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Saturday, June 4, 2016


I’m an answer girl.  Years ago, before we all had the world wide web at our fingertips to reveal anything to us at lightning speed, my friends would often call me to ask questions, from personal advice to just random trivia… “Just ask Kara, she will know” was sometimes injected into debates as the closing bell.  Even after Google swept in to usurp my authority, I still found that people contacted me so frequently for information they could easily access themselves that my sister began to joke I should set up my own business called “I Google For You”.  It sometimes feels like that could be a viable money maker, especially when it comes to politics.  People so often claim that there is no evidence of facts they could find in just a keystroke, it is difficult not to call their ignorance feigned or willful. 

I won’t lie; I mostly enjoyed being the answer girl because being helpful is a top bell-ringer for my soul.  But later I became more like Holly Hunter in “Broadcast News”, when her boss snarkily says, “It must be nice…to always think you are the smartest person in the room”.  She replies in anguish, “No, it’s awful.”  Yes, it was nice, before I was a Mom, without the responsibility of this little person’s life on my shoulders.  Now it’s awful.
That is life’s big game changer, isn’t it?  When we realize we are actually responsible to and for people other than ourselves.  It doesn’t have to be a child, either…it can be a sibling or parent who is struggling; a spouse, an employee…anyone who is looking to you for real answers and support. 

Still, the perspective we have on other people’s lives can make us very effective guides to whatever they are grappling with; our own struggles are an entirely different story.  Especially when life has got you “up to your ass in alligators”, there is no brain space for strategizing and wisdom.  So often when we are facing incredible stressors we just downshift into survival mode, and that is as good as it gets.
The first four years of my son’s life were spent entirely in this survival mode for me.  Life dealt a series of blows so hard and quick that I never even got back on my feet before the next one came.  In the first year alone we had to deal with scary health issues for our tiny newborn, my husband losing his job, my living alone with a baby who never slept, a dog and a house on the market when my husband left to start his new job, the move itself, a terminal cancer diagnosis for my Father and the death of my husband’s Dad.  That was year one, and it turned out the universe was just getting started with me.

I remember at one point in the second (even worse, believe it or not) year, I was sitting in my car at the side of the road.  My Mother was watching my son and we were waiting for the results of some frankly terrifying genetic testing the doctors had decided to run on him, tests that took 2 weeks to “develop”.  I was so afraid and broken; I just sat there alone sobbing my eyes out, until finally I started screaming, “I DON’T WANT THIS!”  Over and over again.

And after I had finished, I felt calm and somehow reassured.  I had already absorbed so much loss and grief that was beyond my control, it felt good to state a preference.  It felt empowering to claim my desire NOT TO BE MESSED WITH anymore.  And though life continued to be very challenging for all of us after that, those particular tests came back normal.  Although if they had not, I know I would have managed that too.
By the time my son turned four, we had also suffered the death of my Dad, the very untimely death of my 39 year old writing partner and friend, a serious hospitalization for my sister, another job loss for my husband and another quite horribly bungled move...that, in addition to the difficulties my child faced.  In short, it was awful.  And there were no answers I had at the time that could have made it any better.

But I survived and my son is now a happy, healthy almost 11 year old boy.  And while I learned that it is critically important to our mental health to both KNOW and be able to VOICE our preferences, the tactic that is most effective in coping with back-breaking stress is to just LET IT BE.  Circumstances happen that are beyond our control and there is no good in banging our heads against walls or pushing up against a fact. 

LET IT BE is not about giving up; it is about acceptance and our ability to receive the help and answers we need as they become available.
When we are coping with grief, stress, crisis or all of the above, it is cruel to believe we should have all the answers, or should be able to handle it on our own.  We all have experienced times in our lives when just getting out of bed in the morning and taking a shower feels like a Herculean accomplishment (and it is!).  As counterintuitive as it may seem, it is when we are most under pressure that we must relax and let it be. 

I remember reading a story once in which a woman asked her gardener in exasperation, “Will it EVER stop raining?”  He answered her quite simply:  “It always does.” 

This is the essence of letting it be.  Even though we ourselves are powerless to stop the rain, it WILL stop.  And so we get out of bed and take a shower and keep putting one foot in front of the other until it does.
And also:  even in the most turbulent downpour, there is room for joy.  As horrible and devastating as those years were in many ways, I was also the mother of a precious boy.  And a physically healthy and capable woman.  And a friend, daughter, sister, wife.  These were things that helped keep me anchored in the storm.

Now, when I face challenges and disappointments, I know that I have not been done in yet and am unlikely to be taken down any time soon.   I have learned that sometimes, when I don’t have the answers, the best thing I can do is just let it be.  And wait for the rain to stop.


1 comment:

  1. Exquisitely beautiful. I'll be on the road tomorrow but will post this on my website page soon. "Let it be." And more words, "When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me, Speaking words of wisdom, Let it be. In my hour of darkness, She is standing right in front of me..." (Substitute Divine Mother, Sophia, Tara or anything that works for Mother Mary. Or leave as is.) You've withstood so much, Kara. Thank you for sharing your song. It's mine, too.