How did I learn perseverance? Where did it come from? Is it something you are born with or taught? Why do some people with less trying circumstances give up easily?
I think I learned perseverance after Kay died. There were nights when I would cry for what seemed like the entire night. I would wake up the next day completely exhausted. I finally asked Aunt Mary, what should I do when that happened? She said, “You are just going to have to get over it.” In 1981, they had no idea what to do with really bright young girls that had lost their mom. Counseling wasn’t a thing in our town in Ohio and even if it was, I doubt my blue collar family would have believed it would help.
I used to think that Kay and I weren’t close because I didn’t have any memories of her and me. It took me years to figure out that we were extremely close and when I chose to get over it, I really blocked the memories so that I could get over it.
Kay died when she was 29 and I was 8. My daughter, Sami turned 8 just after I turned 29. That was when I finally processed Kay’s death from a mother’s perspective. I had spent the time in therapy talking about how hard it was for me, how abandoned I felt, what it was like for my dad to leave a few months before she died. I had never thought about how painful it would have been for her.
Sami had a wonderful father that would take great care of her if something happened to me. Kay knew that Don had already left and even if he stayed that wouldn’t have been better. Sheila was married to a guy that also couldn’t keep a job, so that wasn’t any better; and at the time I didn’t know that was an option because why would I go live with Aunt Sheila? I wouldn’t learn of my adoption for a few more years. So Kay changed her will so that her brother, Jim, with his wife and two daughters, would get custody of me after she died.
Maybe watching Kay fight the cancer for 2 years is what gave me perseverance. Perhaps it was sitting on the porch swing thinking that I was the only person in the world I could count on. I don’t really know.
I think I continued to hone that trait as I got older. I am a voracious reader consuming classics like The Power of Positive Thinking, The Greatest Salesman in the World, and Think and Grow Rich. These books taught me how to overcome the junk from my childhood to take control of the mental side of life to improve your life.
If you only eat junk food, you will get fat and get sick. Yet people don’t seem to understand that by not consuming healthy mental food, they have sick thinking and aren’t able to overcome obstacles that come their way. Your brain is a muscle that has to be fed properly and worked just like the rest of your body. Yet people think they can be high achievers by consuming nothing but television, news and entertainment magazines. The equation makes no sense to me.
I have a room in my home that has a wall of bookshelves that are 8’ tall and 12’ wide. It has several shelves that have pictures and knickknacks, but mostly it is full of books. The way I was raised I wasn’t taught how to think strong, how to renew my mind, how to take every thought captive. My logic said I have to learn completely new patterns of thinking and living than how I was raised. It had taken 18 years to raise me, I didn’t want to spend 18 years trying to un-raise me and even if I did, no one was signing up to re-teach me everything I had learned.
So I began reading. People have told me they struggle to learn that way, but again I don’t understand. How else are you going to learn a new way of thinking and being? I have been in therapy several times in my life and there is huge value to cognitive behavior therapy. (Again I don’t understand being in therapy for 8-10 years, not judging, just not sure the therapist’s goal is healing). These are just the books I’ve purchased or had given to me. It doesn’t include the scores of books I have checked out of the library or read via Audible.com.
I also love, love, love the library. I couldn’t really explain why when I was having a bad day, I liked to go to the library. On really bad days, I would check out 8-10 books knowing I couldn’t read them all. I would read some of them, some fiction, some non-fiction, just give me some books. I used to worry that I was perpetuating my addictive tendencies by checking out so many at a time. I recently learned that when we learn something new our brains release the chemical dopamine. That’s why I like learning, it’s literally a rush.
Perhaps as I continue to write this book, I will figure out how perseverance became such an ingrained part of me.