On a recent episode of The Middle, the mom Frankie got it wrong. For mother’s day, she thought she wanted the entire day to herself, free of husband and children, to do whatever she wanted to. This was a classic episode of “be careful what you wish for” because all she managed to do that day was fix things that were broken, defrosting things that were frozen, clean things that were dirty. By the time she finally sat down on the couch with her magazine and her baked goods, the fam came home. The day was over. Frankie was bereft.
Frankie got it wrong because having the whole day off when you never have the whole day to yourself is just too overwhelming to be fully appreciated without some advance planning. She was not given enough notice and did not give the day enough forethought to do it right. I am completely familiar with this phenomenon. I routinely screw up unscheduled blocks of time that I unexpectedly have to myself because…because there are just so many things that I want to do that I don’t have the time for in everyday, workaday life!
Have the gift of an unscheduled block of time? Enter the monkey mind, and all can be lost in a heartbeat. This monkey mind mayhem can be wreaked on any special day, not just Mother’s Day. Just thinking about all of the things I want to do: read? Write? Knit? Practice a little yoga? Bake a batch of cupcakes/brownies/cookies? Work in the garden? Sometimes it becomes like diagnosing an illness: a ruling out process that takes so long that by the time an activity is decided upon the time you had in which to engage in it has passed (like what happened to Frankie).
The truth is this: when our family members are not with us, we may have a small undercurrent of worry (What are they doing? Are they safe?), or at least of distraction that gets in the way.
In the end, she got it right. She did want her family around, just (barely) within earshot and eyeshot in the next room, working on a puzzle together, getting along with each other. They had strict instructions not to talk to her or try to engage her in any way whatsoever.
She had the best couple of hours ever.