You’ve got this! You can do this! You’re doing a really great job!
You don’t know what you’re capable of handling on your own until you no longer have a choice in the matter and handling it on your own is the only option. Youngest Brother recently experienced this firsthand and has lived to tell the tale.
While playing games online with his friends one night, Youngest Brother noticed a small spider scrambling across his desk. He attempted to neutralize it as quickly and mercifully as possible, but to his great dismay, it decided to seek shelter by jumping between the keys on his keyboard.
There is a lot to be said for knowing your limits. Youngest Brother knew he was out of his depth here, and the last thing he wanted to do was miscalculate and end up with squashed spider guts permanently stuck to the underside of his space bar.
And so, he did what any reasonable person would do. He sought out backup – i.e., Mom.
Mom – who has dealt with so many spiders on behalf of various members of our family that she might as well start her own extermination business – successfully extricated the spider from the keyboard and neutralized it without further incident.
Youngest Brother was able to breathe a sigh of relief and resume his game without having to shudder with apprehension every time he pressed a key.
The next day, Youngest Brother went to a friend’s house for a small work party. The goal was to start renovating an old outbuilding in the backyard and transform it into a social gathering space where everyone would be able to hang out together.
To achieve this, the outbuilding first had to be gutted and all the old insulation ripped out of the walls. It was decided that half the work party would make a Home Depot run to pick up additional supplies while the other half began gutting the outbuilding.
Unfortunately, when that half of the group left on their errand, they unwittingly had all the facemasks with them in the pickup truck. And a facemask is absolutely necessary when you’re working with insulation. Youngest Brother was the only one who had brought his own facemask, so he volunteered to get started on the outbuilding so that they could make a little progress before the others returned.
Poor, poor Youngest Brother. I don’t think he’ll be so eager to volunteer in the future.
It quickly became apparent that at some point, rats had gotten into the walls of the outbuilding. These rats had eventually died, which had then attracted maggots. The maggots and decomposing rats had had a rather unsavory effect on the insulation inside the walls, making for a putrid, rotting mess.
Youngest Brother had no one he could call for backup. But now that he found himself in the midst of this disaster, he was determined to see it through. Slowly but steadily, he dealt with the morass of rancid insulation and dead rats, punctuated by periodic rains of maggots.
One of his friends stood as close to the outbuilding as was safe without a mask and shouted encouragement to Youngest Brother through the window: “You’ve got this! You can do it! You’re doing a great job!”
And eventually, thanks to his own persistence and his friend cheering him on, Youngest Brother made it through.
I’m not sure if any of Youngest Brother’s friends were able to join him later on or if he did this entirely by himself – he was pretty exhausted when he got home and asked Mom to check him for maggots – but his experience in the outbuilding struck me as an apt metaphor for how life can be at times.
Inevitably, we will find ourselves in some sort of situation that we have to face on our own. It’s not that other people are unwilling to help, it’s just that the nature of the situation is such that we have to do the heavy lifting ourselves.
Maybe you’re going through a divorce. Family and friends can offer you support and advice, but you’re the one who has to hash out custody arrangements and alimony payments – possibly with a hostile or uncooperative spouse. You are the one who has to process the emotions that surround a marriage ending and eventually rebuild your life. No one else can do that for you, however much they want to.
Or perhaps your situation is a medical diagnosis. Family and friends can take you to appointments and help you make informed treatment decisions, but you’re the one who has to deal with the disease. You are the one who has to endure the symptoms and side effects as well as the emotional toll of uncertain outcomes. No one else can do that for you, however much they want to.
But when you find yourself in such a situation, when there are so many obstacles that it feels like there’s a decomposing rat at every turn and the maggots just will not stop raining down on you, it is so very nice to have people who will encourage you, support you, pray for you.
Even though they can’t be right in there with you, they can cheer you on through the window. It makes all the difference in the world to know that even though you may feel alone, you aren’t.
If you are currently in the midst of maggots and dead rats, please allow me to shout some encouragement to you. You’ve got this! You can do this! You’re doing a great job!
And I pray that once the insulation dust has settled, the biggest issue you will ever have to deal with will be a small spider getting into your keyboard – and that someone else will take care of that for you.
Tete-a-tete is published monthly. Teresa Santoski can be reached at email@example.com or via www.teresasantoski.com.