He Is Not The One

You are standing in the airport lobby, fists balled at your sides alongside your luggage, smarting with fury and disappointment. The hubbub around you is a blur as you grind your teeth and hold back hot tears, wrenched from your own stupidity and the damning futility of having dared to believe.

You just got dumped.

He had invited you to stay the weekend, a few months after you had met one hazy, late summer weekend in Nantucket. You bought a plane ticket, some new clothes and you fell hook line and sinker into that dangerous playground of hope and anticipation.

And why not? There were sparks. You had connected, could talk for hours on the phone.

So off you flew, into the lair.

The first 24 hours were divine. But it slowly nosedived from there. Then he dumped you.

It’s me not you and all that.

And here you are, among the faceless travelers rushing from A to B, seething with disappointment. At first, rage at him for being so spineless, for not being brave enough to take you on.

There, in front of the Delta check-in desk, you fought the self-loathing, targeted squarely at your pathetic foolishness, such an infantile romantic. The sheer stupidity of daring to think that he might be the one. Dumbass.

You loved someone before and he didn’t love you back. Didn’t you learn from that experience? At least he didn’t give you pause to hope. His was love cloaked in friendship. But it hurt.

This time around, it felt like you had due cause to let hope in. But you were wrong, and you were wronged. Stupid, stupid you.

He is not the one.

(You don’t know it now – as you take a deep gulp, pick up your bags and your self-esteem, and board the flight home – but The Real One, well he’s actually waiting in the wings. Give it a few weeks, and you’ll see.)

A Lesson in Losing

Yesterday I stood by and watched as my kids were kicked and punched.

It was their first karate tournament and they were sparring. They’d practiced for months and today was the real deal. There were trophies to be won; there was pride at stake. Both kids thought they were each pretty good. Neither was nervous. My daughter calmly informed me she was “pumped up.” They weren’t cocky, just self-confident, assured that they knew what to do in the ring, no matter the belt, size or gender of their opponent.

This was also my first rodeo as a karate mom. Actually, it was my first time as a mom at any form of competitive kid’s sport. My kids might not have been nervous but I was, unsure of how to build them up, but not too much. Worried about their fragile egos. Hopeful they might win. Scared they might lose.

All around us were other parents, some new to this gig, some old-timers. There were those who quietly directed their kids, up close, looking them in the eye, reminding them of their lessons. There were those who were chill about the whole thing. And there were many vocally coaching their kids from the sidelines.

“Use your crescent kick!”

“Let him come to you.”

“Go on the attack!”

That wasn’t me. In truth, I wasn’t sure what to do. I tried to catch my kids eyes before they went on, giving them a small thumbs up of encouragement. Mostly, I watched mutely from the sides, mildly terrified, unprepared for this role and the psychology it would demand.

I don’t think it ever crossed their minds that they might not win. But let me tell you, receiving a “participation” trophy is a phony substitute. One kid took home two of those suckers. The other took one. They regarded these trophies with disdain, evidence of their not being good enough. There were tears of frustration and disappointment. Then to our surprise – and even his – my son took third place in his last match. His face lit up, and he fairly grew an inch with pride and delight. As if his earlier assurance had been warranted. His smile said “See, I can do this.”

At almost 8 years-old, my daughter had the hardest time repelling that ineffective phrase “It’s the taking part that counts.”

I wanted to win. But I lost,” she sobbed.

I wanted to provide all the justification in the world, encourage her to use this moment to look around and observe what it takes to win. To remind her that, with effort and practice, those trophies could soon be hers too. I feared she’d want to throw in the towel, abandon her karate altogether. Instead, I decided the best thing to do was to just hold her and let her absorb it all.

Because letting them fail is something we have to do, as parents. It’s a bitch of a lesson but it’s a healthy one.

The best part? She shook it off pretty quick and her happy spirits returned. And her brother, fortunately, didn’t gloat over his win.

I’m sure they’ve filed yesterday’s experience away. I’m hoping the next time they “suit up” for karate, it’ll be maybe with a little less confidence but a whole lot more determination and respect.

As for me, I’m also going to need to thicken up my game-day skin if we are all going to come out of these tournaments unscathed. It’s been a solid lesson in losing for me too.

Turning Crappiness into Happiness

Some days it’s tough to keep the glass half full.

Take this morning, for example. I wake up with a stinking headache and stuffy nose. Then, in the space of roughly 90 minutes, during which there are four people to corral, dress, feed, wipe, organize, please, pack lunch for, find shoes/mittens/hats, brush teeth, repeat commands over and over …etc, etc, my husband and I somehow try to squeeze in meaningful discussions about important stuff like money, kids summer camp, kindergarten registration and our plans for a spring all-inclusive family vacation somewhere in the sun.

Big mistake. Frustration. Disappointment. Tears.

Not the best way to start the day.

In the car en route to work, I start the process of giving myself a good talking to. Accept the complexity and the challenges. Deal with disappointment. Find alternatives that could work, even if they are not ideals (set aside dreams of lazing under the Caribbean sun, pool-side, sipping cocktails while kids are being entertained….) Let it go. Resolve to find better times to have these important discussions. Deep breath. Put on my smile and get on with the day, grateful for my loving family, employment, income and good health.

There now, that’s better.

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