How about a dose of reality? Back to school is back to stress for many parents and children. It is an abrupt end to the stress-free, schedule-free, carpool-free, long summer days and a harsh entry into new situations, busy schedules, carpools, homework, and rising levels of anxiety.
This fall, my family added one more challenge to our already hectic start to the school year - we adopted a new puppy. I knew that this would be a big addition to my already full load. So, in anticipation of adding one more living being to care for, I decided to put my best foot forward and embrace the “present momentness” of being a new dog owner. As I was dealing with all of the back to school chaos, I also found myself rushing home throughout the day to walk the dog, clean up his occasional "messes" around the house, and make sure he too was fed and cared for. I admit that I felt "my cup runneth over," and not in such a good way. Then, this happened . . .
I was outside in my backyard with the puppy in between drop offs and pick ups, phone calls and work meetings, feeling rushed and harried, when all of a sudden I heard a loud thump right behind me. I thought I had nearly missed being hit in the head by a branch falling from high above as I ducked down to avoid injury. When I uncovered my head and turned around, I realized it was not a branch at all, I was shocked to see a very large and very alive ten-inch fish that had literally fallen from the sky just a few inches from where I was standing. It was alive, bloody and still flopping. I immediately thought of the ten plagues and I asked myself, "What's next - - frogs or locusts raining down on me?" Once I wrestled my brain away from biblical gloom and doom, I thought perhaps someone was playing a sick joke on me. I then thought, how lucky I was that the fish did not fall directly on my head. If it had hit me, I would surely not be writing this right now and would instead be lying on a couch in a psychiatrist's office.
Not knowing what to do next, I noticed our little pup licking his chops and running towards the squirming fish. I quickly grabbed him and took him inside the house, a near miss of yet another messy and disgusting clean up. I then took a deep breath and tried to figure out how to get rid of this unwanted addition to my backyard, still in disbelief that I was nearly assaulted by a fish. I realized that I was now very late to meet a friend for a lunch date - - - at a SUSHi restaurant. Gazing at this little fish making his last few efforts to stay alive, I felt paralyzed, not knowing what to do next. As much as I would have loved to heroically saved its life, I was feeling overwhelmed, disgusted and still in a bit of shock. So, I called my friend, apologized for running late, and told her that I could not possibly eat sushi for lunch. Upset and bewildered, I left the fish to the wildlife in my backyard, hoping never to cross its path again.
I came home several hours later and quickly returned to my backyard to see how this story would unfold, hoping that no evidence would remain of this bizarre incident. But, OH NO, no such luck. It was still there, now dead and covered with bees. My nine year old was a real trooper and agreed to help me get rid of the fish and send it back into the sea (actually into a tiny river in my backyard) for a proper burial. I asked her to go inside to get my phone to document the event while I armed myself with gloves and a giant snow shovel. As most 9 year olds with good intentions do, she was eager to help but forget to close the door when she went inside. With the door wide open, my little puppy came running outside and, before we knew what had happened, he had the ten-inch fish hanging out of his mouth. With gloves, an iPhone and a shovel in hand, we ran furiously after him trying to catch him and remove the dead fish from his mouth. For some reason we were also screaming at the top of our lungs. We must have looked ridiculous! In fact, the dog was so shocked by our behavior that he dropped the fish and simply ran from us. We quickly grabbed him and returned him to the house and finally we could scoop the fish up and return him to the sea.
This bizarre incident was an undeniable reminder that sometimes in the midst of the chaos and stress of life, we have a choice of whether to laugh or to cry, to become overwhelmed or to recognize that "this too shall pass." Sometimes the utter ridiculousness of our circumstances can be overwhelming, even paralyzing. Instead of falling into a deep abyss of panic or anxiety, it is helpful to simply take a step back, let go of the notion that we actually have control of the situation and just laugh. This was my reminder during this hectic time of year to laugh, take a deep breath and to watch out for fish falling from the sky.