Originally published February, 1997, in Connections Magazine. Revised 2018.
Sometimes you just need a rainbow.
Let's just say it was one of those weeks--the kind of week that comes with taut and pinched neck muscles. Mine had hardened and squeezed until the tendons running up and down were painfully brittle, producing the sensation that every ounce of blood trying to reach my brain must be blocked, because I'm living in a constant state of pain and pressure, feeling like I am about to explode from lack of oxygen to a major organ. Kind of like this:
This was the kind of week where everything I encountered seemed to take one more whack at my tension headache.
Suddenly, my thirteen-year-old daughter is the adult and I'm stupid. "Mom. All of my friends have two holes in their ears and get their nails done."
"Do all of your friends play basketball?"
"No. What does that have to do with anything?"
"Well, ever jam a finger on a basketball? Or have your earring tugged out in a game?"
Eye roll. "No."
"Well you will. You don't need to complicate things with acrylic nails and extra holes in your ears. Besides, I'm not paying for it."
Thirteen-year-old eye cock. You know the one. "You are so stupid."
"Yes. It's surprising I've lived this long."
"Well, duh." Off she goes in a huff.
We had meatloaf for dinner that night. Not a popular choice but hey, I buy the groceries. This time, my son voices his needs. "Meatloaf? Mom, you never cook anything good!"
He gets the look. "So what's good?" I felt brave.
"You know. McDonald's."
I was about to break into a nutrition speech and then backed off. Besides, the pounding in my neck was migrating to my head now and I wasn't sure the lecture was in me. "McDonalds," I echo. "Great." So remembering this the next night when I'm working late, I call home. Maybe I'll score a few points with the kids. "I'm picking up supper," I tell the kids' father. "What do you want?"
"Anything but McDonald's."
I rub my temple. Go figure.
I head out of town for the day job. A couple of days later, I discover that my family does quite nicely without me while I'm gone. Somehow the cat litter got scooped. The dishes were washed. Laundry was done and wet towels were hung up.
I grinned. Had I finally trained them?
Then just as my four-day headache started to dissipate, it all fell apart.
Suddenly no one knows how to hang up a towel, dip the cat box, take out the garbage.... No. Mom's home. Remember? Somewhere along the line, I had failed. I had trained them all right. Trained them that Mom will always be there to pick up after them. Ugh.
Then my daughter informed me she liked the way her father handled things while I was gone. In fact, she was just going to go to her dad from now about "stuff."
"What kind of stuff?"
"You know, things like fingernails and the double-ear piercings."
Inside I'm thinking, Good luck with that. My verbal scoff, however, wasn't very pretty. You don't want to know the rest.
Putting home life aside, there is, of course, the day job. I'd been away from my desk and things were piling up. Messages to return. Appointments to keep. This person needing that, and that person wanting this.
Deadlines are looming.
My boss wants a meeting.
And then it rains.
No matter. I deep dive into "get 'er done" mode, skip lunch, work late, and before I know it, my neck muscles start popping, pain shoots north and south, and all I want to do is curl into a fetal position and let the world slip by while I fantasize about a cruise in the tropics. With Tom Cruise.
But I head home instead, my head pounding and my shoulders aching, bracing myself for the onslaught of "What's for dinner?" And "You are so stupid." And praises for dad when...
Simple. Pure. Beautiful.
Red. Yellow. Blue.
Green. Orange. Violet.
Uncomplicated and pleasant. And in such poignant contrast to the gray thunderheads behind it.
A simple reflection of my life? I stop the car and watch. Absorb. Take it in.
The tension in my neck dissipates. Dissolves. Each tendon lengthens and expands as if savoring an anticipated breath. My facial muscles relax. My head clears.
I inhale. Exhale. Again.
I take another minute. I watch that momentary and mind-altering display of primary and secondary colors meld and fade into gray. But no matter--its purpose clear. I head home, my pace less-hurried, my attitude adjusted, breathing a little easier.
And you know, I decided right then and there that sometimes you just need a rainbow.
Have you found your rainbow this week?