This too shall pass

I am still not back to my usual blogging routine, which frustrates me. But life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans, right. So, for today, just some random advice. To honor friendship.

Almost five years ago, I had a horrible month. Really horrible. A month to never forget. For the simple fact that I was so sleep-deprived. Willem was born in June that year and he was the type of baby that woke me up every hour, hour and a half maximum. It felt as if he never slept. Frederik had left for Switzerland for a month when Willem was three months old. My wonderful mother-in-law had come over to help out that month. But she could not do that again two months later when Free had to leave again for a month. Even before he left, I was already dreading it, not knowing how I would manage. But the reality was even worse.

They say that a second child is hardest on the first child. In our case, it was completely true. I tried my very best to include and cuddle Janne as much as possible after Willem was born. (We watched a lot of American’s funniest home videos together while I was breastfeeding.) But she completely (and understandably) clung to Daddy that first year. When he left again, again for a month, she really struggled. I honestly think she resented me. On top of that, she got very sick.

Janne was a heartbreaking mess. She would wipe her snot over her cheek with her arm until her cheek literally got infected. Not that I did not try to clean her nose. I was simply not allowed to touch her. She pushed me away in any way she could, physically and emotionally. It was heartbreaking and frightening to see how determined even being sick. But even when she finally got better after a week, she continued her reign of terror. She simply refused to cooperate at all. She fought me on every single thing, from putting shoes on to brushing hair. If I would turn the radio on to relax a little, she would turn it off. Of course, doing the exact opposite when Willem finally went down for once. By now, I was so sleep-deprived that my vision was distorted most of the time and I felt like crying all the time. Which I did. A lot.

After a session of complaining to a friend who had dared to ask how I was holding up (I wasn’t), she told me: “Remember, this too shall pass. Do you know that sentence?” I was ready to bite her head off at the time. I thought: “Really? That’s it? How does this help me at all?!” But ever since, that little sentence has stuck with me and it has helped me numerous times. Whenever times get rough, for different reasons, it pops up in my mind. This too shall pass. (There is even a Wikipedia-page on it.)

Of course, it comes close to that other philosophical wisdom “Panta rei”, “everything flows” from Heraclitus, helping us remember that life is fleeting. But I have come to prefer the concreteness of “This too shall pass”. It helps me deal with what is troubling me right now. It reminds me that eventually it will come to an end. And, yes, even the good time shall pass, eventually, but only pessimists (and philosophers) remind themselves in good times that they, too, will come to an end.

Last week, I passed it on for the first time. A friend of mine had a stroke of bad luck. A bad one. Nothing life threatening, but still quite an expensive bummer. The defeating kind. And it popped up again: “This too shall pass”.  I hope it will help her like it helped me. And I want to thank you, Madalyn, for sharing it with me. It did help. It’s still helping.

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