Persevere in Hope – Day 18

Persevere in Hope – Day 18

It’s 6:23 in the evening.  The clock tells me it’s late to be writing.  Yet my commitment to the keyboard still stands.  

The thoughts and feelings continue to swirl, and focusing becomes a challenge.  For as hope remains my focus, the struggle brings tears.  Tears that speak volumes with past hurts and indiscretions, tears that feel helpless against today’s imperfection, and mostly tears that drown out hope for tomorrow’s goodness.

My optimism is buried.  My hopeful words nonexistent.  What holds me captive is a comfortable hopelessness, a place I have become accustomed to from past hurt.  

Shockingly in opposition to my purpose, I share what I most want to escape.

Yet, I still believe “in a future and a hope”.  Where I fail is being patient in tribulation.  

Patience…the opposite of instant gratification. In this world of instantaneous responses, patience has become a forgotten virtue.

Our expectations become skewed the more quickly we see results.  And the expectation of instant results skews our sense of accomplishment.

What we so often forget is the age-old wisdom in a quote like, “good things come to those who wait.”  Is that even ever said anymore in this world of instantaneousness?  Where is the lesson in the struggle?

Technology would have us believe that every incredible view is just a high-speed gondola ride to the top of the mountain or a virtual reality representation of a highly-coveted exotic location. When in reality the most magnificent experiences are often revealed to the few who are willing to risk a great struggle and strengthen their resolve to persevere.

Hope doesn’t always present itself as an instant rope of salvation when we find ourselves in a hole.  Rather it may teach us that learning to thrive within our circumstances while believing that our saving grace will eventually arrive brings us what we most need to learn, patience.

And so what I’ve learned today is we cannot escape the trials we face instantly, but we can learn to persevere with hope in the midst of it.

-Erika K Rothwell

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Practice Until Perfect? Or Perfectly Good?

Practice Until Perfect? Or Perfectly Good?

It all started with a horrible mess in the kitchen.  How could I have been so careless?  I watched helplessly as the egg yolk poured down the side of the refrigerator door that I had just cleaned a week ago, and onto the floor.  Has this ever happened to you?  My “hangry” state pushed me into a state of exasperation.

Fortunately, no one was home so my derogatory remarks were shared only with the dogs.

And all I could think after I vented was, these “perfectly good” eggs didn’t have a chance, they just went to waste.  And I reflected, how many things in my life are like that?

My words continue to be written, but many of them are never given the opportunity to be consumed.  They are perfectly good words, worthy of savoring, yet they go to waste because I choose not to share them.

Hesitancy is my middle name.  I often hesitate, waiting until the perfect time.  And yet that perfect time never comes.  Holding out for perfection only impedes my progress.

With that, I bring you an essay I wrote days ago.  Feeling like it’s not perfect feels like the perfect time to share it with you…

“Practice until perfect.”, a cliche you’ve all heard.  What’s not considered enough is the paralyzing effect these seemingly motivational words have on you as its successor, perfectionism, slowly and unnoticeably begins to rule your life.

Perfectionism often leads to our dissatisfaction and unnecessary self-devaluation.  Perfection, the highest bar you set for yourself hangs as an elusive carrot in the sky.  No sooner are you granted a victory, does someone bypass your achievement, leaving you holding an outdated medal for a record surpassed long ago.  Rising to the peak of success only brings you closer to the next peak.  And when you finally stand at the summit, you know you can still go higher.

Striving for perfection remains admirable.  Practicing with the realization that perfection may never be reached is most admirable.

My husband loves the movie, “Rudy”.  Do you know the story?  I feel like you might since I’ve personally heard the story many times from him, after watching it.  Rudy was gifted a small frame, with an inexhaustible, grandiose desire to be a star football player.  His plight as he faced continuous rejection and even ridicule set the stage.  His ability to rise above the adversity lands him a bench player seat at Notre Dame where he was eventually put in the last game of his senior year.  We all counted him victorious as he sacked the quarterback in the last few moments of the game.  Of course, Rudy’s story is a motivational example inspiring persistence even when odds are stacked against you. 

Ironically, I now see the story as modeling an additional example.  I will call it “practice although imperfect”.  Rudy could not change his stature.  He could not change his overall athletic ability to compete equally with those gifted with talent.  What Rudy could do was practice, practice more, practice until he could prove to himself and others that he had reached the pinnacle of his dream.  Did Rudy become a star football player?  No, he became an inspiration.  I would guess he went on practicing to reach other lofty goals with the same amount of perseverance.

Analyzing from another angle, those who become star athletes still continue to practice. Musicians also continue to practice their music after creating a composition or winning a Grammy.   Reasonably, you may conclude perfection summits are an illusion.   

From this perspective, I realize perfection cannot truly be reached by any of my efforts.  Practicing until perfect may keep me constantly growing and improving, towards mastery…never perfection.  As I reflect on the true definition of perfection, I recognize, in a large sense, nothing is ever complete since every great work of humankind can be improved upon.  So without the goal of perfection, where’s the motivation, you may ask as well?  

My new goal is as follows.  “Each day, as you wake, take a moment to consider how life on this beautiful planet entices you to grow and learn, giving you another day to practice whatever it is you’ve chosen to master.”  Our individual motivations may differ; however,  moving forward in our chosen ventures often requires discipline and tenacity of practice.  I have learned to replace the goal of perfection with the fuel of determination, a strength of purpose, and continued appreciation for the lessons along the way.  Therein lies the true accomplishment.

Each accomplishment builds a step to the next step.  Don’t keep striving for a mirage of perfection.  Celebrate your personal victories along the way.  Release yourself from the pressure of perfectionism and embrace momentary contentment when your work is perfectly good.

-Erika K Rothwell


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Potty Mouth

Potty Mouth

Potty Mouth

I’m here again,  trying to practice the art of consistency.  This awakens a strange memory, teaching my kids to change the toilet paper roll.  I’m not sure why I made such a lesson out of such a mundane task.  This memory is shared by my grown daughter, who now holds a master’s degree and is an R.D., (Registered Dietician).  Although I question whether I had anything to do with her success at all, she repeatedly tells me one of the reasons is because I taught her “to be the person” to change the toilet paper roll.

It seems like such a simple task but undertaken by so few.  The opportunity exists to consistently be the one.  This brings me to a stark realization; consistency doesn’t require a master’s degree, but a master’s degree requires consistency.  I watched my daughter grow and achieve by her consistent efforts to overcome the challenges and obstacles she faced.  There were times she grew weary and yet she pushed forward. 

Today, I am the student, still practicing.  I taught the lesson, but did I grasp its true meaning?  The lesson lies in recognizing opportunities to grow beyond the norm, pushing limits of established comfort zones, and not expecting someone else to do the work.  Yes, It’s difficult to keep showing up and consistently deliver results.  Planning is one thing, results need action. 

When a student signs up for a course, yet never attends class or studies for the exam, they most likely will fail.  It’s great fun to sign up, but when it comes time to do the work, do we show up?  

When life rushes by and excuses pile up, consistency itself becomes a monumental task.  Once again, I am reminded to consider the question, Can I make something happen when life keeps happening? 

Oh, the overwhelming weight of my realizations could derail me at this very moment.  However, I choose to stay present and continue sharing.  And now let me take you back to the toilet paper story.

At an early age, I had to teach myself how to change the toilet paper.  I was not prepared for the real world, having been cared for in an extremely protective manner.  There were days when I felt paralyzed, and it clearly showed in my inaction.  The more I sat, the worse I felt about my inability to accomplish.  The day came when I realized I may not be able to accomplish great things, but I can feel great about accomplishing small things.  The help came in words written by Helen Keller,  “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”  And thus the lesson of the most seemingly insignificant task on this planet, changing the toilet paper roll, was born. 

We teach our children what we have learned, in hopes that they embrace the message and it helps them reach greater heights than we could.  So the lesson was told as follows, “If you change the toilet paper any time and anywhere it is needed, you will have achieved something greater than most.  For how many times, have you come upon an empty roll?   That was someone leaving the job to you.  If you do this seemingly trivial chore, you will be able to achieve great things in life.”

Many other repetitive duties remind me of the importance of these words.  These tiny tasks are the cornerstone of our character.  Each time, I’m able to value an ostensibly insignificant task with an appreciation for how it helps me grow, I feel more capable. 

That humble lesson leads me here today, taking action by writing at my desk, and sharing what I know, in hopes that it may help you consistently grow and accomplish all the great things!

-Erika K Rothwell

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If the Shoe Fits…Tie It

If the Shoe Fits…Tie It

It happened again this morning, that paradoxical moment when I am emphatically “teaching” my 14-year-old a life lesson I have experienced, and also ignored, more times than I can remember.  Why is it so hard to live by my own advice?

Who else out there suffers from the same malady?

The day started quite ordinarily, with my teenage son being lulled into a deeper sleep by the sound of his alarm. “Happy Friday! I greeted as I rolled up his shades.  Breakfast was rushed and so were we, which led me to the mode of frustration when he chose that moment to look for his homework.  As with all parents, there comes a time when patience becomes proverbial and “has left the room”.

So I found myself, once again, explaining “life” to my son in the few minute car ride to school.  “It isn’t how many times you fall that matters, it’s how many times you get up”, I told him. However I added my own little twist by offering the following anecdote; “In comparison, if you ignore the potential hazard created by your untied shoelaces, your falls may get progressively worse until you finally understand the importance of being proactive and preventing the fall in the first place!”

Life has a way of teaching us in our teaching moments.  I immediately reverted to thoughts of my career journey.  How many times could I have avoided the falls?  As I follow this presupposition, I realize it is true, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. However, how many times have habitual actions and self-deprecating thoughts lead us to the same place?  So in essence, I do know what I need to change.  How many times do we choose the comfortable and familiar, only to deny ourselves the potential of greatness?

In conclusion, we can’t control every circumstance that we face or prevent all of our falls (failures).  But what we can learn from our mistakes, is to remove obstacles negatively impacting our success.  If I take that first oh so difficult baby step, and then learn to tie my shoes, I can look forward to fewer mishaps on my journey.  And finally… If the shoe fits… “you know“, wear it… but make sure to “tie it”.

-Erika K Rothwell

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