On Perseverance

“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.”- Richard Bach

Last weekend, we taught my older son to ride a bike.  The bike is his first two wheeled, pedal version and was his fifth birthday present.  I had forgotten what an analogy this process is for life until yesterday, when I came away with fresh (albeit watery) eyes. 

Watching his initial excitement, then frustration, along with his constant getting-back-on reminds me of really sticking with it even when it hurts.  Listening to myself, too, instructing him – “Don’t look down, look where you’re headed” and “You’ve got it, just keep pedaling”, and “Push your feet- push!” and thinking we all need to coach ourselves similarly when things get rough. 

It’s easier sometimes to think of how hard things are.  The difficulties are magnified instead of our progress, our victories overshadowed by suffering and defeat.  We are harder on ourselves than anyone else.  At times, instead of celebrating how we “kept pedaling”, we focus on the scrapes, bruises, and sore muscles.  Somewhere in that space, there lies a balance of acknowledging our injuries, taking a water break, and getting back on the bike.  It’s a space of letting go, forgiving ourselves our faults, and moving on.  A space that little kids can naturally find.

Similarly, we all persevere.  We all keep pedaling, each and every day, no matter what it looks like.  We all keep going through whatever it is we’re going through, with some injuries visible and some not.  Some actual tears and some that are held in our hearts until we are ready to let them go.  But we all keep going, in spite of the obstacles we face- a mood or anxiety disorder, physical illness, difficult relationships or grief from incredible heartbreak. We deserve credit every day for what we do, without clouding it with the “should haves” or “could have been betters”, because it is enough.  We are always enough. We carry onward, even if we don’t know why or where we’re headed.  At times, the load on our back is heavy, but we move forward and through and around if we have to, but we move.  There is sometimes a tangible reward, like learning a new skill, but other times we have no way of knowing why we do it or where we’ll end up.  But we keep at it just like my son on his bike. He kept at it, even when he was hurt, his feet wouldn’t work with his hands, and he was tired.     

I have so much faith in the resilience of the human spirit, because I’ve seen it. You are persevering, right now. Even if you need a water break to stop and do what you need to do, promise to get moving again.  It doesn’t matter that you pause, and it doesn’t matter for how long.  It may not be pretty, it’s certainly not easy, and you might have a tendency to find your faults. Instead, try focus your sights on your effort as opposed to how far or how fast you’re going. Depression or anxiety will try to tell you that you can’t, but you are already doing it. Trust that you will move again when you are ready.  When your feet, hands, and heart are in it again.  You are always enough, even if you don’t think you are, because you are here. 

Today I watched him fly up and down the street, now a competent rider, and I can no longer tell who the teacher really was.

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