By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South 

Remember when you were little? Remember how whenever you were sick your mother made chicken soup? Remember what culinary pageantry this was?

Your mother would go to great lengths to boil poultry in a giant stockpot, filling the kitchen with steam so that the wallpaper started to peel. And she did this for you.

And even though you were as sick as a cup of warmed-over manure, remember how wonderful that felt?

Remember how whenever you were scared, your beautiful mother would cradle you and tell you everything was going to be okay?

Remember how you would always ask her, “But how do you know it’s all gonna be okay, Mama?”

Then, remember how she would answer by pinching your little nose and singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” until your tears evaporated?

Of course you remember all this. And so do I. We never forget the people who made us feel protected. We were helpless kids with perpetually runny noses and unclean underwear, living in a dangerous world. But within Mama’s embrace, we were safe.

“He’s got you and me brother, in his hands…” she would sing, rocking you gently.

How about your teenage years? Remember those? Remember how you thought you were a tough little cuss? Nothing could harm you because you were Billy the Butt Kicker.

But inevitably something unpleasant would happen to you because that’s how life works. Someone would break your heart. Some hapless kid would call you stupid, ugly, or, God forbid, chubby. Your tough-guy façade would shatter, and you ran crying to Mama.

Because deep down you just needed to be held. You needed Mama to wrap her two wondrously soft, non-health-club arms around you and tell you that it was all going to be okay. Maybe even hum a song into your ear while swaying back and forth.

But then you got older.

Suddenly you weren’t a baby anymore. You can’t remember how this happened, but it did. Which comes as no surprise inasmuch as aging is part of life. All humans age except Cher.

Take a gander at your reflection. Your pants are a little snug. Your hairline is receding so that it now begins at the nape of your neck. Your upper arms look a little more like Mama’s every day.

The crummy part is, at your current age, Mama is not around to hold you when things go haywire. Nobody bursts into your bedroom when you’re sobbing and enfolds you in a wonderful embrace.

You’re a grown-up now. You’re supposed to deal with it. Suck it up, SOLO cup. Quit whining. You want chicken soup? Tough spit.

We adults are expected to carry on. And that’s exactly what you’ve been doing. You carry on. Day after day. And it’s draining.

After a while, you start to accept the fact that you’re on your own now. No one is going to sing happy little Sunday school songs to you to ease your troubled mind. Protective hugs are a thing of the past.

Soon, your sense of security begins to erode. Eventually you, the self-sufficient adult, start to believe that not only is everything NOT going to be okay, but life is falling apart.

This is the reason I am writing to you.

You don’t know me. I am a nobody from nowhere with no credentials to his hick name. I am some guy on the internet who has no expertise. I painstakingly maintained a 1.7 GPA in college, and I still type with my index fingers.

Still, you’ve read this far, and there must be a reason why. Maybe it’s because your life sucks right now. Maybe each morning you awake and feel unsure about where life is taking you. Maybe you’re scared silly about it.

Maybe sometimes you cry when nobody is looking. Maybe all you want is for someone to hold you, to kiss your hair, to press their nose against yours, and to give you words you can believe in.

Well, here are some words. And the best part is, you don’t have to believe in them for them to be true:

You are going to get through this.

I don’t care how bad it appears, or what the experts say, or how bleak the sky looks. You are going to survive, you are going to thrive, you are going to win, you are going to smile again.

And someday, you will tell your story. One day in the not-so-distant future, you will tell the doubters and downtrodden souls that their lives are not over. You will tell them that everything is going to be okay.

These people will immediately ask how you know such things to be true.

And you will smile to yourself. Because in your heart you will recall the warm embraces from a woman in an apron who once sang to you. Then it will hit you. All at once.

The lyrics to your mother’s little song were true.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to[email protected].