I once had to remind my Mom of how strong she was.
I’m not sure what was going on – either Dad had separated from her, moving in with his 80 year old Mom, or she had cancer. It all blurred together that year, one bad thing fading into another.
She was alone, and frightened. She had me, but I was 24, still living at home. I was in college, working part time. It wasn’t enough to support us, and she didn’t want me to quit college. She never got to go and it was important to her that I finish. Dad was sending some money, but it wasn’t enough. She had to get a job.
She set her sights low. She thought about going to work in a gas station. It was simple – no experience necessary. I didn’t like the idea because it would be dangerous – there was a risk of her being robbed. I also knew that she could do better. She’d managed a call center, many years before, when I was in kindergarten.
She’d forgotten about that – and she’d forgotten about even earlier than that.
When she first came to America, she came to stay with a pen pal. The pen pal wasn’t much of a pal – the situation got worse very fast, and she couldn’t stay with her. Perhaps there had been a misunderstanding of what was expected. Perhaps the person was just a jerk.
But Mom didn’t go back home to England. She stayed here, found a job, found an apartment. She took care of herself and then met the person she was to marry.
And she did it all by herself.
She’d forgotten how strong she was, way back then, in her 20s. Surely she was even stronger now in her 50s. She could handle it. She’d done so much more since then – run a house by herself for one. My Dad wasn’t interested in cooking or cleaning or repairs or yardwork. She’d been the president of the PTA. She ran my Girl Scout troop after the leader quit at the first meeting. She was always filling in where others dropped the ball and doing a great job. She had no training and no experience, but she knew when something had to be done that someone had to do it, so she did.
I take after her a lot, now that I think about it.
We forget ourselves. We forget how strong we are. So when something unexpected and hard comes up, we think it is the first time we’ve climbed that mountain. We’ve climbed Everest. It was years ago, but we climbed it – when we handled our parent’s estate, or stood up to a bully, or left an abusive boyfriend or husband, or gotten a PhD, or any number of things. Life is full of mountains. It is just that when we get into the long flat stretches that we forget.
Remember your mountains, and they will help you get over this one.