We can’t give up.
I used to think, well, it doesn’t matter on some of the small stuff. Everyone always says, don’t sweat the small stuff, let it go, right? So what’s the harm in that? But the older I get, and the more I see, the more I am coming to the conclusion that when you let go the small stuff, when you give up on the little things, then the act of letting go becomes easier. The practice of giving up becomes a habit. And when quitting becomes easier, when giving up becomes a habit, it very quickly becomes deeply entrenched in our behavior. It becomes a part of the story of who we are.
It’s a choice, to hold on, to keep on, to keep trying. Sometimes it’s the hardest, most difficult choice you can make. But it’s the choice you have to make. It is the choice you must make. You can’t give up.
Sometimes when you pick that easier choice, when it seems it will be a good outcome, to just give up, it turns out not to be so good, and in fact, it can have unimagined consequences.
I know right about now you all are wondering what I’m talking about. Well, it’s several things really, several things that I have been dealing with and things I’ve been witnessing lately in the world around me. I don’t discuss politics or religion in my essays, as you know. I just don’t. But I do discuss life, and really, politics and religion reflect life, don’t they? But I focus on life, and on the everyday living of it, and in the sharing of my own experiences and thoughts with the hope these will be of some use to some of you.
I can tell you what I believe in, without straying from my own dictates with regard to politics and religion.
I believe in showing respect to everyone. I believe in offering a hand up, where and when I can. I believe I have an obligation to do so because I have been blessed by receiving a hand up from time to time. I believe in taking the hand reaching out to me, reaching out in the midst of tragedy and loss, seeking solace. I take those hands because I have been blessed to know tragedy and loss, which allows me to connect with them. It allows me to help, so that the tragedy and loss I endured were not pointless.
I believe in being kind. There have been a very few times in the past couple of decades when people have misinterpreted something I’ve said, or something I’ve written, and decided I’ve been deliberately mean or cold, or shunning, when someone has decided that I was aiming at them, that I was attacking them. Those moments always leave me feeling raw and disillusioned, because I know my heart, and meanness doesn’t live there.
The truth of the matter is, I don’t need to be mean or to try and “get back” at someone who’s hurt me. I don’t need those cheap tricks, you see, because I have Grace. I have been blessed with Grace which is a gift you pass on, you don’t horde it and keep it all to yourself. You have to share it, or it vanishes.
And because I have been so blessed, I know that I cannot give up.
I had to set aside my personal mission to improve my fitness level for several years, but I always believed that I would return to it, that I would be able to take up where I left off, that I would simply carry on.
I’m in the second week of resuming that mission, only the second week, having finally resolved my medical issues, and I can tell you this is physically harder than anything I’ve ever done. But I can’t quit.
It would be so easy to quit. It would be so easy to come up with “reasons” not to carry on. Writing this essay, between one sentence and the next, there’s a voice that tells me it really does hurt too much, and I can’t do very much anyway, I’ll never get back to where I was. Too much pain for too little gain. And I need the time this is taking to write, or do more of the housework, or even spend time with family—every one of them a worthy endeavor.
But that’s not my voice saying those things to me. I know whose voice that is and it is a voice I will not heed.
The world right now is filled with voices, too—angry voices. Bitter voices. Voices that decry common decency. Vulgar, common voices. But we can’t let those voices win us over, either. We have to keep doing what is good and just and right, even when it seems as if it’s too much pain for too little gain. We cannot quit.
We can’t give up.
We have to keep doing what is hard, what is inconvenient, but what is also right. Because doing so is moving us all forward instead of making us fall back—and fall down.
I can’t give up. I won’t give up.