Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hold Fast

It’s been a minute, NIP…

            It goes without saying that I haven’t been writing much lately. To be completely honest, it’s been a summer of reading. Since the beginning of June, I’ve been plowing through books, trying to alternate between fiction and nonfiction. I’m currently on my 14th book this summer and so far have read over 4,000 pages of material. And while I’ve enjoyed being engrossed in a book with just about every spare moment I’ve had, it looks as if the summer will come to a close without me having read the one book I really wanted to reread this summer, Moby-Dick.

            I love Moby-Dick for lots of reasons: it’s rife with interesting characters and philosophical ruminations; Melville’s idyllic descriptions of the sea and the life contained therein; the subtle, ironic stabs and slashes he takes at the less desirable aspects of American culture; and—nearly most of all—his prognostications about what we are doomed to become if we cannot curb our insatiable megalomania. But as much as I love all of those aspects, I love the language perhaps most of all. There’s something about reading 19th century American literature that is like stepping back in time. We sadly don’t use adjectives such as swimmingly anymore, nor do we see the word stove and think of anything other than the noun that represents the cooking device in our kitchens. While this saddens me for nerdy reasons that I could probably never convey, I’ve had one phrase rattling around in my head for months now—hold fast. It doesn’t make much sense in today’s usage, and the closest idiom I can think of that nearly any native speaker of English today would use is “hang on.”

            Hold fast has become sort of a personal mantra for me during the last year, and I think this is why I wanted to reread Moby-Dick so badly. Not that I was necessarily worried about the fluke of a whale staving in a boat, but hold fast is a great metaphor for the moments (or in our lives recently, months) when our mettle is tested, when our will to carry on in the face of adversity is tried. Life, as beautiful and magnificent as it can be, reminds me of the vast vistas of the sea Melville paints with words in the novel: open, full of possibility and potential. And as incredible as the wide open ocean can be, we sometimes sail into storms head on and “hold fast” as best we can. The storm that Erin and I have been riding through over the last year has taken its toll in some ways, and made us stronger in others. It’s almost as if we’ve been lashed to the mast together and forced to undergo the ordeal from every possible angle.

            Without boring you to death with the details, NIP, my brother-in-law moved in with us over a year ago. He is currently going through an acrimonious divorce and has experienced more downs than ups during his time with us. At one point he lost his then-new job because it was during the probationary period and was out of work for nearly 6 months. He only got to see his daughters every other weekend, and at one point the older of our two nieces didn’t come at all for about 3 months straight. This was all taking a toll on him emotionally and mentally, and all Erin and I could do was weather the storm with him the best that we could. As with all storms, though, there are sometimes moments of reprieve when the clouds pull back a bit and perhaps a few sunbeams break through. He landed a job as a waiter back in April, and by early July he was also reemployed as an engineer. On top of this, he also won full-time custody of his daughters in the beginning of May and we’ve been the default babysitters this summer while he grinds away working nearly 60 hours per week in order to save up a large enough nest egg to get back on his own feet. If all goes well, he and the girls will have their own place by the beginning of the school year.

            We all face such storms in our lives. There is not a single one of us who doesn’t have challenges to some degree or another. Life is not always going to be smooth sailing, as much as we’d like it to be. But it’s successfully sailing through storms such as these that steels our courage and fortitude for the future. It has been a rough ride at times for Erin and me, especially this summer when we’re used to doing whatever we please with our free time and enjoying our company together. Helping family has been its own reward, however. We’ve gotten to know our nieces much better (it’s sad to admit that though they only lived 20 minutes away we had been lucky to see them three times a year at most), and I’ve seen my brother-in-law make great strides in his own personal progress. I know we still have to help them all weather the storm for some time yet, but it seems as if the clouds will dissipate soon enough. I have faith that the sun will shine brightly again in our lives, and I am doing my best to take the positive experiences and moments out of this ordeal and learn from them.

            If you’re currently in the middle of your own tempest, Nobody in Particular, do your best to make the most of the situation. There are opportunities to grow in every moment, in every situation. I’ve learned a great deal about my own capacity to handle adversity and counsel others with what wisdom I have during the last 14 months, and what I wanted to relay to you is that we all can and must do this from time to time. It’s not always pleasant in the moment, but if we’re patient with the ordeal and ourselves we only grow stronger in the long run. This strength then allows us to be more confident when facing new storms, new challenges. So in the event that you are in the midst of such a squall, there is one looming on the horizon, or in the future if you find yourself in one, don’t give in or give up—just…

Hold fast, NIP.

- Ryan

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