“How to Travel a Hard Road,” Aug. 4, 2020

Have you ever noticed the places your mind will wander if you free it to do some mindless task like mopping or driving or watching another rerun on TV?

Wait. Driving is not a mindless task. I am always mindful while driving. And I certainly hope you are, too.

But sometimes my mind seems to have a mind of its own. Take this morning when I made the bed. You know the drill: Shake the sheets, smooth the covers, fluff the pillows and try not to tweak your back.

I’ve made a bed so many times I don’t need to think about it. I can do it with my eyes closed. In fact, somedays, I probably do.

Lately, after more than four months of “sheltering in place” for the coronavirus pandemic, I was starting to get, to put it mildly, tired of the whole thing.

Tired of feeling like a prisoner under house arrest. Tired of keeping distant from people I want to hug. Tired of fearing for the lives and livelihoods of loved ones and neighbors all around the world. And especially tired of wondering when will it end?

If you’re tired of it, too, let me assure you, we’re not alone. It’s so common there’s even a name for it: “Quarantine fatigue.” It drains us of energy for things we need and want to do—like laughing and loving, feeling truly alive. Worst of all, if left untreated, it can rob us of hope.

So this morning, I decided to clear my head of worry and fear by focusing instead on one simple task: Making the bed.

It worked. For about 30 seconds. Then my mind took off like a hound after a rabbit and suddenly I recalled a memory.

I was 7 years old. My parents were divorced. I’d lived most of my life with my grandparents. But my mother had recently remarried and we’d moved to a new town. I started second grade at a school where I knew no one. I missed my dad, my grandparents and the only home I’d ever known, the one place on Earth where I felt safe.

My new teacher’s name was Mrs. Harrison. A few days after I showed up in her class, she asked me to stay in at recess. When the class went out to play, she closed the door, took my face in her hands and smiled.

“I’ve noticed you don’t seem very happy,” she said. “Would you like to talk about it?”

I burst into tears. Bawled like a baby. Told her everything and then some. She listened. When I stopped, she took a clean handkerchief out of her desk and dried my face.

“You’re traveling a hard road,” she said, “but it will get easier. You can talk to me anytime, but always remember this: You are stronger than you know.”

She was right. The road got easier, mostly because she made school a pleasure. There’d be more hard miles ahead, as there are in every life. But her words would echo in my memory just when I needed to hear them.

In the four years my first husband fought for his life battling cancer, I often felt so weary I wanted to hide in the closet under a pile of dirty socks. But mostly, I wanted to be strong for him and our three children—and myself. Giving up was not an option.

Several things helped. First, coffee. I drank a lot of it.

Second, I knew my kids were watching me. I wanted to show them we could help their dad live his last days to the fullest, and after losing him, we could honor his memory by moving forward with our lives.

Third, I had an army of prayer warriors—family, friends and readers around the country—asking God to give me strength.

And always, I had this: Every time I felt like hiding in the closet, Mrs. Harrison would whisper in my memory, “You are stronger than you know.”

Sometimes, when we doubt our own strength, it helps to know someone believes in us.

We have never traveled a road quite like this pandemic. But we are traveling it together, believing in one another.

And we are stronger than we know.

Comments

  1. bill arnett says:

    Timely article for this time in my life. My wife just got on the glory train to heaven July 7th! If it weren’t for the prayers of all & family support, especially 3 Granddaughters, I wouldn’t be where I am mentally today. We do underestimate our inner strength & with God’s help and guidance we will make it. My favorite bible verse, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”, has been my guide all my life. Even now as I celebrate my wife’s ascent into heaven. Thanks so much for the article!!!!

  2. nancy barnett says:

    I ran across a copy of your column from 1997 about swinging. I had sent it to my mother who was in a nursing home. Lovely. So I looked for you and delighted to read your current posts. Thank you.

  3. Jean Dewitz says:

    What an amazing teacher!!!! So much help for a young child. This stays in our memories.

  4. Thank you, Sharon, for another beautiful and timely piece. We can all learn from your touching memories, and our own actions and interactions in this perilous time. Blessings.

  5. Janet Mann says:

    Dear Sharon: You have spoken the words that so many of us are feeling at this time. THANK YOU! for being your and using your GOD given skill to express our feelings for us. Hang in there, girl! It has got to end….some day! 🙂

  6. Kate Sciacca says:

    Mrs. Harrison was a gem… she sure embraced her vocation. Mine was Sr. Dorothy John…. first grade. Not a particular event…. just a sense that we were loved, all fifty of us, intensely… by God, and by her 😊

    This too shall pass….

  7. Katie says:

    What a wonderful tribute to your teacher…a real life lesson. Thankful for inspirational teachers. God bless them.

  8. Shirley Thacker says:

    I love you! Thank you for sharing! I traveled that weary cancer battle with my husband too and was weary beyond words but wanted to be strong for our two girls and his family!! Love is amazing. And worth the travel!

  9. Patsy Styers says:

    You always know exactly what to say to make us all feel better. Thank you for being there for all us.❤️

  10. Patti Peters says:

    Amazing what one person, totally unexpected often, can do for you. You say so many things we should all pay attention to, and learn from.

  11. Dick Daniel says:

    ❤️

  12. Kay Bare says:

    Thank you so much, Sharon. for your words of wisdom and comfort. I too am going through this rocky road. Wish God would forgive our sinful souls and bring us out on the other side.

    • Katie Coburn says:

      Thanks, sweet Sharon. You have mothered more readers than you could imagine. Mine died in ‘86. This is hard. We CAN DO IT. Reach out, speak with love, make that call, write that card. FaceTime. Zoom. Sc Wear your mask. Smile so big behind it, everyone will be heartened by the twinkle in your eyes 😘💜🙏🏼

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