Free Spirits At Home

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is FRAZZLED. A couple of days ago, searching for something else, I came across this story posted five years ago. Since it fit’s the topic, I’ll give it a rerun:


I’m peacefully reading my book, but glance up when I hear my youngest two arguing. They seem to be in a struggle to pull one of the Luv-U bears apart. Youngest son Accord clutches the teddy bear’s leg in one hand; his other hand is entwined in his big sister’s hair and he’s yanking hard. Simplicity’s pulling away, slapping at her brother, tugging at the Bear, and screaming blue murder.

“Peace! Peace, you two,” I say in my loudest gentle voice.

I see Simplicity grab her Precious Peace figurine; I do believe she’s about to smack her little brother on the head with it. “Simplicity, chill out!” I bellow.

She pauses, looks up at me and begins to wail. “Accord keeps grabbing my teddy bear! Make him let go.”

“It doesn’t matter if he takes it, sweetheart. Just find another toy to play with. You need to keep a calm spirit. And, Accord, you stop pulling your sister’s hair. You are causing her stress.”

Suddenly I hear another screech as if something’s being slaughtered in the kitchen. I set my book aside and see Softness, our cat, come tearing through the room, fur all on end. Our oldest son, age five, tears into the living room in hot pursuit.

I managed to grab him as he runs past. “Cool it, Solace. All this stress is bad for Softness. She might run away from home.”

“I might, too, if you don’t let me be a free spirit and do what I want.” How has that boy gotten so sassy lately?

He tugs and twists, trying to wriggle out of my grip, but I plop him on the couch beside me and order him to take five. When he continues to writhe around I tell him as serenely as possible, “If you try to get off that couch I’ll sit on you.”

Oh, now Simplicity’s wailing again. Her poor Luv-U Bear obviously needs an trip to the toy hospital to have a leg sewed on. With a very “stirred” spirit she chases Accord across the room and pushes him hard. He falls right on top of one of the pails I’ve set out to collect the drips from our leaking roof.

“Hey, you two! You’re really sweating the small stuff.” Water run into the cracks between the floor boards. “Look! Now it’s going to be dripping in the basement. Will everybody please just take deep breaths and relax.” I demonstrate.

Solace pipes up, “Sure, Feather Brain.”

I glare at him. Feather-brain! Where do my kid learn these things? I’m about to upend him and smack his bottom when I realize this would really be sweating the small stuff. After all, these are only words, right? I can’t allow my spirit to get worked up over a child’s hurtful words or I’ll be setting a bad example.

Still, for one moment I wondered if the writer of that note really knew what he was talking about. Had that person ever been a parent?

You see, back when I was twenty I was walking down the sidewalk and I found this note. Of course I was curious, so I picked it up and read: “The Key to True Happiness in Life.”

Oh, wonderful! I was a frazzled worry-wart at the time. As I read that title I was thrilled to know that I would finally learn the secret of having a happy life.

Below the title were these instructions:
If you want to be truly happy in this life, you need to seek serenity.
Learn to relax, to keep calm amidst all the hustle and bustle around you.
Take time to marvel at the beauty in small things, to smell the roses.
Count to one hundred when you feel your spirit is stirred.
Release all your anger and hostility into the Universe.
Don’t let yourself be disturbed by rumors or strife.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Smile. Let yourself be happy.

I was totally blown away. How different from my life at that point! I mean, here I was in college to become a teacher, and working a part-time job to pay for my education. Talk about pressure! In fact, at the moment I found this note I was actually hurrying to get to my job on time.

But this little writing changed everything. Why should I rush through life? So what if I got to work ten minutes late? My boss shouldn’t be stressed out over such a minor thing. So I not only slowed down, I actually stopped to smell the flowers in some of the planters en route.

My high-pressure boss was in a bad mood when I arrived, though, and complained about me getting to work late. I showed her the note and said, “Isn’t this a beautiful philosophy of life?” But she just grumbled and told me to get busy. Talk about stressed! A week later she fired me.

Before I spied this note I was trying so hard to keep my grades up, but from then on I didn’t let small things like numbers get me worked up anymore. “So what if my marks are poor,” I told myself. “I’m a very smart person. I don’t need a number on a piece of paper to reassure me of that.”

Sad to say, my teachers weren’t into Serenity. A couple of them took me aside and told me if I didn’t pull up my socks I wasn’t got to make it. Well, that was stressful, right? So I just dropped out. If they couldn’t accept me the way I was, tough!

In time I met this really great guy who also subscribed to the whole Serenity lifestyle. We started living together — no names on a piece of paper to shackle us. We thought it would be neat to change our names to reflect our beliefs, though: he called me Songbird; I called him Harmony. And life was bliss for our first nine months together.

He’s tried several jobs since and so have I, but as you know our whole Western society is built around making money — which leads to pressure and anxiety galore. What a hassle! We decided to go on Welfare so we could concentrate on tranquility.

My folks gripe because we can’t afford a car, but hey! We have all the time in the world; we can walk. At this minute Harmony is probably walking back from the Food Bank with this week’s groceries. It’s actually more of a hassle for me that the roof leaks, but we have buckets, if the kids don’t knock them over.

As I’m sitting here reflecting on the note that changed my life, Softness the cat dares to come padding back into the room. Solace sends one glance in my direction, then jumps off the couch to give Softness’s tail a hard yank. There’s a yowl and she squeezes herself behind the couch just out of reach of little hands.

Now Simplicity and Accord leap off their chairs and join Solace in the effort to pull Softness out from her hiding place. Screeching and scrapping, they ignore all my calming words. If they don’t stop this, I might end up frazzled, and that’s never good. I take another calming breath, grab Solace’s arm and pull him away from the couch.

“I’m not a free spirit now,” he screams, trying hard to distance himself from me. “You’re preventing my freedom.”

Accord grabs Simplicity’s Luv-U bear and dashes off to his bedroom, slamming the door. Her siren-like wails are about to pierce my eardrums.

I hang on to Solace and pray for the restoration of serenity. It mystifies me how Harmony and I, so committed to maintaining tranquility in our home, have produced such stressed-out, resistant children. I’m looking forward to the day when they’re all in school and I can have some peace and quiet.


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