I’m reading a book about a Lithuanian girl and her family who were taken by the Soviets and shipped to a work camp in Siberia during the Second World War. It is beautifully written, tragic, and heartbreaking. There are moments of great beauty and tenderness, but the story is too painful for me to tolerate all at once. It’s a short book that could be read quickly, but I’m slowly chipping away at it in bits and pieces instead. I can only handle a little at a time.
I have started using this tactic in other areas of my life; little bits of bitterness are easier to swallow than a bucketful.
I do it with housework. Clean a toilet here, vacuum a rug there. Occasionally sweep. Forego dusting—who needs it? It makes for a less-than-glorious-to-behold type of house, but eventually the dirty parts will get cleaned. At some point.
I do this with forms and emails from the school and scheduling doctor appointments. Tiny steps toward progress. I’ll get to it, just don’t hold your breath.
I definitely use this approach with facing the more unpleasant aspects of parenting. If potty-training two special-needs boys is like eating an elephant, then I figure that after all these years of trying, I may have worked my way through the front feet and am now chewing on the shoulders.
It’s a lot of work, eating an elephant. I’m trying not to look so much at the great expanse of wrinkled gray flesh which lies ahead of me. I’m focusing on the serious poundage I’ve already metaphorically consumed.
Some day, both those boys will do all their business in the potty. When it happens, I will feel 1) like I have gotten a raise (the cash we drop on Code Brown-supplies is nothing to sneeze at), 2) that we have achieved something arduous and stinky, and 3) unspeakable joy.
I’m aware that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, but I’m also tuned into the billions of other steps which take place between the first and the last. You have to start somewhere, and then you just have to keep plodding. Baby steps, plodding forward.
It may be a shuffle, but I’m still moving.