The other night, after returning home from a family visit which left my kids knocked out in the car, I seized the opportunity to watch a Redbox movie that was already a night late. After transferring the tiny trolls to my bed, fully clothed and peacefully sleeping, I turned on The Intern, which featured Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway. I had intended to just watch the first half and then call it a night, but I found I couldn’t turn it off. I was entranced by the main character, Ben Whittaker, played by DeNiro, who had signed up as an intern for a senior intern program at an e-commerce company owned and operated by Hathaway’s character.
A widower, Whittaker is 70 years old, lives in Brooklyn, is disenchanted by retirement and looking for a way to feel needed, a reason to wake up every morning and a place to be. What struck me about DeNiro’s character was the peace, the generosity, and wisdom he brought to each life he touched. Throughout the movie, scenes showed him quietly observing the people and activities around him, listening patiently, enjoying moments wherever and with whomever he was sharing them. Doing Tai Chi in the park with his senior counterparts, taking his boss’ daughter to a birthday party, and delivering powerful snippets to snarky stay-at-home moms or Hathaway’s unfaithful husband, DeNiro never wasted a word or an opportunity to demonstrate love to the people he cared about, all the while setting and maintaining beautiful, healthy boundaries.
It was definitely a scripted life, but it left me feeling inspired. Setting boundaries and living in the moment. Little did I know, seeing this movie would totally set me up for sessions at a work conference that started for me this week. Today, I attended a session on mindfulness. It was fascinating because it was all about being present in the moment, and in part, being able to protect oneself (setting emotional boundaries) from events and people that we encounter throughout the day that could harm us or cause destructive emotions or responses in us. I probably could have used mindfulness first thing this morning during an episode with my daughter.
Daughter: “Momma, I want to wear my unicorn pants. Where are they?”
Me: “They are in the laundry.”
Daughter: “Ugh. You are so rude.” (I have no idea where she learned this phrase but she is using it constantly lately and often out of context). “I don’t love you anymore.”
Son pipes in from a far corner of the house: “I like you.”
Me: “Thanks buddy.”
Soon after, my daughter, for the second time in the past week, emerged from her room wearing all stripes. Not a single color on her matched or went with one another. Must be nice to be able to wear horizontal stripes all over your body in wild, mismatched colors and still look adorable. With hot pink cowboy boots and giant, dark sunglasses.
Unbeknownst to me, I was about to spend half my day learning about mindfulness and acceptance and commitment therapy and the other half of my day learning about how to attend to my vicarious trauma at work. Who would have known that a career in corrections would come in handy when dealing with 4-year old girls?
Several events this evening, moments that would have sent me over the edge even yesterday, offered me the opportunity to practice a different approach with the kids. I probably didn’t handle the situations perfectly, however, the movie and the conference sessions put me in a different space. I actually “observed” my thoughts, rather than letting them serve as fuel for emotion, as I experienced my impatience and exhaustion with the kids and their antics. This process churned out some different behaviors and responses for me. Far from perfect, but maybe I’m making progress.❤️