I was having a terrible day at work. Projects were piling up, deadlines were looming and simultaneously, I was feeling the ever-present stress of working Moms, often feeling like I should be with my kids while I was working, and feeling like I should be working when I was spending time with the kids. I had put aside some of the things in life that brought me joy: reading books, writing, exercising and we call know that without these outlets, we feel more – not less – stress.
More importantly, I wasn’t feeling like myself. I was feeling small, unnoticed, unimportant and most have been carrying myself that way because even a stranger noticed. I dragged myself to a Starbucks to see if a caffeine boost might help me get through the day and as I pushed open the door, a man on the other side held it open for me. I barely looked up and grunted out a “thanks”, when he stopped and just stood holding the door as I continued past him.
“Hey!” he called to me.
I turned to look him in the eye, wondering what I had done. Stepped on his toe? Failed to say thank you loudly enough for him to hear? It said a lot about my condition that all I could imagine were negatives, that there could be no other reason for him to call out to me.
“Yeah?” I sighed, impatiently.
He looked at me for a moment, then smiled and said, “It can’t be that bad.”
I just stood, dumbfounded for a moment.
“By the way, you’re really beautiful,” he said. Then he turned and left, the door shutting behind him.
I can’t say that I went on to conquer my entire pile of deadlines that day, nor did I eliminate all of my stress, but I did smile and take in this small and seemingly unimportant offering from the stranger. And somehow, the rest of the day, “it can’t be that bad” echoed in my head each time I wanted to give up or feel hopeless. And I have to admit the “you’re beautiful” helped, too, if just to remind me that I had not completely transformed into a crazed, stressed out working Mom!