I scooped - or rather, scraped - up yet another offering of poop by my now 4-month-old puppy, and quickly transitioned into a pillar of core strength as I held onto the leash, taught with a puppy lunging away from me attempting to chase a butterfly, while with the other hand deftly tied the poop bag into a knot. Phew! I did it. And I thought, this whole puppernity leave gig is a LOT of work. No more sleeping in (OK, I don't do that anyway), planning my daily schedule keeping the puppy’s needs in mind (thank you dear Lord for the crate!), visits to the vet, taking him and the older dog for walks (no more than 5 minutes per month of puppy’s life, per day, I just learned), taking him to obedience training… It really is like having a newborn baby in many respects.
This blogpost started with me picking up poop, and poop is actually the main theme. Not literally (phew!), but more of a useful metaphor for life. Lately I have found myself sort of obsessed with the concept of a sh*t sandwich. My kids think it’s disgusting, but I admit that I have found myself saying “sh*t sandwich” (without the polite asterisk) pretty frequently while engaging in what I call Parenting. Here is an example:
Puppy makes a sound, I say, “he needs to go out and pee, please take him out,” child continues whatever activity they were doing, puppy pees on kitchen floor, I remind kid that puppy’s peeing inside was human error, and now child must take puppy out and clean up puddle. Kid grumbles. And I say, “this is the sh*t sandwich of getting a puppy.”
It is graduation season, and my firstborn is about to graduate from high school next week (eeeeek!), and I have been privy to several conversations with young adults about career options and college majors. We talk about what they enjoy, what they feel they are good at, what appeals to them. But especially now that so much of my day revolves around poop (of the canine type), I also talk about their version of the sh*t sandwich. What are they willing to tolerate? A couple of them mention law school. So perhaps their sh*t sandwich includes endless reading, memorization of facts, engaging in conflict, tons of stress, long hours, conservative outfits, being in a competitive environment. If all of this seems part of the appeal, then they are probably headed down the right path. If it’s their version of a sh*t sandwich but they can stomach it because they truly feel a calling to pursue law (and it’s not just because their parents expect it), then at least they are less likely to be blindsided by the poopy stuff.
I think it’s especially important to talk about the sh*t sandwich in this day and age when kids are led to believe by their parents, educators, influencers and US News & World Report that there is really only one narrow path to success and anything less is mediocre at best. Anxiety and suicide are at epidemic rates among our young, and while mental health is a complicated topic, I have to ask myself, how many young adults are falling apart because they started off all excited about their course of study, or career or job, and were never warned about the sh*t sandwich? Everyone knows that law school is hard, medical residents have an insane schedule, and professional actors have to wait tables for years on end. But how about the fact that most jobs are mostly a lot of work, mostly not that fun? If I were to write a top 5 list of Sh*t Sandwiches it may look something like this (in no particular order):
I love taking photos and post them on Facebook and Instagram, and people often comment on how good they are. But what they may not know is that for every great photo, there were ten lousy ones. I think of life the same way. For every great entry in the Fakebook or Instagram highlight reel, there were many moments, interactions, and disappointments that were undocumented. The sh*t sandwich. And that’s okay - but let’s be real and acknowledge that we are all going to experience self-doubt, disappointment in others, wondering if we made the wrong choice, being tempted to give up. That is the sh*t sandwich. Put it in the poop bag, tie the knot so you can’t smell it, and toss it in the trash. And then do the next right thing.
Motivational coach, athlete, mom, entrepreneur. I love helping people mindfully reboot their health & joy.