in front of my house for the better part of a year but every once in a while God or The Universe or Chance, whatever you call it, sees exactly what we need and sends it out to greet us on a somewhat shitty Saturday morning.
Instead of asking about the cop my neighbor told me that she had met this officer before, that she talked to her and suggested she to “be nice” to me. “I told her you’re a single mom with five kids, that you’re a great neighbor and that you and your kids are really nice”, the neighbor said. This same neighbor’s husband just a few days earlier had offered to take his weed hacker to the long grass around the edges of my back yard. He began with “I don’t mean to offend you…” (a phrase that immediately makes one think “Oh shit, what happened now”). Both that day and right then I felt grateful for their kindness and generosity.
A few minutes after I got into the house a lengthy text from the across the street neighbor came in. His son is buddies with my youngest two boys. He’s helped me with my cars before and often pays my eleven year old to do yard work he could easily do himself. He told me that the town’s police department had inquired about my car and that he informed them it was mine and I was looking into fixing or scrapping it. He also mentioned that he told the officer I was “a wonderful neighbor and the car wasn’t a problem”. I had to laugh a little. Here I was feeling down and out about the stress of my life and my own short comings and in less than ten minutes I got some, albeit small, affirmation from two different neighbors that I was okay and my mess wasn’t actually bothering anyone.
Yes, I know, that’s not exactly what they were saying. It’s what I heard though, what I needed to hear. Sometimes life gives you a little sugar to sweeten the lemonade you’re making.
I work in a residential rehab facility for people who have traumatic brain injuries. Most of the clients are there because at some point their perfectly normal day-to-day lives were interrupted by some catastrophic event (mostly car accidents) that literally could happen to anyone at any time. It didn’t happen to anyone though, it happened to them and now they have to live with some level of assistance for the remainder of their lives. Some of them have severe physical disabilities to go with the brain injuries they received in their accidents. Often, when I have the chance to learn more about these people’s stories, I’m struck by the optimism and even gratitude they have (despite the typical, petty complaints that those of us who work there often hear). We all can take a lesson from these guys and find gratitude even in things that are overtly terrible. I’m not talking about cheesy, every cloud has a silver lining bullshit that is often said with a fake, overly enthusiastic smile and a “bless your heart”, I’m talking about a real, genuine sense of thankfulness. Gratitude.
If you Google “what is gratitude” a definition pops up at the top of the page. It tells us that gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”. Gratitude is not just a feeling of being grateful, it’s also an action. A change. A readiness to return kindness.
So, yeah, my life feels like it sucks sometimes. But if you’ve learned anything about me from this blog maybe it’s that I think feelings in general are bullshit. They lie to us and make us do some pretty stupid things (I’ve got a crappy eleven year long marriage that can attest to that). Even when life feels wrong and way too hard there is kindness and something good somewhere…maybe you just have to open your eyes and look outside of your own sad self to be able to see it.
…and just one more for the road, because science is so cool!
If you’ll excuse me now, I’ve got to call a tow truck about a potentially abandoned car.