In passing, someone asked me recently, “How do we do it?” When I gave her a puzzled look, she said, “How do we do what we do? How does everyone do what they do?”
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She was referring to surviving, getting through life one day at a time. Most of us have stressful jobs and we wonder how we get through the day sometimes, but before I could answer and expand on that sentiment, she said something that really put all that complaining I like to do about difficult things in my life in perspective. She reflected upon her own statement, sighed, and then said, “We all like to think we’re alone in this, but we’re like a big viking ship and everyone has an oar.”
Wow. I never really thought about it that way. I’m always focusing on how someone else got a leg up on life that I didn’t, how I’m fighting a battle no one else on earth could possibly understand. But I couldn’t be more wrong. I’m not alone, and neither are you.
We all put our pants on one leg at a time. We all feel joy and pain at what life throws us. And somehow, we all contribute to our families and society in some way to make our lives, and in turn the lives of our fellow man, a little better each day. So why do we often feel so alone?
We don’t tend to look at life like we’re all one big unit, sadly. Whether it’s the city we live in, county, state or country, we don’t think of the effect we’re having on everyone else. We instead focus on our day-to-day lives as if we live in a vacuum, when in reality we’re so far from it. We’re a part of something big, small societies within a big one, all with different rules and personalities driving them.
We are all important pieces to a machine, one where our roles are crucial for it to run, but with parts that are completely replaceable. That thought can be both inspiring and humbling at times. This machine doesn’t just run the workplace. It runs our interactions with everyone in our lives, from co-workers to family, friends and even strangers we meet between. How we act at home behind closed doors can be a direct result of what kind of day we had at work, or something that happened to us on our way home. It shouldn’t, but we’re human, and leaving the stresses of our non-home lives outside our front door can be seemingly impossible.
Stack that with the machine, no matter how well-oiled, not providing us comfort when we’re stressed out about our individual bills, our lack of free time or our never-ending effort to make other people happy. No matter who we’re surrounded by, at some point we all feel alone, and we all wonder how we’ll get through another day.
But then we do, and it’s not that difficult. We realize that while life is tough, we’re capable of conquering it every single day, no matter what it throws at us. We run into people who actively make an effort to make our day better like we’ve been trying to do for everyone else, and we realize that this machine we’re all a part of is really what’s keeping us individually from falling apart.
We may always have our own stresses in which we think no one else can relate. But so will everyone else. And knowing they can still put one foot in front of the other each day means we can too. We can stay driven just knowing that everyone else has their oars too, and are rowing that viking ship right alongside us.
So, to answer her first question, “How do we do it,” I can only think of one way: Together.
Patrick Ibarra is the managing editor of the Mountain Democrat. His column appears bi-weekly.