It’s raining, it’s pouring…
I sit at my desk trying to write. Ding, a text. An email needs an answer. My stomach growls.
The kids are back in school, I should be able to complete a thought. I should be able to organize, conceptualize, romanticize our summer onto the page. I have seven notebooks piled nearby with thoughts and ideas, waiting. Ding, my attention…
I feel like I need to do more each and every day. Pay attention. Achieve. Get more done. The more will translate into something I can transfer to my kids. If I am enough, they will be enough. They won’t ever suffer; they won’t feel pain; they won’t have to feel the cruelty of the world.
Where does this idea come from? This unbelievable pressure I am putting on myself and on my kids? Like somehow I can hustle a more into an enough. Like hustle is the spring from which enough will feed my children for life. I take my children to church every Wednesday and every Sunday (almost anyway) where they hear a very different message. A message that says you are enough because of Jesus. But what they see is me leave that building hustling for worth.
I think about the message I was given when growing up, whether overtly or passively. The message that I could do it ALL. Everything was possible, go ahead and juggle all the balls, open all the doors, be everything or anything. Nothing was impossible if I just put my mind to it. I wore a shirt with pride that said “Anything a boy can do, I can do better.” Sure it was meant to be feminist, but I also took it literally. I could do anything: boy things, girl things, all things; and I should and could do them all.
Now as a grown woman, I wonder who really wants to be EVERYTHING? I have worn my t-shirt. I have tried to do it the everything and anything. I’m exhausted. The only end game that vocation revealed was an unending quest for perfection and the constant remaking of myself into someone I am not.
Is perfection what I want my kids to see as the ideal life’s pursuit? I have learned the answer is no. Let the text ding and go unanswered. Watch the rain fall. Finish the thought.
What do I really want instead? Persistence. What I really want is children who know how to persist. If the going gets tough and they keep going, then I’ve done my job. Good ol’ fashion grit, that would be the something I want for them. The everything that comes from not giving up and eventually revealing a small corner of success with a side of happiness.
I wonder am I an example of persistence. Or am I just that hustle to be Everything? Am I just an example of what it means to pursue perfection? Am I just showing them how to wear a t-shirt to become someone else?
I find a mountain in the middle of Utah the place I really can ponder these existential questions well. Something about the wide open spaces and the unforgiving desert sun that brings clarity. As my middle son and I hike through Arches National Park toward Delicate Arch, I think this will be a great time to teach and talk about persistence.
The hike is rated difficult, but is relatively short, at 1.5 miles each way. Easy enough, I think to myself. About 90 minutes I imagine, I plan our talk.
We begin early on a June morning, the sun is already baking the earth before 8 am. I am not sure what Delicate Arch is, but everyone says we must see it. We talk about school, friends, choices he has made in the past few months. We reach the famous smooth rock that ascends straight upward. We talk about high school starting in the fall and the change that will bring.
I start to loose my breath. We stop to take a picture. I want to quit and notice we are only half way up this smooth rock. I see no arch anywhere. 60 minutes have passed.
We keep going, but soon the sun is pulling every bit of water from my skin. My lungs feel like they might burst from the exertion of trying to inflate. Is it ok to quit? I stop talking about my son and start complaining. I tell him I want to quit, we need to quit, nothing is worth this hike.
“Mom,”he says looking me straight in the eyes, “We are not quitters. Let’s go.”
I am not always persistent. Sometimes things are harder than I am prepared to handle. But my son shows me I have taught persistence.
And as he lead me through my moment of doubt toward the beautiful reward of persistence, I realize we don’t always have to make it on our own. We BOTH made it to the most amazing arch at Arches because WE walked together.
Maybe that is really what I want them to learn.