And One Day You Will Swim

Friends, I am so excited for you to hear from my Story Sessions friend and sister, Abby Norman.  She is an amazing spit-fire woman, writer, educator, and storyteller.  I hope her words remind you that you will overcome the obstacles you face.  You can make it to the other side of the storm!  Just.  Don’t.  Give.  Up!

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The hardest thing I ever had to do, was show up at my job for 180 days straight.

I’ve birthed two babies with nothing but water as a pain reliever. I’ve written the first draft of a book at night, on weekends, and during the summer, one eye on my children, the other on the computer. I’ve spoken publicly. I’ve moved across the country with my husband. I lived a relatively normal life with a muscle disorder. I’ve poured my guts out on my blog for 446 posts. I’ve ended unhealthy relationships. I have done hard things.

But the hardest thing I ever had to do, was show up at my job 180 days in a row. Seriously.

show up abby n for marvia dIt was my first year of teaching. I came in sure that by the end of the year, not only was I going to have changed the life of every single one of my students, but that Oprah would hear about it, ask me to sit on her couch, tell me I was special. It was my first year of teaching and I was totally confident that I was going to to do an amazing job.

That didn’t happen. By Labor day I hadn’t even learned all of the kids names, let alone turned any hearts. Three weeks into the school year and my list of failings was impressive. A stack of ungraded papers that I kept meaning to get to was threatening to take over the back seat of my car. I was too tired at home and too busy at work to actually grade them. I had no control of my classroom. Kids came and went and talked and ate and really did whatever they wanted to do, pretty much whenever they wanted to do it. The girl who had sworn that she would never yell or threaten her students was at the board at least twice a day waving a dry erase marker in her hand and completely losing her mind.

Three weeks into the school year, and if Oprah made a movie about me, I would not be the hero. On my good days, the victim; on my bad the villain.  I was failing miserably and flailing every single day. The days I did manage not to sink, I came home completely exhausted from the doggy-paddling I had done all day and  collapsed into my bed. It was not going as planned.

But I showed up, and I kept showing up. Every day, even when I was terrible at my job and everyone knew it, I kept showing up.

It doesn’t sound sexy or exciting because it isn’t. In the feel good movie about the teacher, the athlete, the debate team, the showing up is glossed over in a montage with a long and loud crescendo.  That part isn’t fun to watch.

Showing up is boring, grueling, and very very important. Half way through the semester, I was finally able to tread water on a regular basis, by the end of the year I was swimming (albeit in the shallow end). By the end of my second year I was actually swimming, in the deep end.

I know it is boring and hard. I know no one is giving you any awards or telling you are awesome for showing up at this hard thing that you are doing. I know it is exhausting to fail over and over again. I know you thought that this thing that you are showing up to was not going to be like this. I know it feels like you are drowning some days.

Keep showing up. Keep flailing. Keep jumping in the water. I know it is messier and harder than you ever expected. Just keep showing it. One day you will swim. I promise you will . It may be harder to learn than you ever thought, it may look like drowning some days. But then…then you will swim, and it will be worth it.

abby-normanAbby lives and loves in the city of Atlanta. She swears a lot more than you would think for a public school teacher and mother of two under three. She can’t help that she loves all words. She believes in champagne for celebrating everyday life, laughing until her stomach hurts and telling the truth, even when it is hard, maybe especially then. You can find her blogging at accidentaldevotional and tweeting at @accidentaldevo. Abby loves all kinds of Girl Scout cookies and literally burning lies in her backyard fire pit.

13 thoughts on “And One Day You Will Swim”

  1. Oh how I remember the exhaustion at the beginning of the school year! Getting up every day and being there is so important in those sometimes fragile lives. You are a constant, a dependable person, an example. Showing up counts big time.

  2. Great insight, and so important!

    There are two areas in which just showing up has been hard for me –

    I have PTSD, and the flashbacks can be fairly horrific – things I’ve seen, and things I’ve had to do. They’ll come out of a clear sky, or from a dream in a restless sleep, and they sap my will, and hope, and faith. There are things out there that make one question the existence of a merciful God.

    Rebuilding the meaning can be a daily struggle. Just picking up and going again, in the faith that this all does mean something, that the evil does not outweigh the good, that there is a God who cares, and who mourns the cost of free will with us.

    If anyone might be interested, my current blog post deals with being ‘married to PTSD’ – you can find it here:

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2014/03/married-to-past-your-spouse-with-ptsd.html

    The second is showing up for your dreams in the face of a lethal illness. It’s hard to keep going on projects you’ll never finish, books that will probably never see the light of day. A house that will one day no longer hear the sound of your voice.

    That’s the future, barring a miracle. So I have to hold on for the miracle.

    And I have to believe that what I do now, today, is something added to the common store of love and compassion in the world, a paper boat set out on a raging ocean in the hope that it will reach the safe harbor of Elysium.

    Hold on for the miracle.

  3. Oh Abby,
    For 33 years I have been showing up day after day and have only stayed home 3 days in 33 years. Some days I still feel like I should have stayed home but I do know the hardest thing to do sometimes is to start Abby so I finally crawl out of bed and put one foot on the floor and the other follows and another day has started. Have people noticed that I have only missed 3 days …. NO they have not. They are trying to swim themselves. Showing up is very important… at work…. at friends homes who are hurting… at school to support your kids and yes their teachers… at church…. at neighbors in need….. at the voting booth…. at the volunteer events….. at the grave site….

  4. As my husband and I continue to press into this year of support raising for long term missions I can easily find myself walking in doubt instead of faith. Thank you for sharing these words of encouragement just when I needed them!

  5. so great Abby and a reminder that I so desperately needed to read today. I feel like quitting all the time and maybe I even want props for the little things, the showing up… so when they don’t come I get disappointed. Maybe I need a swift kick in the ass, either way I needed this post. Thank you.

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