Persistence & The Long Haul

I am thinking about persistence and the long haul. Because of the new year of course. Big plans, don't you know. Plans so big it will take a year to accomplish them. Which has me thinking I probably won't accomplish them at all.

It's not that I have zero faith in myself. No, I believe. I just don't believe I can persist. You're reading an essay I have to draft in one burst because I know that walking away even for ten minutes means I won't come back.

The record on the turntable just ended, but I'm worried if I stop to change it I'll lose the thread of this thing. Let's see what I can do.

Phew, I made it back.

Elizabeth Warren announced her candidacy but I would be thinking about persistence anyway. My persistence (or lack of) isn't in the face of the patriarchy (though I sympathize and try to help). It's about overcoming the habit of giving up when the going gets tough. Were I a cross country runner, coach wouldn't put me in the hurdles for fear of me stopping at the first one then drifting off to read a book.

Projects requiring my persistence include:

  • getting a new job
  • treating my increasingly demanding bouts with depression
  • writing a book I've been thinking and writing about for four years
  • buying a Tesla Model 3
  • continuing my happy marriage and family
  • growing a bigger audience for this blog

I like these projects. They seem good not just for me but for my family and others in the world. Yay. But...

  • I'm likely to get rejected for the job to which I recently applied
  • depression knows how to defeat my efforts to treat it
  • I can't finish a book in one sitting
  • I haven't saved the Tesla's down-payment let alone the monthly payments and insurance
  • the family has to care for me as much as I care for them
  • growing the blog is more challenging without social media

None of these hurdles are so high I can't clear them. It's that I lose the faith as hurdles appears in my path and think maybe I should sit on the couch, turn on a re-run, and eat Doritos. Yeah, that will do it. That's the right decision.

Or maybe I should work on this persistence thing. I kept writing this though I went and changed the record. I came back to this after a quick interruption from my daughter. There's hope for me yet.

I've stuck with my plans through all of two days so far this year. I've even gone out running each of the last six days and felt good doing it. Crazy.

Hurdles are coming but I can probably get over them. In stride. At speed. With room to spare. Even if I hit one, I'll probably be able to keep going and make the next one clean. And if I fall down, I'm told that the possibility exists that I might just get back up and persist in the race.

The gun has sounded and, look at that, I'm off and running.

Happy New Year

There are all sorts of parties and gatherings happening tonight. We're not at any of them. Instead, the four of us — my wife and daughters and I — are in the kitchen making appetizers and other silly foods. The dog eagerly awaits any drops. Our youngest girl is rolling sushi, something she taught herself while school has been out. The older girl is eating bacon-wrapped scallops, something she learned at a very young age. My wife and I are floating in and out of different food prep, dish washing, and occasional kisses and smiles at how lovely this all is.

In school I often have kids write about wants versus needs. This evening fits both of those requirements. I easily get lost in things I want and forget simpler pleasures. I'm not saying that I have to focus on family and love every second, but here at the end of 2018 I am content, happy, thrilled to be spending the evening as a family, just the four of us (and the dog and cats). I'm ending the year in love.

There have been times when I've really forgotten how important my family is. I'm not proud of that but I'm not too ashamed either. Forgetting allowed me to come back. I'm looking around this kitchen at one daughter who will soon go away to college, another daughter full-grown but naive and childlike in the ways I love, and my wife who is cancer-free and healthy, totally in love with her girls, and still somehow the same woman I fell in love with so long ago on the Oswego shore of Lake Ontario.

Mine is a good life. 2018 was a pretty good year. I remember tough times but they were far outweighed by good times, love, and warmth. 2019, for whatever reasons, already feels like a great year before it has begun. It probably has to do with the company I'm keeping on the eve of 2019's beginning.

Happy New Year to all of us. To mess with John Lennon's lyric, let's make it a good one without any fear.

Why Are You Here?

In bed Sunday morning at quarter to eight I felt anxious that I was late. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do, but the feeling rose in me nonetheless. I closed my eyes tight but darkness made the anxiety stronger. Then I asked it a question:

        Why are you here?

Yeah, I talked to my anxiety. Usually I battle it, push against it, try to tamp it down. I try to stop anxiety, kick it in the knees. What else is there to do with something I fear? These things rarely work but are the habits I've developed. Today I took a different tack. I talked with it the way I want people to talk with me.

        Why are you here?

In case you're worried, my anxiety doesn't reply. There is however a child-like voice in me that said, I don't know. And with that my anxiety began to drain away. It didn't disappear in a flash but I felt it ebbing. Having asked the question, gotten something of an answer, I opened my eyes and felt ready to get out of bed. I had writing to do.

One Last Stocking Stuffer

Dad used to do my brother's and my Christmas stocking stuffers. He shopped at hardware and dollar stores, often duplicating gifts year to year. Duct tape and black electrical tape. Utility razor blades, glue, picture hooks, and Velcro. Almost every year I opened a scraper and a tire pressure gauge. A can of WD-40 filled the top of my stocking nearly every year.

My brother and fill each other's stockings with Dad gone the last three Christmases. This year I asked for duct tape, glue, razor blades, and pads for chair legs. No scrapers and pressure gauges, but I needed WD-40. I filled my brother's stocking with Crazy Glue, a pocket tape measure, chrome polish and other things Dad would have bought including a tiny can of WD-40 but he forgot mine. He apologized. I told him not to worry.

Yesterday I took Mom for coffee. I sipped my Americano while updating her phone and showing her how to read notifications. Mom is better than all her friends with her iPhone but needs occasional tutorials and phone maintenance. We chatted while working that through, stopped at the liquor store to get bourbon cream for her afternoon cocktails, and went back to her house where I helped put away some boxes, emptied dehumidifiers, and replaced the battery of a chirping smoke detector in her basement. (Mom worried the chirp was a mouse. A very regular and electronic mouse. Those are the worst kind.)

She had a fresh battery upstairs. I took it down to the basement and snapped it in. After testing the smoke detector I took a moment in Dad's workshop looking around to feel his presence. Mostly I felt absence. On the workbench was a can of WD-40. It was full like it had never been used. I held it for a moment maybe a minute then took it upstairs where I said goodbye to Mom, went out to my car, and drove home.

Before starting to make dinner, I texted a picture of the can to my brother: "Dad got me one last stocking stuffer." I hit send and stared at the message smiling with my eyes fogging over, my breath catching. I sniffed and set the phone down on the kitchen table, its screen still on. I cut vegetables for soup. The onions had me crying.