“Well, that happened.” I got down on my hands and knees and picked up all the buttons, because that’s all there was to do. I’d picked up the tin of buttons off my desk to put them away where they belonged. As soon as I had the closed tin in my hand the thing leapt out of my hand, into the air, flipped over, and the lid flew open; buttons fell to the floor scampering in every direction, followed by the tin crashing on wood before it finally stopped moving. This happens a lot – things flying out of my hands. I don’t understand it. I don’t know if it’s part of osteoarthritis or if I’ve got some kind of energetic, kinetic, psychic gift. But when it’s a bowl of cereal that seems to leap from my grasp, turns upside down in mid-air, spilling all its contents before also reaching the ground, it’s irritating.
As, on hands and knees, I picked up the buttons I thought about how not that long ago such an accident could have resulted in me feeling and expressing rage. But this day I didn’t go into a rage. As such, while I worked to pick up every button, I realized I felt humble. Not humiliated, just humble – the task was a humble task. Comparing this experience to rages in the past, it occurred to me that when I rage I feel bigger than everything. Feeling bigger only lasts seconds, however, because the rage is followed by feelings of humiliation and shame for having lost control in a way that repels others. In fact, raging makes me feel as though I’ve lost my mind. I titled this essay “I Dropped My Basket” because it is an old southern way of saying I lost my marbles, I lost my mind, or in today’s parlance, I went bat shit crazy. All those terms are often used in humor, but my experience of raging – of dropping my basket or going bat shit crazy – doesn’t feel funny.
This different experience with the buttons – this being present to the humble task and how I felt humble felt kind of good. I didn’t feel shame. I had nothing to feel remorse about when it was over. And I rediscovered some pretty buttons I forgot I had.
It seems to me that being present to the current moment – whatever the moment – is an experience of openness and vulnerability – even if the moment is filled with happiness or joy instead of humbleness or sadness or even guilt and regret.
This morning I had an interesting moment in which to be present. Joseph was away for the day so, having the luxury of time, I extended my grooming ritual. Halfway through my shower, Daisy, my dog, settled herself on a mat outside the shower door. She didn’t look too happy so I realized it must be raining – even storming. I glanced up through the shower door to the window in the ceiling and caught sight of the downpour. Then I remembered I’d left every window in my (new) car rolled down after Daisy’s and my walk earlier in the morning. In the past the sudden realization that the inside of my car had gotten soaked would have filled me with feelings of embarrassment and guilt. My inner judge would’ve had a field day raking me over the coals. I might’ve even felt shaky racing to the car to fix the problem I’d caused. Not so this a.m.
Instead, I took a moment to decide what to do. I turned off the water and left the shower without drying off. I walked through the house and got my keys. Then, without a stich on, I walked out the front door and up the path through the pouring rain to my car. I never ran or jogged because I didn’t want to fall. Besides, if one is already soaking wet, what’s the point of running through the rain (unless running is pleasurable)? I hadn’t bothered to take the time to put clothes on when I left the shower because our house and yard have enough privacy not to.
When I got to the car I reached in and turned it on but the windows wouldn’t roll up so I pressed on the brake with one hand and hit the switch a second time with my other hand whereupon I successfully rolled up the windows. Then I turned off the ignition, closed the driver’s door, and left whatever was wet inside for about an hour later when I’d take a towel to it. Having a little familiarity with plumbing problems, I know that stopping the flow of water is the first step and goes a long way to solving the problem of too much wet. I figured it could wait till I was dressed. Then I calmly walked back to the house and my shower.
It was when I made the choice to save toweling off the inside of the car for later and felt how calm I felt inside that I realized I was proud of this new and different and better response to a stressful, potentially self-shaming event. The smile on my face and the rain on my skin felt wonderful!
It seems to me that when, as adults, we learn to release self-rejection, self-recrimination, self-neglect, and self-harm – states of mind and emotion that can lead to things like raging – we go a long way toward inviting more self-nurturance and love into our lives – which can lead to things like presence, happiness, and contentment. Love is the only safe place to hang out in life. It includes respect, unconditional positive regard, and compassion, as well as fully seeing and hearing our own selves as well as others. In that place, instead of dropping our baskets, we can bask in the glow of a calm and peaceful mind and heart.