Challenge your palate today. Visit the grocery store or farmer’s market and find something you’ve never eaten. Is there a funky-looking vegetable you can’t even identify? Will you have to ask the produce manager what it is and how to cook it? How about a spice or sauce with a name that’s hard to pronounce? Get out of your comfort zone and into the kitchen.
Many years ago, I lived in an old house on the side of a hill in a wooded valley. My boyfriend and I were restoring this old house, and frequently had heaps of old lumber to dispose of. There was a large field to the south of the house, and one autumn day we made a burn pile there.The wind was high, the grass was dry – and you can imagine what happened.
To our horror, our fire began to spread through the grass, the line growing longer and longer.We tried ourselves with rakes to stop the fire from spreading, but to no avail. As if to make matters worse, the wind picked up; the fire was now racing up into the woods, which were full of dry leaves. Being an intelligent and resourceful person, I had had few experiences of making a mistake I could not fix myself (and easily cover up), and this was a humbling and frightening experience. Obviously we had to call for help.
Fighting fire in a rural area involves men with tanks on their backs going where trucks cannot go. We had to stand helplessly by while the fire companies from all the surrounding communities sent their fighters up into the woods. There were houses up there. I will never forget the sick disbelief I felt at what I had done, and the anxious hours (yes, hours!) we spent waiting to learn if the fire was completely out, and wondering if we should have called for help sooner. To our great relief, nobody was hurt. No houses were burned. All the same, I spent weeks punishing myself for being so stupid, so careless, so – so everything bad I could think of, as if I were a person who was to make mistakes. I felt the shame that only a smarty-pants can feel when caught in a mistake, made even worse by knowing that shame had kept me from making that 911 call sooner.
What I know now, of course, is that none of us are free from bad decisions. Intellectual courage helps us to recognize when our brushfires are beyond our control, and ask for help. As my daughter approaches puberty and greater independence, I hope she will keep this story in her heart.
Robert and Emma* liken their declaration of bankruptcy in 2007, the resulting loss of their house and all their possessions as a result of Robert’s failed business venture, to having the skin removed from their bodies. That painful, yet also, incredulously, freeing. They and their three teenage children managed to come through the financial crisis stronger, clearer about their purpose in life, more loving and accepting of one another, and with a renewed commitment to family time and family fun. They both said, many times during our interview, “It’s all just stuff. The only thing that matters is the love in your family. We had a wake up call to make our family our top priority—not our careers.”
*I’ve changed Robert and Emma’s names to protect their privacy.
They did not shield their children from the financial crisis their family faced. Instead, they chose to tell them the whole truth of their situation, whilst at the same time educating them about financial responsibility. They developed a family savings plan that would get them back on-track, and everyone in the family contributed as they were able. The kids were free to ask questions, to seek reassurance, and to participate in most family decisions—as appropriate. They all had to make sacrifices, adjust to smaller rental homes and very few extras. At the same time, they made a commitment to sharing at least one meal together each day, to spend time in nature to restore their spirits, and have fun together at least once a week. They relied on friends, a structured daily rhythm, and modeled the hard work and courage necessary to build anew.
May it please me that my mercy may overcome my anger, that all my attributes be invested with compassion, and that I may deal with my children in the attribute of kindness, and that out of regard to them I may pass by judgment.
~ The Talmud
Say YES! To EVERYTHING! Don’t tell your kids in advance, but it won’t take them long to figure out that the word “No,” is not in your vocabulary today. You definitely want to set yourself up for success with this one, so it might not work today. But soon. Pick a day when you have no have-to’s on your schedule, and just say yes to life. Chaos may well ensue.
For a funny take on this approach to life, try the movie Yes Man with Jim Carrey. Caution: rated PG-13.