Friday, July 10, 2015

Endurance : : Anne McAllister

If you've ever tried to write a novel, you know one thing for sure -- it takes time.

Even if you have your entire plot worked out and you never make a mistake or write the wrong word through the entire process (and if that's you, I don't want to know you because it will just depress me), you still won't get done in a day. Or probably even a week. Or two. Maybe you'll get there in a month, but I wouldn't bet on it.  It can take months . . . or years . . . to write a novel.

As I've been staring at chapter one recently (in several incarnations. Not for me the one draft, never set a foot wrong method of novel writing), I have been
thinking about endurance, about what it takes to persevere.

And at this time of year in particular, I'm confronted by real endurance every morning when I tune in to watch the day's journey on the Tour de France.

Talk about endurance!  Those guys have it in spades.  Since Saturday I have watched the saga of Etixx Quickstep -- of Tony Martin just missing the yellow jersey on day one . . . and day two . . . and day three.

And then I saw him succeed on day four.  And I felt incredible joy for him at his dogged perserverence.

Yesterday I saw his crash in the last kilometer. I saw the tweeted picture of his compound fracture of his collarbone.  I felt vicariously the white hot sear of pain (been there, done that with broken bones myself) followed by the determination that it took him to get up, get on a bike and, with the help of his team, make it to the finish line.

He didn't quit.  He had his op. He will recover. He will be back.

Why? Because it's what he does. It's what he values, I imagine it's what he loves. And so he isn't just in it for the good times. He endures.

I take his example to heart. I haven't had a broken collarbone because of my writing. It has never become a matter of life-or-death for me. But it does become tedious at times. It isn't always a joy to turn on the computer in the morning.  It isn't always thrilling to show up and try to come up with the right words.

Sometimes it is, though.  Sometimes -- like yesterday afternoon when next year's hero punched this year's hero in the eye -- it was pretty exhilarating.  It was worth showing up for.  But in the end, all the days are worth showing up for because taken together they give purpose, they provide focus, they demand that I do what I think is important on a day-in-day-out basis.

It's not just about writing, either.  We do it in relationships every day. Or we don't.  We are parents not just in the good times, but every single day of the week, all day and all night (especially if we have new babies or teenagers!) because it's a commitment we've made, a commitment we value.

That's what my current hero is dealing with now -- discovering that what he thought mattered most is really pretty peripheral to what really matters.  And when the chips are down, he can tell the difference. He knows where to focus his attention, what needs to be done -- even if it's hard.

If we're lucky, our lives are like that -- marathons, not sprints or dashes from one thing to another.  We figure out what's important -- which goals, which relationships, which commitments -- and we turn up every day through good times and not so good times because we care.

If you're not watching the Tour de France, you're missing not just a great -- and enduring -- athletic competition, you're missing some spectacular scenery.  And I don't mean just lean fit men in Lycra. Those seashores and mountaintops and verdant valleys are pretty spectacular, too.

I've never endured anything quite as grueling as the Tour de France. Have you?  What's the hardest thing you've ever done?

Photo credits:
1. User: MschlindweinArrivée de la neuvième étape du tour de France em Mulhouse (10 Juillet 2005): Creative Commons license: Wikimedia Commons.
2. Jérémy-Günther-Heinz Jähnick / Diksmuide - Ronde van België, etappe 3, individuele tijdrit, 30 mei 2014 (C06) / Wikimedia Commons


dstoutholcomb said...

I think giving birth to three boys was probably the most physically challenging thing I've done. Raising them--mentally challenging. lol

I've rappelled, too, off the side of a building. Don't ask.


Anne McAllister said...

Yes, Denise, I think giving birth to three boys -- and the subsequent raising of them -- qualifies as a long-term endurance project. I hope you've enjoyed the good times along with the 'challenging' ones!