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Changing the Thought

Last night my commute home stretched 40 minutes longer than its usual 2 hours. It was 8:00 p.m. when I pulled into my driveway and all of my built up stress began to boil over when I saw the garbage cans still sitting by the garage.

Sometimes I feel my stress turning into anger/sadness/frustration when I don’t even want to be angry/sad/frustrated over the situation. Does that make sense? Do you ever feel that way?

You see, it was garbage night- the night when my stepson is supposed to put the cans out by the street for an early morning pick-up. Like the rest of us humans, he resists the work he doesn’t want to do. More than that, he’s 12 which means, unlike adults who begrudgingly do the crappy chores anyway because we have to, he sometimes doesn’t give them a second thought.

My mind immediately turned this into something bad that I had to do. Not that I had to take out the garbage, it was that I had to go in after a long day and gripe and push and prod to get a stupid little chore done. I don't want to do that.

But as I got out of my car it dawned on me- I didn’t have to go in and immediately harp on my stepson about the garbage. Who says I have to do that? I tried to change the thought (a little trick I learned from Deb Owen’s Creative Pathways course).

I took a deep breath and decided to haul out some of the garbage myself. There was enough there that it would have been overwhelming for my stepson to do by himself, anyway. I left the last little bit so he could still get a star on his chore board for the night and, therefore, get paid for it at the end of the week.

With a milder mindset, I walked in to the house, called out “hello,” and put my stuff down. My husband came running to hug me (I love that!) and my stepson said, “Sherri, I need help with my math homework.”

I whimpered inside with all kinds of comebacks swirling in my head. Again, rather than lash out or speak any of those awful thoughts, I breathed. I looked at my husband and calmly asked, “Will you please let him know I just walked in, I haven’t yet taken off my coat, and I’m not ready.” Then I hung up my coat and sunk onto the couch for a few minutes.

My husband did one better. He helped my stepson with his homework. My mind quieted.

While looking at the math problem he said, “Your dinner is on a plate in the refrigerator with foil on it.” (My in-laws have taken up cooking dinner on the two days a week I commute to New York- yay!) I felt my body relax a little.

As I walked into the kitchen I found my stepson already pulling the foil off and heading to the microwave. I was surprised and felt my body relax a little more.

When I set the timer on the microwave, my stepson was back at the refrigerator asking what I wanted to drink. I could have cried happy tears from the weight being lifted from my shoulders. By the time I finished eating, I was feeling calm and cared for. Almost ready to face the world again.

Once homework was complete, I nicely asked my stepson to please take the garbage out to the street. I let him know there was only one can left. He asked, “Did you take some already?” I detected hope in his voice. Who knows? Maybe he was relieved to have some help, too.

Sometimes the universe (or your family) gives you exactly what you need. I am so grateful for that… and them.

And to my mind who tried to take me to a dark, mean place, I have this to say: I’m not afraid of you. I won’t let you bring me down.


  1. I'm not sure why...but the part where your step son was going to the fridge to ask what you wanted to drink...brought tears to my eyes... :) Those are the sweetest moments and it's nice when they come when you need it most.


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