By Hanna Brooks Olsen on Friday May 26th, 2017
Good Job Today
I remember a lot of days feeling like an egg; an intact shell that looked smooth and clean, with an inside that was messy and maybe even rotten. You’d have to break it to find out, I guess, but it never quite broke. A thin membrane was all that was keeping it together.
White-knuckling, I described it to my doctor.
When you’re barely holding it together, every day is a long and tiresome struggle, every challenge of every size potentially ruinous. Maybe you’re barely holding it together financially — many people are; death by a thousand expenses. Maybe it’s a threadbare social network that’s left your nerves feeling stripped and exposed. Maybe it’s a marriage, maybe it’s parenting, maybe it’s the desire to parent and the inability to, maybe it’s systemic racism that keeps you working twice as hard for half as much, and maybe it’s some combination of these and more.
In spite of whatever it is that keeps picking, picking, picking little pieces of your shell away, you still manage to make it to school or work, or to pick up the kids, or to go to the store, or even to walk the dog. And for that, I want to say: good job.
I Saw You
I saw you yesterday in traffic as you let your head roll back and bump softly into the headrest, eyes looking at the moonroof, shoulders slumped.
I saw you walking briskly to the bus, jaw jutted as if the tension there would keep the tears in a little longer.
I saw you confidently shake a hand with a hand that had no fingernails to speak of.
I saw your inner arm as you handed me my change.
Good job today. You did what you had to do. And good job tomorrow, when you do it again. If no one has told you that recently, I want to tell you that. Good job.
When you’re sitting across from someone who you actually really like, but all you can think is you don’t know me at all.
When your constant mantras are ‘What was I thinking’ or ‘Why did I do that’, but then, ‘It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it turned out ok’.
When you’re in a meeting and smiling politely, but what you really want to do is yell and storm out.
When you do yell and storm out and it feels so damn good, but then you get home and cry because there’s an unexpected bill in the mailbox.
When someone dies. When someone leaves. When something breaks. When multiple terrible things happen on the same day.
When you try to seek help in our complex and expensive patchwork of systems, only to be turned down and turned away and consequently turned off the entire horrible process.
And if one day you don’t manage to hold it together? If one poke is too many and the shell cracks, or outright shatters? Good job for making it as long as you did, and good job for not protecting anyone from your own internal tempest anymore. Good job for starting the process of putting it back together; maybe it will be stronger in the broken places.
We have so many modern conveniences — the super-computers in our pockets, the medicine that keeps us living longer, the apps that pick us up and drop us off and get our laundry handled and our meals delivered, the machines that squeeze our bags of juice — but we also have so many modern challenges, many with no simple solution. So we just keep going; keep holding it together until conditions improve.
The thing that few people will ever admit is that all of us are feeling for the switch in the dark every day and some days we find it, and some days we don’t. And some days we do but the bulb is burned out and even just the reaching and reaching is an accomplishment.
So this is just to say, if you are barely holding it together: good job.