Monday, June 27, 2011

Grief and Toil

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote:

She could no longer borrow from the future, to help her through the present grief. To- morrow would bring its own trial with it; so would the next day, and so would the next; each its own trial, and yet the very same that was no so unutterably grievous to be borne. The days of the far-off future would toil onward, still with the same burden for her to take up, and bear along with her, but never to fling down.

This is a passage I read nearly twenty years ago, but it didn't mean much to me at that young age. When you're a thirteen-year-old, you have your whole life ahead of you, the whole world at your fingertips. Anything is possible, and nothing is off limits.

When you get to be an adult, that can change. The promise that tomorrow will be better isn't always there. We can't lay our heads down at night, knowing we can shut our eyes on our day and somehow expect our problems to be lessened in the morning. At least, not all of them, and in most cases, not the most troublesome ones.

There are times that I look ahead and see the same problem, the same concern, facing me for weeks or months at a time. It just won't go away. And there are so many times that I wonder what the point is- I simply cannot get any stronger. I'm at full strength now, I promise you that.

But what I can do is get better. All of the challenges, the same ones I will be facing a year from now, are forcing me to evaluate those strengths I have, and my weaknesses, and figure out how to improve my life my using them both. It also encourages me to draw on my faith. Some days it's nothing more than caffeine and faith that get me through to the next.

But get through I do. And while I can't borrow from tomorrow, I can borrow from myself. Bend a little here, give a little there, and push myself past my own limits by pulling projects off the back burner, by improving and growing in things I'm already doing, and never giving up on my long term goals.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Single Parent? I got that!

Anybody who has been a single parent - I mean truly single; going it alone and doing nearly all of the parenting on your own without a second cooperative parent - knows how challenging this is. Balancing schedules, working, going to school if that's the case, taking care of kids, taking care of kids when they're sick, taking care of kids when you're sick, figuring out how to make ends meet with one income while being the sole care provider, trying to squeeze in something resembling a social life in the precious rare time to yourself when you get it.

And stress. Oh the stress. There is no reprieve, nobody else to help shoulder some of it for you, nobody to help create solutions. Most people are lucky enough to have good friends who provide support systems, but it is different than having someone in your own household, to help manage that household and its family members, with you.

The stress is like one of those pregnancy sympathy belts. But instead of a large bulge around the belly, it's a large weight on your shoulders and back. That weight is immeasurable, but harsh and cutting. Instead of weighing on your bladder, it weighs on your consciousness. How will I pay the next repair bill? How do I tell the kids we can't go on vacation because there isn't the extra money? How do I tell the kids I have to choose writing that essay over taking them to the park? Each thought, each worry, is a pebble in that pack of weight, and they add up so fast you can't even keep track of them anymore. The pack overfills and some of those pebbles fall out, but they roll right back. How do I work and afford to pay for child care? How do I pay off my own student loans and save for my children's college fund? And where one weight comes out, another replaces it. The car is paid off, but now the tires need replaced. Baseball season is over but now we need to have braces put on those crooked teeth. That weight is there and you can't take it off like you can a sympathy belt. It stays on while you work, while you play, while you try to fall asleep, while you wake up in the morning.

But as the burden to being a single parent is great, so is the reward. Me, I have boys. So I have gotten to teach my boys to cook, and taught them how to cast a fishing line. I taught them how to sort laundry, and took them to the batting cages and taught them how to swing a bat. I taught them how to thread a needle, and how to build a campfire. I took them to school their first day of kindergarten, and to their first concert, on their first camping trip, to the beach and to every frightening doctor appointment they've had. I get all the disciplining to myself, but I also get the hugs and the kisses, the laughs and the funny kid-isms.

Those rewards gives every ounce of that weight a gold filling, every cloud a silver lining, and every burden a reciprocal reward. Whether you're a single mom or a single dad, I wish you a very happy Father's Day.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ephemeral Clouds

As anybody who knows me will know, I love to take photos. It's not often that I stop to take photos of clouds, though. We all know clouds can be beautiful, or menacing, or imaginative, depending on the mood of mother nature that day, and I have a deep appreciation for mother nature, but it still isn't often that clouds will call to me strongly enough to photograph them.

This day, however, I felt that need. Looking at this photo, I realize this photo can never be replicated. Never again will these clouds be in this same formation in the sky, with the same deep greys and vivid blues with the bursts of white. Clouds are ephemeral, changing with the hands on a clock. But where a clock will look the same twelve hours later, the sky will never be the same. At best, moments of similarity may occur, but never the same moment.

As with life. Sometimes we feel like the hands on a clock, repeating a pattern and feeling as though we are going in circles. But every second on the way is just as ephemeral as the clouds. Each moment comes and we get to define it and shape it just as mother nature did the clouds. Even when we cannot choose what happens to us, we always have the choice in how we react.

Never feel as though you're going through life and going through necessary (and sometimes unnecessary) cycles in vain. Each second provides a different view, a different vantage point and a new perspective for how we choose to see, and ultimately, create, our lives.