Lessons from the Number Eight

My alarm went off this morning and so I promptly…rolled over and went back to sleep because, isn’t that what one does when an alarm goes off?!

It went off again, but this time my phone said “It is 6:35” and my phone read, “Get out of Bed!”

I still was in no mood to entirely listen to my alarm or the self-help message I programmed it to read, but I did wake up enough to start thinking about my daily to-do’s. This morning, at the top of the list was “WRITE.” “Perfect,” I thought. “I can brainstorm ideas of what I might want to write about and not actually have to get out of bed. Sweet!”

Different ideas came and went. One idea that stuck the most revolved around the number eight. I spell eight because I can’t type the darn number. Apparently, that number key is broken on my keyboard. I learned this the hard way last night when I was desperately trying to log into a website. The broken key got me thinking about life (don’t ask) but I didn’t feel like it would lead me to a full post or any real insight, so I mentally crossed that idea off and went back to brainstorming.

Thirty minutes or so later, without any nugget of inspiration to get me going, I sat down to write and hoped something would just magically come out. I started one idea but stopped and decided to try another so I did what I normally do between ideas – type an asterisk. Which brings us to now.

The darn asterisk key doesn’t work either. Why you ask? Because it turns out the asterisk and the eight are on the same key! And so here I am, the broken number eight on my mind, again, and still no other real inspirations. Kind of ironic if you ask me. Maybe I am supposed to explore the number eight story after all. I am taking it as a sign that I am because I just need to write something, anything and I gotta start somewhere!

Last night I was working on plans for an upcoming trip to Disneyworld. I needed to put my password into the Disney site to change some hotel reservations. Kind of important since the cancellation period was days away! I typed the password over and over and over again and it kept telling me that I didn’t know my password. And I kept telling it over and over again that it was wrong (and probably used some other words too.) I desperately needed to get into the site but I didn’t want to go and change my password because it would be a pain in the ass; the last thing I needed was yet another stinkin’ password to remember! By the way, I would not have normally spelled ass out but again, no asterisk button for those darn s’s.

Any who, I knew I had the right password and I refused to change it.  Instead, I stopped trying so hard to remember the password and sat patiently, trying to think of anything else besides the password.  And voila, it donned on me – maybe the password wasn’t wrong, maybe a key was broken. So I went into word, tried typing the password to see what key wasn’t working and learned it was the now infamous eight. I then desperately went through a twelve-page document I had recently typed to look for a number eight so that I could copy and paste it in for my password. And wouldn’t you know – I magically got into my personal world of Disney.

I chuckled and thought to myself,

“This broken key is like life…YOUR life. When things were off and feeling wrong and things just weren’t working as you wanted, and you didn’t know what was causing things to be ‘broken’ you just needed to take a break, step away, stop trying so hard in that moment, and be well, patient. And when you did…things became clear.”

Last month (and last week and yesterday and last hour, but whatever) I felt like I was slipping too frequently into the “overly-frustrated” with my kids zone. So, I followed my own advice about identifying big triggers and asked myself loads of questions.

“What is going on?”
“Why are you so short-tempered?”
“Are you sleeping enough?”
“Are your expectations too much?”
“Is it you or is it them?”
“Why can’t you find the self control you want?”

“Why? Why? Why?”

At the time, the questions got me nowhere and I hated it. My mind kept saying, “You must know, you must know” and I kept replying, “But I don’t know, I don’t know.” Oh, I hated feeling crappy about myself and my yelling and I just wanted an answer, immediately. I am a problem solver and I like things fixed, fast. I am not very patient (just ask my mother!) I like to stay with a problem until it is solved…and when it involves my feelings, I want them to be solved and be better stat!

Unfortunately, that is not how life works and it certainly isn’t how figuring out big triggers works. Big triggers are not solved overnight. Sometimes not even in a month. Or a few. Or in my case, as I finally did figure out my “big trigger,” well, more than a year.

But how did I figure out that big trigger?
How did I figure out why I felt “broken” and was taking it out on my kids?
I did what I did with the broken key.

I didn’t give up. I remained determined. And…

I took a break.
I stepped away.
I stopped trying so hard.
I allowed myself to be patient with the process.
(And I kind of allowed myself to be patient with myself during the process.)

This seems like a simple story (hence I guess why I dismissed it at first) but apparently, I needed the reminder about the importance of stepping back, slowing down and being patient with life, with myself…with figuring out my life, myself.

I want answers right now to a lot of things. I want answers right now because I want to be in a better place. For myself, my boys, for others. But there is no magic eight ball to give me the answers instantly as to how to resolve the unknown. Just a broken eight key to remind me to be patient with the process, and myself.