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On What It Takes to Carry On


Today feels like the waiting room at the ER. Like I just got a phone call about a favorite cousin and drove straight to the hospital. And all the while I’ve been praying my beloved relative will survive the horrible car crash that happened last night.


But in reality the car crash started in March, and the pile up stretches all the way from Seattle to Florida. Every day brings new devastation, and I’m just dying to know when the fatalities will stop.


Are my images too dramatic, are my words too over the top? Perhaps, but writing them down in this space brings me comfort. I can more readily identify the fact that I have no control when I picture myself in that waiting room. And I realize once again that my job is to wait, and hope, and pray. But also, to go easy on myself. We could be here for several weeks, and it’s exhausting. All the tension and unknowns are heavy to carry, and I need to remember to eat and rest and take care of myself so I can keep on waiting.


No matter how many of you are here in this waiting room with me right now, I trust that we all love our country and we’re all anxious to find out how she’s doing in that other room. Will she have permanent injuries? How will her life, and therefore our lives, be different after this is all over? What will we do if she doesn’t make it?


In the months ahead we’ll be tempted to blame each other for this accident. If only it hadn’t been raining, if only the other driver had been paying more attention, we wouldn’t be in this mess. If only we’d never taught her to drive in the first place. But when I think about our little country as a teenager who just got her license, I start to wonder if perhaps it’s time for her to grow up. Maybe we’ve taught her everything we know to teach her, and now it’s time for us to let her go, so she can start to live her own life.


Maybe this analogy is breaking down for you at this point, but as a parent who’s got a twenty-one year old and an almost eighteen year old who’s about to graduate high school, it works for me. America is something I believe in and have cheered for my whole life, but she’s not the entirety of my life. She never has been, and it would be some sort of unhealthy co-dependence if I tried to make her that for the next forty years or so. Sooner or later I have to understand that being an American, or a Mother, or the member of a certain political party is only a very small part of what makes me human.


The much larger parts of me are my heart, my mind, my soul, and my strength. My ability to care for others, to believe in love, to fight for justice, and to share my truth matter more than all my titles and my roles. They’re the things I have in common with the rest of the 300 million people who live here, and they’re what binds me to each of them more than any pledge we'll ever make—to any flag, or republic for which it stands.


So tonight I’m going to sit around the dinner table and eat some of the chicken that I put in the crock-pot this afternoon. I’m gonna enjoy the sweet tea and rolls that my kids took care of, and I’m gonna listen to my husband as he says our evening prayer. I’m going to try and model peace for my teenagers, but I’m also going to try and give them space to talk about their worries and concerns. And tomorrow, I’ll wake up and see if there’s any new news or if it’s yet another day of waiting.


I hope the rest of you will keep me company either way. Please let me know if I can get you a cup of tea or something.


(this)


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©2018 by Janna Barber

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Author photos taken by Lori Douthat