Yesterday I woke up early with my list in hand and drove over to Whole Foods to beat the madness of Thanksgiving shoppers and cross this dreaded chore off my list for the day. I'm not usually a procrastinator, but I had been avoiding grocery shopping for the holidays as we have been so busy at LBF. My young niece Isabella reminded me that it's our tradition to cook together, which pulled at my heart strings because I suggested we "do something different" and go to a restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. So, even though I didn't really want to full on cook there I was driving to find a turkey.
I did my grocery shopping, bought pretty flowers, picked up a few fun games for the kids and was thrilled that I breezed through this experience in 40 minutes! This is not typical for me as I usually chat with the cheesemonger for a bit or the flower lady who is always quick to remind me that peony season is not yet here (long story). I was heading to my car in the lot with three heavy bags in tow and saw what can only be described as a monster mini bus trying to squeeze in compact parking in between my vehicle and someone else's. She was one inch short of taking my whole driver's side out and that is not an exaggeration so I shouted, "Hey, hey, hey, STOP!!!" Trust me, it was loud enough for everyone to hear it, including the driver of the monster minibus who had her windows rolled up tight. She stopped. I began the conversation in my head as I walked towards the driver in the minibus. You know the one that starts with a few choice colorful words, thinking "this knucklehead thinks she can fit that giant mega bus in these little parking spots!" I was annoyed that she also managed to park so close I couldn't even open the car door with a key. Anyway, I arrived to my spot and knocked on the window looking inside to see a frantic woman yelling to me, "I know, I know!" I looked in the back seat and saw two babies in car seats. "Let me back out and you can have my spot," I said, but she didn't seem to hear me. Her face was literally buried in her hands now, she was crying. This was suddenly getting real in a way I hadn't planned.
I didn't want to tap on her window again because the babies looked scared and she seemed, well freaked out. I waited until she un-buried her face and she kind of threw her hands up in the air. I made the motion of "roll down your window" with my hand. She did and quickly yelled. "I'm sorry! My mother is having brain surgery today!" She began to sob. This time loudly and hard.
My heart just kind of melted and suddenly I was apologizing. "Hey, it's okay. No big deal, I'm going to move my car out and then you'll be able to fit okay?" I saw her shoulders bob up and down in between deep sobs. I saw the babies eyes grow wider and just terrified. "Excuse me, but do you need some help? It's all going to be okay. It's just a parking spot and it'll get fixed when I back out and you can move in, but it seems you're very stressed and I understand you're worried about your Mom, but please let me know if you need some help." She lifted her head up and finally looked at me and said something like, "okay, okay I'll be fine, thank you, I thought you were going to yell at me so thank you. Thank you for that" and proceeded to back out so that I could get in my car and back out, which I did. Thing is I was going to yell at her initially! I mean she was about to scrape up my sister's car that I had borrowed to shop at the grocery store. I thought she was being a careless holiday shopper. I was so glad I didn't. I made a loop around the crowded parking lot and as I was leaving saw her pulling her babies out of the mini van and make her way into the grocery store looking exhausted and heavy hearted.
Wondering what my point could be? I have two actually. One is, we never know what someone else, a friend or stranger is going through in their life, but surely we can empathize that their strife is worthy of our compassion. Secondly, no matter how stressed we are in our own lives or busy or consumed with our own little worlds we should make it a priority to extend ourselves to others, even if they are a stranger we will never meet again. I went home thinking of that woman. I wished her well. I also wished she could find some sort of peace or balance because I felt her grief and it was intense, her overwhelming anxiety of caring for someone who was ill, but I wished she could have realized she should have stayed home. Her emotional state was probably not suited to deal with Thanksgiving shoppers at WF or pissed off drivers on the road (or in my case parking lot). Maybe she felt responsible for preparing a meal, maybe she needed to get away, who knows? All I know is that I shared a very raw moment with a stranger and I think we both understood how fragile that moment was and how it could have turned out worse, but it didn't.
Life is a tricky thing. We walk around with chips on our shoulders, agendas in our heads, places to go, things to prove. When it all comes down to it all we really need to show one another is our humanity. We are all the same wherever we are. We all want the same things, we all love someone or something. We want to hug our babies and kiss someone goodnight. I'm glad I was able to put my ego aside and see the person behind the mini bus/parking lot incident. It's not always the easiest thing to do.
It's Thanksgiving day and I have a turkey in the oven already as we get ready to celebrate with friends and family. I feel happy today and am mindful that I am lucky to have so much love, good people around me, delicious food and that I am alive and well right now. I've worked real hard to have a new perspective about life because I have fought difficult battles of darkness (and to be truly honestly, I still fight), but I am happy and grateful today and it counts.It really counts. I am wishing all of you reading this right now, wherever you are and whatever you are going through moments of peace in your life as well. If you burn the turkey or have a fight with your brother's wife or you are in a battle with something I hope you take a moment, breathe deeply and feel some happiness and gratitude to be alive because there is always another opportunity and another chance to make it all better. There is always hope.