Clinging to my Log
By Michelle Llewellyn
Picture a Mark Twain log raft as an example of the traditional family unit. A man and woman meet with their two logs and lash them together. Children are added with their respective logs and soon a large raft has taken shape. Wise adults understand the importance of a well-constructed raft to navigate the often treacherous river that we call life. The man and woman work to maintain the rope lashings that hold each log in place; ever vigilant that these bonds remain secure. Everyone is kept safely aboard, protected from the dangers of the swirling, perilous water. The log raft floats lazily along in calm waters. All is well.
Until, the unthinkable occurs. The man and woman, through no fault of their own, declare this log raft inadequate for their needs. They regret their decision in coming together. The log unit they created is broken up. Perhaps the woman re-lashes her log with another. The children are left scrambling for their share of loose rope. They manage to hang on and survive the transition but his new, blended, log raft is weaker than the original. Still, everyone keeps insisting the only requirement a good log raft needs are a group of people who like each other enough to commit to creating a raft in the first place.
As the children of this blended log raft grow up, some find their own partners; break away from the log raft they grew up on to create their own rafts. The rest remain, dangling behind the makeshift raft everyone insists is much better than the original.
They aren’t alone. Up and down the river of life, these same scenarios are repeated as men and women constantly break up and re-form rafts. Occasionally they check to make sure the children’s logs are still with them but maintaining their own logs on a blended raft requires more attention. The ties once formed with the old logs from the original raft will never be the same. All they can do, they reason, is set a good example for how to keep a blended log raft afloat and hope, somehow, everything will work out.
In another part of the river, the man who broke away from his original log raft found others to create new, insistently better, log rafts with. Occasionally, he too will remember the children from that original raft and will shout his support and encouragement to his single children clinging to their own individual logs but, like his ex-log partner, maintaining connections amidst his own blended raft are more important. All he can do is hope his children understand how much he loves them and that he will always be there for them, despite the fact there is nothing he can do for them so far away; so completely disengaged from their lives.
On the river of life, it’s every log for themselves. If a log isn’t well connected to a larger family raft it is that log’s own fault. If a log can’t find another to form a strong raft with, there is nothing anyone can do for that log.
The oldest child from that original broken and reformed raft is now a single adult woman. She remains passive, holding fast to her only connection with a blended log raft. No strong, single man with his log ever floated by on the river of life and offered her the opportunity to join their two logs together to create a stable log raft. She is an outlier. She floats alone, determined not to make the same mistakes others have made in their hasty coupling and uncoupling of various log raft experiments. Logs of the same gender never interested her. Her desire was always to form just one raft in her life and she wants it to be the right one, thus securing a better future for the children that will one day come with their respective logs.
As the years on the river have passed, the meager ropes connecting her single log with her blended family raft have frayed. Her mother resents the fact she remains with this raft and has shouted numerous times over the roar of the rapids that it might be time for her to let go and create her own raft and cease this drag on her own. Just settle for the next single log that floats by, at least you won’t be alone. The daughter ignores this advice. She would prefer to be a single log, floating independent and free, than unhappily lashed to someone who felt compelled to join her.
It’s a difficult and frustrating choice. She grows weary of the pressure to either lower her standards or suffer the social stigma of a lifetime of solitude on the river of life. Holding out amidst the growing lack of strong men desirous to form a raft that will last for eternity brings no blessings. The single woman, realizing her lack of worth and value to anyone as an undesirable, single log can no longer be endured. At last, she succumbs and releases her grasp on the only connection she ever had to a stable, albeit shaky, log raft.
Severing her connection she is carried downstream. Clinging to her log, she knows she is headed toward a waterfall. A single, unwanted woman, going to her death, yet, she is at peace. Numerous times she was told by the experienced river guides that her only hope in navigating the river of life alone was that someone or something better awaited her on the other side of the falls. Her final destination.