When I was little I always pretended my Barbies were 32. In my adolescent mind it seemed to be the age when everything would come together and life would be perfect. Whatever the reason it has stayed my favorite number. Last year when celebrating my favorite birthday with three of my best girlfriends I told them about the Barbies and my number as we walked into a cool taco joint downtown. I remember saying “I don’t know what this year will bring, but I think it will be a big year for me.”
Thirty two was indeed a big year.
That summer was the busiest my cupcake business had seen. I was both incredibly grateful and incredibly overwhelmed. I can’t count the thousands of cupcakes I made from May to September. I thought it would slow down in the fall but it didn’t. I kissed my boys goodbye on the first day of school, my youngest heading to Kindergarten, and immediately started planning for the two weddings and two shower orders I had for the weekend. No break.
Business was so good I began dabbling with the idea of expanding to a permanent space. But that was even more overwhelming. Maybe I should just fold and find a different job. A clock-in-and-clock-out kind of job. Or maybe interior design again? I applied and interviewed, but nothing was working out. In searching for clarity I had lunch with a local successful business woman who I really admire. I explained to her my dilemma and she gave fantastic advise. But there was a nagging still inside me that remained unsettled.
In all those hours slaving over cupcakes, shopping for supplies, trying to maintain some semblance of a social life, keeping up on the house work, and
having meaningful teachable moments with yelling at my kids while in the car between football camp and baseball games, I kept coming back to one question: “What is it exactly are you DO-ing with your time?”
There was an answer quietly forming, creeping into my conscious.
I sent my sister a text on her birthday in late October. I don’t know how or why we started talking about tattoos, but that morning I had drawn a tattoo on my wrist of an idea I had been toying with. The word “be” dot dot dot. At that time, in the midst of all the stress and the busy-ness, it meant simply “be kind.” A reminder I felt I needed to be kind and patient with my kids. Time with them as all young mothers are told is fleeting and we will surely miss these days when they are gone. Anyway, this is the picture I sent her.
That still small voice was trying to tell me to slow down a little. Enjoy the ride. But I was still pedal to the metal on the highway of DO-ing and no where near the brakes.
On Halloween night after trick or treating with a few friends and all our brood, I came home to finish a few more of the seven cake orders I had for the weekend. I was stressed and a little bitter that I’d obligated myself to the joy of others while I was missing out on watching that movie with my husband. I kept coming back to that nagging question that was louder than ever. Frustrated I went to bed at 1:37 a.m. And as I’d just dozed off to sleep, my phone rang. It was my brother from North Carolina.
For as long as I live I will never forget the moments during and right after that phone call. The unbelievable words that my niece, my sister’s oldest daughter, who was like a sister to me, had died in a car accident. A hit and run. “Was she wearing her seatbelt?” Why that was of import is still not clear to me. She was. But she died on impact. I was gasping for air and had that desperate feeling of wanting to turn back the hands of time. It couldn’t be true. How could she be gone just like that?? Lost, I sobbed in a puddle on the floor while my husband rubbed my back trying to understand what news I was just delivered. “Brittany died in a car accident,” was all I could get out for…well I don’t really know how long I sat and rocked in the middle of that floor.
My world crumbled that night. I knew immediately that this was a game changer. Not just because of the tragic loss of someone I loved dearly, but for how I lived out the rest of my own life. What I did with the precious time I have on this earth. Was slaving over cakes or whatever else I was doing worth missing out on that hockey game? On movie night? On making memories and building relationships? Clearly. No. Except it wasn’t only what I would DO with my time, but the kind of person I wanted to BE. The kind of person I imagined when I was a child playing with Barbies.
More BE-ing things started to come into perspective for me. Be kind and patient. Of course. In the face of uncertainty and loss, be strong and of good courage. Be still and know. In the face of incomprehensible destruction, and the anger it leaves behind, how do we operate in a world where these things continue to happen? Be the change we want to see in the world. Be brave. There is an element of choice in BE-ing. In a world where we have very little control of what goes on around us, that choice is powerful. You can be a friend, a listener, a helper, a giver, a teacher, a healer, a lover, a creator. You can be the opposite of those things too if you choose. BE-ing can be both positive and negative. I began to realize that I am a remarkable DO-er. But when I started thinking about all the things a person can BE, I realized how essential BE-ing is and how I was missing out on it.
Brittany’s boyfriend has a son that she treated as her own. They loved each other very much. He called her B.B. On what would have been her 25th birthday, I got that tattoo on my wrist. In honor of the beautiful, too short life of B.B., my promise with whatever time I have left on this earth, is to start BEING.