Break Your Neck To Keep Your Chin Up

“All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot. And when you’re alone there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants.” -Dr. Seuss

The very best part of a Canadian childhood is this: being pulled on a sled.

If you were blessed with a Canadian childhood it is almost a guarantee that at least once in your life you were bundled up so tight you could barely move and shipped outside where you plonked down on a big sled and someone pulled you somewhere. Maybe around the neighbourhood. Maybe to the toboggan hill. Maybe to get the mail.

But at some point, you just bundled up, braved the elements and surrendered to someone else doing you a solid and getting you from A to B.

As an adult one of the toughest things is bundling up, braving the elements, and realizing there is no one to pull your sled.

No one can get you from A to B. You’re all alone. Mostly.

And when you’re all alone, not only will you meet things that scare you right out of your pants, but you’ll do things that scare you right out of your pants.

When you’re alone and trying to get from A to B, you can become the worst version of yourself. Trust me, I’ve done it.

What’s the worst version of myself? People tell me I’m heavy on the guilt trips. Must be the Catholic in me. (Okay, I need to work on that).

Also, I’m verbose. That’s a succinct way of saying I’m someone who uses more words than needed.

I’ve been known to be over-the-top.

When you are alone and sinking into your worst self, it can feel impossible to escape. Especially when you are trying to brave the elements in your own life. Elements you did not choose but that you must face — alone.

And here’s where the very best part of the human experience comes in: sometimes at your very low, lows you’ll find a person who will pull your sled for a while. Someone who will help get you from A to B.

There are people out there — trust me, I know some of them — who can be so gentle and patient with you it’s impossible to know how they do it. These people give you the benefit of the doubt when you most need it. They’re the people who have a graveyard big enough to bury your sins. They’re the ones who try to understand what you’re going through. Who stick with you even when it’s inconvenient for them.

Sometimes it can appear, even to them, like you might never escape your death spiral. But they believe you when you say you can do better, they decide not to quit on you.

There are very few people like this in the world, and I’ve discovered their numbers dwindle as you age. But they’re out there, I know a few.

And it is to those people I pay my respects today.

This semester, so far, has been akin to stepping outside in a blizzard. Even when you’re bundled up, it’s hard to withstand the elements for very long and I am suffering in the face of them. Especially since last semester was such a breeze.

I feel like I’m breaking my neck just to keep my chin up. Sometimes I feel like I am at the maximum for what a person can handle. I can’t possibly get my chin any higher than it already is, and I’m barely getting by.

With each set back that strikes I say to myself, “I can’t handle one more bad thing happening.” And then, like a swift kick to the pants, another bad thing happens. Life can be tough like that. And I find myself having to figure out how to deal with the next thing while I’m still not done dealing with the first.

This, of course, leads to circumstantial craziness. My worst self emerges like a villainous monster I’ve hidden under the bed. Histrionics, neediness, guilt trips — they come roaring up in full force as I feel my will to press forward slowly slip away.

That’s my worst self. I thought I kissed that girl goodbye, but in certain circumstances she wants to break through again.

And at my worst self… at my most unloveable… there are people who haven’t quit on me.

The most humbling thing to ask someone is to not give up on you. It is a scary and terrible thing to do. But you will find that when you do, there are people who understand.

They are the ones who have said, “let me pull you for a bit.”

Well, more like I have begged them to be able to fall down on a sled somewhere — anywhere — and be dragged along until I’m strong enough to pick up my own sled and do it all on my own again.

But what a welcome surprise to find out that I can do such a thing, when I thought I couldn’t. When I thought I was all alone.

How comforting it is to know that these people exist and that at some point I have done something promising enough to keep them in my life. I am overwhelmed that they don’t say, “I’m tired of being patient with you.”

To not be given up on is a gift. A gift that reminds me I should bestow the same thing on other people more often.

Life can be very, very hard. It is impossible to do all of it all alone.

So I am thankful to these people. These people who know exactly who they are. And I am more thankful than I can ever express.

Somewhere inside of me is the girl who can pull not only her sled, but others’ too.

And how lucky am I to know I’m not the only one who believes that about myself.

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