This is my mother, back around Thanksgiving when we went up to put up her Christmas tree with her.
Whenever I've doubted that I could get through something tough, whether it was a quarter in college where I took 20 credits while working full-time and playing the lead role in a community theater production, or the year that I had a little baby and was in graduate school while Noel was deployed to Iraq - my mom's advice was always that I could do it, that in fact everyone can do it, because "you just do what you have to do". Will I be able to take the pain of childbirth, mom? Yes - you won't have any choice anyway and you just keep going, doing what you have to do.
I used to think that this advice, this mindset, was incredibly unhelpful. I wanted to hear that there was some trick to it all. That there were shortcuts through the tough times, strategies that would make it all better, or at least that I was so special that somehow I would be different from everyone else.
Now, with some of those tough times under my belt, I understand what she means. It doesn't take any special strength to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, no special talents to look around and just do what needs to be done right now. You may not become rich and famous, or be a star in all you do, but you will do what you have to do. It is the same ethic that has served her family of mid-Western german-american farmers well for generations. One foot in front of another, and you'll get through it.
Now my mother faces a new challenge herself, as she got really sick right before Christmas and had to be hospitalized. She faces new health challenges, and more surgeries are ahead, and she's uninsured and lives below the poverty line. It's going to be tough times, the sort of times when you go without food and heat in order to pay hospital bills. But I know she'll get through it, because she'll just do what she has to do.