My grandma, a huge-hearted, somewhat blunt, twinkly-eyed force was fond of the phrase “This too shall pass”. Or so my mom tells me. I don’t actually recall hearing her use it myself but it does sound like her. Warm and caring, but practical, with an “I love you easily and excessively, however millions of people have done this before, you are just another one so suck it up already” sort of flavor. SO, whenever I was pitifully sick, or say, going into labor, my mom would pipe up with this sort of sentiment: “Just remember what Grandma always said, ‘This too shall pass.’ Labors can’t last forever.”
In hindsight, I don’t really love the phrase’s use in this very specific birth situation (Mom) because of the potential extra interpretation of the whole “passing” idea. In the end, the seven pound eleven ouncers, even the eight and a halfer – they too did indeed pass. But certainly not in a way that makes you feel like they should be passing via that particular route. Anywho.
My mother’s true intention, of course, was to offer this phrase as support for getting through that feeling that your entire pelvis is about to explode dynamite-style, that feeling that the graph of contraction intensity might be a little less gentle rolling hill, a little more… super long steep-sided trapezoid? That pain, the physical and certainly mental challenge of giving birth, while difficult, does pass. We can do hard things, we move through them, and they are gone. And dare I say, for some of the difficult challenges that pass I have a complicated nostalgia.
As I’ve gradually transitioned (at least on occasional days) into a more balanced view of life, rolling with the moments, rather than merely getting through, I’ve whole-heartedly adopted these four little words as one of my personal mantras. I have special ordered, worn, and lost a ring – all within a month – with this phrase engraved in Hebrew as an extra reminder. (So much for that.) I’ve considered getting my first tattoo at 42 because of my passion and sometimes dependence on these words (don’t tell the hubs).
And I have chanted “This too shall pass” plenty in the darker times – while sobbing my way through another excruciating midnight breastfeeding session, while considering whether to attempt to salvage another pair of super poopy underwear (not mine), and just last week while white-knuckling it down a wintery I70 after dark with my three most precious little men in the back seat. Or like when everyone in your house has been fighting for quite some time and you think, “Surely this is going to end soon because I want to hurt all of them.” But then they just keep going and going and going? This too shall pass.
Increasingly, however, I find myself slowly uttering this phrase under my breath while watching all three of my children screaming maniacally, wrestling, running, lunging, light sabers flying. This too shall pass. This loved life moment. While staring at my oldest, who I may have assumed was too cool for stuffed animals, sleeping contentedly with a scruffy faded pink pig scrunched up between his cheek and elbow crook. He is still my little boy. This too shall pass.
The tiniest feet pattering around rearranging “cucks” into lines all over the house for us to kick and step on while chanting his own personal mantra (“I like cucks”) will move on to bigger boy things and there will no longer be trucks EVERYWHERE. This too shall pass. Running around with ease and energy on my still strong and willing legs to play that damn groundies game. A visit with my grandmother nine years ago – not knowing it would be my last, not knowing my first child was growing inside of me. Each little moment is a valued one, a big one if I am able to let myself notice.
I breath these four words silently while snuggling the last of my lap children after story time – already coaxing him to please just LET ME SING ONE LULLABY. Soak this in. Not because it’s about to end, although it is, but just because it’s happening.
And so, of course, the strong compassionate mothers before me are right as only strong compassionate mothers can be. This too shall pass. I can only be thankful for the lesson and legacy and hopeful to keep using the moments to stay with what might be passing next.