I believe in quitting. I believe in the power of throwing in the towel and saying, “enough is enough. I’m done.” I believe that walking away can pay just as high a wage as persistence.
I have always chuckled to myself at the bumper sticker that glibly states “Rehab is for quitters.” I enjoy the play on the connotations of the word “quit.” But as every addict knows, quitting ultimately requires personal conviction and courage. The same is true for the pathologically persistent.
I didn’t realize that I was pathologically persistent or that I was even a persistent person at all until my battle to breastfeed a baby who came into this world seemingly unequipped with even the most basic of human survival instincts: the child didn't know how to suck. Sometimes, I would work with her for hours at a time to achieve a good feeding. 14 months later, my daughter was a chubby, newly weaned toddler and I had bragging rights: my baby had been exclusively breastfed. Yes, persistence did pay off. I had something to show for the sleepless nights, the soreness, the sobbing baby. In the end, the battle was fought and won and all had come round right. I, the triumphant mother.
The same persistence was what got me through college with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a teaching certificate, despite my insecurities and throbbing self doubt. Persistence is the reason I currently have a career that allows me to stay at home with my family.
However, this same persistence is the reason I stayed in a six year relationship with a guy who didn’t really want me. It is the reason that I have stuck through bad jobs and have sometimes remained friends with people who were not really friends at all: as if all of my self worth relied on enduring through this one excrutiating act.
My relationship for instance: I knew it was just all me who was wrong. It couldn’t be him or even worse, us. It must be me. Well, I’m proactive and honest; I could fix me. And so I tried. He seemed to like witty women. I would crack more jokes! He liked beautiful girls. I could primp. He said he liked charismatic girls. Hmmm. Where could I get charisma? I felt like a gambler continuously feeding coins into a slot machine: one more quarter and I would hit the jackpot. One more act of forgiveness on my part and he would love me. Eventually, this thing had to pay off. The stakes were too high to let go (or so I told myself with every subsequent heartbreak.)
Flash forward 3 years: one brief conversation, a few intermittent tears, a couple of Indigo Girls songs later and I felt light. I was totally unattached and it felt great. Where was the expected dread and suffering that I had been so afraid of? I was afraid to feel good?
So, I affirm the wisdom and the dignity of Chief Joseph’s words spoken at the end of that hundred day march now known as the Trail of Tears. “I will fight no more forever.” And for me and others who are, likewise, pathologically persistent a new serenity prayer:
God grant me the serenity to persist when my efforts will be appropriately rewarded;
the courage to quit when it is time to cut my loses
And the wisdom to know the difference.
4 months ago