There are so many clichés about surviving hard things in this world. Kittens on branches remind us to “hang in there.” Football coaches (and Billy Ocean) preach that when the going gets tough, the tough should get going. My personal and indelicate favorite to invoke in times of stress, and you may know from reading this blog, is “Shit happens for a reason.” Like anyone, though, sometimes I forget the “for a reason” part and have trouble focusing on anything but the shit.
We all get there. Our problems may be of the first world variety, they are still problems, and problems often consume emotional, physical, and financial resources that seem to exceed what we have to give.
A strange and wonderful part of being a writer sometimes is that it’s part of my job to ask people about their problems. This is in no way an exercise in schadenfreude for me, if I may use the $5 word; in fact it’s quite the opposite. Instead, it selfishly gives me a chance to talk to people I don’t know in situations often different from mine and explore how they spend their energy when their needs seem to exceed their resources. It’s heartbreaking, fascinating, uplifting, and humbling. It makes me understand that behind every pre-packaged, news-bite version of a story, there’s a real human who is making real time decisions about how to cope – even if my job is to give the world the short version of their story.
Last year, I wrote a piece about a woman with lung cancer. I got to reach out and reconnect with her a week or so ago and got an update on how she is doing (doing well, thank you). Re-reading her story made me think about how she was spending her energy, and likewise about how I was spending mine. It made think about how life goes on when it feels like it should stop. It made be realize that we are all winging it somedays and owning it others. It also made me realize how sometimes it takes a silly picture of a kitten on a branch to reveal a universal truth.
Go read my version of her story if you like, and see what you think. For me, it affirmed, once again, my belief that shit really does happen for a reason.
Hi. I'm Amanda Dobbs.