Today a friend of mine called, frustrated and tired and worn down by life. We talked for a while, being that this is more or less how I’ve lived the last 20 or so years of my own life, and I said something to her along the lines of, “Take care of yourself, be strong, do what you need to do to get by.”
This idea of “being strong” strikes me. This life can be unbearably hard. It can be unbearably hard, but it’s not impossible.
It takes real strength to claw your way through the tangle of obstacles that come your way, particularly when pride is on the line. It takes strength to face tough decisions and make them, even though you are sure you are facing certain doom. It takes real strength to go it alone, like so many of us try to do every single day of our lives. Strength is knowing you can make it work, even when the worst thing imaginable happens.
Last weekend Billy and I went up to Poughkeepsie to spend a weekend soaking in nature and each other (if you get my drift). While we were there, we made time to visit with just one person, my mom’s friend Barbara, whom I had not seen for at least three years prior to my wedding. Barbara was my dad after my own dad died. I love her as much as I loved him. It was so good to catch up with her. Among other things, we talked about the strength it takes to get by in this life. She said something that I did not agree with at the time – she said that not everyone has the strength to make it through to the other side.
And I realize, maybe I take my own strength and that of my friends for granted. I wonder if, like someone I know and love very much and whose strength I have always admired, that the perseverance on which you relied for your whole life really can run out until you’re left in a puddle on the floor with no hope of recovery. And, if strength is not in unlimited supply, isn’t in our best interests to save ourselves for the times that really count? And, maybe, nothing but the very worst situations are worth the fighting and clawing that we do every day of our lives. Maybe the real strength is in giving up the fight and living to see another day.
Which is maybe why it’s becoming easier and easier to realize that my decision not to pursue the degree in art education was a good one. It’s not a failure as much as an act of faith. That, I think, was the strength Barbara was talking about. It’s believing in yourself when the rest of the world says you’re crazy. It’s not about holding on. It’s about letting go. Let the chips fall where they may; a new perspective may be just the thing we really need.