Lissa Blake
Lissa Blake

     I don’t think I’m alone when I say I can remember an English or creative writing teacher who forever altered my opinion of a popular song in one way or another.

For me, it was my eighth-grade reading teacher and Dubuque Mayor James Brady, a radical, leather jacket-wearing, motorcycle enthusiast, who asked us to analyze the Eagles’ Hotel California upside down, inside out and sideways. To this day, I can’t hear that song without the extra-musical associated baggage of our class’s pubescent interpretations.

Was he an Eagles fan? Did he really like that song? Or was he just asking us to push the limits of our 13-year-old minds? Likely the latter.

I remember telling a friend who had grown up elsewhere about the assignment, and she shared a similar anecdote, related to Fleetwood Mac’s song Don’t Stop.

If you haven’t heard that one in a while, it’s the refrain that goes something like: “Don’t Stop thinking about tomorrow, Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here ...” or something along those lines.

I’ve never been a big Fleetwood Mac fan, but I’ve always felt that song had a good “fake it ‘til you make it” message, and I’ve found myself relying on that mantra throughout the past few months.

Spring officially has sprung, and I’m happier about that than I can ever remember being in my life. 

Am I just getting old? Have I just joined the winter humbugs? Probably a little of both.

But this past winter season seemed to pack a punch – for many of us -- like no other. I’ve heard there are statistics to confirm that winter, especially the holidays, are hard on the elderly, but I think it’s hard on everyone.

In November, we lost my mother-in-law, after an amazing life, spanning close to 98 years. She did it her way – always – and although we celebrated her experience of rarely being sick, always living in her own home and being cared for by her own family, not having her around is a big change and she will definitely be missed.

Another personal challenge this winter has been my own mother’s diagnosis and treatment of thyroid cancer. No one ever likes to hear the “C” word, but Mom underwent surgery and treatment and is recovering well, with a prognosis that seems really positive.

When you live in a small town, everyone has stories like this, and for some reason, when they happen over the winter, they seem to accumulate into a general malaise. Of course you can’t know what it’s like to be anyone until you walk a mile in their shoes, but you can be sure everyone has his or her own troubles they are wrangling at any point in time.

We all know people whose loved ones have been diagnosed with something horrible, been involved in some sort of terrible accident or have passed away in an untimely manner. And in some sense, when something happens to one person in a small town like Decorah, it happens to all of us.

Personally, I had absolutely no idea how many people I come into contact with every day who have a close personal experience with thyroid cancer, etc. And I find it amazing, how if you just begin a conversation about your specific hardship, so many others will empathize because of close personal experiences. 

      I guess it’s one of the reasons we live in a small town -- because we’re not afraid to ask others how they’re doing and we really do want the answer -- however messy that might be.

With spring just starting, I’m hoping a little sunshine mixed with April showers followed by a few May flowers will do wonders for my spirit.

Until that happens, I guess I’ll just have to fake it ‘til I make it and try to heed the words of Fleetwood Mac: “If you wake up and don’t want to smile, If it takes just a little while … Open your eyes and look at the day, You’ll see things in a different way.” 

Bring it on, tomorrow.