Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Wake Up Call

I rarely watch Oprah (way too new-ageish for me most of the time) but watched an episode the other day and am so thankful I did. I truly can not get it out of my mind.

The show was titled "Overwhelmed Moms" and her guest was Brenda Slaby. Brenda was a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, and an assistant principal at a middle school. She was busy busy busy and always on the go. She tried hard to be "Supermom", had perfectionist tendencies, and spent most of her time and energy taking care of and seeing to the needs of others.

One day in August of 2007 she left home early on morning with lots on of her mind because it was the first day back for teachers at her school. Her husband had a dentist appointment and asked her to take their youngest daughter, 2 year old Cecilia, to daycare to save him some time. She loaded sleeping Cecilia into the backseat and headed to daycare. As she pulled up- she realized it was too early to drop her daughter off, so she decided to take care of another errand first- and stopped at a donut shop to pick up donuts for her teachers.

Once she picked up the donuts, with her mind racing ahead to all of the millions of things she needed to accomplish that day, she headed to work- forgetting about her sleeping daughter in the backseat. She proceeded to arrive at school, unload her things, and went to work. Eight hours later someone discovered the toddler in the parking lot and teachers frantically called 911 before attempting CPR. But it was too late for Cecilia.

After watching this story- I went to Oprah's website and read some of the many comments people had left after it aired. I think people have one of two very strong reactions to hearing this story. They are either outraged and think "What a horrible woman! How could a mother forget her child?" or they are sympathetic and think "Oh my goodness, bless her heart. What a horrible accident!". I fall into the second group.

As I watched Brenda tell her story I cried. I cried because I could see how heartbroken she was. I cried for the pain and stigma she will live with for the rest of her life. I cried for her sweet baby who died a horrid and awful death. I cried for her and for her husband who feel such guilt. I cried because I realized how easily our life's distractions can cause us to make a tragic error. I cried because sadly I could see how this happened.

Watching her story made me think of all of the times that I have walked through my daily life, without really being present in the moment but more engaged in what was on my schedule next. It made me think of how often I am doing one thing- but am completely and totally focused on another. It made me think of all the times that I've been trying to do several things at once and ruined one of those things. It made me think of all of the times that I've been somewhere, doing something, but got finished and didn't even really remember anything about it- because I was so focused on thinking of the next thing I had to do.

Norman Fischer (some sort of Zen expert- which is random and not something I believe in at all- but he did say a few really good things) was on the show and he talked about how overwhelmed moms today are and how we try do so many things-often running around like a chicken with our head cut off- all without asking for help. He said something that really made me think.

Though our society stresses the importance of being able to handle multiple tasks at one time, there is no such thing as multitasking. Instead, we switch from one task to another. This switching prevents us from being able to do one task with any intensity or commitment. Whatever you are doing. Do it. Do it completely. Bring your whole attention to it, Be present in everything that you do."


His words stung.

They stung because his description is ME.

And that? It makes me sad. Sad for God, sad for my family, sad for my friends, sad for me.

I'm not a believer of consequences. I believe that God places things in our path for a reason and I am thankful he gave me a wake up call through this woman's tragic story.

And now it's my job to work hard at slowing down- at enjoying the moments of my life, instead of just working to cross another thing off of my to do list. To be fully present and give my full attention to whatever I am doing. It won't be easy for me but I know the rewards will be great.