The Super-est Super Power

camels far awayIn part as a function of last week’s post, I found myself recently muttering, “My super-power is that I’m getting out of bed today.” I wasn’t ill (no more ill than usual), I wasn’t injured, but I was facing a double work load in court because of snow the previous week, hard cases on top of impossible cases, an office ceiling leaking like a tropical grotto, and the effects of chronic insomnia on top of book worries.

single camel dawnA hard day, not a bad day, but as some of last week’s comments proved, we get into stretches of very hard days, hard weeks, months, and years. Sometimes, the people around us try to help, and sometimes, they say the exact wrong thing at the exact worst time.

You cry, you rage, you get beyond crying and raging because that’s time you could spend sleeping, or meeting obligations–maybe even reading a good romance novel. If you’re lucky, you hang onto the hope that your suffering is productive, that it won’t go on forever, that you’re not entirely alone with it.

camels into nightIf you’re really lucky, you come across the stories that nourish your hope. One of my favorite hopeful stories comes from Robyn Carr, whose Virgin River series of small town contemporaries put her at the No. 1 slot on the New York Times bestseller list.

AFTER she’d hovered at mid-list and below for TWENTY-NINE YEARS. When I’ve heard her speak about her success, she has no answers. After the first decade or so in publication, her writing didn’t change much. The editorial input, covers, plots, were all fairly similar or industry-standard all along the way. She thinks maybe 9-11 had something to do with it, making a small town, love-and-honor theme more appealing than vampires and were-demons.

happy camelWho knows, but she had two things going for her: tenacity, and a love for what she did. How long was Mandela in prison? How many times do most people fail to lose weight before they succeed? How many toads and toad-ettes do we kiss before we find a keeper? How many years do you tell that difficult kid you love him or her, while you pray like mad and hope for the best?

Tenacity is the good stuff. Tenacity is to me an implied characteristic of faith, hope and love, but it’s the gritty end of those virtues, the old-woman incarnation of them, and the most powerful.

camel oasisSo tell us a story about when you merely trudged on, and the clouds lifted. About when giving time time was your big insight, and it worked. About when the courage to get out of bed was all the courage you needed, but you needed it over and over again. Where did and does your endurance comes from, how to you guard that flame?

The Scottish Gourmet basket was popular. Let’s do that again.

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49 comments on “The Super-est Super Power

  1. It took all the courage I had the day I got up and my electric wheelchair didn’t work. My hubby worked like crazy to fix it. But, with his love, support and his handy fix it talent he kept the chair and me going.

  2. I feel like I am still in the trudging stage and am hoping the clouds will lift soon, but until then I will keep on pressing on.

    Wonderful blog as always.

    • I know one of the ways you sustain yourself is by looking backward. A year ago, you were waiting for Seth to say “Mommy.” A year ago, you didn’t have the energy to even schedule diagnostic medical appointments. A year ago, you hadn’t been to RT, hadn’t done your first series bibles, hadn’t started proofreading. A year ago, you were looking at incessant rounds of softball widowhood… there IS progress, and lots of it, though the road ahead is also long and steep. Onward!

      • I do look backwards and see how far the boys and I have come and knowing that things often do get better keeps my feet moving forward. Yes, last year around this time I heard Seth say “Mommy” ,and mean me, for the first time and now he is starting in on his letters, the iPad is truly an amazing tool for him. I remember thinking the twins would never be potty trained and then at the age of six it just clicked for both of them. I had a nice 6 month reprieve from softball and the last month hasn’t been so bad. 2013 was an amazing year of progress and firsts and I can only hope and pray that 2014 is a year of physical healing and even more progress from the boys.

  3. Fortunately, I haven’t faced truly difficult issues; I might have thought I did, but I really didn’t (I had a terrific psychologist who guided me to better thoughts and behavior); not compared to some of my friends’ issues. Probably the major reason I am as whole as I am is my husband of 47 years who has unconditionally and I mean unconditionally loved and cherished me.

    • I love that–and I mean unconditionally! I love my kid that way, though I’ve had to learn to set boundaries for us both. When somebody makes a safe place for you emotionally, then finances, job stress, health, all those other preferred haunts of the Undertoad aren’t so threatening.

  4. I find, for myself, If I am in a Trudge – at some point in time, I will shake my self (virtually), give myself a good talking to- And CHANGE my attitude…Sometimes I have to do it more than once – but eventually it works. I also find having the ability to compartmentalize (or close the door) on something I don’t want to keep thinking about helps… Perfect example – 2013 could be called a horrible year for me and the Hubby, 3 illnesses, 5 operations between us and associated Dr’s galore – the whole year was a bust from Dec 2012 to Dec 2013. Then for the umteenth someone said what a horrible year we have had and – I woke myself up —now I respond that 2013 was a magical year – We survived……

    • Above ground and sucking air–you’re winning more than you’re losing, right? That business of compartmentalizing is what eventually (in my 30s) let me start sleeping with the light off. I’d start on my monsters-in-the-closet routine, and realize what I was doing. In my mind, I’d picture myself aboard my trusty steed riding around the show ring, doing our test. The last movement in any test is to turn onto the centerline, trot to designated spot, halt, then salute the judge.

      X, halt, salute… over and over, until sleep could take my hand.

    • Thanks, Moriah! I think James is one of the best there is at the narration game. He’s never in a hurry, and the words gain power that way. Please tell all your rowdy friends, because I haven’t put these up on Amazon or Audible yet.

  5. Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was overwhelmed. Biopsies, tests, more biopsies and finally surgery . I had started a new job, my daughter was in middle school and my husband was a nervous wreck. Of course, I had a litter of puppies planned. My surgeon was wonderful and told me to go ahead and breed my girl and that I would be finished with the treatment before the puppies arrived. I trudged along for two months. Radiation, tests, work. There were delays, winter, holidays….. I never thought I would see the other side.
    As I trudged along and made each treatment and then went to work, my corgi
    Molly expanded . There was hope! Molly had a nice litter of puppies. I have wonderful friends who helped with the puppies as I was not quite finished with my treatments. I kept one of Molly’s pups; Celeste. When I hold Celeste and pat her I realize how lucky I am. You can trudge through difficulties and come out on the other side smiling!
    Looking back, this experience has had a positive impact on me. I truly believe in paying it forward, focussing on the positives and being kind to those in need.

    • What a wonderful story–thanks! Sometimes, with the cancer, the treatment is as overwhelming as the disease, and the treatment folks forget that. You’ve passed that five year mark, so here’s to many more good years, for you, Celeste, and all the puppies!

  6. Oh, there are classes that are holy terrors. Sometimes it’s like every rude, mean, hateful child ends up in the same class together.

    A few years ago my co-teacher and I got a group of repeaters (kids who failed the class before, sometimes multiple failures). In the span of a month a former student was killed in a car wreck, a friend’s brother-in-law committed suicide, and my grandfather passed away. Then I moved in with my grandmother while grandmother while I built my house (I learned the hard way that no matter how much you love your grandmother you don’t live her enough to live with; especially after she has just lost her husband of nearly 60 years).

    Everyday I was glad to escape the house for my hour drive to work only be faced with the most obnoxious bunch of students. I made it through that semester for two reasons. First I just had to remember that the spiteful kids would be gone at Christmas (thank goodness for block scheduling). Second was my co-teacher. He would listen to me rant and rave. He took the class when I just couldn’t. One day I found a note in my textbook from the student that had been in car wreck; my co-teacher said she must have known I needed it that day.

    When times are bad I do tend to turn inward somewhat but I also manage to find those people who understand what I’m going through and can quietly support. Sometimes it’s a co-worker or friend and sometimes it’s a student (who recognizes that their peers are often idiots).

    • I’m a hermit by nature, and a double hermit when the stress goes up. I must, must, must have solitude, a few days every week, by myself, alone, no other people. I get very twitchy without it. Same way with silence. Must have it.

      How you cope with a public school classroom, day after day, year after year, is miraculous to me. If my kid had had you for a teacher…. well, she didn’t, but the kids who do have you are lucky.

  7. I really don’t have much to complain about – I’m just stuck in place and need to push myself to get out there and find a job that I’d enjoy.

    The times I really just trudged along were when my parents were ill. I had to make decisions and I just felt like I was in a fog of doubt, trying to figure out what was best for them and not knowing which way things would go. They’ve been gone for 13 & 5 years and I still miss them every day, but that is the cycle of life.

    • I’m watching my parents try to hold on to their independence, but every decision we make in favor of their continued autonomy is a decision in favor of greater risk. It’s hard to know what it means to be loving at this stage of their lives.

      Makes me hope my daughter doesn’t have to deal with an aged me all on her own. Old parents make new babies seem like a cake walk.

  8. I pray like crazy. And Hubby and I have church groups that pray with and for us. We’ve gone through some really rough episodes with our (now adult) children. Without prayer and the support of our church community, I really believe I’d have crashed and burned. Their support is so important. And we return that support, too, by keeping the prayer going for others in need. Good post, Grace. Love that word “tenacity.”

    • A Native American friend once told me his people believe that at all times, somebody MUST be praying or creation will cease. Praying can be thanks, waiting, begging, rejoicing, anything, but somebody has to be seeking connection with divinity or the show’s over.

      I kinda like that idea, and try to take my turn at the wheel throughout the day.

  9. Running… That was HARD…. and still is hard… But it gets easier if you go one minute at a time… and you keep on doing it until you do it!

    • I was married to guy who ran ultras. He said a LOT of that game is mental–how long can you endure the discomfort? How badly do you want to finish? When are you being tough, and when are you being stupid?

      Me, I’d rather read about somebody running an ultra.

  10. My husband and I just celebrated our 36th anniversary. He was 17 and iwas15 when we got married and 1 month and 2 days later we became parents. To me, what you are talking about is call life. Sometimes you are up and sometimes you are down. When ever it is a down time, we just say to ourself “this to will pass”, life, how are we to know how great the the good times are, without the bad times.

    • Something to what you say, Mary John.

      I came close to handing in my license to practice law at one point. Nothing was going right and because other people were involved with what was amiss, I couldn’t fix much of it. I recall worrying about how I’d provide for my daughter, keep my house, keep my practice…

      I’m always glad those days are behind me, and when I hear of another attorney in difficulties, my reaction is to hope they pull out of it, and to offer what help I can.

      The hard times serve a purpose, in moderation.

  11. Every year in April I need a shot of perseverance in the arm every single day to make it through to the end of the school year! I have 3 boys in a private school, whose projects and end of year programs pile up quickly, and I have 3 more homeschooling, and I have to have portfolios and evaluations ready to turn in. It gets to be a lot! Every year I question why I chose to do it, but I trudge on and every year I make it through. I know it will happen again this year! Last year was a small victory – I graduated my first homeschooled high schooler!

    • My sister spent three years in Brazil with her four children, and home schooled them. Her kids were spaced such that she ended up teaching every grade once. LONG three years, but she had enough good things to say about it that when my daughter hit a rough patch in ninth grade, she could finish high school by home schooling.

      You’re a good Mom, Gretchen, and June will get here sooner than you think.

  12. For a long time, I was able to get up and do what I needed to do every day because I did not want to disappoint my family. The feeling of drudgery was always there- sometimes it was worse than others, but always it was manageable. Through some process of internally beating myself up, I always managed to get done what needed to get done for whatever job I was working in. Then, in my early thirties, I found myself at grad school with a professor that I strongly disliked on a professional level but who was actually an OK guy on a personal level. I was so unhappy with my work (graduate research assistant) that none of the mental tricks I had used previously helped. My up-to-that point successful philosophy had hinged on variations of “I can do anything for five minutes.” I would just scale up or down, depending on the time required for my goal. 26 weeks of Officer Candidate School? No Problem. 9 months of pregnancy? No Problem. No amount of mental acrobatics could get me through the research project I was working on. And eventually a counselor helped me realize that I’d probably been living with low-level depression since high school which escalated into a full-blown depression due to the perfect blend of life stress in my current situation. After about two years of therapy, I finally learned the lesson I was supposed to learn from graduate school: tenacity is not always a virtue. Sometimes, you have to let go and try something else. During the two years of therapy, especially in the early phases of “finding something else”, there were a lot of days that I would just get out of bed and go through the motions of life. Now, I very rarely have that dread of getting out of bed and facing the day. For me, that feeling of not wanting to get out of bed is a warning sign of depression. I learned to get up and do something, even if I didn’t have to and didn’t feel like it. I also learned to trust that the feeling would go away if I started taking care of myself – enough sleep, exercise, nutritious foods. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. Sometimes, there’s an underlying issue that I have to root out and fix. I’ve learned that avoidance only escalates the symptoms and action (any action) is the quickest path to a happier life.

    • You make an excellent point, Amy: Sometimes, sticking to a painful path is the WORST thing we can do. You’ve learned to tell the difference between tenacity and a life suck, because your psyche pretty much force the realization on you. Some of us don’t get it even then–especially some of us females.

  13. Thank you, Grace. I too value endurance, persistence, and tenacity.

    After decades of effort, I haven’t reached where I want to be. I can’t be sure I ever will. But I’m still trying. If I keep at it, I might succeed. If I don’t, I certainly won’t.

    • What is that saying, about a success being a failure that didn’t give up?

      Though success and failure can feel pretty judgmental. You’ve accomplished much, and yet, you want to accomplish more.

  14. I have had two really bad times in my life. The first was when my parents threw me out of the house in the summer before my senior year in high school because I told them I wasn’t going to pay them room and board and do all the housework as I was doing. They had allowed my sister to keep what money she made when she worked and attended high school as long as she did her chores and I felt the same rule should apply to me. It didn’t, so I found myself bouncing to three different places until I found a room for rent within a block of where I worked and if necessary within walking distance of school. Bus fare back then was a dime and a transfer was just a penny so I needed 22 cents a day to get to and from school. To make my little wage of 50 cents an hour plus tips last I went around the neighborhood on my off days and collected beer and soda pop bottles to turn in for the nickel deposit each brought. When I moved out my mother said I didn’t have it in me to finish school. I decided to prove her wrong as I was so tired of her criticizing every little thing I did and calling me a liar to my face. I was on the A/B honor roll for all but the last nine weeks and felt very proud of myself I must say. My maternal grandmother ironed my gown and drove me to the graduation ceremony and took me home after it was over. Although I didn’t invite them my mother and step-father showed up at my graduation.

    My other hard time was when I was widowed after just 18 months of marriage, I was stunned to say the least, especially when people were saying my husband committed suicide to get away from me. I found out later that I probably suffered from what is now called “post traumatic stress syndrom” but no one seemed to care about my feelings back then. I made some mistakes but pulled myself up by my bootstraps and kept on going.

    I’m now disabled and retired and I get a fairly nice income between my VA widows pension and my SS early retirement. I try to help out my daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren whenever I can though I can’t do a lot for them.

    • You dealt with a lot early in life, but seems like the hardest aspect of the situation was that people who should have been supporting you betrayed you. As a high school junior, you were technically still a child, your folks should have been looking after you, not throwing you out, running you down, and turning their backs on you.

      As for your widowhood, that’s rough enough without people putting the unkindest possible spin on it. Shame on them, and good on you, for making sure your daughter has a different kind of parent than you did.

  15. Something crazy happened in the last month … After struggling since last April with a brutal round of often incapacitating depression, I was hit with a couple urgent medical conditions. Both require surgery – one surgery is happening this week and the other one as soon as it can be scheduled.

    Instead of knocking me down further, it has energized me to *do* more. When a dear friend’s family faced a tragedy, I was able to go and care for her children while she cared for the family member across the country. I’ve been able to work part time without missing a day for a few weeks now.

    I don’t know what will happen with either medical condition, but, for some blessed reason, these crises have shaken me out of my complacency and helped me focus on things I CAN do (help others, work p/t, get treatment), rather than dwell on what I CAN’T do (work f/t, cure my depression, be who I used to be).I think the super power I am experiencing is BALANCE. I can’t do all things, but I’m doing something. And that’s huge for me. 

    • Whatever the reason, you’re moving in the direction of better health. That’s a good thing.

      My sister Gail was diagnosed with Type I diabetes at age 43, and in some ways, she’s the healthiest of the seven siblings. She exercises religiously, meditates, has an exceptionally clean (vegetarian) diet and protects that thing you call balance. She’s very determined, but also very sensible.

      I hope your health problems can work like hers did, to make your a conscientious guardian of the aspects of health you can control.

  16. Last year is the worse year for me : my mom passed away and I got gastric acid but I’m feel blessing because I have a family and a friend, a friend who is ehem my consultant for what food I can eat or not, her mom got the gastric acid too because I’m tried already to go to doctor anymore, so the best thing is too keep what I consume and don’t get stress 🙂

  17. I’ve learned endurance from my mother. Although at times I wonder if keeping the same path is really the best way, but it’s what I know. It does have it’s advantages and I think acceptance has it’s good points. I can appreciate what I do have. And anyone who has pets know that they better get out of that bed in the morning lol.

    • Jeanne, I was once upon a time at a low, low point, and as I lay in bed, trying to think of a reason to get up… I wondered, “When was the last I time I was happy? When was the last time I couldn’t wait to tear into the day?”

      I was when I was a kid with a horse.

      Got a horse. Problem solved, though I’ll never be that kid again. The animals, they are powerful medicine.

  18. I had plantar fasciitis in one of my feet several years ago. The foot doctor gave me a set of exercises to do to get rid of it. I performed them faithfully each morning for several months but they didn’t seem to be doing the trick so the doctor decided I needed to have some sort of procedure done. The procedure sounded so awful that I asked the doctor to let me try the exercises a little while longer.

    Turned out to be just the motivation I needed to finally exercise enough to rid myself of the problem.

    Lesson learned – keep on trying and sometimes try a little harder.

  19. Thank you for this, Grace, and for that great excerpt. Looking forward to The Captive. Today, I finally looked back at the proposals I’ve made in the last year to do the best follow-up I can. Today, I emailed all my clients with outstanding projects to prod them along. And it was the best I could do.

    In the last few weeks I’ve had a miscarriage. Snow days (in Atlanta!) And a touch of bronchitis. It has not been heartening. It has not been productive. And my bank account is wheezing.

    But this weekend and week I also read 4 of your books that arrived in the mail like small happy vacations in an Amazon box. So it’s not all bad. And I know it will be better soon.

    So maybe I’ll manage to wake up earlier tomorrow. And have a more productive day than today, and get a new client or two . . .

    • I am so sorry you miscarried. It’s a significant and deep sorrow for which we have no rituals and little comfort. Time helps, but I can understand why you’d feel you’re in the trough of a trudge. This is not when you need six more weeks of winter, or clients who don’t get back to you.

      Courage, and keep your keepers close. I’m nose down in Tessa Dare’s first Castles Ever After, and it’s getting me through a rough week.

      Will keep you in my thoughts, Ellie.

  20. Wow! what a great post. You really sang to my heart on this one, Grace.

    My son battles severe mental illness. No one ever talks about that stuff. It’s too hard and dark and for some sad reason there’s all this shame associated with it. He lives with us now and every day is a struggle for him. His illness came on suddenly in his late twenties. One minute he was doing well in college and eight days later he was being taken away in restraints to a hospital. When he was in the state hospital I thought my heart would break – literally. It is such a horrible place. He was so brave. And he survived.

    Stress. That winter, my heart actually did slow down and stop beating while I had pneumonia. Luckily I was already in an emergency room.

    Like you said, some days it’s just about putting one foot in front of the other. I’m so proud of him. He is doing much better now and staying on those awful meds. Still not able to get on with his life, but I have hope that someday…
    In the meantime he’s alive and he’s with us. I thank God for that.
    Thank you! for writing this touching blog Grace. Sending you a hug and looking forward to the day we meet in person.

    • Kat,
      I have watched one brilliant, charming, funny, dear foster kid after another fall victim to bipolar disorder, bipolar with psychotic elements, schizo-affective disorder, and the other dissociative disorders, and every time I see it, my heart breaks.

      These young people did nothing to deserve this misery, they’re already at a time in life when a lot of change is hitting them, and they haven’t yet built a strong support network. It isn’t fair, and too many of them lose forever in the early rounds.

      Your kid has some higher cards up his sleeve. He has YOU, his diagnosis came along a little later, he’s taking the meds, and to some extent they’re working. He’s been in the belly of the mental health care beast and you got him back. Be proud of him, of the team that works with him, and of YOU. He will become wily and knowledgeable about managing his affliction, and you’ll help him do that. Plenty of people live long, lovely lives with these diagnoses, he can be one of them.

      Hats off to you, Mom, and here’s to loving with a heart that doesn’t stop even when it stops beating.

      • Thank you for you kind words.

        These are my hope:
        “He will become wily and knowledgeable about managing his affliction, and you’ll help him do that. Plenty of people live long, lovely lives with these diagnoses, he can be one of them.”

        From your lips to God’s ears. I keep hoping.