If I Were a Rubber Band, This Would All Be a Lot Easier

February 28, 2010

Fall seven times, stand up eight.
• Japanese proverb

It’s crunch time. Quiet week. The week before finals in a quarter cut short by budget cuts. I’ve been sick for several days and all the neatly arranged piles accompanied by carefully compiled lists are still sitting here, waiting for me to get busy. I’ve lost time and I cannot retrieve it. If you know me, you would think that this would mean that I am filled with energy, ready to attack the piles and cross off each item on every list as I methodically work through all the things that I have to do. You would be thinking wrong.

Instead I am filled with a sense of ennui engendered by my loss of momentum. I pick slowly at my have-to-dos, getting things done because, after all, I have to. There are students and others counting on me, but still, I cannot regain my enthusiasm. Duty is a familiar friend and I can dance to her tune, but I want delight to return. I want to feel enthusiasm and energy for my work and I do not.

I’ve written before about being overwhelmed by having so much to do that I’m paralyzed by it all, not knowing where to begin. I know that students experience this, especially if they get behind due to illness or other life circumstances. I know too that the only way through these feelings is to keep on going and doing. I know that if I give in to the temptation of doing nothing, things will get worse, not better. I know this because I’ve lived it.

Resiliency is the ability to bounce back after some kind of life disruption. A rubber band is resilient, returning to its original size after being stretched. In human beings, one quality of a resilient spirit is the ability to regain momentum. Each time you do so, you gain confidence in your ability to do it the next time. Keeping on even when you don’t feel like it is empowering. I know that if I move forward productively there will come a time when I will once again feel energized by accomplishment.

I’ve used one of my favorite quotations twice before, on October 29 and December 30 of last year. It resonates with me because it’s from the poet James Whitcomb Riley, a cousin whose poems my grandma used to recite to me when I was little. When I read his words, I think that Riley must have experienced these same feelings of overwhelmedness and discouragement, that he must have had times when he just didn’t feel like going on, but he continued anyway. He said about his creative work that “[t]he most essential factor is persistence—the determination never to allow your energy or enthusiasm to be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come.”

I do want to make it clear that I’m not talking about the doings of duty, those things that you could say no to, but don’t because you feel obligated or have gotten yourself into something you should never have begun in the first place. I do believe in saying no and even in extricating yourself from the unnecessary through honest communication. But every life also includes choices that require follow-through, not simply because you have to, but because you want to, because they include small acts that lead to the achievement of your larger goals. It is these things that build resiliency. I’m counting on this even as I write these words.

What do you need to do to put yourself on the path to final success this quarter?

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
• Miyamoto Musashi



  1. Hey!

    So I ran across this particular blog post and really liked it. I just wanted to say thanks for expressing the exact things that I’ve been feeling. Life has been especially tough lately and it feels like no matter how hard I try nothing works out in the end. I really liked your post and it made me feel a little less dumb because I know there’s someone out there who feels exactly like me.

    Thanks again 🙂

  2. Your kind words remind me that sometimes we write for ourselves to voice what we’re feeling and in that that seemingly selfish act, thrown into the who-knows-where, we can find resonance with others. I’m delighted to know that you found connection in my words since knowing that you did lets me know that there’s someone out there who feels like me!! W-OZ

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