In spite of the seemingly never-ending stress that seems to accumulate as the days pass, my Buddhist tendencies manage to alleviate and ignore it. However. Lately I’ve become so entrenched in the hardcore daily grind of worry that Buddha’s been shushed – his exquisite mouth covered with black electrical tape – and instead, mindfulness forgotten, I’m the screaming banshee of the year.
Angry at the dog, because she’s not peeing quickly enough and I have to get out the door. Angry at my son, because he’s being sarcastic and fresh, instead of the lovely, cooperative seraph I wish for him to be. Angry at my daughter, because…because…well, I’m not sure why I’m angry at her, damn it. Give me a minute and I’ll think of something.
Getting out of this angry phase – or as I like to call it, the let’s-take-out-our-frustrations-on-everyone-closest-to-us-and-see-how-far-we-can-push-them-before-they-snap phase – can be tricky, if not impossible. Usually I’m the one who snaps, and I flee to my room, face in my hands as I pitifully sob and ponder my existence, and where I need to be existentially-speaking, and why, as it turns out, I’m such a bitch.
After two days of losing patience and yelling and being bitchy, we three went to the grocery store together as a last ditch effort on my part to somehow enforce the normalcy of our lives as a family, doing regular things such as putting a gallon of milk in the cart, and noshing on the sample buffet, and questioning whether we should get the strawberry-kiwi or the peach jug o’ juice.
While pushing the cart away to its inevitable place in the cart sardine can, I spotted a young woman standing outside the store. She was crying.
My kids sauntered down the sidewalk in front of the line of stores, twisting their small bodies in a kind of child-dance as they went, my daughter turning in circles, her arms outstretched. They stopped at the next storefront, momentarily perplexed. What is Mom doing? Why did she stop? What Is Happening Next?
I approached the woman, wondering what to say. I felt as if there must have been something, anything, to say. I reckoned she must have been terribly sad, standing there in front of the store, tears running down her cheeks, her hands shaking, her shoulders lifted in grief as if she were trying to disappear, but remaining unequivocally visible, her sorrow scattered on the sidewalk, systematically flattened under the feet of every stranger that passed.
Standing in front of her. “Are you okay?” I asked idiotically. Of course she’s not okay, I said to myself. Fantastic. Now I am bitchy and idiotic.
I reached out my hand and lightly rested it on her arm. I had the sudden urge to hug her, but felt as if my hand on her arm reeked of impropriety. I withdrew it and stood a moment longer. Feeling foolish, I turned and walked away toward my children.
My son had a zillion questions.
“Who was that? What were you doing? What did you say? What did she say? What’s going on? Who was that?”
“She was crying.”
“Why was she crying?”
“I don’t know.”
I looked back. Face in her hands. Sobbing.
We walked into another store. And walked out again with our purchase. I casually glanced over my shoulder before we crossed to the car.
She was gone.
Where did she go? What had happened? Did someone take her home? Did she walk away? Would she be all right?
I had a zillion questions.
Everything seems so fragile, since that day, a few days ago. As if all I need to do is just touch something and it will shatter. So my touch is soft, and I’m treading lightly on the ground. I’m looking deeply at people, and they look like angels – like soft, sweet angels, with hearts so soft and brittle, they might break if I’m not careful. As though, if I’m not careful, they’ll blow away with the force of my hot breath, crumple and fall away into stardust, until the heavens are full of them. If I’m not careful, I’ll blow a breath out and the stars will crash down in buckets, washing away like a gentle rain.
I must be very careful.