Hugging a stranger, beginning again

Hugging a stranger, beginning again

I love the new year. I love a fresh start. “Tomorrow is always fresh, with no mistakes in it.” Anne Shirley. That’s the beauty of a new year, isn’t it? A time to focus not on accomplishments, but on who we want to be as people. To reevaluate ourselves. To be kind. To be slow to anger. To love.

Well, here we are, three days into the new year, and I’ve already yelled at a complete stranger, and slammed the door in their face. Is it too late to go back to last year? Is it too early in the year for a redo?

Let me back up a bit.

It was just a stressful morning all around. Noella woke up at 4am complaining that her ear hurt, which means no one went back to sleep, at least not really. Yesterday morning we were up at 3:45am because an inconsiderate neighbor chose that particular time to set off their fireworks (hold me back), scaring and waking up the household, which in turn had naps off any kind of preexisting schedule, and crankiness on full throttle. So that’s two back to back mornings in a row of before 4:30am wakings. I was on hold trying to book a client’s trip this morning, dancing around little ones pulling on my pant leg, and reminding Noella that we don’t pee on the carpet. The kitchen table was covered with yesterday’s oatmeal smeared on it, there were dishes everywhere, I was still on hold, Shilo’s screaming just to hear her own voice these days, and I’m just counting down the minutes until someone (me, them, anyone) naps. I try not to live my life in a perpetual countdown towards sleep, but honestly, some days that’s what I live for. (File under: you shall have no other gods before me. Along with a good show to binge, a night out, quiet, QUIET!, a hot hazelnut latte, a vacation to look forward to, etc.) I want to live while they’re awake, I don’t want to wish the days away with naptime, as necessary as it is on some days. Especially yesterday and today, with the UNGODLY wake up times. (Mini rant: WHY would anyone set off fireworks at 3:45 am on Thursday, 1/2? I shall now pass the time thinking of irritating ways to wake them up as a thank you and plot the ultimate payback as both girls scream in their state of overtired… BE KIND JENN. “LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR” Isn’t a suggestion. Darn it. AGH! Sleep. Why are you a god?)

Anyway. Day 2 of everyone being tired and off their nap game, and I’m not choosing to be the March Mother of Little Women. (I want to be her. I want to be Marmee. Soft spoken but fierce in raising her girls. Giving to the poor. Helping soldiers. Being intentional. There to listen. Kind.) I was the opposite of her, and I’ll just say it- having the worst attitude of the year. I mean, we are only on day 3, cut me some slack.

Meanwhile, everyone was finally and hopefully settling for a two-for-one special on naps, the rare treat when I have that QUIET I pretend not to worship. Then (and there will be no exaggeration) someone RINGS MY DOORBELL TWO TIMES IN A ROW, and not only that, THEY KNOCK TWICE like they’re a long lost cousin who just flew in from Afghanistan after three consecutive tours. They RANG TWICE AND KNOCKED TWICE as if there was a news crew out front and someone holding a huge check and balloons, or like my mom flew here to surprise me, and had to make enough noise to match her exuberant enthusiasm. I was half bothered by the noise at the door, ESPECIALLY while naptime was desperately needing to take place, but I pushed my irritation aside, and let my curiosity take over because this level of door racket must surely be for a good reason.

WRONG AGAIN. It was someone selling “multi-purpose cleaners so strong they even clean grass and blood stains”.
Me to Shawn in my most extreme voice: “answer the door and tell her to never come here again.” (I should clarify that this was the third salesman I’d had at my door in the past two weeks. Three too many if they’re going to disturb my slumbering babies.)
Shawn to me: *backs away from the situation*…

Me, opens door and yells at the woman to “NEVER COME BACK HERE AGAIN”. When she starts in on her pitch (remember the stressful morning and the being on hold and the two cranky babies and the fireworks and the SO TIRED RIGHT NOW? It’s no excuse. I yelled at her to “NEVER COME BACK”, and then I slammed the door. I could hear her wishing me a happy new year, and I yelled back through the door “Don’t wish me a happy new year through my door!” I’m sure at that moment Shawn was contemplating sedating me or something of that nature. I turned around and saw Noella standing there, Shilo sitting there, both stunned at my behavior, and clearly wide awake from the energetic door circus.

I marched back in and sat down at the kitchen table trying to convince myself that was an acceptable way to act, a mature response. I felt so much guilt I couldn’t even lift my fork to finish eating. YES I was mad, yes I was irritated. Yes I was exhausted. YES she woke up two sleeping, or at least trying to nap babies and the morning was a turbulent one in many ways. But my girls were watching. And if there’s one thing I want to teach them, it’s that we can always begin again. So I threw on my slippers and marched out the door. I scanned the street and found the lady two houses down. “Ma’am!” I yelled, waving my arms to catch her attention. She just stood there, unsure of how to respond like when a wild animal approaches you. She started to turn and walk away and I yelled to her over Kenneth’s driveway, “I’m sorry I yelled at youuuuuuuuu!” She softened and walked toward me and in the street she said, “Do you need a hug?” “Yeah”, I said, trying not to cry, assured every neighbor was watching out their window. “It’s just been a really long and rocky morning”, I went on. “But that was no way to treat you and I’m sorry.” “It’s just a reminder, she said, that we never really know what someone’s going through.” “That’s so true”, I said. We chatted for a minute, right there in the street. I still didn’t buy any “multi-purpose cleaner so strong they even clean grass and blood stains”, but I did come back in and tell Noella what happened. That I lost my cool, yelled at someone, but went and found her to say sorry and she gave me a hug. Hopefully, as we move forward into this fresh start [with lots of mistakes in it already], we can remember these few things:

– That even as Marmee references in Little Women, it took time for her to learn how to be calm, gentle, and level headed.
– Don’t be too proud to hug a stranger in the street, no makeup on, in your slippers, and bedhead flying wild.
– Be the first to say sorry, it can lead to beautiful things.
– Show your children what it looks like to admit when you’re wrong/crazy/rude/selfish.
– Don’t treat people as inconveniences. Love them instead.
– That it’s never too late to START AGAIN, to BEGIN AGAIN, to TRY AGAIN.
– That God’s grace may just very well be on the other side of that door.


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