The Boots You Need

At the edge of our neighborhood, Habit for Humanity has begun a large multi-house development. The last two weeks, we’ve endured a couple dumps of snow, and the site is soaked, muddy and more than able to bog down both man and motor. This morning, a fellow (I’m going to guess one of the architects) parked his small SUV at the end of Ridge Street, walked to the back of his truck and opened the hatch. He slipped off his buffed leather boots and tossed them into the vehicle, pulling out a ragged, worn down pair of flat-toed, dirt-stompers as their replacement. This is a smart fellow. It’s good to know what kind of day (or year) you’re up against, and pick your boots accordingly.

In the days after my mom’s death, Miska, two good friends and my spiritual director Fr. James all said the same thing: Be kind and gentle with yourself. Grief comes with a thousand faces, but grief does come – and they all wanted me to remember this and to give myself the space to be frayed at the edges, to get a little lost, to expect some of my old demons to come knocking, to not be taken by surprise if the deeper questions come later rather than right away.

I know two moms, at opposite ends of the spectrum (one with a newborn, one almost an empty-nester), but life’s thrown both of them a real stinker. They experience happiness and have good desires, but there’s also lots of regret and uncertainty, more than a little exhaustion. I know lots of folks scratching as hard as they can for a good job, folks who are living the grind and praying to God the dollars are enough to see them to the end of the month. Friends accustomed to onslaughts of fear, anxiety and isolation.

Life will come at us, bringing wonder and joy but also sadness and real trouble. When we recognize this, we can know that sometimes we simply need to pull on our beaters. We’ve got to wade into the muck, and let the craziness or the despair or the rage work its way out. It will not ruin us. It will not overwhelm us. The hardness comes, and the hardness goes. In the meantime, be kind and gentle with yourself.

8 Replies to “The Boots You Need”

  1. It’s painful to go through. However, as someone once told me, “…It’s impossible to make diamonds without heat and pressure.” One day you look back, something clicks, and you realize the exact reason why it all happened. I don’t have the answer for anyone else, but from experience, I can tell you it will come.

  2. Winn, I forwarded this to my 3 sisters (my mom died in Dec., my brother, Jan.) & then to 2 friends who are beating themselves up for falling on the ice and breaking bones. Now, I’m thinking of others… So many of God’s children need to hear this, and so few of us say it. Thank you for putting it down, so we can share. God bless.

    1. I’m sorry for the death of your mom, Brenda – and your brother soon after. That’s too much loss too close together…

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