The hill and the bathtub

Today I am tired.  It’s been a stressful few of months, and I’d love a hot bath.  Do I want Things to Get Better? Do I want It to Get Easier? Sure, that would be lovely too, but neither It nor Things work that way.  Well, bugger.  And before you’re tempted to join me in my bath-dreaming weariness, fear not: this post is perhaps the most encouraging one I’ve ever written.  Let’s start with an entirely hypothetical story.

Once upon a time there was a girl who wanted to Get Fit again.  Maybe it had been a while, maybe she’d been fitter a long time ago, maybe those sweet memories had over-aged and – like vinegar from wine – become bitter the longer they had been left on the shelf.  Or maybe not. Whatever.  (This is hypothetical, remember?)  Either way, today was The Day, and she strapped on her shoes and headed out the door.

Today was the day, indeed, but as it turned out, the day it was was the day where she totally failed to run up the hill.  There wasn’t a whole lot of real running anyway, more of a lumpy shuffle, and – huffing, puffing – she had only got about a third of the way up before – wheezing, not breezing – she had to stop and catch her breath.  She walked the rest of the way, deflated of spirit but heaving of chest cavity.

Next time, she got a little further up the hill – just past that tree, and nearly at the big crack in the pavement – before the huffing and puffing slowed her again to a walk.  The time after that she was just tired and didn’t even get to the tree, but the time after that was a-maz-ing; she sailed up past the tree and – wonder of all wonders – past the crack in the pavement too.  In-cred-ible.  Of course, after that particular effort she was completely wiped out so didn’t run at all the following day.  But then a day later she tried again, and it was ok.  Not as amazing as that one, wondrous day, but still, it all felt pretty good.  More chuffed than puffed.  This process repeated for a few weeks until the second miracle happened and she Ran All The Way.  Past the tree, past the crack, past a whole lot of other trees and cracks and things too, until she was at the top, and still running.  The Whole Bloody Thing.  Who would have believed it?  Not her, not really, not back in those beginning dark days when she was lumping and shuffling her way around.

So now we ask her: Did it get easier?

And listen very carefully to her answer: No, it $%^&* didn’t!

What changed?  The hill?  Nope.  That was always the same, just sitting there, doing its thing – unchangingly.  So the Thing that changed was not the It.  It was all her.  Herself.  She.  Got.  Stronger.  No-one else did that.  No-one else could have done that.  It didn’t just happen either. The hill didn’t change, but she did.

When we use language like “it gets easier”, we rob ourselves of strength.  We rob ourselves of possibility for growth and renewal and control by believing that we are the static, cemented, stuck thing.  We rob ourselves of those most glorious of all motivators: progress and change.

If today you’re feeling more puffed than chuffed, more tired than inspired, closer to despair than to repair, remember this.  Remember it, digest it, and learn to use your language for encouragement.  Whatever it may be may not change, but you can.  You will.

(And yes, I still want a bath.  That hasn’t changed.)


Photo by Waranont (Joe) on Unsplash




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