Summer of 1999 made me tough

That was an incredibly tough summer for me.

My uncle died, my grandmother died, my brother wrecked my grandfather’s car by rear ending my new car, I was counseling a camp that did not have enough staff, my dog JP had a wound that would not heal, we were in the midst of adoption.  My stress level was pegged.  I was beyond grouchy.

July 4 of that year, we stood on the side of the road looking at the two cars.  How would we recover from this?  My brother feeling the burden of a car wreck.  My anger at the whole situation.  My aunt exclaimed the greatest words of all time, “I know that they say God does not give you more than you can handle, but I sure wish we were not so damn tough!”  I chuckle at that.

A couple of days ago I was running with a friend and we were having this conversation on the run.  I cannot remember what led to my exclamation.  “I don’t need to be tough anymore.” 

He said to me, “What Rev, you are young?” 

As I was watching Lance this past weekend I saw him give up.  He could not do it.  A Eusakatel rider fell in front of him and it was in the moment that he just quit.  He had that stare of Jan Ulrich that was legendary etched in my mind, but on that slope I saw him just say, ‘It is over.’    I am not sure Lance a few years ago could have quit like that.  If he did quit, he would have quit totally.  However, with the wisdom of experience he saw that his life had hit a second stage.  He was no longer a contender, luck, bad fortune, age, the cycling gods, one too many musettes along the road had got him.  For me, the story of Lance Armstrong and the mental toughness was something to admire.  I could grit my teeth and push through things to reach the goal.  Cancer, Bicycles, work…he inspired me to be mentally tough.

It could be hours of work.  It could be a tough situation.  Anything.  I ran marathons so I knew pain.  I learned to gut it out.  I would not quit.  I would tell folks that there were few things that would kill me, so I did not have to fear much.  Maybe sometimes, we relish those tough times so we can claim our toughness.  The Monday after a marathon I did overnight on call duty at a hospital.  I walked the floors from midnight to 6AM without sleep.  Trauma, Code Blue, deaths all night.  I was tired and it was tough.  We like to tell those stories and we even like to hear them.  How good is that though?

Maybe that is wrong with Disneyland, “Kids we are going to arrive at the gate at 7AM and leave after the fireworks at 10:30PM.  And you will be happy.”  Then the day ends, kids are crying, parents are exhausted, nobody is smiling and not many are happy.  But, we handled a tough day in the happiest place on earth.  Maybe we are tough in the wrong areas of our lives?

I was not overly effective nor successful all the time being tough but there was this myth of persevering and being tough.  In the summer of 1999, I willed my way through it.  I have tried to will my way through other things as well and sometimes my will power is not enough.  Maybe if I would have given up somewhere in the middle of 1999, I would have found friends who would have been willing to help me make my way through it.  However, with a stiff upper lip I willed my way through it.

Maybe, I don’t need to grit my teeth anymore.  Willing my way through life.  I forget so often that it is not my will that saves me but God’s will.  For one thing, God’s will is more sure than my will.  Maybe what I spoke in the early hours of the  morning was this new truth that life is not just about persevering.  Does God just want you to persevere?  You work hard.  You push for somethings and some of those things you do not let go.    You need to have a few tough spots.  Maybe the goal of the summer of 2010 is to loosen up and not be so damn tough.


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