Uninvited Challenges

by Nicole Hodson, Executive Director, NANP

It seems like every day since the pandemic hit, we’re facing new, uninvited challenges in our lives. Let’s face it, most of us figured by now things would be back to normal – or at least we hoped so. But, as the months have drug on, it’s become clear we don’t know when we’ll be able to go back to the way things were or even if the life we once had is within reach any longer.

Many of us now find ourselves living a ‘one step forward, two steps back’ kind of existence, with spouses and kids back to work and school one day and home again the next. Along with that comes the inability to spend time with some of our loved ones, especially at-risk or elderly family members and those who live in care facilities. It’s all a bit much, and all the uncertainty and unwelcome life changes are taking their toll.

Lately, I’m reminded of a great piece of advice I got from a colleague I worked with decades ago. In my early 20s, I was newlywed, had just moved out of my folks’ home, and my brand new husband had been immediately deployed across the country. I suddenly found myself feeling very alone, overwhelmed, and unable to sleep at all. I went days on end without any sleep and spent my time complaining to my co-workers about how tired I felt.

Charlene was a mature woman who had adopted three orphaned sisters when they were just 2, 3, and 5 years old. She became a mother of three in one day. A few months into sudden motherhood, Charlene walked in on her husband with another woman. So she left and raised these three beautiful little girls all on her own. This woman had been through a lot!

One morning after I had once again announced how exhausted I was (Imagine a cartoon kitten with a stressed-out look on her face, eyes wide open, freaked out, and ears up in high alert), Charlene came into my cubicle. She sat down across from me, leaned in, took my hand, looked me in the eyes, and said one straightforward thing that frankly, changed it all for me. She said, “Sweetheart, all you have to do is make it through the day.” The freaked-out look slid down off my face, my eyes softened, and my ears drooped.

She was right. That really was all I had to do. And for some reason, that assignment of “make it through the day” put everything into perspective. It gave me the focus I needed to realign myself. You’re probably thinking, “duh!” But, when you’re in the middle of a difficult time, it can be a challenge to distill everything that’s coming at you.

I’m a lot older now, and I’ve learned to take things in stride. Along with that nugget of wisdom I picked up from Charlene, I’ve grabbed on to a couple of others. For instance, my mother-in-law’s favorite, “You can only do what you can do,” is an excellent reminder that I can control only myself and nothing else. And another little pearl I like, “You never know what’s around the corner.” Life is full of surprises, and we have to keep that in mind – especially during times of great uncertainty.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that cliches will solve our problems or that we should rush through life, unengaged and not living in the moment. But I do want to acknowledge that there are times when we have to get through the day. And, that’s okay. Because you can only do what you can do, and you never do know what’s around that corner.

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