“The ability to withstand hardship or adversity especially the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort…” Meriam Webster Dictionary
The phrase “Still strove, with his last ounce of courage..,” from The Man from La Mancha, Impossible Dream (preferably the Luther Vandross version) never fails to stir my soul. It is about the level of endurance necessary to complete a quest, the supreme commitment to a goal or an ideal.
Over the course of my lifetime, I have lost count of the times I have had to summon my last ounce of courage while facing a challenge. And yet, many of us were raised and continue to raise our children to be adults that aspire to and anticipate that somehow, through hard work, goodness, entitlement, or just plain grace, we can land in a situation that yields perpetual happiness. We persist in chasing “happily ever after,” a term used in fairy tales since the 1700s, to affirm that in this life, it is possible for things to work out in a way that yields perpetual happiness. The concept is a set-up for failure. Life just does not work that way.
Most spiritual teachings contradict the idea of “happily ever after.” The Koran, the Bible, and prophetic scriptures and writings say that we put in the WORK in this life. This life is NOT the reward. The human experience is about the work that leads to spiritual growth and enlightenment.
Our earthly journey can lead us to evolution and contentment, but not ever-afterness. It is a hard pill to swallow.
Does somebody need to hear this besides me?
There is a recurring pattern of birth, life, death, and rebirth among humans and animals. A similar cycle exists in the plant kingdom: seed, growth, maturation, decay, and regeneration.
Personally, I am beginning to recognize that I am either preparing for a storm, experiencing a storm, recovering from a storm, and basking in a sea of calm while watching another storm brewing. This is the REAL cycle of life.
Consider the status of the nation of South Africa if the youthful Nelson Mandala, reputed to be pugnacious and fiery, had been a mere spiritual sprinter? What if he had been unable to constructively use his 27 years of captivity to grow beyond his circumstance and emerge a transformative figure in South African history. Long Walk to Freedom, Mandala’s memoir appropriately describes his endurance as a role in the dissolution of the forty-six years of South African apartheid.
“According to the book of Genesis, it took Noah somewhere between 55 and 75 years to build the Ark.”
Being able to survive unspeakable hardships continues to be the experience of the descendants of enslaved Africans. My ancestors were enslaved for two and a half centuries in North America, and despite our continuous struggle for our human rights, we still face overt racism. We are built for endurance. Although I see life through the prism of an African American woman, the truth is universal. We are all built to endure life’s trials.
If I had my druthers, which I certainly do not, I would lean into my self-proclaimed strength for being a super hard worker for short periods of time…a sprinter, but no one really sprints to victory in life. Speed is overrated; endurance is the superpower that allows us time to mature, evolve and savor life’s blessings.
That thought became even clearer as I watched Sha’ Carri Richardson, twenty-one-year-old Olympic gold medal hopeful, leave other contenders in her dust. As she qualified for the US Olympic Track and Field Team, she made it look easy. Still, her backstory is years of a grueling training regimen, mental health struggles, and chasing her dream a week after the death of her biological mother. She said triumphantly, “Yawl don’t know what I go through every day.” Sha’ Carri has endured. After such a stunning triumph, to test positive for cannabis is yet again, a test of her endurance. My prayers are for Sha’ Carri to be allowed to compete, and at the end of the day, what is real is that she is growing, and enduring like each of us. Endurance gets the blessing.
After years of contemplation, my ah-ha! moment is coming as I finally acknowledge that life is about learning to enjoy the trek up the mountain in real-time. I am learning to focus on enjoying the journey…all of it. Yes, I’m always going to want to place the flag of conquest at the mountain’s summit, and that is possible, but only if I endure until the end.
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Broken Dolls, represents Susan’s foray into mystery writing and is the first of a series featuring the flawed Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. The second Joi Sommers mystery, The Iron Collar is a riveting story with multiple ingenious twists, and Slay the Dragon the third in the series, illuminates the sexual exploitation of children in expected and unexpected ways. Susan’s work is featured in numerous anthologies. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.