Degrees of impossible

I did a number of things this summer which really felt impossible. They mostly had to do with being a solomama. They had to do with finding responsibility overwhelming and practical management of life with really full-on little people totally out of my -rather good, actually- coping skills.

A couple of weeks ago, in a country where heat and blue seas are a simple, unpretentious blessing, I had a rather awkward encounter in the waiting area of a cafe’s toilets. Not very poetic, I know. And yet, awkward moments are fascinating because they can go in a million different directions. More unpredictable than most interactions.

Anyway my life intersected briefly and uncomfortably with that of a man of a similar age, moving around in a wheelchair. It’s a beach day and so the harsh and long vertical scar on his spine is very visible, and it leads me to think this person has had some major adjustments to do in his journey.

He smiled and said goodbye to us on his way out of the cafe. Over the next twenty-four hours we managed to get in his way another two times. And each time, whether he was trying to get past my fighting children or just crossing the road ahead of us, he said hello smiling.

I know nothing about this person, but the thought of how life must have felt impossible to him at some point stayed with me and carried me through one very hard week I had alone with my children and their seriously struggling grandmother in the absence of school, entertainment or help anywhere in sight. It struck me that when things feel impossible they either do or don’t, there’s no one thing seemingly less impossible than another. When you’re there, overwhelmed, the threat is all-absorbing.

And for days I kept marvelling at the warmth and friendliness in this man’s voice. The simple and precious ok-ness in his smile. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what ‘impossible’ had felt like for this person. So I just embraced my challenge. And my children. And surrendered to my much less dramatic ‘impossible’, knowing that it was not going to really hurt me. And now I hope to remember that feeling, and this stranger’s love for life, every single time overwhelmed is all I can feel.


3 thoughts on “Degrees of impossible

  1. I remember you said once that homeless people in different countries expect different things: in certain places, if you don’t meet their eyes, they are offended and get pissed off. In other places, it is the opposite. Looking in someone’s eyes will invite shame and anger. I think you have a miraculous way of looking at people, anywhere, without them feeling that you patronize or judge them. It is wonderful, and a real gift for those of us who happen to meet you along this not so easy journey of life. Thank you for how you look at people, and for noticing how they look at others.


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