close up shot of a teddy bear beside a thermometer

“The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.”  -Marcus Aurelius

Last night my husband’s oxygen level was low, so he went to the Emergency room for a breathing treatment, steroids, and antibiotics. Three out of the four members of our household have had the same treatment over the last month, so it wasn’t much of a surprise. (Beep…Beep). However, I myself am still recovering and was having a particularly rough day yesterday, (Beep…Beep), which was only made more complicated by having two young children to care for by myself.

Suppertime exceeded expectations and both children were uncharacteristically obedient. (Beep…Beep). Perhaps, it was my frequent coughing fits or the absence of their father, but they seemed to know that it was not the time (Beep…Beep) to push boundaries.

We all cuddled into (Beep…Beep) our king-sized bed and watched nature shows while I drank hot tea and periodically used my inhaler. (Beep…Beep). Even our spastic puppy Diesel was calm and enjoyed some soft cuddles from our daughter. (Beep…Beep).

My wheezing was bad enough to cause some distress with my son. He (Beep…Beep) told me he was scared and told me not to talk so I wouldn’t cough. He then proceeded to try and put his younger sister to sleep which went about as well as one (Beep…Beep) can imagine. It was heartwarming to see my son in such a compassionate light but also (Beep…Beep) a bit sad to see how his parents’ extended illness has impacted him. (Beep…Beep).

When my husband returned home from the hospital, he had a bit of pep in him from the steroids (Beep…Beep). He was able to help get our youngest down to sleep. Grateful that he was home and seemed to be feeling better, I drifted off to sleep. (Beep…Beep).

At about 1 a.m. our daughter got into my bed, and I noticed how much better I was feeling and how much easier it was to breathe. I felt hopeful that (Beep…Beep) maybe this illness would be behind us soon. (Beep…Beep). I drifted back to sleep holding my two beautiful children close to me with my two dutiful guard dogs at my feet and my darling husband sleeping peacefully in our son’s bedroom. (Beep…Beep).

Then our fire alarm went off. Briefly. For like a second. I awoke to the (Beep…Beep) word “FIRE,” and it was done. I was thankful (Beep…Beep) that the noise didn’t wake the kids. Then, the beeping started. First, the upstairs alarm and then the downstairs alarm. (Beep…Beep). My husband woke up and was quick to reset them, but we were not able to stop the beeping. (Beep…Beep).

A few months ago, we replaced every alarm in our house after having repeated false alarms. (Beep…Beep). We continued to have false alarms, so we had the wiring checked and replaced the alarms that were repeatedly going off. The electrician who installed the alarms didn’t charge us a penny and said the smoke alarms have a “worry-free” warranty that lasts a decade. (Beep…Beep). We’re grateful to have an electrician with integrity.

Our reprieve from alarm issues was just long enough for us to forget that this was ever an issue. (Beep…Beep). Life is funny that way; problems that consume us are quickly forgotten once they are no longer our focus.

By 4 a.m., my husband declares he is getting up for the day (Beep…Beep) and that no matter what he tries, he cannot get the alarm to stop beeping. (Beep…Beep). Frustrated and annoyed, I took a moment to acknowledge that just a few hours earlier, my six-year-old son was trying to put down his three-year-old sister because he thought his mommy was too sick to do so herself. (Beep…Beep). And now, in the early morning hours, my breathing was clear, better than it had been for over a week. (Beep…Beep).

Yet, I allowed myself to get angry. I detracted from reality and start worrying about how the children will wake up and not go back to sleep because of the stupid beeping (Beep…Beep) alarms and what is wrong with those stupid alarms anyway? And I’m going to get sicker, even though I felt fine, because my precious sleep has been interrupted, and why can’t we catch (Beep…Beep) a break?! #$%^&*!

For a moment, I felt out of control. Then I remembered this quote: “The more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.” By Marcus Aurelius. (Beep…Beep). I took a deep breath and looked lovingly at our precious children, who were cuddling with each other as they slept peacefully, unaware of the annoying alarm. (Beep…Beep). I pulled up my meditation app on my phone and loudly played brown noise, which drowned out the beeping and went back to sleep.

The children and I slept in until after 7 a.m. (Beep…Beep). We quickly got ready for the day, ate a hot breakfast (Beep…Beep), and the children went to school. My husband, in full steroid mode, talked my ear off (Beep…Beep) about how the beeping isn’t precisely like living under a flight path, but close, and wondered loudly how long (Beep…Beep) it would take for us not to hear the beeps anymore?

After my husband returned to the basement office for work, I realized something. (Beep…Beep). For weeks, someone has been coughing every few minutes in our house. Usually, it is my husband or I, but the kids were sick too. (Beep…Beep). And coughing has been a very familiar sound for far too long. Long enough for us not to hear it anymore. (Beep…Beep). And now, with all the focus on the beeping, I almost didn’t realize that neither my husband nor I had been coughing all morning. (Beep…Beep).

Today, I will remember seeking gratitude instead of anger when life becomes uncomfortable is simply a better way to live. I will strive to balance my internal and external worlds to be calibrated in peacefulness instead of tilting the scales in discontentment. (Beep…Beep). And I will rejoice once the electrician arrives and the (Beep…Beep) ceases.

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