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One Day at a Time

People tell me I’m strong, but I don’t see it.

I’ve been through a lot in my lifetime thus far, or so I’ve been told. To me it’s just life. I don’t recognize what others term as “a lot” until or unless I’m told by an outside observer that what I’ve experienced is more than the usual lot – sometimes not even then. Providing detailed examples would take more words than this “500-Word” blog post has room for, so to simplify my point, here is a snippet of the first half of my 2019 experience – a year where I found myself juggling homework and family-life around one disrupting incident or crisis after another. 

First, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with dementia requiring us to seek out options for safer living arrangements. We were also remodeling my husband’s former house to prepare it to be sold - and then sell it. This took a lot of time as we carefully selected paint, flooring, counters, cabinets, and lighting. During this project, my husband was let go from his job causing some strain on our financial situation as he sought new employment.

My son was deployed for the first time, which was much more difficult for me than I thought it would be. I’d known since he signed up more than a year prior to deployment that it would come, and I should have been prepared for his leaving the country for an unspecified period of time, but as it would turn out, I am not Army Strong. 

With less than a month left in the Spring 2019 semester, one of my husband’s family members from Colorado passed-away leading us on an impromptu road-trip with his mom and sister to attend the funeral. Embarking on such an adventure while trying to write an 18-page research paper and prepare two class portfolio projects was not exactly ideal, but it was the lot life handed me at the time. I dealt with it one-day-at-a-time.

Thankfully, I had very understanding instructors who allowed extra time to complete assignments or projects without negatively impacting my grade. One of my teachers kept informing me, as each new incident crept up, that I’d been through an awful lot that year, and remarked how strong I was. But I didn’t see it. To me, it was just life. Despite her encouraging words, I tried not to focus on the “lot” of trials that year had offered me up to that point. 

It was easier to get through each day by not thinking about how much was happening. Taking one incident or crisis at a time, without acknowledging what came before, was the only way to keep moving forward and meet the goals, both personal and educational, that I had set for myself. Hearing somebody else tell me that I’d “been through a lot” that year almost made some days harder because I would pause and reflect to consider if she was correct.

And then came 2020.

Most of this year’s challenges – pandemic, riots, social justice movements, presidential election – have impacted individuals and families on national and global levels. But in my bubble, this week alone, I am finding inner strength hard to come by. Less than a week ago we brought my mother-in-law home for in-home hospice care. Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely glad to have her here. I want her home with us. These past five days, however, the hospice-reality of my mother-in-law’s condition has been nearly impossible to accept. 

I keep trying to remind myself that people say I am strong in order to convince myself that I can get through this. But I don’t feel strong right now. I have no prior experience from which to draw intuition or courage from that can guide me on this journey. But my husband has been through this – which I acknowledge doesn’t make his mom’s situation any easier for him – but he is a strength for me. So, in these weeks and months to come, we will take one-day-at-a-time, together.

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