The Pep Talk
“I know a woman!” I shrieked in the car this morning. “I know a woman who was so poor she had to steal food from a dumpster in order to feed her children!!! A dumpster!!!!!” The kids were silent in the back seat.
“And do you know who she is now?” They did not. “She is a hero!!! She’s a professor! She is a WORLD LEADER! She won a Nobel Peace Prize!!” I shouted, thinking of Tererai Trent, completely unaware as to whether she has actually won a Nobel Peace Prize -- (she has not; at least not yet).
I was deranged yet restrained; somehow in control of my own hysterics -- witnessing them rather than lost in them. (Go me!)
“A Nobel Peace Prize!!!!” I reminded them. “And do you know how she got that way!?”
“She worked hard?” my daughter offered.
“No!! Well yes. But also -- she had a positive attitude!!! A positive attitude!!!!!!” A positive attitude, like me.
“She BELIEVED in herself,” I told them. “She BELIEVED that things can change! You can never accomplish ANYTHING great if you don’t first believe it can happen!!
“And that’s why I am SICK. And TIRED. Of everyone’s negative attitudes!!!!!!!!” I was like the Gordon Ramsey of motivational speakers.
“And I’m not saying things won’t ever be shitty. SOMETIMES, you’ll be in the middle of a PANDEMIC and your DADDY just died and you are running late to work and your children are wearing mismatched socks with FLIP FLOPS!!!!”
I couldn’t see the kids in the mirror but let’s assume that they were blinking blankly and referencing their feet with mild concern.
“And IT IS OKAY TO FEEL HORRIBLE when stuff like that happens! Actually, you need to feel horrible sometimes; you need to feel those feelings!!!!” (Those feelings that I never want you to feel, but which I know will make you stronger, and more real.)
“And whenever you’re feeling horrible, then you can be like, ‘Damn, this SUCKS rite now!!’ Just don’t say that in school. Okay???!” Crickets. “I said, okay????!”
“Okay,” they squeaked. They were thinking about all this… they were listening, I could tell. (Because I was centered enough to tune into them.)
“But even WHILE you are feeling so bad like that,” I continued, “You still gotta stay positive!!!! You need to remember that this time in your life will end! Because every single bad thing ends!!! (Even death, it ends in peace.)
“In life, there are hills and there are valleys,” I told them. I used my right hand to illustrate. When you’re super sad, down in a valley, you gotta remember that things will go up again!" Back up into a hill.
I rephrased my point: “‘Dagen er aldrig så lang, at det ikke bliver aften,’” I declared. “That means, ‘The day is never so long that it doesn’t become evening.’ (This was one of three Danish 101 phrases to emerge intact from college... The other two phrases being, “I am American” and “Let’s go shopping!”)
“EVERYBODY’S life has ups and downs!” I shout-splained. “So I am sorry but it’s not just you!!! Sometimes every day -- we all go up and down. Up and down. You just gotta roll with it!”
I was certainly rolling with it myself, like how a boulder rolls off of a cliff and crushes things.
“Don’t you see???” I demanded of them. “We ALL feel horrible, at different points in time. And the fact that we all feel bad at different times is GOOD. Because then, we can take turns lifting each other up!
“And I KNOW, that it’s a little bit harder now, because everyone is feeling testy with a pandemic going on.”
“But we can’t go around feeling sorry for ourselves. Because feeling sorry for ourselves will make us feel, and act, even WORSE! You gotta CHOOSE a hopeful thought! You hafta have FAITH that things will be okay!”
Because they will, because they will.
“When you are feeling down you don’t give up. You just rest. First you stand still, and breathe, and REALIZE that you are feeling down. Then you remind yourself that this is normal, and makes sense, and then -- and this is key -- you get through it by showing yourself love, and compassion, and self-care. And then, the valley will end. And that OPTIMISM is your positive attitude.
“And then other times you gotta WORK at climbing out of that valley. You have to WORK to make things better. And that’s when you need a positive attitude too!!!!!!!” I concluded with great aplomb, like I was closing a deal on a van down by the river.
Now shut the fuck up, I told myself.
We drove silently, for a second.
“You are right,” my son said suddenly, which surprised me. Mostly he only says, “poop.”
“Okay mommy,” said my girl.
“Thank you,” I said. And holy shit.
We landed at the babysitter’s. I could not believe they had probably listened to me!!! I had raised my voice in a good way. Nobody was mad at each other, or anything! I had done tough love, WITH love. I kissed them goodbye, told them I loved them, and watched them walk -- okay, well technically waddle -- away.
That night my daughter took out her journal-book called letters to my mom. In it, there are prompts for different letters you can write to your mommy. She left it for me to find, in the entryway. The prompt she chose said, Dear Mom: “From you, I learned the importance of…”
In orange colored pencil, she had answered: “You only can akomplis something you thnk posbil.”
Inner peace, tender love, and forward leaps through the lowest valleys…. they’re possible.
**image from NBC