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Poem: Obstacle Course

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by Sarah

Sarah lives with her husband and three daughters outside of San Francisco. She is the author of What It Is Is Beautiful, a collection of honest poems about parenting.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about choices.

Often I look at my life, and find that various aspects of it make me feel trapped, or thwarted. It’s so easy to feel victimized by what are essentially first-world problems, isn’t it?

But the truth is that — when it comes to how I live and what my life looks like — choices abound. And the single most powerful choice I face? It’s attitude.

Attitude is a constant struggle for me. I don’t want to go through life groaning about this and that … and yet on so many days (particularly the long, hot, unstructured days of summer), that’s the mindset that I naturally slip into.

The following poem is from my book, What It Is Is Beautiful. It’s about my struggle to face daily challenges with more passion and purpose. I hope you enjoy it!

Obstacle Course

Last night when I lay
sleepless, thinking,
I turned my problems
from back to front,
then front to back,
trying through worry
to wear them down
to nothing.

If anything,
I only made them
loom larger, by slipping
one next to another,
matching craggy edges
until I had fashioned
an insurmountable
wall.

Today I find
they are neither
worn to dust nor
mortared together;
one by one, they crop out
through the morning.
And as I meet them,
I huff and sigh and whine.

Yet I recall the first
evening of summer camp
when I was fourteen—
we leapt over fallen trees,
grabbed for rough rope ladders,
splashed through mud pits
in the dark.

We laughed raucously
in the face of each hurdle,
and we emerged
from our challenge
soaked but exhilarated,
with skinned knees
and new best friends.

So tomorrow I vow
to try this: the child who
shakes me awake
is the day’s starting
pistol, and I will leap up
with vigor, unfazed
by my handicap
of inadequate sleep.

Later I will brave
the oven of our minivan
to maneuver squirming children
into buckles and boosters—
without once losing my cool.

And that evening I will dance
around mounds of laundry,
as I head to my desk
to confront with boldness
the dark recesses
of our perpetually
unbalanced
checkbook.

© Sarah Dunning Park, 2012. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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Comments

  1. This is exactly how I’ve been feeling lately – the need to be positive and calm even when I don’t want to be there, am so over that, etc. Thanks for sharing. :)

  2. Coming off a sleepless night just like the one you describe, I needed that! Thank you :)

  3. avatar
    Margaret says:

    Beautiful and important!

  4. Awesome! Great word picture! It’s all about attitude!

  5. leap up with unfazed vigor huh? Sounds good…but can I really do it?

  6. Love.it.

    And the attitude thing…..what is my deal? Lord, help me.

    So much to enjoy and be grateful for – praying I walk in that today.

    Sweet Blessings,
    Kate :)

  7. avatar
    Caroline says:

    Courtney, Thank you for posting this today. I really did need to read it and so how I have been feeling lately. I go from one moment of wishing summer away to the next moment trying to hold onto it before school starts.

  8. Yes and amen.

    Thank you, Sarah.

  9. Everyday I vow to try better, my little girl deserves that. As for dancing around laundry? That is quite an art, one which I am still learning!

  10. Exactly what I needed this morning! Thank you!

  11. Sarah, you restore my faith in poetry. I love how beautifully you string together words and images to capture the moment and inspire a desire to move forward. Thank you for your words, and your reminder that I am, in fact, in charge of my attitude. A daily lesson, I think I’ll have to keep learning and relearning as I seem to forget it faster than how quickly the toddler forgets the rule about not throwing in the house.

  12. avatar
    Deborah P says:

    This is a battle I face every day and so often lose. I loathe a negative attitude, but it’s so easy to go there. Why is it harder to see the silver lining? Even as I ask the question, I know one answer – begin again looking for grace each day. When I’m actively keeping an eye out for the moments of grace all around me, I have a thankful attitude and then it is easy not to be negative. Thanks for this “conversation” – I needed the reminder!

  13. Attitude! It’s so easy to forget that we can control this. I seem to give control of my attitude to everything else in my life. Thank you for this reminder!

  14. avatar
    Kristi H says:

    I don’t normally enjoy poetry but this one was great! Like many others have said, it is exactly what I needed to hear this week. Thank you!

  15. Yes, ATTITUDE is indeed very important. It sets your direction, your mood, your choices!!!

  16. I always read these posts and am so happy to see I am not the only one.
    It is a huge contribution.

  17. People need to write more poetry about the ordinary things. This is wonderful to see.

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