Seriously, how did this become a post about moments in my car???
Yesterday as I was heading out for errands, I found 3 kids running a baked-goods stand in front of their house. I pulled over to see what they had and how much, and told them I'd try to find some cash while I was out. Traffic was horrible on the way home - I-5 was messed up, so everyone was using the backstreets around our neighborhood. Needless to say, by the time I reached my street, I didn't really want to deal with the kids, their wares, or finding the money to buy anything. But I stopped anyway to make sure they still had some left. Then I went home, dropped off dinner with Eric, grabbed 2 dollars from our change jar, and drove back for some sugar cookies. (Yes, I felt guilty driving, but I was *hungry* and I'm a slow walker - and I didn't want my dinner to be cold when I came back!).
Their mom had shown up since I first saw them, helping them count money - they were almost sold out! Their dad was messing around with his truck and he came over to wave at me with this goofy grin on his face. When my cookies were delivered to my car door window, I admonished her for not asking me if I wanted fries with that. She actually giggled.
On the way home I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face. I've never really cared for sugar cookies, but these were delicious - Eric let me have both of them for myself.
At some point when I was out this weekend (lots of errands!), I think it was the Lowe's parking lot, I hopped in my car, started up my iPod, and U2's "All I Want Is You" started to play. I sat there, remembering my wedding day. Someone once told me it was the most choreographed wedding they'd ever seen. I honestly only spent 10 minutes a few days before the wedding deciding how I was going to walk. It starts very softly with just Bono's voice and a quiet guitar. I stood around a corner where no one could see me but one co-worker. He grinned and made "come on out" motions with his hands. I just smiled and shook my head, closed my eyes:
diamonds on a ring of gold,
your story to remain untold,
But all the promises we make,
from the cradle to the grave,
When all I want is you
Cue some louder guitar, all alone without a voice now, and I step up to the threshold to look out at everyone and they can see me. I start walking forward when Bono starts to sing again, louder this time:
you'll give me
a highway with no one on it,
a treasure just to look upon it.
All the riches in the land.
you'll give me
eyes in a moon of blindness,
a river in a time of dryness,
a harbor in the tempest.
but all the promises we make
from the cradle to the grave
When all I want is you.
I meet Eric just as the lyrics end and the guitar swells. It's not an entirely sweet song, but mostly it is. And I cry every time I hear it. Because everything that song means to me, the way it describes my feelings for my husband, has become a million times more strong, more resonant, more true.
I cried in my car. Put my head on my steering wheel and wept. With a smile on my face.
My iPod is psychic. Kind of. It's more like the great DJ in the sky shows himself at odd moments:
I looked everywhere for my Portishead CD to listen to Roads while I drove in the rain. No luck, but when I plugged in my iPod and his play, Roads started to play.
I'm addicted to Muse. Especially their song Time is Running Out. I got into my car intending to find that song on my iPod, but when I turned it on, it automatically went to my shuffle-all playlist before I could do anything - and that was the first song there.
About 36 hours recovered from depression, I hopped into my car and the song that I walked down the aisle at my wedding to began to play.
On the day of our most serious relationship crisis, we hopped into the car to go on a road trip alone for some healing. A few minutes later - we hadn't even gone a mile - the song that was the first dance at our wedding began to play. I can count the number of times I've heard Depeche Mode's Somebody playing on a radio with two fingers.
I decided last summer that yes, the most important thing in the world to me right now is Eric and starting a family with him and making sure we are both happy. The most important way to do this is also the easiest: stop moping around, and take responsibility for the house like I promised so many years before. Make sure Eric doesn't have more to stress out about than work, because work stress has become almost impossible for him to bare anymore.
Heather also reminded me to do nice things for him. Somewhere in my head I knew that was part of it, but it didn't really click until she said it. So I wake up in the morning happy, do the dishes, then have some breakfast. If I watch TV, I finish before 2pm because that's when he takes his lunch break and watches ESPN. I clean up after myself, and when he's forgetful, I tidy up after his lunch. When he says or does something small and annoying, or something that makes me a little angry, I pause and take a deep breath. I try to remember that it's not important to point out that he's left the lights and TV on again. When my brain auto-translates his man-speak into something mean and/or selfish, I try to remember how to re-translate back into its original language so I can more accurately gauge what he's really saying.
I also have tried to take over driving duties when we go out together. Sometime in the 90s I got fed up with being so stressed when I drive. I was screaming all the time, arriving at my destination furious and tense. I started only listening to classical music in the car, making an effort not to take everything personally, remember that just because 10 people cut you off on your way to work it was not one person jeopardizing your safety over and over - it was 10 different people in 10 different moments of not quite paying enough attention. I thought of the silly mistakes I make when I drive - I do something dumb, I feel bad for a moment, but then I forget it because I need to focus on driving. I tried to imagine all those mistakes happening with the same person following in the car behind me. He would be really ticked off, but they're still 10 different incidents with no correlation to each other.
I took to heart a quote I found from Oscar Wilde (that turns out to really be from someone called M.L. Plano - weird): "Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity. Don't assign to stupidity what might be due to ignorance." I taped it to my monitor at work and everything. I just discovered there is a 3rd line to that quote, which is quite snarky and thus hard for me to imagine it was not written by Wilde: And try not to assume your opponent is the ignorant one -- until you can show it isn't you.
To make a long story longer (!), it did change my attitude about driving. I still have my moments when I talk to myself about stupid drivers, give people dirty looks, and/or yell at people that can't hear me. But they don't happen every time I'm in the car, let alone multiple times per trip (unless there are lots of really, really stupid people out there at one time...!).
As Eric's stress level has increased, his yelling in the car has grown as well. For a few years I let it bother me, complaining internally. Then one day I realized that instead of telling him for the 20th time how easy it is to remain calm while driving if you don't take everything personally, I could just remove the stress itself. That's when I started driving for us. Sometime I relapse and get lazy, letting (read: insist on) him do the driving. And every time I do, I am rewarded with lots of reminders of why that's such a bad idea... For once something that's self-reinforcing is helpful!
Today as I was out on another errand, I was looking to see if those kids were selling cookies again. They weren't. Instead I saw a family walking towards me on the grass that should have a sidewalk paved on it but doesn't. They were really walking to a girl of about 10 years old who had gone ahead. She was standing under my favorite cherry blossom tree in the neighborhood - I've decided it's the perfect shade of light pink for my yard ambitions. And exactly as I was parallel to her, at the last moment before I had to look ahead at the road again, she reached up on her tippy toes, looking up into the branches, and trying to catch a few flowers.
It was one of those perfect moments that you wish you had a camera on you. But you don't, so you just have to savor it in your mind. Sometimes I'm guilty of the reverse - having a camera and spending too much time snapping photos and not enough time enjoying what's in front of me. Today, after that moment of original chagrin, I'm very happy that I didn't have my camera with me.
How can it be possible for one person to so quickly change from moping listlessness to someone so happy and open to the small joys in life? There are many moments in my life, small moments, that have brought me happiness in the midst of depression. Sometimes they are even enough to kick me out of it. Usually not. These moments are so much more powerful when you're on an even keel yet still so sensitive to recent depression. The depression leaves behind a kind of psychic bruise, making you flinch when something doesn't go your way, and then you're surprised that it didn't hurt or mess you up the way it would have just days before. Then there are the moments of happiness, that to most people are just happy moments, that become treasures because they are so acutely opposite what was so recently killing you inside.
Happy tears can be embarrassing, but you never, ever forget how you felt in that moment.
In gratitude: the downtown Seattle tree-lighting ceremony, that tiki restaurant in Wallingford, a squirrel on the UW campus, Collective Soul, a lazy river, sugar cookies, U2, Depeche Mode, little girls and cherry blossoms.