I am thinking today about the persistence of the human spirit, and about how it sustains us even as life propels us forward into domains which we are not quite ready to face. And more importantly, how we just “keep on keepin’ on,” as my mother would say. It really is remarkable that we make it through the things we have to make it through. Sometimes what we find ourselves pushing through is relatively minor, and sometimes much more profound, but I suspect each of us has stories to tell about how we just kept pushing till we got to the other side.
I am thinking of the nurse who was coaching me to birth my daughter; I looked at her wide-eyed with terror and pain, saying resolutely and repeatedly, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it!” I can not, I thought, move beyond this threshold of pain, seriously; I literally cannot do any more than I am doing. “Yes, you can,” she said tenderly but with conviction. “This baby is coming today and you will be able to do it.” (My eyes are filling with tears at the memory of it as I type.) I probably don’t need to tell you that she was right and that my daughter is proof that this nurse knew something I didn’t. And “bless her heart,” as we say in the U.S. south, that she was able to be motivating to me when she sat there with rather bloodied scratches all over her arms and chest from my clawing at her through it all, says a good bit about her own spirit.
I’m thinking too of the conversation I recently had with my daughter, who is 19, as she filled out her tax returns and her FAFSA for college financial aid. “This is scary!” she said; “I’m too little for all of this.” It is scary, I thought; that paperwork stuff for the feds is still scary for me even.
And I’m thinking, especially today, about my recent/current boat adventure which has churned my stomach for a solid year but regarding which I am, if all goes well, about to “break on through to the other side,” to say it like Jim Morrison. I saved for years to buy myself a pontoon boat. Then decided that my kids didn’t much care for leisurely pontooning as much as I did and that maybe we ought to do something more sporty.
So I researched used bowriders that we could ski with for about a year and finally bought one last May. But the thing was too much for me, intimidating and not relaxing, so I had to sell it, knowing nothing about how to sell a vehicle or deal with strangers from Craigslist. I mean I barely knew how to even start the thing and we never did ski with it. Plus, I wouldn’t be able to answer any of the questions a buyer might ask because I felt so over my head with that boat. I’ve been literally sick about it pretty much since I bought it. Today, I have a buyer and am about to be released from it at last; I am forever grateful for that. And I am rather surprised that I was able to navigate this grown-up sale when I felt so adolescent through it all.
I am thinking too about the fact that, after years of teaching public speaking and years of doing public speaking I am still quite rattled when I have to speak publicly. And I keep doing it (not totally sure why). I gave a keynote address at the Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (MIRCI) conference this month and was so absurdly nervous through the entire thing. Normally I push through those nerves after the first few minutes of a speaking gig but this time I was shaking through the entire thing and until after I sat down. And now I’m planning a performance on motherhood that I’ll be doing at the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) conference in November, through most of which I’ll be shaking once again, no doubt.
While I was at the MIRCI conference, I was talking with my mother, whom I brought with me and with whom I shared the delights of Toronto, a city I do love. I was talking with her about how intelligently and tenderly she handled the discovery of my having been molested by a neighbor, and how she really did, for the most part, lift the burden of that experience from me. I am thinking today about how she was able keep on going the day that I told her, sitting there, a mother and her five-year-old , her brushing my hair. And how she would talk about it with me only as much as I seemed able to handle, and then would back off from it, even though I know, as a mother, she was a complete mess inside.
And I’m thinking about how I grew up functioning reasonably well, in large part due to the choices she made about how to handle it but also in part to what just seems to me the miracle of how people so often can push through scary or awful or damaging moments and live to tell the tale with grace. So here’s to all the ways in which we have persevered, even to our own surprise. I hope you will comment here on your own pushed-through moments.
BIO: Dr. Mama (Amber Kinser) is a writer, feminist mother, professor, and speaker who lives in Tennessee. Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @DrMamaWit, and see her webpage. Kinser writes for the MamaBlogger365 series each Thursday at the Museum Of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and Mamazina Magazine.
Photo credit: Young Woman Running by Petr Kratochvil