This past weekend I had a chance to chat with my grandmother (my dad’s mom) on the phone for almost an hour. I always enjoy our conversations. Usually there’s a story or two that is recounted, like the time when I was a toddler and, as soon as my grandmother came over to our house, I grabbed her hand, took her to my room, and closed the door, apparently wanting to keep her all to myself. “Do you remember that?” Grandma always asks, smitten by the story. I don’t remember the incident when it actually happened, but I do remember it from the previous conversation when she shared it with me, and from the time before that, and each time before that. It’s a favorite memory of hers, so I’m glad to listen as many times as she’d like to share it.
We also talked about her life as a navy pilot’s wife, a young widow after 20-some years of marriage, and a mother of three. She told me about the people for whom she’s cared and about her faith over the years. For her it’s just her story, it’s just the hand that she was dealt and the life that she’s lived. For me it’s this example of strength, of endurance, of sacrifice, of devotion. Sometimes you just need to hear perspective from someone who’s been doing this for 85 years.
Oh, and there’s a matter-of-fact quality to my grandmother. If she has a question about your bowel movements, by golly she’ll ask it without lowering her voice or using delicate language. No sugar coating here. This straight shooting usually makes me laugh, more so when someone else is in the hot seat being asked how often they wash their face or if they use the quilt that she hunched over for months to make for them.
I told her about my recent state of overwhelmedness. Trying to make headway with my comprehensive exams while juggling work in the lab and a big load of personal stuff at times leaves me falling short in all I do. When these feelings of defeat peak I can become almost paralyzed, leading to, among other things, inefficient use of my time, which of course feeds in to the cycle of feeling overwhelmed and falling short. To this Grandma responded: “When I start to get that way I drink a Pepsi and it helps me to get going. And I know that it’s not good for you, but it’s either that or shoot myself, so I figure the Pepsi’s not so bad.”
She’s funny and she’s blunt, but she’s right. I have dozens and dozens of pages to write and only a few weeks until my deadline, so yeah, I need to get going. And maybe life for the next four weeks (or five or six weeks) is going to be a little disjointed and wearisome and out of balance, but this is my spring. It’s either get going or give up, so even if I need to cheat here and there on my healthy eating plan, ignore a few emails, or let the bathrooms stay a little dirty, it’s not so bad. It’s worth the trade off of not giving up, of meeting another goal along this (sometimes very painful) journey, of knowing that I never really was defeated after all.