Dylan and I have a saying, it’s something I keep telling him when he’s faced with the desire to give up when the going gets tough: We can do hard things. Whether it’s a pile of ignored homework or a hiking trail that takes a steep upward turn, sometimes you just have to set your jaw and lean into the hardness of a thing, because that’s what has to happen. The only way out is through.

I keep thinking of that phrase this week, as events continue to unfold across our country and we as individuals and as a nation react in our different ways. I had the great fortune to be at the coast for a couple days with my mom and aunt, and I could not have asked for a better environment for me personally — surrounded by people I love, whose opinions I value, with the opportunity to take ongoing breaks from processing and conversation to experience the great calming presence of the ocean.

I keep thinking of the quote that’s been going around which reads in part,

So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.

The boat of my life is so heavy right now. It feels as though there are so many things I have had to keep scooping out of it in the last couple months to keep from going under. I feel such a soul-deep weariness, a desire to just set the paddles down and allow myself to be taken where the angry currents take me.

At the same time, I see with clarity the privilege of that choice, the shameful ease of deciding I am not fit for the fight.

On my last night at the beach I walked the long winding path from our hotel to the beach, and as sunset approached and the wind grew bitter I started running, just to stay warm. I ran and ran and ran along soft then packed sand, my footsteps sometimes sinking and sometimes supported. It was exhilarating and exhausting at the same time, my lungs burning but my breathing deep, my body aching but wildly alive. The ocean pounded in my ears along with my heartbeat, the sky and sand were like cupped hands that pressed the world in around me.

I don’t know how to find some sort of healthy balance between staying informed and spending nearly every waking moment of my day reading the news. I don’t know how to navigate a pandemic when so many of the people that I care about don’t believe the pandemic is something to be concerned about. I don’t know how to guide my children to stand up and fight racism when I myself have done such a poor job of leading by example. I don’t know how to conquer my addictive behaviors when I keep succumbing to the siren call of changing or muting my emotional channels with food, substances, doom scrolling.

I only know that I can do hard things. I have to do the hard things, I have to both live in my truth and work to improve myself. I have to keep choosing to stay in the moment and face the discomfort and educate myself on how to do better.

There’s no shortcut to anything right now. The only way out is through.


12 Responses to “Hard things”

  1. Jennifer on June 5th, 2020 11:31 am

    Thinking of you. Hanging out in the same thoughts. Lets lean on each other.

  2. Alex on June 5th, 2020 11:54 am

    Linda, are you familiar with Glennon Doyle’s work? Her books are _Carry On, Warrior_, _Love Warrior_, and most recently, _Untamed_. She is a recovering addict and also uses the refrain “we can do hard things”- I actually bought a poster saying that from her website a couple of years ago for my ailing mom. I think you might like her.

  3. Robin Danely on June 5th, 2020 12:17 pm

    Thank you for this.

    I thought I’d take a break from the news and the “doom scroll”, so I listened to some podcasts instead… one ended up being about a Native woman who solves missing persons cases on her Reservation & the ongoing injustice there, and the other was about a woman who was separated from her parents as a young child because of immigration issues.

    Both of them just absolutely sunk me — I can’t keep up with the atrocities of our government.

    But, like you, I realized how important it is to push through this, because even though these stories are inevitably going to fade from the news cycle, they continue to be utterly real and devastating. As far as I can tell, action is the only way through despair.

  4. Jan on June 5th, 2020 12:19 pm

    Beautifully written. You express so many feelings most of us are having. Thank you.

  5. Amy Bridges on June 5th, 2020 2:59 pm

    So beautiful, Linda. Thanks for sharing, as always.

  6. Francesca on June 5th, 2020 3:11 pm

    Best thing you’ve ever written and I’ve been reading you for years and years. Such a beautiful and raw and authentic way of expressing the complexity, the ambivalence and the pain of the world right now. Thank you.

  7. Nix on June 5th, 2020 5:09 pm

    So much this. I have that same feeling, of being unmoored in rough waters. We CAN do hard things and we WILL do them. Finding balance is hard in good times, let alone difficult ones. We will make it through, I have faith. Thank you for sharing with us.

  8. sooboo on June 5th, 2020 6:22 pm

    This week has been very, very hard. It’s somewhat comforting to know many of us are struggling, even people who are usually happy and balanced. Thanks for sharing, beautifully as always, and know you aren’t alone.

  9. Mary on June 6th, 2020 6:13 am

    I too am a white woman, and I am working to learn how to move in a stronger anti-racist direction, and I honestly believed I had done a lot of that work, so this has been a big week for me. I try to take a “When we know better, we can do better,” approach to life, but I also have not continuously been cultivating new knowledge in this area…I know I have privilege, but I don’t always acknowledge it. This week has been a lot, as I work to be a more active ally.

    You are right. We can do hard things. You are the perfect person to guide your boys through this rocky time in history. I think we are all kind of learning as we go, especially because our “leaders” are not really giving us any worthwhile guidance. It’s a scary time, but it could be the most exciting time any of us have ever lived through, as long as we keep showing up for one another.

    Thank you for your beautiful words.

  10. Martha Pepek on June 7th, 2020 3:08 pm

    Your eloquent expression of how you are in the world today, resonates hard with me. I feel like I am reading from my own journal. Thank you. Thank you for sharing your life experiences in good times and bad. I have been trying to convince myself, and my son, that we can do hard things. We can.

  11. MEP on June 8th, 2020 9:42 am

    Hugs to you, Linda. I have been thinking about you during this time.

  12. Jason on June 11th, 2020 8:37 am

    I surely feel your pain. Jerry Closer helps me with the mule that fell in the cistrine. “Shake it off and stomp it!” Praying for your peace.

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