Persistence Is a Way of Life

“It’s okay to be discouraged. It’s not okay to quit. To know you want to quit but to plant your feet and keep inching closer until you take the impenetrable fortress you’ve decided to lay siege to in your own life—that’s persistence.”
― Ryan Holiday

Somewhere along the way, we’ve been lulled into this idea that we deserve an easy, unencumbered life. Like we are somehow better than the generations that came before us, our parents and grandparents. They were tough, rarely grumbled or complained about anything.

My grandpa was one of nine kids – three of them died before the age of two. His mom passed away when he was a toddler, and at age ten, he was pulled out of school to help keep the household running while his dad worked to provide food and the basic necessities. He was drafted into the Army at age 24 and was sent to Europe to fight in WW II.

He was on the front lines there for almost three years, saw atrocities that I cannot even fathom, and saw his best friend die 5 feet in front of him. You’d expect me to say that he came back a broken shell of a man, right? Wrong. He came back, married a beautiful girl, had four kids, and went to work for the State Highway Department where he worked for twenty years until he retired. You know what he did when he retired? He didn’t move to Florida. He planted ten acres of gardens and worked from sun up until sun down, ensuring that his family never went without.

My grandma’s mom died when she was two days old. Her dad was extremely abusive, so she was adopted by another family where she grew up cooking, cleaning, and raising other people’s children. She never learned to drive, in fact she never left the state of Louisiana – ever. They were married for 60 years and raised 4 kids in a 900 square foot house. They argued, then they got over it. They never gave up on each other.

They lived happily ever after, right? Wrong. Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in her 70’s and my grandpa took care of her…every day (bathing, feeding, and everything else that needed to be done). He watched as she lost her ability to speak, to eat, and eventually to breathe. He never once left her side. He was a man – a true man.

I doubt my family and their hardships are much different than your family’s adversities. Life was hard…really hard. The funny thing is that I didn’t know any of what they went through until I was an adult. Why? Because they never talked about it or complained. To them, it was life – it still is.

Somehow our perception changed over time and we veered to a different perspective of what this life is all about. Because our parents and grandparents struggled, we were supposed to have an easy life? I complain more over the course of a week than my grandfather did in his entire life. Why? What happened? Why do we view life’s circumstances differently than they did? Why did they accept pain and adversity as a natural part of life, but we view it as being wronged in some way – like we drew the proverbial short straw?

“To argue, to complain, or worse, to just give up, these are choices. Choices that more often than not, do nothing to get us across the finish line.”
― Ryan Holiday

We spend more time complaining than looking for a way to make things better. Complaining about setbacks (you know like traffic, the cold, the heat, and kale) is the easy reaction. Complaining doesn’t get us anywhere worth going. Shouldn’t we expect pain, discomfort, unfairness, suffering, trouble, and terrible days? This doesn’t mean that we should walk through life waiting for the sky to fall, but we also shouldn’t be surprised when it does.

I encourage you to read and learn about people who have gone through tremendous adversities and came out on the other side, whole and unbroken. It may be in a book, it could be a family member, a neighbor, or maybe even you. It’s an attitude. Life will not break me – it may kill me, but it will never break my spirit.

It’s one of the very reasons that I took up endurance running. To purposely put myself in miserable situations as a reminder that life is not about comfort. Life is about learning how to deal with adversity without letting it defeat you.

“Choose not to be harmed—and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed—and you haven’t been.”
― Marcus Aurelius