November 3, 2016

The Middle Ground




There are 84 blog posts sitting in my drafts folder. There's one about a difficult day 4 years ago, another about having, for the 1st time ever, just one New Year's resolution instead of a laundry list. There's a post about a strange, sunny day on the bay, a post about an adventure with my friends, a post about something Ifo said that stopped me in my tracks, surprising me in a way, a good way, that words haven't surprised me in years.

Sometimes this happens. I have so many things to say that I don't know where to start, and I end up saying nothing at all. Do you ever have that dream? The one where you're trying to talk to someone, and although you hear the words in your mind, muffled, as if you're underwater, you can't speak?

Hard to imagine that? Forget it then. So this is a few pieces of the drafts I've been saving for a long time. 

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It's been a good month. A really, really good month. The kind that's so good, you have to force yourself not to grow suspicious that something difficult must be around the corner. That feeling has been nagging at me, though, and there's nothing worse than that train of thought, the when-will-the-other-shoe-drop kind. It comes from a place of such fear and guilt, as if you have to pay for your happiness, as if joy will always be followed with some kind of inevitable sadness.

That's a defense mechanism, of course. When things feel like they're moving in the right direction, you can't help but brace yourself for whatever challenge will come up first.


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I hear my dad's voice in my head a lot. On a revision night after getting bad grades in mathematics and he bought me a lot of practice books to improve my maths, he'd say, "Do it correctly!" He sometimes sounds like yelling, the kind that intimidated coach but motivated me, pushed me to work harder and work smarter. He's the best teacher.

I hear my mom's voice in my head, too, a much softer one. With 6 kids, she's the kind of mom who always carries not just a first-aid kit for medical emergencies, but a first-aid kit for, well, life. From her purse, I've seen my mother pull out everything from Vicks to biscuits, just in case. She's a big just-in-case type, and before I ever did anything (go to school, take a test, leave for a night out), she'd repeat, "Be prepared."

Do it correctly. 
Be prepared.

 So much of parenting boils down to readying your kids for what's next, and helping them learn how to ready themselves. My parents instilled in me a borderline-ridiculous affinity for planning, and it's one of the passed-down habits I'm most grateful I adopted. There's something to be said for training yourself to anticipate what's coming, and to be prepared for your next move. 

But here's where I've sometimes mixed up their message: You're not always anticipating a blow, sometimes you're preparing for something great. You can't know that, of course, but you can learn to understand that good can follow good. There are ups and then there are downs, but sometimes there are ups, and then more ups, and then the down isn't so far to fall, after all.


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The words come quickly when things are really hard, and when things are really good. Maybe it's because the emotions feel more extreme, the thoughts more defined. It's the middle ground that's tough to sort through, I think. Even easy joy can be hard to navigate sometimes.


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