I like to think that I have a good level of perseverance, that I can cope with many things and can endure and push myself to finish the job, whatever the job might be. I have persevered in my work, despite circumstances which might rightly send me running. I persevere with books I don’t like and I persevere with the stubborn bunnies that don’t want to go to bed when it’s raining and dark outside. I persevered with cycling to work, until I didn’t. I persevere with my walking and writing, despite the lack of a noticeable return.
I like to think that I have a good level of perseverance, yet I’m as flighty as a dying leaf in autumn. One of my friends, a perceptive one, once mentioned that I am brilliant at starting things and not finishing them. This was a surprise to me. I have been in the same relationship for 22 years, and I’ve been with the same employer for just about the same length of time, and despite all the ups and downs that come naturally with any long-term relationship I am still there and I still enjoy it (well, my marriage anyway). Yet I start things and stop them. I am, for all but the most critical things, not in it for the long run.
I have started learning Japanese and stopped. I have written poetry; I actually got half decent at it, then I gave it up. I tinker at writing. I can just about crochet a straight line and I can only knit because I learned when I was younger. I have a high level interest in everything and depth in very little. I’m a tinkerer, an intellectual butterfly (and equally lightweight), I’m the bee that flits from flower to flower never settling. As soon as I get close to something, that’s exactly when I start to waft away.
That I have come to recognise this is a good thing.
I recently started the NHS Couch to 5k running programme. I’m not a runner. I’ve never been good at running for long periods of time. I have flat feet; I’m not supposed to run. I have tinkered with running before and I am tinkering with running again. I am up to week 4, though I have been running for 6 weeks. This week has been the worst yet. I haven’t run since Sunday (it is Thursday). I was supposed to run yesterday, but it was cold and I was tired and kind of hungry so I didn’t run. Today it was windy. I didn’t want to run.
I got changed into my running gear. I came downstairs and strapped on my phone, only to discover that the week’s podcast had not downloaded. I tried to download it: it wouldn’t download. Fifteen minutes later it downloaded. I hovered by the door. I didn’t want to run.
I went for a run. It was cold and I was tired. My knees hurt. In parts I felt like my breath was being squeezed through a tiny, burning hole in my throat. I ran for three minutes, then five minutes, then three minutes, then five. Breaks in between. I didn’t want to run, but I did. I persevered.
It’s easy doing the things that we love. It’s easy, too, doing the things that we have to. Work, family: they’re not exactly a choice (except they are a choice). Perseverance comes when we do something hard that we don’t have to, when we push through a barrier of pain and don’t give up, when we keep going even though keeping going is hard, even if it means just putting one step in front of another or living another shitty day or coping with a difficult relationship or situation that really we want to escape from. I am not good at persevering. I think, sometimes, that if I was a person on the Titanic when it was sinking that I’d go down with ship because fighting to live in those circumstances is much harder than giving in. If I was sent to a death camp, I’d die in the first week. If there was a nuclear attack, I’d run into the burning light. I’m terrible at being sick, I dread degenerative illness. Going on when it’s hard, that’s a kind of endurance I don’t have. But maybe I can learn.
I did my run. I didn’t want to, but I did it. This is a commitment, a small one but one worth making. Afterwards I was proud of myself. I didn’t have to run but I did. I’m not very good at it, I’m not very fit. But I can get better. I will get better. I will not give in. Well, perhaps I won’t give in on this.