I was having a bad day last week. I didn’t feel well. I couldn’t seem to catch up on anything related to domestic life. My laundry pile looks like Mt. Everest. I seriously need to send up teams and establish base camps. People might never return! Oh, and the cat has decided that my laundry pile is her turf now i.e. her litter box. It’s soft, right? It’s a comfortable place to sit back and contemplate one’s place in the grand scheme of life while one pees. I cried a little when I discovered this.
I have a 16 year-old daughter who is making the most of her adolescence right now. Were she not mine I would find a lot of humor in what she’s doing. Yesterday, for example, I asked her to help clean up the kitchen. Suddenly, it was as if she were possessed by an alien completely unfamiliar with our ways. This Body Snatcher du Jour had never seen a kitchen, a fork, a pair of scissors, or even a dishwasher! Of course, this alien had never seen my daughter’s body either. Suddenly, she’s stumbling around the kitchen as if she couldn’t walk or hold a spoon. The dishwasher? What’s that? Wait, is that a hand? Do I hold things with a hand? How do hands even work? They flex and extend? Dare I say…grasp objects?
It was infuriating! My oldest daughter used up all her patience trying not to fly off into a homicidal rage whilst trying to coach her in how to rinse out a bowl. Yes, that’s right. Rinsing out a bowl. A task she’s done countless times. The strategy is brilliant. Feign incompetence so that no one asks you to help ever again, but I’m not falling for it.
It is, however, exhausting and more than a little annoying. It’s frustrating as hell! Raising children to be good people is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Going back to school as a single parent with a persistent health problem?
It’s August, and I’ve almost done nothing all summer except study. I don’t say that with some kind of disillusionment. I knew what I saw signing up for. It’s hard work to begin again. I knew that it would be.
But, on a bad day, sometimes all you can see is that which doesn’t look or feel good. You question your choices.
So, there I was, walking in a parking lot, counting the losses. Feeling acutely unwell and tired. Overwhelmed and somewhat alone. Feeling very behind in everything that one could fall behind in–bills, tasks, homework, parenting. That very familiar drowning feeling was about to show up. And then I looked to my right and saw it. A vanity plate.
Huh. “Never give up.” I felt a little patronized at first. “Really, God? I was about to really enjoy a moment of self-pity.” Fine. Okay! I get it. This is my mantra. Keep going. Never give up. Switch my mindset. This could just as easily be a kind of mile marker. I am on the right path. Be encouraged rather than discouraged. Is it that easy? Really?
Well, look at what is difficult today. Laundry. My daughter’s antics. Persistent health issues. The toils of grad school. Three years ago, I was in a terrible marriage dealing with domestic abuse, and I saw no way out. I could not imagine my life as it is today. It was not a possibility for me then. I have today what I wanted then.
This post is not an ode to my own persistence. Hardly. What I would like to say is that there are reminders around us, sometimes in the strangest places, that we are doing okay. That we are on the right track. That we are cared for. That we should keep putting one foot in front of the other. License plates. Friends. Movies. Books. Other people’s narratives. In reality, there is nothing romantic about grit and tenacity. The daily grind is called the daily grind because it grinds you down and out. It is wearing and exhausting, but it also gets you where you intend to go. And, during the intensity of that process, we often need to know that we chose well. That’s where the encouragement comes in.
And, it’s everywhere when you look for it.
So, on that day in the parking lot, when I was feeling discouraged, wondering if I had set the right trajectory for my life (and, consequently, for my kids), when I saw that vanity plate, I felt validated–but only when I was willing to give up feeling discouraged. Don’t give up. Keep going. Gather momentum. Live life. Now that I actually have a life worth living.
That’s what I would like to say. Don’t give up. Never give up until you have the life that you truly want to live. It is possible. It might be very hard to acquire, but it’s possible.