In Last Holiday with Queen Latifah and Timothy Hutton, there is a scene that though cloaked in asininity contains a good bit of advice. After finding out she has three weeks to live, Georgia Byrd (Latifah) meets with her manager to discuss her situation. He is obnoxious and inaccessible. He is consumed with the advice of the founder of their company, Matthew Kragen (Hutton) and is listening to one of Kragen’s motivational tapes when Georgia comes to his office. Georgia is frustrated with the manager and before she destroys the CD, Kragen gives the listener this piece of advice: Grab that scared little loser inside you and beat the living crap out of them. Of course, that comment is offensive; but, to be honest, as a quintessential doormat, I want to grab that weak, fearful, timid part of me and beat it up or at least tell her to suck it up.
Living with teens while progressing through middle age has forced this coward to look inward for some fortitude and backbone. I may have to write a whole survival guide on getting through the teen years. I have my eighth going through this turbulent time, and I don’t know if I can withstand the pressure. I understand they are individuating, and getting comfortable in their own skin, and finding their place in their worlds; but for crying out loud, let’s move this along. When I am confronted with a turbulent teen, I usually buckle. I was born to run from trouble, and now when they are going through this troublesome time of life, I want to flee. But, as all parents know, there are times when you have to stand your ground and suck it up. I am getting stronger and refining my ability to communicate with this species of mankind and not be so intimidated by them.
Middle age has left me with more panic attacks than I’d like to admit. I was always kinda nervous, but once the hormones became irregular, the panic attacks started in earnest. The worst ones were at the dentist. Many years ago, I had some teeth pulled. Now I used to like going to the dentist. No problem. But this day, for some reason, (probably too much stress in my crazy life), I began to sweat, shake and look for a way out. To add to this situation, the dentist had the TV on, and a report — no lie, I swear — came on about a patient dying in the dentist’s chair. Great … well, by that time it was too late.
Every time I go to the dentist now, I relive that visit. My last visit, I had a bad tooth that had to come out. My current dentist knows I get nervous, he asked if I wanted it pulled. He left me some room to bolt. I waited. I could leave and just live with the pain a little longer. Or I could summon some courage from some remote part of my soul, and suck it up. I told him go ahead and pull it. It hurt, well it’s the shots that hurt, but I survived.
Phillips Brooks was an Episcopalian minister from the 19th Century. He is best known for being the lyricist for the Christmas carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem. I stumbled upon one of his quotes that continues to encourage and strengthen me:
Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you yourself shall be a miracle.
Life can be really tough. Things happen, choices have unforeseen consequences or the rose-colored tint just fades from your dreams. In this life one must be strong. I grew up thinking life was going to be a rose garden. I expected things to be easy, it took me a long time to understand that life is hard, even for us in this country where most of our needs are met. I use to pray for an easy life, now I just pray to be stronger, to suck it up and do what I have to do, whether it be going toe-to-toe in the trenches with a teen or determining to deal with my dental issues decidedly.