Emotional meltdowns, free and from a veranda near you

“. . . the day started to unravel a bit . . . I was coming up empty on all sides.” 

By Candace Echols

Last week I had a free day! All five of my children were in school. Because of their ages, that doesn’t happen every day. When I say “free day,” it’s easy to imagine a picnic in the park with a couple of old friends. You know, the red and white checkered blanket and a real wicker basket. Maybe a leisurely stroll through the gardens or a nap in a hammock. Perhaps lattes on the veranda as the sun gently climbs toward midmorning, greeting us gingerly through the laughing leaves. 


There was no picnic anywhere on the calendar. At no point in the day did the word “veranda” come out of my mouth even once. A latte would have been lavish — but I was thrilled with a lukewarm cup of coffee.

Yesterday, on my “free day,” I ran a thousand insignificant errands (they’re only insignificant if they are accomplished. It’s when they don’t happen that they become wildly significant to someone—you moms know what I’m talking about!). I led two virtual author talks and one Zoom book meeting, cleaned my house a little, sat through four carpool lines (picking up another family’s children in one of them), ran out of time for lunch so grabbed a banana, and managed to squeeze in a mammogram too. 

I ran breathlessly into my daughter’s preschool to pick her up, secretly hoping they would just toss her out the top half of the Dutch door without forcing me to stop because I was onto the next place and people were waiting.

More in Candace Echols’ Yellow Chair ChronEchols

Late afternoon, the day started to unravel a bit. Everyone still made it home in one piece, but a couple of things fell through the cracks (not a surprise). An old friend we were hoping to meet up with by an outdoor fire pit got the fever-less chills and had to cancel. The disappointment was tangible. Friends and fire pits are few-and-far-between these days. And anyway, it wasn’t just the sick friend, it was the package of the whole day. 

I don’t typically like to pack my days like this, but every so often it just happens. That’s life. By the time I finally got home and settled, my poor husband arrived to find me a mess. He asked what I wanted to do for dinner (since our fire pit plans had blown up) and I just cried. (He was a little bewildered for a second, but this ain’t his first rodeo, so he navigated it all beautifully.)

I told him there was so much going on in my brain, so very many details and a myriad of emotions, that the need to, a-hem, pivot was just too much. We were out of frozen pizza. We’ve had pasta several times in the last week. We were even out of jelly for PB&J — you’ve reached the bottom when you’re out of jelly for PB&J. Of course, I had eaten the only banana in lieu of lunch so PB& banana wasn’t an option either. I was coming up empty on all sides. 

Some days do that to you. They are bigger than you are. They require more than you have to give. Some days, especially these days, it’s easy to get to 6:00 PM and not know which way is up. 

This is unfortunate because so many situations that happen after 6:00 PM require wisdom. That night ’round about 5:30 I was governed entirely by my emotions and wisdom was nowhere in sight. I felt, honestly, a bit like a toddler throwing a tired-kid tantrum. A parent knows that all that kid needs is to fall asleep. Anywhere. Now. 

What do you do when you’re dead broke in the wisdom column? Maybe it’s because you’ve had a day that steamrolled you, much like mine did. Maybe its because you’re grieving and accessing places in your soul that you didn’t know existed before. Maybe it’s exhaustion and you can’t see things clearly. Maybe things have just gotten so complicated that it’s like life is a knotted wad of kite string—there seems to be no possible way to untangle it. And you’ve certainly tried. 

These moments reveal something fascinating to think about: maybe, just maybe, wisdom is not always intuitive.

Emotions can sometimes take over and it feels like life is reactionary more than anything else. The desire to choose wisely honestly doesn’t even enter the brain as an option. And this is where many of life’s biggest messes are made. 

What if, as it turns out, wisdom is actually accessible for all of us, all of the time? What if it’s in one place, the way candles and cute boots and detergent are at Target, where we can go and acquire it? Would you do it? Would you go if you knew it was available to you? Do you actually want to live wisely and not unwisely? 

That afternoon, as I sat there sulking, I watched the sun dip below the trees telling me time was passing, slowly but perfectly, second by second, like it always does. Just like the moon in its ever-present shiny delight, the sun reminds me that someone must be guiding this whole big ship because, to my knowledge, the sun has never had a moment like I just had. The sun never succumbs to emotions. It remains entirely under Someone’s control and is serving something or Someone who must be absolutely perfect. To the second. 

What if — what if — there is a God and what if all wisdom originates with him? What if my meltdown on the couch, underneath that sun that hasn’t missed a beat in thousands of years, proves it? What if your meltdowns prove it. And yours may not look like mine, but consider road rage or that years-old-grudge or emotional eating or yelling at your kids way more than you ever dreamed you would do? 

Tomorrow, take note of the sun several times over the course of the day. Wonder about it like a child does. Consider what I’ve suggested. I don’t know you and I will never know if you accept or reject my hypothesis that maybe the sun and the moon and even the Earth (but I haven’t gotten there yet) suggest that there could be a God and that all wisdom originates with Him. 

Think about it, but involve nature in your thinking. 

Honestly, that’s really the best use of a stroll on the veranda anyway. 

StoryBoard features “The Yellow Chair ChronEchols” by writer Candace Echols. Candace recently published her first book, the children’s book Josephine and the QuarantineCandace is a Midtown resident, wife, and mother of five. She has written for StoryBoard’s Page One Writing Workshops, and writes in quiet moments from her yellow chair.

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