18 September 2015
An early morning thunderstorm cleanses the air of dust and desiccation. Summer is winding down and—uncharacteristically for me—I’m ready for the change. It has been one of those summers where you think nothing much will happen, therefore everything does. Too much travel, although I had excellent visits with family and friends. Too many setbacks and not enough great leaps forward. Above all, too much DEFCON One level stress.
My emotions have whipped around in this summer’s hurricane like a grove of palm trees. So far those trees have weathered the storm, but they’re beginning to lean a bit toward the mainland. Where’s a cabana boy when you need one? Cerveza, por favor! Right now, all I want to do is lie on a beach chair and veg, preferably with several of my friends, who could also use a break from life’s vagaries.
Even when stressful stuff manages to work itself out, this doesn’t mitigate the strain of experiencing it. Perhaps that’s why we meet each subsequent challenge with so much trepidation. One minute we’re treading water in a shiny lagoon, the next we’re facing down a gigantic rogue wave. Instinct tells us to dive, but we get hit anyway. The wave breaks over us, driving us hard to the bottom, pummeling our bodies with indifferent force. Only by sheer will can we rise to the top, gasping for air, lunging for shore as the next wave and the next threaten to drown us.
Such is life, and though I’ve survived an actual series of those aforementioned rogue waves, I would expect the worst should I ever meet one again. We go into each tempest expecting to die, figuratively, at least, if not literally. Surviving them seems a miraculous gift. Thinking back, we may admire our own resilience nearly as much as our loved ones do. Certain ordeals in my life I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. How did I manage?
Some people lean on their faith, others, their family and friends. But really, we survive through sheer force of will. The strongest of us overcome because we have no other choice. We persevere for our children or whomever needs us the most. We persevere because we value our dignity and goals. We find a reason to wake up and get out of bed, and then by god we do so each day.
Obligations help to keep us on task, even through the worst of times. There are weeks, for instance, where composing this letter feels like a burden, where no topic has moved me to speak from the heart. Behind the scenes, I fuss about what on earth I will say. I do not resent the obligation—rather, I dislike the lack of inspiration. Still, pride moves me to persevere. I have a project to uphold, a team to support, and a weekly assignment keeps the rust of apathy at bay.
I’m drifting; I feel it. I began this letter with the intention of writing about my oldest child moving two thousand miles away. Turns out “letting them go” is just another one of those tempests you think you can intellectualize, but the reality hits you like one of those rogue waves. The boy is not sentimental, nor has he lived with me since he was fourteen years old. I have grown used to his regular visits since graduating college, however, and his daily observations of sporting events. Three time zones apart will change everything, and so will the physical miles. I’ll miss him as all mothers of grown children do. Perhaps he will miss me a little bit, too.
The sky is clouding up again; perhaps we’re in for an afternoon storm. Baseball ends soon, perhaps this year on a rare, thrilling note. Football and hockey begin to occupy our thoughts. Leaves dot the yard. I can still hear the crickets, but their days are numbered. As summer grinds to an end, I bid adieu to the trials that I have survived and cringe at new ones looming on the horizon.
But I am the palm tree, supple and resilient. As I bow to the storm’s fury, my fibers will hold fast. Cling to me if you need to.
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