From The Publisher

Dearest EXPLORE Reader,

I’ve wanted to write this particular Publisher’s piece for a while (as in years) but could never quite sculpt it in my mind in a way that made any sense for you, the reader. In fact, now that I think about it, I believe that I’ve been kicking the topic for this piece around since about 2011 or thereabouts, so yeah, I’ve cooked on this one for a while.

I typed a draft of it one time a few years ago and gave it to someone to review for feedback. Their response? “Too dark.” This surprised me as that was not my intention at all. I didn’t want to be “dark”, in fact, I wanted to be the exact opposite. Nonetheless, the idea got shoved back into the sock drawer and life carried on.

I’m not sure if I’ll somehow unpack this topic better than I did years ago, but I suppose I’ll give it a shot.

15 years ago I decided that I was going to fix a poor performing riding lawn mower. I had believed that the blades were simply out of balance, so surely it would be easy to fix. I was living in Houston at the time, and it was August. So in the heat and humidity that only Houston can sustain, I went to the garage to begin this simple little project armed with my trusty little toolbox of tools. I jacked up the side of the mower, turned on my little Casio radio on the workbench and wiggled on the floor under the mower deck.

What ensued was probably 5 hours of heat-stroke inducing sweat, cursing, bleeding knuckles, and immense frustration. It wasn’t just the mower blades being out of balance…I’m pretty sure the whole mower was out of whack. As soon as I thought I got a part “fixed”, the part attached to that one broke/snapped/came loose. I worked for hours trying to chase down the culprit and ultimately almost put myself in the hospital from the exertion. Soaked to the bone, covered in grass and oil, I stumbled inside to the blessed AC, guzzled a gallon of water, and laid flat on the floor of my living room staring at the ceiling fan.

My job hadn’t been the most difficult, but it sure turned out to be a CHORE. What should have been knocked out in an hour or so became an exhausting and frustrating experience that wore me out, mentally and physically. When I told friends about my day later, they scoffed and chuckled and made a joke about it and I suppose that I laughed along with them after making a joke about setting that damned mower on fire.

But here I am, 15 years later, and I can still remember the exhaustion and the frustration that this goofy chore caused me. But then we all encounter not “goofy chores”, but some serious turmoil. Death. Divorce. Hurting people. Sadness. Grief. These are not things that people approach with a trusty toolbox and spend a few hours “fixing”, but instead, they are large traumas that can hit us hard.

However, they are similar in that people don’t see the “work” that goes into trying to remedy the situation. The late nights. The tears. The fights. The red eyes and sleepless nights. Kinda like my bloody knuckles.

It’s all the things that you never see.

How many times have you sat on your back porch and lamented the loss of your spouse (or parent or child or friend)? You stare across your yard and watch a bird fly and you sigh heavily. You remember good times, grimace at tough times, and stare into your coffee cup as your heart just hurts. You’re struggling, friend, and we all do that from time to time. You might even have a tear run down your cheek.

But then your friend calls you on the phone and says “Hey, how ya doing?” and you feign a smile and say “Doing great. You?” and they actually believe you. And just like that, you are off to talking about unrelated topics and even sharing a laugh. But you still carry the hurt and your friend is none the wiser.

It’s all the things that you never see.

My 12 year old son is a sensitive soul. He couldn’t have been 6 and he came bounding into the kitchen one day to hand me a drawing that he had made for me. I don’t even remember what it was – probably a dinosaur or some such thing – but he proudly handed me his masterpiece and without thinking I smiled and said “Woah – this is great! But look – it looks like you missed a spot with your crayon up here in the corner.” I kick myself to this day for saying it (cause it was stupid) but also because his face just dropped and you could tell that I had just crushed him. To cut to the chase, I learned a few minutes later that he had 3 books laid out with photos that he was trying to copy and a half dozen crumpled pieces of paper from his previous drawings that he didn’t feel he had done his best. He had tried and tried and tried.

It’s all the things that you never see.

There are countless examples for this topic. So much of life happens in the shadows in solitude. So much of our struggles aren’t shared, and even when they are, it’s so hard to get the true depth of one person’s struggle. What’s easy or simple for you, is a mountainous journey for another. Your ability to just “get over something” is virtually impossible for another. Another’s struggles are things that you can forget about in your daily routine, but for the person in the middle of the struggle, it’s a constant and noisy foe.

Don’t forget that there’s so very, very much that you never see.

I am no perfect person (far from it, as illustrated by my mower story), but I do try to remember that I know far less than I think I do. And even what I think I know, there’s so many things that I never see.

Be kind to each other out there, people.

Welcome to June. May this summer be everything you ever hoped, may you EXPLORE farther than you’ve ever been, and may you remember that as much as you’ll see this summer, you’ll never see it all.

Smiling,

Benjamin D. Schooley


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