Sunday, September 1, 2013

I Am A Quitter

I am a quitter.

I give up when hard things are in front of me.

I am not tenacious.  I have no grit, no stick-to-it-tiveness.




This is how I have seen myself for years.

Years.

It has framed how I have talked to myself.  How I have approached tasks.  How I want to succeed but don't really think I will, so I choose to only do things that I already know I can do.  How I coast.  How I live my life mired in mediocrity.  How I am afraid to look at myself too closely--afraid I will be disappointed once again at how much I quit.


I can look back over the past 25 years and find the defining moments.  Those moments when I made decisions that either reinforced my perception that I was a quitter, or opened my eyes to the fact that, perhaps, I could change.


I trace my tendency to quit back to my first Youth Conference.  This is back in the day when you could do epic Youth Conferences.  I was 14 years old, living in the suburbs of Chicago, and my stake rented three buses, packed up all the youth and leaders, and drove to Colorado to climb mountains.

Based on my fitness levels at the time, and the pre-Youth Conference trainings we had, I was put in the top group, the most fit group, to climb Longs Peak.

According to http://www.summitpost.org/longs-peak/150310, "from the Long's Peak Trailhead the route is a classic class 3 climb and measures 15 miles round trip with 5000' elevation gain.This is a long, arduous ascent."

Because of the difficult climb ahead of us, my group spent the night in the mess hall at our camp, and were up super early (2 a.m.?  3 a.m.?) to get on the mountain.  We started the hike and it quickly became difficult.   

It was, by far, the hardest thing I had ever done.

And I complained.

A lot.

And made my little patrol take lots of breaks.

And I complained some more.

...my poor patrol...

And I quit.

Major fail.

I got most of the way up the mountain, whining and complaining and being prodded along, and I chose to stay in the Boulder Fields rather than go all the way to the summit.

I should have been able to do it.  I was physically prepared.  But not tenacious enough.

Jon, me, and Pops at the top of Pikes Peak (got to ride a tram for this one)



This experience fed my negative self-talk for years.


See?  You couldn't do it.  You quit.  Again.  Just like the mountain.


I saw myself as a quitter, and I kept on quitting.


It's just too hard.  I just can't do it.


It was reinforcing.  It was a vicious cycle.

My quittingness reared its head again when I was newly married and a transplant to Bozeman, Montana.  Greg was called as the Ward Mission Leader and I was called as a Stake Missionary.

I was terrified.

You can't do that!  You can't talk to people about Jesus Christ and the gospel.  It's too hard.  Better not even try.

I went to all of the training meetings.  I did all of the homework.

And I never once went on a visit.  In the two years I had that calling.

Not once.

I can't go this time.  You better ask someone else to go with you.  I have to _____.

I quit.  Again and again and again.

 
One thing I am good at is being a student.  I retain information and I test well.  But in high school and in college I was terrified of public speaking.  Knees-knocking-can't-sleep-the-night-before-want-to-vomit terrified.

At Montana State, one required class was Communications, which was basically public speaking.  I put it off until my last semester, and took it during the summer semester to try and get it over more quickly.

Total train wreck.

My speeches were delivered at 100 miles an hour and I could barely get through each presentation.

I can't do it.  I wish I could hide.  I wish I could quit.

More negative self-talk.  More reinforcement of how I was a quitter, a failure, a total and complete loser.


And then.


I wanted to change.

I wanted to reframe how I saw myself.  How I portrayed myself.

And I started recognizing the hand of the Lord as He helped me on my journey.

Things like:  after my disastrous experience as a stake missionary, I was given another terrifying calling.

Ward organist.


For the first time, and perhaps only time, in my life, I wanted to say "Heck, NO!" when the Bishop asked me to serve.

But I didn't.

I went home and cried.

And cried some more.

And prayed.

And prayed some more.

And decided I had to do it.  I had to prove to myself that, for once, I wasn't going to quit just because something was hard.

I called my mom for help and started practicing.

My first week playing was the missionary farewell for the Stake President's son.  There were chairs set up to the stage.  It looked like Stake Conference.  And I had to play Called to Serve and True to the Faith, difficult songs on the piano, and even more difficult songs for a fledgling organist trying to play the pedals.

It was a train wreck of epic proportions.  I went home and cried for hours.

...poor Greg...

And then made a decision to try again, to practice harder, to pray more.

And slowly, over time, I got better.  And I started to gain confidence.

After about 6 months, I was able to beat back my negative self-talk (at least on this issue) and was starting to feel comfortable.

And then I got released.

Literally the week after I finished postlude and thought, "I can do this!"

Even at the time, I recognized the tender mercy from the Lord.  It was as if He was saying, "you can do this, and now that you have proved to yourself that you can work hard and do something hard, you can do something else."

I changed how I saw my tendency to quit a little bit more when I started graduate school.  I knew that the undergrads would be looking at me as an authority figure, and that I needed to act like it.  I needed to fake it until I could make it.

I don't know that my public speaking confidence came overnight, but there was an immediate improvement.  To the point that during my second year of grad school, I was given a Teaching Assistantship where I taught a class on my own for the semester, and then after graduation I was given a part-time teaching job.

Now, public speaking and teaching are easy for me.

Another tender mercy.  Another example to myself that I could do hard things.  That I could choose not to quit.  

More defining moments came during our years of infertility testing.  Talk about terrifying stuff, and heartbreak, and doing hard things.

And wanting to quit every single month when disappointment came again.  And again.  And again.

But having a dream and a desire to be parents, to have a family, so that it made all of the hardness worth the journey.

Another example to myself that even in my drug-induced, hormone-shifting craziness, I could do something hard.   

I could choose not to quit.

More defining moments when we entered the adoption world and started on the path to adopting.


The biggest defining moments came on Ellie's and Lynlee's placement days.  When I was in those hospital rooms with our birth moms, and they trusted me enough to place their daughter in my arms, I underwent shifts of monumental proportions.



I cannot quit. 

I must be tenacious.

I have to do it for Eliana Caitlin and Lynlee Elizabeth.

They are my daily defining moments.

And sometimes I have to fake it until I make it.



Motherhood is my biggest challenge and my biggest blessing.  And it provides me with my biggest examples.

The girls are tenacious.  If they want to do something, they do not quit until they figure out how to do it.

They show me what it means to keep trying, to keep striving, to keep working.

They truly show me what it means to "...becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him..."  (Mosiah 3:19). 


And so I resolve to continue my journey towards strength and tenacity.

I know I can do it because "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phillippians 4:13). 



And I will continue to quit.

I quit ... negative self talk.

I quit ... being a quitter.


6 comments:

Jo said...

Thank you.

Amy said...

Heather,

I have looked up to you all of my life. I have never seen you as a quitter. In fact, you were the over achiever that I could never live up to. I have measured myself against you time and again, and always seem to come up short. Thing is, I know I'm pretty amazing, but you have always been more amazing.

Sharing with the world your self-percieved shortcomings is just another example of your amazingness. Your daughters are lucky to have you as their mom.

Oh, and remember Ether 12:27.

Lots and lots of love.

HappyCamper said...

Quitter is not a word that I would ever use to describe you. Remember the family statement: "When Heather decides to do something, either help or get out of her way!"?

Your post turned on the light to a comment made to me several times over the years, "I'm the greatest actress in the world".

As Amy says, you are amazing, and so is she. I agree with Amy that your willingness to share your self-perception continues to show how amazing you are.

And her Ether 12:27 reminder, priceless. Your weaknesses truly have become strengths. Thanks for showing all of us your tremendous abilities, strengths and weaknesses.

Love you lots!

Beth said...

Wow, I love this. Thanks for sharing!

Bobi said...

Thank you, Heather, for your words about your personal struggles over the years. I appreciate your forthrightness and willingness to share. I love you!

The Gardner Family said...

Wow! What a way you have with words Heather. This touched me more than you know! You are inspiring! You have always been inspiring to me! I love you! Thank you for being who you are and sharing so much of yourself in that post! Amazing!

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