Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Burdens Shared

I have recently grown more convinced that everyone is carrying a burden.  Larger than we can see, heavier than we can imagine.

We move among each other- award-winning actors and actresses, earning more awards than Hollywood has time to create award shows for.

We are not fake, per se, we are surviving.  We are civil.  We are functioning members of a society that does not expect more than a sentence to the question, "How are you?"

Among our closest we may say more.  Or sometimes, even less.  But our burdens are real and our weariness is real, and sometimes, in moments we don't plan or prepare for, we find ourselves getting real with the unlikeliest people in the unlikeliest places.

And that's why my job is studded with encounters that leave me a little breathless at the raw humanity that sits right beneath each of our carefully constructed images.

I work at a very busy public library.
And when I'm on the floor, there are days when I can tell that I am meant to simply be an ear.
That someone just needs somebody to listen.  With an open heart, with no answers or advice, with no judgment, with no fear.  Whatever you say, for these next moments, I'll get in your boat and listen as you describe what it's like to bail like crazy, paddle like mad, face every kind of storm and trouble and feel like you are making absolutely no headway at all.

Felony charges.
Drug and alcohol addiction.
Grave and terrible illness.
False charges.
Death of your loved ones.
Your baby having babies.
It's a crowded, perilous boat.

He came back.  One such paddler.  A young man making his way out of a terrible place.   I admired his courage.  I admired the open, frank way he could talk about his life without self-pity, but some real regret.
"I found a job!  A good job!  I had to come back and tell you.  You showed me how to get on the computer and look, and I put out hundreds of applications and I finally got one and it is awesome!"

Someone saw the spark in him I had so admired.  His dogged persistence.  His teachable attitude.

I cried a little.

I'm so, so proud of you!  And so honored that you let me be part of your journey.
I cannot even begin to comprehend a mile in your shoes,  but thank you for setting your burden down for a moment at my reference perch and sharing your humanity with me.

I shoulder my own load with a little more hope today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Entitled or Empowered

"I hungry, Mommy.  I hungry.  Mommy, I hungry.  I hungry, Mommy."

Ceaselessly.  Plaintively.  With pathos to tug at my heart strings, a whine to get on my nerves.

And still I kept my eyes tightly shut, hoping that in this little battle of the wills at midnight, mine would prevail.

(and before you wonder whether I am cruel and unusual, dinner had been served, and a before-bed snack given that was so generous, a bowl of dry cereal was leftover on the table for morning)

I don't remember signing up to staff a 24/7 diner for my three-year-old.
 I just wanted to sleep already.

Landon and I were sharing my mom's basement guest room; there was no escaping his mission.  I finally realized that I could not outlast him.

"You can go upstairs and get that bowl of cereal if you are so hungry, then."

"But it is too dark.  I can't reach the light.  I a little scared, Mommy."

These seemed like valid points.  Kind of.  I felt a twinge of guilt that I may be sending my toddler upstairs on an errand of terror just to settle a grumbly tummy.

I dragged myself out of bed, prepared to turn on the light to the stairwell.  It was on.  Illuminating the trail to the answer to all hunger in this house.  A bowl of cereal.  Take it or leave it.

"The light is on, Landon.  If you are so hungry, go upstairs and get it yourself."

And with a little more fussing and fretting, he decided he was not that hungry.

I thought I had won.

Until 3 AM rolled around and I was barely asleep (tough night), to be woken up by an outraged, "Hey!  Who turned off the bedroom light?!  I want that on.  I can't sleep with the light off!"

Will I ever get any sleep?

"If you want it on so badly, turn it on yourself," I say, thinking I'd found the magic formula.

And so he did. Flooding the room with blazing light.  At 3 am.

Alrighty then.

We have officially learned to call each other's bluff.