When I was 5 or 6 years old, I went to a pre-school that was housed in a big Catholic church. Our play area was in the sanctuary, which was obviously no longer used for services. A huge stained glass window at the far end of the room lent the space a muted, calming glow. I remember the cool touch of the stone walls, the dusty smell of the couches we all gathered on for story time, and the blue tables with silver aluminum trim where we made our craft projects. We had a dress-up station, stilts to toddle around on, the Lego sets I never had at home, and even little cots to take our naps on. Looking back, it was a pretty amazing pre-school. I have a surprisingly large number of distinct memories from that place, considering how young I was.
While I was there, I went through a phase with the monkey bars. For whatever reason, one day I decided that I needed to be able to cross them. I was determined to swing my way from one side to the other, and I wasn’t going to let kickball games, boisterous boys, or two handfuls of red and swollen blisters stop me.
I don’t recall how long it took me to finally reach my goal, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t even remember how I felt when I finally did it. But I do remember the attempts. I remember the stubbornness I felt towards getting all the way across, the unrelenting drive to keep on going, and the unwillingness to stop trying. As a child, I was extremely shy and sensitive, so this behavior was slightly out of character.
Out on a morning run last week, I had about 3/4 of a mile left and I was feeling tired and ready to give myself a break. I haven’t been out running at all this winter, so my stamina is in a very sad state. As I ease back in, I’ve been allowing time for little walking breaks, my pace is much slower than is has been in the past, and I’m generally just trotting along versus actually running. At the point when I wanted to stop and I knew I had about 3/4 of a mile until I was home, I approached a red light that clicked over to green. I realized I had the choice to go ahead and walk, but something inside my head said, “Nope. Getting through this helps you remember what you’re made of.”
The truth, my friends, is that I’ve had a whirlwind of a winter. Life has presented me with challenges I didn’t (and still don’t fully) feel prepared for. I’ve been launched into planning and preparing for things that I anticipated happening years from now. I think that we all go through periods in life where we challenge ourselves, and then periods when we are challenged by life. I’m currently in a period of being challenged by life, and it seems that somewhere between January and last week, I forgot what I am made of.
I ran (okay, I trotted) that 3/4 of a mile home chanting to myself, “Remember what you’re made of. Remember what you’re made of. Remember what you’re made of.”
I made it home without a break, and I texted my Mom: “I did my whole morning run without stopping to walk!! Hooooray!!!”
She replied with: “YEAH, YOU! I know this has been a challenge. Reminds me of your monkey bar tenacity!”
I felt utterly victorious, and my commitment to finishing completely renewed my sense of inner strength.
It was remarkable.
I may not be completely unflappable in the midst of life’s surprises, but I’ve certainly still got the grit of a 5-year old girl who is determined to reach the other side of the monkey bars. I’m learning that, during the extra wild stretches of life, it helps to give ourselves a little self-imposed nudge into something challenging – if only to remember what we’re made of.
What are you made of? Passion? Drive? Unwavering loyalty? What helps you remember that you’ve got these things in you?