Eating an elephant, one bite at a time

I walk to the mailbox every day. Well, every day Monday to Friday. More often than not, the mailbox is empty and when it isn’t, useless flyers or bills occupy the space. Still I walk with an eager lightness to my step and as I place the key in its slot, I am filled with anticipation and hope. Though it lasts but seconds, I revel in the sense of “maybe”, the expectation that something might be waiting for me. I know letters are a lost art, but oh how I love them.

My mother had a regular saying when life got her children down. “Cheer up, things could be worse.” In the moment nothing seemed worse than going to school with a blemish that felt bigger than my nose or having played poorly at the most recent volleyball game, which was a regular sort of thing for me, so I’m not sure why I expected to play well. I don’t think her expression made difficult things more tolerable, but it was a good lesson.

We interact regularly with hope and disappointment on any given day, a bit of an arm-wrestling match, if you will. Sometimes, we feed our hope or good fortune with a knock on wood. I was never certain what that expression meant, but never bothered to look it up. Until now. I discovered it was a pagan belief that spirits resided in trees. After saying something was going well, we knock on wood to prevent these perhaps evil-minded spirits from hearing our claim in case they decide to interrupt our good fortune. On the contrary, the knocking on wood to others means wakening the spirits to ensure the blessing continues. It depends upon your perspective: preventing disappointment or looking for hope.

I recently watched a violent film called Peppermint with Jennifer Garner. I’m not a fan of the shoot-em-up films, but I found something very gratifying about this one, I am sorry to confess. Bad people took her family from her and, as in with all these films, she got even. She single-handedly took out the entire drug cartel. Sorry if I’ve spoiled the ending for you, but it really wasn’t going to go any other way. I had to watch it in two goes. I knew it would end well, but I was a wee bit stressed and had to leave it and come back to it, but I eventually strutted a bit like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever when I knew not a single bad guy was left standing. I know that isn’t how we solve problems and in real life it wouldn’t have turned out that way, but I enjoyed the escape, to know that evil people got what they had earned. I didn’t have to imagine how they got to be evil in the first place or wonder about their families. I just had to know that evil was stopped dead in its tracks for this one imaginary moment. A bit like knocking on wood.

I am in the middle of a massive snow dump here. I got up this morning and waded through deep snow to find my snow scoop and I began to clear my driveway. By the time I was done, I could have started over. It is my attempt to keep ahead of the snow, to make this snowstorm manageable, to cut it up in smaller pieces so I don’t get buried alive. I tell myself I am at the gym, getting my exercise so the task becomes a positive one and not an argument with winter.

Someone once told me the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. I like that expression despite having no desire to eat an elephant. I think, like the mailbox, hope prevails in each bite.