My circus, my monkeys.

Each day I spent less and less time with my boys. I didn’t play with them, read to them, or dance with them nearly as much as I used to or would have liked to. There was always something more important to deal with. My job, cooking meals, cleaning the house, and paying the bills took priority. I didn’t even make time for myself.

One weekend afternoon while doing the dishes, I looked out the kitchen window. My five year old was outside in the backyard, all bundled up in his winter coat and gear. He was walking slowly, kicking the snow in front of him, with his head hung low and shoulders hunched. As I continued to watch him, my heart sank to my stomach, and a feeling of sadness washed over me. He looked wistful and lonely. There he was by himself, on a bright and sunny winter day, with no one to play with.

When I think about that memory I realize that it wasn’t my son that had been walking around feeling sad and alone, it had been me. I also recall the guilt I felt over choosing to stay in the kitchen to watch instead of joining my son outside to make snow angels or build a snowman.

Nearly fifteen years later, on the heels of a fourth divorce, I am a breast cancer survivor and single parent of a fourteen year old and an eighteen year old. Amidst a global economic recession, my days are spent at home with my boys because of a government mandate in response to COVID-19. While my sons, one in college and one in high school, attend classes online, I prepare to apply for unemployment.

Certainly looks as if life has again raised its ugly hand demanding its attention. Question is, what kind of attention will I give it this time?

When my boys were young, the attention I gave life was worry, overwhelm, and guilt. I allowed life to distract me from what is truly important. No matter what may be happening around me or to me, what still remains of true value is love, laughter, and playfulness.

It appears that history is repeating itself. Not in terms of events, even though they look remarkably similar, but in being given another chance to choose how I want to experience life despite its craziness. What I know now that I didn’t know back in 2006 is that the only true power I have is choice.

When I take a step back and look at my life and everything that seems to be going on in the world, it reminds me of that expression “not my circus, not my monkeys”. But aren’t they?

My life and the world I see is definitely my circus, and those are definitely my monkeys. And how I choose to experience my life, my family, my work, or even a health crisis is a statement of what I value.

There has to come a time when I hold myself accountable for what I believe is true, what I believe is real. Then through the power of choice, my days can be a reflection of all that I love.

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