I don’t know about you, but sticking with something until it’s finished, despite the obstacles or delays in achieving success, used to seem easier. When I was playing ball, we all had our sights on the season: our current record, what we had to work on, who were going to be facing in the next week, as well as gauging our chances at any play-off spot. We showed up. Dug in. Sucked less. We did what we had to do to get to the end. And I think that’s the point: there was an end in sight.
Likewise, pursing various academic degrees through the years has also involved work. Long hours. Extra reading. Papers. Exams. At times it seemed relentless. However, by putting one foot in front of the other, eventually the goal was reached. There was an end in sight. Perseverance was a matter of holding the end, the goal, in sight and just doing what had to be done. Graduation would come. Then, with degree in hand, we would head out into the future – revising plans as reality adjusted them.
In my book, Swing for the Fences: Show up. Dig in. Suck less. I write about persevering for the long-haul season. 162 games, more if you count the play-offs, is a long time. I write about players learning how to be gracious with one another over things like chewing food or putting up with quirky habits around hitting. Keeping one another charged up, supported with Little League affirmation, is difficult on a good day; for 162 games it has to be a way of life, a habit, or the team won’t do very well. But here again, there is an end in sight. Even with play-off games, the season eventually comes to an end. It’s long, but it’s not forever.
Right now, we are in a world-wide pandemic. COVID-19 has interrupted our lives, interfered with our plans, disrupted business and school…just about anything we can think of has been impacted in some way by this deadly virus. We can’t see it, except by its effects. We don’t know when or where it will strike next, nor who its victims will be. Though our treatment protocols have greatly improved over these past six months, we still don’t have a vaccine nor do we have a clue how sick someone will become if s/he tests positive for the virus. Even testing people is problematic. Folks are scared of being around unmasked people at the grocery store. Kids are told to stay away from friends, in case they have unwittingly encountered someone who has tested positive (someone could be a carrier of the disease and yet manifest no symptoms, adding yet another wrinkle to this awful virus). With no end in sight, perseverance is especially problematic. It’s difficult to keep putting one foot in front of the other, encouraging one another, holding on to a dream or believing that everything will be better…some day. In many ways, this COVID thing feels like forever.
Making the situation worse, in my opinion, is we in this country are not used to thinking long-term. Our business cycles are set up to reflect earnings within the last three months. Plans are set in terms of quarters, not decades. We as individuals have come to cherish instant gratification – want something to eat? Don’t want to cook? Call someone who will gladly deliver any type of food you desire within minutes. Kids don’t like to read, it takes too long, it’s boring, so playing a video game is preferable to enjoying a book on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Staying indoors for a few months to help quell the spread of a pandemic is an afront to our rights as Americans to do whatever we want, whenever we want (even assuming we could take the issues of employment and income off the table).
I think of Anne Frank who lived for two years in the secret walls of house before she was discovered and ultimately killed. Perhaps she believed that her struggles would end someday, hopefully back to a safe and sane world. She writes in her diary of how little things caught her attention: birds, weather, clouds and how daily interactions would mark time for her. Some times, oppressed people talk in centuries rather than years as though future generations will see the fruits of their labors and the final quest for justice. Standing on a higher plane, surveying our life, we would see the perspective shrink. If we look down the road while we’re standing in the middle of it, our journey seems daunting. Looking at that same trip from an airplane window 30,000 feet in the air and it looks like a speck of a journey.
How to see our current wrestling with the pandemic? Will it end? Perhaps it may always be with us at some level (we still don’t have a vaccine for AIDS after twenty years). Stop the blame game of who started it or whatever. It’s here. Maybe for a long time. We aren’t going to get through this like a 162 game season. We’ll need a higher order of perseverance. It will take all of us being gentle, gracious, ready to forgive (and forget). Let people, especially kids, be a little “crazy” from time to time. I like a good scream or cry on the deck, but then we live in the country so no one will be walking by and have me hauled in to the psych ward. I pull weeds. I chop wood. It helps to be physical sometimes. Stop picking the lint out of our own navel. Think of others. Realize that everyone is doing the best s/he can. I’ll come back with more blogs on this in the near future. Until then, remember: you’ve got this! Atta girl! Atta boy!