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Saturday, March 02, 2024

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates, or My Momma Always Said

To be fair, many universities allow students to withdraw from classes approximately two-thirds of the way through the course. I'm sure there are valid reasons for making such a decision. 

Rachel was marveling at the dwindling numbers in her math course.

She had to sign up for a group and decided to put her name down under the very first group, thinking to herself that this group of people would be sure to be on the ball about things (she's experienced some tricky group dynamics but, I think that's par for the course (no pun intended)). They started with six or seven people in their group and she has had a better experience in the group, but they are down to three people (the deadline to withdraw is not until March 4—the same day my library books are due (just a little note to myself)—so we'll see if her group stays that size). 

The absolutely wild thing, though, is that the last day of classes is, like, April 5 (I don't know; I'm not really sure how to read their schedule...so it might be April 8)!

That's like a month away! All you have after that is finals (April 9—10) and then you're home free! 

You powered through January and February (eight weeks of classes), but you can't do March?! Like, you have five weeks of classes and one week of finals left! Stick with it and you get credit for the course. Drop out and...you don't...and if you want to repeat the class you have to start over again in square one!

There are times when I think it's wise to put down burdens, but I also think it's wise to consider when the most convenient time to put the burden down is! Sometimes it's better to just carry things across the finish line. For real. Even if it's hard. (Though I understand that sometimes you simply have to put something down).

Anyway, while we were talking about this (Rachel's disbelief that someone would decide to drop a class at the moment when she's planning her Hermione-esque slide to the finish), I was reminded of a few things that my mom used to always say (and probably still says, though she hasn't said them to me recently). One thing was:

"You can do anything for a semester."

I am a bit of a perfectionist at times—not about everything (like, not really with housekeeping, as my house will quickly tell you), but about some things (like academic things)—so it wasn't unusual to have a very stressed-out Nancy on her hands at certain points in any given semester. 

I signed up for too many classes! Ugh—Russia is so cold! I signed up for too many hours at work! I just couldn't stand this group I was assigned to work with! If I have to read Persuasian one more time I am going to scream...

That sort of a thing. Nothing major. 

"You can do anything for a semester," my mom would remind me. 

And it turns out that I could do a lot of things for one semester!

I wasn't sure this advice would continue to be applicable to my life, but—as it turns out—it is still very much applicable. 

When Andrew and I got married...during finals week at BYU...I remember a few sage individuals telling us that we'd regret getting married at that time of the year. But I was so close to graduation and Andrew was planning on abandoning academia for public service after his graduation, so we laughed off their remarks. Surely finals week wouldn't haunt us forever! 

I don't know what those people saw in us that we didn't see in ourselves, but, uh...our anniversary has more or less hovered around finals week ever since. 

I don't know that we regret getting married during finals week. I'm not one for huge celebrations of any sort, so if I have to celebrate my anniversary a week late, or a month late, or never...I'm not going to be upset about that. 

But, it is true that our lives have been running on a semester schedule for the past 20+ years. 

I'd say that life has been pretty good, but we've had a good portion of difficult times as well, and we frequently remind each other that we can get through the semester. Because if we can get through the semester, well...then we can put down some burdens and breathe for a bit. 

That brings me to the next thing I remember my mom saying a lot:

"A change is a good as a rest!"

This would often be said to me when I would whine about classes starting up again before I had even managed to feel rested. 

"A change is as good as a rest!"

Switching things up every semester—new course load, new teaching schedule, whatever—is as good as a good vacation (in my mom's opinion). And...once again...she's not wrong.

I mean, that's what cross-training is all about, right? A good rest day is lovely, but a break from the ordinary is just as welcome (even if it's still a workout).

Sometimes I actually like to juggle multiple writing projects because then when I'm feeling like I just can't work on one particular project...I can work on the other project for a while...and that way I'm still working, even if I'm not working on what I "should" be working on. 

This advice is sometimes true, I think. But sometimes nothing can take the place of an actual rest. 

I really like naps, okay? My 5-year-old self is shuddering right now, I know. 

There, there, 5-year-old Nancy. It's okay. No one has taunted you with "Nancy Newt needs naps" for several decades now. We got through that. We own nap time now.

So, I'd say that a change can be nice, but only a rest is as good as a rest. 

The last thing that I thought of that my mom always said was more of a formula than a saying:

"[Fill in the blank] and you can be miserable, or [fill in the blank] and you can be happy. Either way, [fill in the blank]."

She could have said this about as simple a thing as, "You can do the dishes and be miserable, or you can do the dishes and be happy. Either way, you're doing the dishes."

Or about something a little more life-altering, like...I don't know: "You can move to Utah and be happy. Or you can move to Utah and be miserable. Either way...we're moving to Utah."

We're not moving to Utah, by the way. But once upon a time I did move to Utah as a fifteen-year-old and it was....the way that it was. And I found happiness there. I'm not sure it was any better or worse than anywhere else.

I don't know. I actually had a hard time coming up with something huge and terrible in my life, even though I know my life has had hard things in it. But mostly, even though my life has had hard things in it, I was raised to somehow believe that life is—nonetheless—beautiful. And life has been beautiful (even through the difficult bits).

*****

I wondered aloud to my girls about things that I always say. Do I have things that I always say? 

Rachel told me that these things are sometimes only discovered in retrospect, so I may have to wait a few years to find out. 

*****

We also talked about the principle of having your life "fall apart." Someone we know frequently claims their life is falling apart, but I'm not sure that it is. Rather, I think their life is "happening."

If we're not careful, sometimes I think we mistake "happening" for "falling apart" because life is less...containable...than we sometimes wish it were. So it's rarely "falling apart" as much as it is just...being. 

****

I guess that's another thing my mom would also often say: "The best laid plans..."

I know that's a famous quote from Robert Burns. A lot of these are relatively well-known sayings (or are takes on well-known sayings). I just...remember my mom using them a lot. That's all.

*****

I also got to sit down to play Scrabble with my big girls the other day while the little kids (or most of them, anyway) were playing outside. Phoebe sat with us and mucked with letters and played with her dress-up bear game (that Rachel played with when she was little, and Miriam on down...). 

Here's Phoebe asking me to "Take a picture me, bear."


And here's our scrabble board:


We had some pretty awesome words, I think.

And here's Alexander wrestling Phoebe in the middle of scripture study (after he, Benjamin, and Zoë came inside from playing kick-the-can with their friends):


Lastly, I don't think my mother has ever said, "Life is like a box of chocolates," but I think that it's probably true that you never quite know what you're going to get...

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