Mayhem Monday: Get Back in the Game!

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 pause.

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!

 

Cover photo by Jacob Postuma on Unsplash

Mayhem Monday: Are You Stronger Than You Think?

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?”

“Yes!”

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.

Happy Monday!

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Photo by Tommy Lisbin on Unsplash

Mayhem Monday: Strap on your Power Pumps and Kick Failure!

When I was in grad school I often felt like I was climbing up hill. Alone.

By that time I was married with two small children and commuting about 600 miles (round trip) every week. Yeah, it was crazy. A few days each week I would sit in an empty apartment surrounded by books and papers, searching out the mysteries of some scholarly work, attempting to interpret some scholarly idea or—harder still—endeavoring to produce something scholarly myself!

Most of the time I was just climbing up hill.

There were smart people all around me. The students in my program were self-assured and articulate. They spoke eloquently about books I hadn’t read yet and professionals in our field whose names  I was still learning.  I liked being around them, though.  My hope was that their intelligence would rub off! So I smiled and nodded as the conversations swirled.

Still climbing…

In the car rides to school–during the long stretches of country road where there were few other cars besides mine–I would sneak peaks at the article I had yet to finish reading for class.  On the return trips home, I would mentally calculate how many hours I would have between the kids, the hubby and the home duties to complete writing and reading tasks before the next return trip.

Often the hill was steep.

Then that glorious time came when classes were completed–only exams and dissertation remained! Ah, but don’t  be fooled by the “only” in that sentence. It was yet another mountain.  Just when I could see the summit coming into view, the unthinkable happened.  I failed one of my qualifying exams.   My momentum halted. I began sliding straight down that hill. I thought I was done.

But, there were people around me who wouldn’t let me quit.  Two in particular—my husband and my advisor.  They made me look at that failure as a place to begin rather than end.  I had been so focused on pushing up that hill and getting to the top that I had actually missed some things along the way. I needed to go back and take a closer look. I had to slow down and think about each step. The journey was not just about the destination, there were some points along the way that I could only appreciate if I moved slowly and pondered them a little longer. My failure pushed me to  the apex of another mountain and once I pushed past the fog of disappointment, I was able to see my journey with fresh eyes.

And so, in spite of the setback, I kept climbing.

What I love about this verse in Habakkuk is that it says He’ll give me strength to climb “my hills” which implies that He is interested in my personal situation.  It means He knows what I need for the particular journey that I am on.  So, even when I feel like I’m unfit for the task at hand, even when I feel like I’m all alone, or it seems that I’m the only one in the room who doesn’t have a clue, this verse says He’s giving me strength to walk on “my high hills”–He’s telling me to take ownership of that mountain! To claim it as my territory and walk on it with all the power and might that He’s given me!

You know what that’s like? It’s like putting on the power suit and pumps and stepping out with full confidence that regardless of whatever failures you suffered yesterday, today is a new day and today you’re walking on your hills,  You can do it  with confidence because He’s got your back!  He’s not going to let you quit. He knows this climb is rough, but there are some lessons along the way He wants you to learn so He’s made your feet like “deer’s feet”—deer step light and leap gracefully over boundaries. God says do likewise.  Strap on your high heels and take to the high hills–He’s got your back!

Happy Monday!

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