“Like Marie Curie discovered radium, like Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine, today, after a year of loading and unloading provisions in the dark…I just discovered there IS, IN FACT, a light in the cargo area of my CRV. I assume my “International Medal of Brilliant Awesomeness” is already in the mail.”
I posted the above on Facebook this week. I have been driving my Honda CRV for over a year now. And in that time, I always wished the cargo area had a light. I have loaded in baseball chairs in pitch-dark ballpark lots, I have loaded groceries in dimly-lit parking lots, and unloaded those same groceries in my dimly-lit garage, grasping vainly for the bottle of detergent in the back, and trying to distinguish the handle of a shopping bag from the arm of my spare sweatshirt.
It was just such an occasion that prompted my epic discovery this week. As I grumbled through my fourth expedition into the depths of my cargo area, to retrieve groceries I was too tired to get in the first place, but forced myself to, because I was out of essentials like frozen waffles, I was cranky. Bags had slid to the back, stuff had tumbled out behind the camp chairs, and I had to physically climb into the back to reach around and find everything. As I put my foot up on the bumper to climb in, I barked at the world, “It’s RIDICULOUS that there isn’t a light in here! HOW DO THEY EXPECT ANYONE TO SEE ANYTHING?!? This is the stupidest…” At that moment, I looked up to avoid hitting my head as I climbed in, and what do you think I saw about three inches above my eyes? Yep. A light.
My reaction was something like this: “Oh.”
I had assumed, since a light came on every time I opened the other doors, but nothing ever came on when I opened the back, there must not be a light in the back. A logical assumption, if I were, say, evaluating the limited data returned to me from an unmanned space flight to Jupiter on a 1940s Sci-Fi radio show. (A+B=C.) Kind of a dumb assumption when evaluating data from a vehicle I drive every day. (A+B=Probably Should Look Up And Check If There Is A Light.)
I made another discovery recently. A discovery on the scale of that glorious moment when “You got your chocolate in my peanut butter.” and “You got your peanut butter in my chocolate.”
I discovered the keypad for my garage door opener takes a battery.
Several years ago, the keypad outside my garage, that allows me to open the door with a code, suddenly stopped working. It had worked for years, like over a decade, and I had never replaced a battery in it.
I had assumed, since I had never changed a battery in it, and there were wires coming out of the top that led to the opener, it must be hard-wired for power and if it’s not working, it must just be broken.
I assumed that for several years, until, annoyed that I had to carry my keys with me when I went jogging, I stopped and looked at it closer. And there, hidden in plain sight, right on the front, was a screw. I opened up the case and what do you think I saw? Yep. A battery.
My reaction was something like this: “Oh.”
This next discovery was not an “Oh.” moment, but rather, something that has taken me years to realize.
When I was a kid I assumed two things.
1. ADULTS KNOW EVERYTHING!
2. LIFE IS EASY WHEN YOU’RE IN CHARGE OF IT!
After all, as a kid, adults were running this whole show, and I wasn’t having any problems. My meals appeared before me three times a day. I always had clothes to wear. There was always a can of Planters Cheez Balls in the cabinet to snack on.
What did I know about grocery shopping? In my world, you put on your mom’s hat and your grandpa’s boots, grab your oversized purse and your orange shopping cart and shop for your groceries in your living room.
You stored your “baby” in the corner of your bedroom, and when you were in the mood, you plunked her into her plastic baby buggy, grabbed your purse, and pushed her down the hall to the “playground” in the living room.
And that purse you grabbed was always equipped with the accessories every girl needs, a candy bar and a kleenex. If you were really into it that day, you might also include paper-drawn credit cards and play money. You always had enough to buy everything you needed or wanted, and if you didn’t, you just drew up some more. You didn’t have to work for any of it.
My job when I played “office” in my bedroom involved a play-table desk stacked with leftover first-grade worksheets my teacher let us have at the end of the school year. My workday involved signing papers, putting paper clips on things, chatting with invisible coworkers, and driving to lunch in my pretend car. There were no deadlines or customers with impossible requests or disagreements over who’s responsible for cleaning the microwave. Oh, and incidentally, my “workday” was only about an hour long.
LIFE IS EASY WHEN YOU’RE IN CHARGE OF IT!!
My teachers could explain long division and how the settlers built covered wagons. My grandparents could tell me exciting stories of adventures long ago. My mom could tell me how to spell any word I asked her. My dad could tell me how to hit a softball.
ADULTS KNOW EVERYTHING!!
Only, guess what I’ve discovered?
Adults don’t know everything and life isn’t easy when you’re in charge of it.
Grocery shopping after a long day at a job that involves more than paper clips and stacking first-grade worksheets is exhausting.
It’s hard to get everything done. Harder sometimes to be cheerful while doing it.
Nobody has it together all the time. Not even the people who look on the outside like they do. We’re all just stumbling along here, learning as we go.
We all do kind of dumb things sometimes, like not looking up to check for a light.
We assume things we shouldn’t. We make wrong decisions. We eat the wrong things. We skip our exercise. We push ourselves too hard. We don’t credit ourselves when we should. We don’t stop to enjoy this moment before moving on to the next one. We work too hard at some things and not hard enough at others. We don’t ask for help when we should. We don’t always accept help when it is offered. We react in ways we wish we hadn’t. We make mistakes. We get frustrated. We get tired.
Nobody’s doing it all, and nobody has it easy.
Never assume you have to be in the dark, without looking around for the light. Never assume you have to be out of energy, without trying to find another power source. And never assume you’re the only one who has a hard time making it to the end of the day in one piece with a shred of sanity still intact.
Also, if you have kids, which I don’t, but I was one once, so I speak from experience. If you have kids, don’t assume they will fall apart if you don’t appear to know everything and have it all together. Chances are they won’t even notice. They probably think you put candy bars and a kleenex in your purse before you head out the door every day. Just like they do.
They won’t remember that you were frustrated when you washed an ink pen in with the laundry, or completely forgot to pay the water bill this month, or that you yelled at them for taking too long to get out the door and into the car when you’re in a hurry.
They will remember that you read them a chapter from their favorite book every night before bed, and that there were always Cheez Balls in the cabinet.
I now know the Cheez Balls don’t get there by magic. Neither do any of the other million things that need to be done in order to keep your life afloat and moving forward. But, I also know, and take comfort in the fact, that there are millions of other non-perfect, non-magical adults all over the world struggling to do the same million things I am.
If we could all put our collective heads together, though, and make that shopping for groceries in my living room thing a reality, it would be much appreciated.