The King Lear Guide to Surviving Influenza

This February everyone in my house was sick. For a family of six I like to think we do a respectable job of keeping the “if one falls it doesn’t mean we all fall” margain pretty high. We had a good run for many years…. until this winter. Sadly the day after my birthday…they began to fall one by one to a delightful enemy referred to as Influenza A. I was like really people?? For a family who so rarely gets even as much as a fever, I was saddened to see all my sweet babies fall ill, and yet somehow I remained the figure of health.

To make matters even more complicated; their father was also sick. This is where I pause for married women everywhere to gasp, shake their heads in knowing camaraderie, and offer a few words of sympathy. Thankfully, he did NOT have Influenza A. In fact what he did have was stubbornness, and a refusal to listen to his wife. I had instructed him for weeks before the fateful Influenza break-out; to make sure he didn’t have a sinus infection. Newsflash: he did have a sinus infection, and because he ignored it, it had escalated to days of high fever and chills.

The translation here is I was on my own, and the timing of his demise could not have been worse. I won’t sugar coat it, after four days of him on full bed rest, I nearly smothered him with a pillow. I obviously did not…. because I am a good wife….but wow, that in sickness and in health vow is not for the faint of heart let’s just leave it at that shall we.

Once we were beyond the worst of it all, we made a migration to the sofa, and enjoyed guilt-free movie bing watching. Amongst them Dustin Hoffman’s Mr Magorium’s Magic Emporium. Maybe it was my fatigue that put me into a more sensitive state, but near the end of the movie he makes this speech:

“When King Lear dies in act five, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He has written, ‘He dies.’ No more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential piece of dramatic literature is, ‘He dies.’ Now I am not asking you to be happy at my leaving but all I ask you to do is to turn the page and let the next story begin. It wasn’t the words that mattered….it’s the life that came before the words. Your life is an occasion… rise to it.” Whatever it was that caused my heart warming moment, I cannot say….but I simply loved that quote.

It’s easy at times to feel like we are going through the motion in our own lives. A series of repetitive actions that go on without end like little hamsters on a cosmic wheel. Our desire for gratitude or appreciation somehow feels selfish and egocentric at times because aren’t we all just doing what we do???

Why should we expect appreciation for being a contributor to society? Is one role greater, more influential, more important than another?? Jobs are just that…..a task you perform based upon a set of skills with the understanding of financial compensation and advancement. If you do well…you are rewarded. The system is simple. The parameters clear….

…and then comes motherhood.

You enter this role with no experience. You don’t get to disengage from the responsibilities it demands….even when you are not with your children you are always at the ready. Your compensation is not monetary, but is paid out to you in the installments of time; courtesy of a high yield bond which vests its dividend at 20, 30, 40 years.

There are not levels in motherhood, as much as PTA mom’s, or the women at your bus stop may try and convince you otherwise. Sure there is experience and wisdom, but with each child on many fronts you start from scratch. Motherhood is not a ladder to be climbed; it’s a path to be walked.

There are days when the exact same steps we took yesterday feel harder. Maybe kids are sick. Maybe we aren’t rested. Maybe you have a child who keeps melting down for no apparent reason. Maybe there’s a financial stress. Maybe one of your children is navigating a hardship with a peer. Maybe your husband’s work schedule is extra demanding and more is falling on you.

Whatever the reason……the truth I must remind myself of during those times is that we are not walking alone. Tell someone…..because the very act of doing so empowers you, and it does make you feel better. It’s true that nothing may immediately change by expressing your frustration, but thats not the point.

Have you ever laid three toothpicks beside each other, and then tried to snap them?? Toothpicks….tiny slivers of wood which crack under the slightest of pressure…..but when there are three….it’s an entirely different matter. The pressure is dispersed. The sticks become resolute. They do not crack under the identical force applied against them when there is just one.

Strength is found not when we pull back from others, but when we push in and walk arm in arm. Sure it’s tempting to try and do things alone, but if wisdom has taught me anything it’s that the kinship is in fact a gathering of mothers, and where our truest strength is drawn. Your circumstances may not immediately change, but I promise your perspective will.

Motherhood in technicolor reminds us that your life is an occasion… rise to it….and know you have never been asked to walk it alone. On the days it’s hard….you can find comfort in that truth.

Author: Summer Smith

Summer Smith is a speaker, writer, and motherhood blogger. She and her family are currently navigating the suburbs of Northern Virginia. As the mother to four young children, Summer maintains her sanity thanks to her sense of humor, copious amounts of coffee, and Amazon Prime. Maya Angelou once said, when reflecting on her childhood, that her mother left an impression like technicolor stars in the midnight sky. Influenced by these words, Summer blogs at her website Motherhood in Technicolor, and can also be found on her Motherhood in Technicolor Facebook page.