Patience, Anger, Compassion


They are exhausting. Children. My children. Children in general. Just exhausting.
Don’t get me wrong; they are the moon and the sun, and I love them. It’s just that the entire world seems to revolve around them. I am a team player – I try to look out for the family as a whole. Children are intrinsically more self-focused.
My children focus on their wants.
I get that’s how they are wired.
I get that I ought to accept the world as it is.
I get that.
But I also get hella annoyed.
Today, I was on the phone with a state collection agency. A bill had come in, but I didn’t know anything about it. I thought it was a property tax increase that wasn’t calculated in the mortgage. It wasn’t, as I figured out from the letter. They wrote that they were willing to suspend my license and garnish refunds from the IRS, so I knew it was more serious.
I was speaking with a rep who explained that it was a delinquent bill from three years ago on an unpaid motor vehicle charge – a red light camera. I didn’t commit that moving violation. I know that. My friend Ryan did. The ticket was sent to me with a picture from the red light camera, and it was of him. I had called the state after I got the bill, and they said I didn’t have to pay it.
Do you know anyone who has files so organized that they could find the paper trail on this?
I don’t. I might be able to pull my 2014 or 2015 file and find the original violation, but I doubt I have the name of the person who told me not to worry about it.
Now they are threatening to revoke my driver’s license and impound a vehicle!
So I’ve got a choice to pay it with extra fines attached.
Quite a choice.
Of course, this is when Emmett puts a page of math homework in my hands. Meanwhile, I’m talking with Karen at the Oregon Department of Revenue and trying to be pleasant.
And, I didn’t mention, I have a challah that I’m making because I like to make braided egg-bread as part of my preparation for sabbath, but not this week, I don’t like it.
I shove all of my frustration down and try to motor through.
I write myself a virtual IOU for ignoring my feelings, assuring myself that it’s worth it and that I’ll pay the emotional loan back in a moment when I’ve resolved this.
I less than gracefully put the paper on the table.
I tell him off-mic that I’m dealing with a problem and I’m frustrated and please not to ask right now.
But what does he hear?
I don’t know.
But somehow he gets the message that if he just puts the math worksheet into my face I will do it.
I turn away.
He tracks where my eyes are and moves the page continually so I can’t ignore it.
Perhaps this is a fun game. I can imagine him and his friends sticking stinky socks in each other’s faces like this.
I am not his friend.
I push the page and his growing-but-still-little arm away a little more forcefully than I would imagine Mr. Rogers ever would.
I snap, “Emmett, give me a moment. I’m a little stressed here.”
I see him deflate.
Now, I’ll have another mess to clean up –my son’s bruised ego.
I start to give Karen my credit card information – with the collapsed hope that after this I will be able to call the courts on Monday and get this overturned – when I look at the time. Crap. I have to leave to pick Annie up from school. I plead with Karen – the lady at the state agency –to call me back on my cell phone. She says she will.
Jane and I pick Annie up from school on Fridays. Because we are trying to be good parents. But Jane has an appointment until later. So, I have to take my eleven-year-old with me to get Annie.
Karen doesn’t call back.
I try to get him in the car.
Because we have to go.
Because I don’t want to be late.
Karen still hasn’t called back.
I need him in the car.
Emmett is on “slow” speed.
He can’t find his shoes.
I get more frustrated on the way to getting him into the car.
Now, I will have to start again with the state. But it’s Friday afternoon and I’m not certain I’ll have enough time. I don’t want to. And, I don’t want to have to start with it all again on Monday.
Finally, when we are in the car, I try to explain to him what is going on with the bill because it seems like the type of thing he should know about. I don’t know; maybe he doesn’t need to know. He says, “That doesn’t seem fair.” I feel a little validated.
Karen calls back. Phew. I use a headset while talking with her. I give her a credit card number.
A few hundred dollars out the door. My license will not be revoked.
I wonder about asking Ryan to help out as he is the one who ran the light, but heck, he was doing me a favor driving my kids to an event.
30 minutes later, back in the house, Annie “helps” me make braid the dough for our Friday night dinner.
It’s so much more difficult with her help, but I’m committed to doing it. Because I’m trying to be a good parent.
She drops a glass – and it breaks.
She screams and cries.
This, amazingly, is her favorite glass.
I didn’t know that it was even on her radar until now that there are glass shards on the floor, and I have two kids and dogs and now more of a mess that’s mine.
But before I can clean up, consoling her has now become the new top priority.
I’m upset because what I want isn’t what I’m getting, and what I’m getting isn’t what I want.
What I want is escape. Beer. Pot. A bourbon Old Fashioned. Something to take the edge off. Xanax. A joke. A bath. CBD gummies. Some combination of these. A fantasy about an alternate universe. Something different. Something other than this.
I’m supposed to be a spiritual leader?
People often tell me that they wish they had more patience.
I feel the same way. I wish we all had more patience.
Here is my new thought about patience and acceptance:

Patience is not a beast we can slay and master.
Rather, patience is an adversary ever rising to do battle with us again.
The universe seems to conspire to always test our mettle.
We level up, we have more patience that we ever have had, and, again,
the situation arises demanding yet more and more of us.
We cannot win against patience.
At best, we can keep our calm for longer and longer than ever before.

I am certain your life is similar.
I am certain that life conspires against you and demands you do things you didn’t want to do.
Let us again take stock.
Let us again take a breath.
Let us remember that life is not for the weak and that this is hard.
Really hard.
But, I did it. I managed to take a break from my frustrations. Friday night. A respite from being frantic.
After Jane got home, we lit candles, blessed wine and bread, ate, and laughed. We had a non-rushed sabbath dinner.
There was a respite.
There is always a respite.
I got frustrated again later about cleaning up. And, shortly after I got cajoled into letting them watch a show downstairs, I sat down to write out my frustrations.
It’s the break between the frustrations that’s the moral to this tale.
Whether you would agree that I had the right to be frustrated doesn’t matter.
Whether you think I ought to have acted differently than I did doesn’t matter.
What matters is that we are compassionate to ourselves after we lose our sh*t.
What matters is that we keep track of the blessings –even if in the evening they accounted for a smaller-than-usual percentage.
The kids are laughing downstairs with Jane. I think they are watching weekend update. It’s not my favorite, but, I’m going to join them.
With love,
Rabbi Brian

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