If All You’re Doing Is Surviving…

Below is an example from my life about parenthood, but the principles to this story can be applied to all areas of life—work, school, volunteer, or whatever. If you’re struggling as a parent, it’s okay. We all are. Secondly, reach out for help—I do the same. We are that village that takes to raise all of our kids.

It must be a popular statement, or else it simply sticks out in my mind because I’ve begun to notice it everywhere. Here’s how the conversation usually goes:

Friend: “How old are your kids again?”
Me: “Their ages are…”
Friend: “Oh wow. Yeah. You’re just surviving. That’s all you’re doing right now.” (emphasis mine)

While I appreciate my friend’s compassion and validating my attempt at being a good parent, I’ve begun rethinking this line.

It’s not just one friend, either. It’s family. It’s many friends. It’s coworkers. The difficult thing is just that: so many people tell you this as a parent with young kids that you just accept that’s how life is.

But then what are you supposed to do? Bide your time until your kids grow up a little bit? Then you’re busy because you’re running them from school to soccer practice—oh, shoot! Then picking up the other one for ballet and then a quick bite to eat, home for homework, and finally exhausted on the couch! Then repeat the next day.

If you need to get past that period of life, then what? Teenagers? Ugh. I don’t even need to go there!

So if you’re just surviving with young kids, frazzled with being a soccer mom, and finally teenagers, then what? Wait till they’re out of the house? By then you’re in your 50s and thinking of retirement, grandkids, and if your bones weren’t hurting in their 30s (mine are) then your 40s and certainly your 50s.

There are no easy answers, only deep, soul-searching questions. But for those of you who are just surviving, I must ask the question, “what are you surviving for?” Are you surviving so that you can work to make the world a better place? Just to get by and hope bad vibes stay out of your way? So that you can live to see a concert, achieve a goal, unlock a quest, or see your kids attain _________? Is that it? Is that all?

We each have varying levels of hope for the future. Some are distraught, some are depressed, and some are optimistic—and some are in between. The purpose of this thought isn’t to be a depressant, but to awaken our souls to these questions. I’d rather go through life asking difficult questions that I may never get the answers to, than to idly sit by too afraid to open the door.

So, to those who have a family member with cancer. To those of us who are workaholics. To those of us who are in over their heads with debt. To those of us who can never seem to catch up. Who feel as if they aren’t even a half-way decent parent. Who feel like failures as parents. Who are cancer survivors. Who can’t catch a break. Who have recently lost a child, parent, spouse, or close friend. To those of us who simply feel like we’re only surviving. Here is the message: there is hope—we just spent a month sharing the Christmas story. Read it (the real version, not the fluffed up Santa version).

However, even if you’re not religious (or don’t want to discuss it), spend time with a close friend or family member. Deepen the bonds you have—or feel like once had—with that person. Shed your toxic relationships. Get away and reflect on your last year. It’s not going to be easy. But go on a walk, let it out (cry, if needed!). You can’t move forward in life if you disallow yourself to share with others and yourself. Be willing to reflect on your past, current situation, and dreams for the future. If you do that, you may find that all you’re doing is surviving, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll begin to find hints of meaning.

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