I’m writing a story now due to come out in September–Miss Dashing (links coming soon)–and our heroine, Miss Hecate Brompton, has a problem with persistence. Once she makes up her mind what the right thing to do is, by gum, that gal sticks to her word. She holds up her end of a bargain long after any other party to the deal has ghosted, bowed out, or quit. She will not break a promise once given or even implied, she will not shirk a responsibility.
Clearly, she means well, but. Our Hero has persisting of his own to do when it’s time to show Hecate that some hills aren’t worth climbing, much less dying for.
My oldest brother recently came through for an overnight visit, and conversations with him reminded me that I am prone to persistence in the name of honor too. I did not want the children I represented in foster care court to have to change lawyers–they dealt with enough upheaval–so even when I was tempted to fold up the law office, I persisted. (And having the income and being able to practice what I knew well was certainly comforting.) It did not occur to me that a new lawyer might have been a better lawyer for having a fresh perspective.
I was not going to give up.
I’ve done the same thing with relationships, where I knew I was pitching a lot harder than the other party was catching, but I had made a commitment… Fortunately for me, the other party invariably walked, and I was free to repeat my mistake, but maybe not as badly.
When I was eight years old, my mom sprang for my brother and sister to get piano lessons, and she offered the same deal to me. I informed her that I would “teach myself.” I stuck to that decision for two years, until my sister began to get good, and I met the marvelous woman teaching her to play. Then I allowed as how I’d “try a few lessons,” though my uppity little self-teaching efforts had gone exactly nowhere and a half. The piano turned out to be my first source of income, and how I supported myself through college. I’ve often wondered where I’d be if I’d seized the opportunity for lessons when it was first offered. But noooooo. I was going to teach myself.
My propensity for persistence is also a propensity for fearing change, for too much pride, for a preoccupation with not wanting to look dishonorable. I have good reasons for persisting–and bad reasons. I know this, and yet, the persistence trap still haunts me.
With a little help from Our Hero, Hecate Brompton will wake up to the folly of over-persisting, but how do you know when it’s time to walk away? To give up on a promise? To break your word? What keeps you stuck when that voice in the back of your mind is wishing you’d just bail?
Lord Julian’s Advanced Reader Copy list for A Gentleman Fallen on Hard Times is queuing up!
I am definitely an “over-persister.” Part of it is a streak of perfectionism in certain areas (it’s probably inconsistent but some areas I just shrug my shoulders and say “it won’t matter in 100 years” and other areas I dig in until past what should be the bitter end). I think I share your “propensity for fearing change, for too much pride,” but I also have a preoccupation with not wanting to appear less than perfect (while I think of myself as honorable, I don’t think it factors into these decisions as much). It was a real hindrance in my days of technical writing as I would keep changing words as long as I possibly could and only external deadlines got me to stop. Although it’s not as much of a problem in retirement, I think the internal decision maker was when the “cost” of continuing was more than the “cost” of stopping. I think it all has something to do with being an eldest child for me.
I love how you described a relationship woe: “l knew I was pitching a lot harder than the other party was catching.” I did that for a very long time with a cousin who I knew was taking advantage of me. I knew that I was more invested in the relationship than she was. I was being disrespected all the time, not even given the common courtesy you might offer a stranger. I put up with it for YEARS because she was my cousin! When she decided that SHE was done with the relationship over some imagined slight, I frankly breathed a sigh of relief! My nature is to be very stubborn but in that case it was definitely not an advantage! Stay safe. Stay well everyone!
You’re asking the wrong woman. Mom swore my first sentence was, “By myself.” Not much has changed since then.
One of my greatest strengths is my stubbornness and grit. But yes, it can be a huge failing too. And discernment can be so challenging! It’s something I have struggled with for years. I don’t have any words of wisdom.
Ugh. Sometimes Grace, you just gotta dredge up these topics that make us have to self-evaluate, and remind ourselves of what a doofus we were and what we lost out on. My perfectionism is most likely because of pretty darned bad insecurity. Hey join the club all y’all. It was that way at work and it was that way at home. I’m sure those at work thought I was trying to make them all look bad. No. I just saw what needed to get done and there were only so many hours of a work day to get them done and there was too much to be done. Especially if you sat around chit-chatting all day.
Now I am forced to not be a perfectionist because health reasons have robbed me of the ability to do just about anything to perfection. And after all the things I’ve had to give up that I loved doing, I wish I’d let the house go to heck in a hand basket and just played with my toys…sewing, gardening, painting, oh…and traveled more.
I think we stick because it’s easier. Less drama, no hard decisions, no explanations to make.
Oh my goodness. I think I am the opposite! I have always been rather self-indulgent, and since I was the first person in my family ever to go to college, a B+ was certainly just fine, and not to worry about not getting the Dean’s List. I did it once, just to prove to myself that I could if I wanted to, but I didn’t really care. I graduated, and even have an MA, and always worked and supported myself, but I was never “ambitious”. I wanted to sit on the porch and read and ponder and stare at the trees instead of striving in the marketplace. I seem to be kind of a worrier and fretter, so making my life as tranquil as possible has always been important for my peace of mind. It’s worked out reasonably well. Thank you Grace for helping me to achieve that!
I am still a stubborn person, but when I was young there was no telling me anything. Then I lost a couple of people close to me (peers) in my late teens/early 20’s. It caused an internal rearranging for sure, priority shifting, perspective gaining etc. My father was a dr. so not too surprisingly, one environment where I am still the most stubborn is in a medical setting. My husband won’t even accompany me because he is too embarrassed I ask so many questions and don’t immediately accept the dr’s words. He comes from a cultural place where you weren’t allowed to question dr.s, so we are total opposites there. I do have to be very careful how I question because I don’t want my chart to say belligerent or worse (I was threatened with Munchausen by proxy by a high risk pregnancy specialist because I wanted to have a plan) but all in all I think it is useful as I do so much navigating of the medical system for my kids. If only there were an up side to all of my stubbornness.
I sure did pitch harder a few times too, in relationships but also friendships, and it took me too long to leave the mound. I think I have learned that lesson, but time will tell.
Oh, that ol’ bugaboo (and his friend the bugbear) persistence in the face of realizing one should abdicate the position. I’ll guess I persist quite a bit out of fear of the unknown.
I have it. I don’t like it.
I’m not sure what the turning point is for abdication. I think it depends on the situation for me.
You got me! I have a difficult time giving up. It’s my duty to keep trying. I purposefully did not instill this in my children as I recognized it’s toxicity. I allowed them to stop piano lesson, gymnastics, etc., for no reason except they didn’t want to continue. Contrary to popular opinion, neither of them are quitters.
Hello from a warm and sunny Southern California.
I have been a long time and devoted reader of your books.
Question…Where do you get the names you give the characters in your books? Many of them
are funny, unusual, and quirky. Were similar names of individuals used in the period of the books
that you have written? It is always a delight to open one of your books and begin reading your new
tale of interesting individuals
Thank you for sharing your talented writing.
It will be on my tombstone, “Clearly, she meant well.”