Stuck in the Muck

A while ago, I read a PAW Patrol book with my kids titled “The Duck at the Dump.” In this story, a little yellow duck gets “stuck in the muck.”  Because the book is written with an emphasis on phonics, the phrase, “The duck is stuck in the muck,” is repeated several times.  Poor duck.  Then Rubble (the construction pup) arrives on his shiny digger truck and scoops the duck out of the muck.  A happy ending for the 7 page children’s book.  Here’s the thing: I am pretty certain I, too, am stuck in the muck.  And, trust me, I have tried “yelping for help” but there is no anthropomorphized dog flying around the corner to scoop me to safety.  

Granted, my muck looks a little different than a gross mud puddle at the dump.  In short, I am tired.  I am tired because I am a mom who has been parenting two littles through a pandemic.  I am tired because I am a school social worker navigating a tough school year that is filled with the unknown, instability, and daily changing reality.  I am tired because my oldest attends in-person kindergarten twice a week, which means my husband and I help him in the evenings with the remaining three days of distance learning.  I am tired because the world is full of hurt right now, COVID, fires, hurricanes, death, division, and hatred.  It all feels as if it is one giant, swirling problem and all of the answers are perpetually out of reach.  

Part of the problem is that I want to solve all of the issues at once.  Simply replace the muck with a sunny beach and a good book.  However, it turns out I cannot, in fact, magically resolve all of the things causing me stress.  I don’t have all the answers or the power to make that kind of change.  This lack of control over so many things has made it difficult for me to move out of the muck.  Earlier this school year, as I was researching in preparation for a skills group with my students, I came across a meme that said, “We don’t need all of the answers to get started.”  My mind instantly retorted, “Fine! But, give me something! Some answers.” And yet at the same time I recognized a layer of truth to that statement.  I don’t have all the answers but I do have ideas on how to help myself, my children, and my students at school.  I started to wonder that maybe I could begin to move out of part of the muck, even if I couldn’t jump out of all of it completely. 

Recently, as I attended an outdoor church service, I heard an uplifting message on hope.  During his sermon, the pastor reminded that sometimes God will send us joy, hope, or love in the form of a whisper.  He encouraged us to be on the lookout for the beauty all around us, even when it is quiet.  The idea of whispers of beauty and hope stuck with me. Later, as I played outside with my three-year-old daughter, she walked up to me with a little yellow weed.  She gave me the most perfect smile and said, “I found this beautiful flower just for you.”  Tears filled my eyes as I squeezed her in a gigantic hug.  That tiny yellow “flower” was my whisper of hope, my lifeline to start moving out of the muck. It turns out that a whisper can be as powerful as a giant construction digger.  And, I was reminded of the truth, “I don’t need all of the answers to get started.”  

My wish for all of us as we continue to navigate this exhausting year is that we will all hear the whispers of hope and continue moving out of the muck, together.

Jessica is a wife, mom, school social worker, and aspiring writer.  She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.

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