useable wisdom

First let me say that my day was magnificent. It was! Some things were exhausting. It was rather hot. Poor Dan had some dental surgery today and isn't feeling the best, but other than that. It was a chicken soup, unexpected family, busy, busy bee classroom of a day. Couldn't ask for more.


Until I came home to Mags who decidedly did NOT have a good day. Nothing she wanted to talk about. The Mondays. A case of the blahs. The kind of mood where she traps me into giving my opinion and then gets sulky about it because it was (apparently?) the wrong one.

I made her peel potatoes, because the blues + a teenager + social media has potential to be disastrous, or at the very least, a ridiculously dramatic affair.

"If it's a good idea to say right now it will still be a good idea in 24 hours" is a little nugget passed down to me that she doesn't yet set much store by...and of all the things she didn't love about today, it was the potatoes that almost sent her over the edge.

"All the advances in science and THISSSS is still the only way to peel potatoes?!" And I agreed with her that it does seem perplexing that we can put a man on the moon but potato peeling continues to be a jabby affair, one that the potato does tend to try to escape by leaping into the trash can or throwing itself on the floor. She was not amused, but you win some. You lose some.

Truth be told, this is a mood she's impossible to talk out of. She gets snippy when she thinks she's right about something: a conversation, an altercation, a disagreement ...and she can't let it go. Stubborn, she is. Set in her own ways and I can't fault her for it.

"Somewhere there is a tree missing its apple," Dan likes to say when I am annoyed at Maggie being stubborn as a mule. But in this we are different.

Maggie has not learned the myriad of things that don't matter. A book, a memory remembered differently, a thought, a word...this insistance on her own way. It doesn't matter. What is one thing? One little noun. One little item in the span of a lifetime?

"Maggie won't start an arguement," her 3rd grade teacher--the incomparable Rose Lammert--used to say, "but she won't let it end either."

"Just give her the one we have," I tell her while she peels at the trashcan. "Give yourself the gift of ending this conversation. Who cares?" But she does not yet know the beauty of just being quiet and just letting people be wrong.

I have something I say sporadically that drives her bananas. So bananas, in fact, that I only say it in jest, not in real time with real emotions on the line. I say, "I could agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong."

Will and I, in this, are more alike then Maggie and me. If it takes about five seconds of negative emotion, Will and I have had enough and release it. We, neither of us, need to be agreed with. "You don't need to agree with me for me to know I'm right" is another doozy that makes Maggie's head spin.

But one of these days, her head will catch up to her heart. Her emotion will catch up to her confidence--or maybe it's the other way around. I just hope...gosh, I just hope for her that she learns not to get yanked around.

I frequently coach her using the words of The Desiderata: "Go placidly amid the noise and the haste. And remember what peace there may be in silence."

Every Tuesday and Friday after I settle my students in the pew, remind them to kneel "up"--no leaning back, and give the sniffley ones tissues, and remind the kids in the front row that they are in the FRONT ROW, I take a single second, once in my own place to shut my eyes and pray, "Send Your spirit down upon them and give them peace."

And by peace I mean lots of things. That they don't spend all of mass looking backwards. That nothing on the ceiling catches their eye. That nothing strikes them as hilarious or newsworthy right in the middle of the homily.

And for Mags I pray the same. This stubbornness--it's part of her. But she could still use a little peace. So, prayers, I suppose. For a little lightness of heart. A little peace. A little useable wisdom. For all that the world will tell her differently, it will always sit lighter to be kind and wrong, than unkind and right.


~originally published September 2019

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