Sometime last fall I realized that one of my bedrock assumptions of my life is that if I'm sensible and hard-working and enduring and a creative problem-solver, eventually things will get better. That positive outlook has helped me through many things. However, I'm aware that I probably wouldn't hold this view of life if I were a medieval serf, a slave in 18th century Alabama, a present-day resident of rural Vietnam, or a single mother in the South Bronx. After all, not all circumstances are escapable without significant outside intervention. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can't create our own futures or pummel the world into being what we want it to be. Sometimes we simply have to be the best people we can be, regardless of the circumstances.
I guess that could be a bit depressing, yet I find it strangely comforting. For when you hunker down and confront the assumption that things will all work out well in the end, you end up asking different questions. For example:
How would I live my life differently if I knew my circumstances would never improve?
What changes would I make?
How would I keep my stamina up, my soul healthy, and my attitude positive?
What kind of person could I become, that I could be proud of?
* * * *
In my head, in my self-talk, when I run into "I can't deal with this!", one rebuttal I often use is, "Yes, but people do. There are people who deal with this problem and survive. It's not impossible, it's just that I don't know how to do it yet."
Some people live with far less income than I have. Some face far more suffering. There are people who are battered by war and death and illness and unexpected catastrophes, who live their whole lives between rocks and hard places. None of that negates whatever hardship I'm going through, yet remembering that I am not exceptional in having to face difficulty helps to keep me from slipping into the mineshaft of self pity.
It is a mercy, I think, that we don't know what the year ahead holds. If we could see the challenges that await us, we might gasp, "I can't do that!" and give up before we learn that yes, in fact, we can.
* * * *
In December we had three performances of Honk!, eight of Nutcracker, a visit from Eldest, two visits from my mom (one from my dad). We were off of our school schedule, off our diet, off our social routine, basically off balance. My dental problems continued. Eldest went through a high-stress period. In the midst of over-excited and then coming-down-from-the-high kids, I was working far too many hours and was utterly spent, exhausted, with no more to give.
What happened was that others gave to me. Generously. Unexpectedly.
You never know what's coming at you, or to you. In a way it doesn't matter, as long as you're open to it all, grateful for the good, and patient with the bad. A new year's simply a gift. May you use yours well.