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The Difference Between Difficult and Hard

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Jamie Krug
Jamie Krug

Yesterday was an everyday kind of day, and yet a roller coaster of emotions. Which still makes it qualify as an everyday kind of day.

I posted a video on Instagram of Owen chatting to me about his day at school. He talked for the entirety of the eight-minute drive home, and raised the pitch of his speech at the end when he was asking a question or looking for a response. He was animated and excited and engaging... and I couldn't understand more than two or three words.

I called my husband, Scott, only expecting to ask him if he thought there might be a better way of deciphering what our little boy was trying to tell me, but we never got that far into the conversation. As soon as he answered the phone, my voice began to crack, and any hopes for a productive conversation were dashed. I immediately began to cry. I told him that Owen didn't even realize that I had no idea what he was saying, and how much that saddened me for him.

It is hard -- I was going to say "difficult," because that's the more appropriate literary term here, but it seems too soft of a word for this, too mild. This part, these moments when my son so desperately wants to tell me about his day, his school, his friends and cannot... well, it's just hard. "Difficult" gently tugs at you as you try to push yourself further, implies that the top of the mountain and all the self-satisfaction you will be rewarded with will soon be in sight if you just persevere. "Hard" is that same mountain, only you're unsure of your footing, and the rocks are jagged and scrape your skin as you climb. "Hard" is having the peak of the mountain obstructed by mist and fog, so you're not truly able to gauge how much further you have to go.

This is hard. And sad. And frustrating.

And at the same time, full of promise. And hope.

And it's illuminating.

And I can actually see the silver lining in all of this once my tears have dried.

Because Owen is trying to talk to me. He wants to share his day with me, and tell me about his friends and his teachers and his school. He is animated and excited and engaging...

And that says something. It is a step forward. It is a breakthrough.

It is good. So, so good.

It is good to hear his sweet, tiny voice that sounds so much like his big sister's. To hear him make himself laugh as he regales me with some tale of a funny thing that happened during the course of his morning. To hear the identical laugh that emerges from Parker and smile -- because there is nothing better than that giggle, those sounds of delight that come from deep within his round little belly.

And then it hit me.

Owen didn't even realize, or notice, or care that I had no idea what he was saying. He went on and on, chatting with me in his garbled, unintelligible way with a smile on his face the whole time. He had an audience. And an enthusiastic one, at that. And he reveled in it. He was just happy to "talk" to me, and elicit a response -- even if it was the circular, recycled pat responses of "Uh huh? Really? What else happened? Tell me more!"

Because he doesn't know any better. He doesn't realize that he shouldn't have to repeat the same exact sentence five or ten times as I desperately attempt to glean one or two clear words from it in order to piece together the puzzle of his communication. He will patiently, happily repeat those words to me though -- each and every time I ask.

And it breaks my heart that I rarely figure out the content of these musings he is trying to share with me.

And it fills my heart to see his determination and his spirit undeterred, despite that fact.

And I am deeply saddened that he does not yet comprehend that it shouldn't be that hard.

And I am relieved that he does not yet comprehend that it shouldn't be that difficult.

Some days, the mountains Owen hikes are difficult, and sometimes, the mountains he climbs are hard.

But he is ascending.

Because he is blissfully unaware that there is a peak to be reached.

And when you have no idea of where you are headed, sometimes, all you need is patience and the perseverance to keep going until you get there.

And a good belly laugh.

This piece originally appeared on Jamie's blog Our Stroke of Luck.
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