If you’re truly great, your success should speak for itself.
I slump onto the step out of breath, sweat drips off of my chin. My heart pounds like a bass drum.
“You okay?” It’s a familiar question.
“I’m fine,” my usual reply. I just need a minute.
A few seconds to catch my breath then I’ll begin again. I’m not much of a long distance runner. You won’t see any selfies of me on social media from the Boston marathon. But I do believe in the hard push, even if it’s short bursts. I recognize the health benefits of interval training which involves high level intense activity for short periods of time followed by short recovery periods. This kind of exercise works for me. I get bored with doing one type of exercise for an extended time, so I like knowing that in 5 or 10 minutes I’ll get to do something else. It’s also motivating to know that even if this exercise that I’m doing right now is difficult, I only have to endure it for a little while, then I’ll get to rest or switch to something else.
As I consider this rhythm with my exercise routine, I can see how this also works with other aspects of my life and work.
There are times when every day is a push. I’m running from one thing to the next, hardly able to catch my breath, and I feel as though my heart is going to jump out of my chest from all the stress! But then there’s that blessed rest at the end of the week, when I can collapse on the sofa and do absolutely nothing for hours. Hallelujah!
The problem comes when I pause too long. The rest has to be long enough for me to recover from the work, but not for my muscles to get cold. Although the weekend rest is relaxing, if I sleep too long on Sunday, it will be that much harder to move on Monday.
If I’m being honest, I’d have to say this Monday blog has suffered because I’ve overslept.
I use that term ironically, because I’ve hardly been asleep, though. It’s just that this creative work has been pushed to the side by the day-to-day grind. So much so that every time I’ve come to the writer’s desk I’ve stared at a blank computer screen that merely stared back at me! Sometimes there are no words even when the words are there. They float around, but refuse to settle down. There’s so much to say, yet nothing to be said. I’m stumped by second-guesses, muted by mobs of doubt and distracted by distant deadlines. So, it has been easier to let the Mondays go by.
A pause? A few seconds to catch my breath?
That’s what I tell myself. I need to re-group. Think about what I’m doing, and what’s my plan moving forward? But, long breaks are detrimental to progress. If the creative muscles aren’t exercised they will weaken. The difficulty I’m having now won’t last, but neither can I avoid the difficulty too long.
I know this as I claw my way back to the writing desk! My head is still as empty as it was a week ago, my fingers still crooked on these keys, but I can’t quit! Creative work is work–it’s not easy. But nothing that is worth having ever is. If I am ever going to perfect this craft I must continue to work at it, and the only way to work at it is to work it. It’s like exercise. You don’t do it ‘cause you feel like it, you do it until you feel like it, and once you feel like it, you’ll keep doing it!
After a moment or two, I wipe the sweat with my sleeve as I begin another round. Rest time is over. Time to get back to work!
Recently my daughter was inducted into the National Honor Society, a prestigious organization, in existence since 1921, that recognizes the achievements of young people who have excelled in scholarship, service, leadership, and character. It was a very big deal that she was chosen. She worked hard to submit the requisite materials and, in general, she has worked hard over the years to be the type of individual worthy of this honor.
However, my daughter is my husband’s child, which means that she is also known for her wise cracks and silliness in spite of her serious aspirations.
So, on the night of the induction, as all of the distinguished youth in their crisp uniforms marched dutifully to the stage to receive their certificates and officially enter the esteemed ranks, the moderator provided the audience with some background on each of them–their grade level, their career goals, what school they planned to attend and their favorite quote. These gave a snapshot of each student and an impression of the type of person each is and will become.
As the names were called parents and guests smiled politely as one student after another filed past until finally it was my daughter’s turn. Of course, I knew what her grade level, career and school was going to be, but I wondered about her inspirational quote. Some of the other kids had given some impressive ones. Then came the moderator’s voice “and her favorite quote is “just do you boo!“
Suddenly, the polite smiles cracked into thunderous laughter. So much for the seriousness of the occasion.
For all her intelligence and academic ability, at the end of the day my daughter will always be her father’s child!
She’ll also always stay grounded in what really matters–being herself. Sure, she cared about the occasion. Sure, she was embarrassed by the disruption–it was actually unintended, but it also represented a very real part of her personality that I respect.
While the other kids had impressive quotes, many had looked theirs up on the internet. They had aligned themselves with an expectation and a standard rather than thinking for themselves. For all the “criticism” my daughter received for her quote, most were actually impressed by her authenticity–it became the catch phrase of the evening!
She may have been unorthodox, but she was true to herself.
Her quote may not have been eloquent, but her point was well made. When it’s all said and done, what matters most in life–what’s really going to get you through–whether it’s academics, or other aspirations–is being true to you! If you’re worried about what others think you’ll always be hampered. So, if you think about it, her simplicity is actually quite profound.
I love it. Do you, boo.
In case you were wondering…yes! I’ve used this image before, in an earlier post, but I decided to revise it with my daughter’s catch phrase which captures the essence of what I was saying in “A Lesson from My Unruly Curls” even better. Less is more!
They had no idea how afraid I was.
I could hear their voices down below, encouraging, cheerful—and their laughter. For them, this was all fun and games, but I was terrified. I wondered why I had agreed to do this. Why did I think I was up to the task? But I was stuck now. It was too late to turn back, yet I was uncertain of the way forward. I was in such a narrow spot and couldn’t see the top from my vantage. My heart was pounding and I regretted keeping on the flannel-lined hoodie. The heat crept up my neck like mercury in a thermometer. Then I heard his voice beside me.
“Do you want to quit?”
In my mind I screamed “Yes!” But I couldn’t bring myself to say so out loud.
“Come on, you can do it!” I heard them saying. Their confidence shocked me.
“You can do this.” He added to their assurance with his own quiet push. “All you have to do is…”
Of course, “all I have to do”—easy for him to say. Everything is easy for him! I’m the one who struggles. I’m the one who lacks confidence. Now here I am, on the brink of something, wavering and uncertain.
It’s so typical of me.
To linger in that liminal space is always dangerous. While you waver you give yourself time to rehash all the reasons why you should quit. You recount all the things that are against you and all your weaknesses that make this present challenge impossible.
How many writers, or artists, start their great masterpiece with great excitement only to hit a wall and convince themselves that they aren’t talented enough to complete it? How many projects have you started, then quit because it got too hard? And when you get to that point, how easy is it to get distracted by the success of others? “It’s no use, we think to ourselves. Why did I ever think I could do this? How did I get here anyway?”
“Do you want to quit?”
But, there’s a crowd of people waiting for your book, your article, your story, your song, your poem, your gift—you can’t quit now!
“You can do this” says the quiet voice right next to you. That soft, encouraging voice that you love. “You’re stronger than you think and you’re closer to the end than you realize.”
No, it’s not easy, but you’ve come too far to turn back—you might as well muster the strength to push forward.
I finally decided to push past my fear.
And when I did, something amazing happened. I pulled myself over the ledge! It had been just above me all along. The cheers of my supporters erupted all around and I had to fight back a little tear–I made it! It wasn’t just a physical challenge. It was a mental challenge, symbolic of every mental battle I’ve ever fought.
Perhaps you need to hear this as much as I do: the success that you think is out of reach, is not. You just have to be brave enough to go for it. Your insecurities may be drowning out the assurances of loved ones, but you can decide to push past the fear. Move first and the mind will follow. Stop doubting and start believing that you ARE strong enough! It is at the point of your greatest despair when you will find that you are the closest to a turning point—if not the very summit that you’ve been seeking! Just. keep. climbing.