Life was good. Her husband had a fine job, she worked a little from home, and her kids were well, and progressing through the normal milestones of childhood and school. She experienced the normal ups and downs of confidence associated with juggling a busy life. But it was good, and she felt fairly competent in her life, and sure of her ability to cope.
Then one day, she found a green dragon in her kitchen, blocking the way to the sink, where a load of dirty dishes awaited. She managed to get around it, after struggling with it for a bit, but it tormented and teased her as she worked. It dropped dishes, got in the way, and generally slowed her work. The next day, it was still there. And the next, and the next.
Several days later, a purple dragon appeared in the livingroom. It took up residence in the middle of the room, and harassed her as she vacuumed, and folded laundry.
Soon, an orange dragon appeared in the diningroom, and a blue one in front of the kitchen stove. A red one appeared in the bathroom, where it made taking a shower very difficult. A yellow dragon parked itself in her car, requiring a struggle to drive anywhere. And then a black dragon appeared at the foot of the bed, to challenge her each morning as it came time to rise.
No one else seemed to see the dragons. They were hers, alone, to battle, and they were everywhere. They got in the way when she helped her kids with schoolwork, when she tried to get out of the house to volunteer. They made everything she did very hard, and often made it impossible to complete the tasks she set out to accomplish.
At first, the dragons were a challenge, and she kept on going. She faced each with a determination to NOT let them conquer her, and to get things done in spite of them. But as they appeared, day after day, and as new dragons joined the old dragons, she found she just could not fight all of them, all the time – there simply was not enough of her to do it all. Sometimes the dragon at the stove was so troublesome that she just asked the kids or her husband to make sandwiches instead of cooking dinner for them. She often left the laundry in the basket beside the couch, because it was simply too difficult to complete the task. The floor went un-vacuumed, and the broom stayed under guard by a pink dragon in the hall closet. Some days, it seemed that the battle to just get out of bed was all she could handle – everywhere she moved, a dragon was in the way, and nothing else seemed to get done.
At night, she would go to bed, reviewing the day, feeling like a failure, because nothing had been done that seemed to matter. She had spent the day battling dragons, and had not accomplished any of her appointed responsibilities.
One day, a friend came to visit. She looked at the floor, and at the laundry, and at the dishes in the kitchen, and at the bread and peanut butter on the diningroom table where the kids had left it after eating lunch.
“How are you… Really?” she asked, looking at the weary woman’s face.
“Oh… ok.” she sighed. “I just wish there were more hours in the day.”
“You look tired.”
“I feel like I am not getting anything done that I should be doing!” once she started, it was hard to stop. “My house is a mess, my kids are fixing their own meals most of the time, and it is hard to just get out of bed! And I just can’t get anything done, I just feel so incompetent! I’m not DOING anything!”
“Yes, you are doing something. You’re battling dragons.” the friend said.
She looked startled. “Can you see them too?”
“No, but I’ve had my own battles with dragons, so I know what they do. And I know what someone looks like when they are fighting them.” the friend replied.
“I thought I was the only one. I thought I was going crazy, or that I had done something bad to deserve them!” the woman said.
“Oh, most people have dragons at some point. And most women beat themselves up when those dragons get in the way and they can’t do everything they think they should.” her friend said gently, “There are some people who haven’t battled dragons yet, who will make you feel guilty, but many people have been where you are, and they really do understand.
“Dragons come in a lot of forms, and pretty much everybody fights them at some point or another. You know Julie?” the friend asked. The woman nodded in response, as her friend went on, “Her daughter has a heart condition. She has battled dragons from the day her daughter was diagnosed. And Tracy?” again the woman nodded, “Her mother moved in with her, and cannot feed or dress herself anymore. A lot of dragons came with that one. Kendra has Lupus, and fights some of the biggest dragons I’ve ever heard of. Angela has a mental illness, which stays fairly well controlled, but comes with an assortment of particularly nasty dragons. Nancy’s husband is out of work – so she and her husband both have dragons to fight. Elaine’s son has a rare chromosomal disorder, so their whole family fights dragons because of it.”
“I didn’t realize!” the woman exclaimed. “I got so busy worrying about my dragons that I didn’t even see that other people might have similar challenges.”
“Oh yes.” her friend replied, “It is hard to see when you are fighting dragons, that other people are probably doing the same. But it is also hard to give yourself credit for fighting them. You feel tired every day, and you feel like you didn’t get anything done. But you DID. You fought dragons all day, and you STILL got up, took a shower, and made sure your kids were dressed and fed and safe.”
“But I didn’t cook anything, and I didn’t get much cleaning done.” she protested.
“If you are going to survive with dragons, you have to give yourself credit for what you DID do. You are surviving. That is a great thing, and takes a lot of energy when there are dragons that try to stop everything you do. You are surviving and still making a difference in the world – you may be sure that God certainly gives us credit for our accomplishments, even when it seems to only be battling dragons.” her friend assured her. “The dragons usually go away after a while. Some people have to live with them longer than others, but for most people, they will eventually go away. They may come back later in a different way though. When there are dragons, we get by, and do what we can. We get up each morning, and pick the most important thing to do. We try as hard as we can to do that thing. Sometimes it takes all day, or it is all we have the energy for. Sometimes we can’t even get that one thing done. But we keep trying. That is what makes a person a great survivor. NOBODY sails through challenges in life while doing everything they used to do. You just can’t do that and cope too!”
“I suppose you are right.” she admitted.
“When you can’t get things done, you are not doing nothing.” her friend said firmly. “You are battling dragons. And you are winning.”