Her tiny, fleshy pink hands securely latched on to the opposite side of the ottoman as she anchored one leg to the closest edge. For several minutes her wispy pigtails were buried in the soft upholstery as she grunted with determination.
“I did it!” Charlotte exclaimed in a loud voice when she reached the top of the freestanding piece of furniture as if it were the summit of Mount Everest.
Watching my nineteen-month-old granddaughter conquer the footstool was fascinating. This was a major accomplishment in her little world and it did not go unnoticed. Resting a moment to take in the view, she beamed from ear to ear in self-satisfaction. Then she momentarily looked at me with her slightly flushed face and promptly slid down to do it again.
“Belief in oneself is one of the most important bricks in building any successful venture.” (Lydia M. Child)
We are all challenged at every stage of our lives and our success depends on our effort and determination. The challenges intensify as we age, but each one is equally significant in its own moment. Sometimes, we freely choose to jump off the cliff. Other times we are pushed.
I remember vividly coming face to face with the thick black tread of the first high step of the school bus as a new kindergartner. I trembled as I lifted my skinny leg and pushed with all of my might my full thirty pounds into the dark opening of the mysterious yellow vehicle. “I did it!” I hushed to myself while feeling quite grown-up and took the first available seat.
When I exited the muggy classroom of La Cultura Hispanica in Madrid where I was studying during my junior year abroad, sweat soaked through my thin blouse and the excess liquid trickled down the subtle valley in the middle of my back. My Spanish Language Professor had finally dismissed me with an accepting nod after my satisfactory recitation of the first paragraph of the popular Spanish story, “Platero Y Yo”. Known for his keen ear and high expectations, no one was allowed to leave his side until he was fully satisfied with the exact pronunciation and intonation of the recitation. “I did it!” I exhaled with relief on my walk home—even if it did take me eight tries. (I can still recite that passage to this day.)
“Success is dependent on effort.” (Sophocles)
When I was widowed, I faced challenges that I never imagined that I would have to encounter. Important decisions about the house and financial choices taxed my brain. As the sole parent of two young children, I was emotionally challenged and I found myself wide-awake at night second-guessing myself. Was I considering everything? Was I too strict? Was I making a mistake?
One blustery summer evening I was barbecuing chicken for the three of us. The large gas grill was on the brick patio adjacent to our sunroom and I had positioned it near the outside wall of the garage to avoid the strong air currents. Curled up on the sofa with a book, my thirteen-year-old daughter occasionally glanced up and observed me walking in and out of the house to check on our dinner. All was going well until I heard a menacing hissing noise from the kitchen and I rushed out to see a large orange flame whipping erratically in the wind and licking dangerously close to the vinyl siding of the garage. The black rubber propane hose, normally connected to the underside of the grill, had disconnected and was now freely thrashing around while spitting fire like a blowtorch. Thanks to the elementary school emergency checklists with the kids, I grabbed one of our fire extinguishers, ran out the patio, pulled the red pin and aimed—hoping for the best! The white dust put out the fire and at the same time ruined the chicken. Samantha was now calmly standing inside the sunroom, watching the whole event through the screen door.
“Boy, Mom,” she proudly announced, “you can even put out fires!”
I looked at her smiling face and felt a genuine sense of satisfaction.
“Yes I can!” I said. “I can do it all!” At least for that moment I thought.
“Determination gives you the resolve to keep going in spite of the road blocks that lay before you.” ( Denis Waitley)
I do not know what future challenges are waiting for me. None of us do. I am sure that there will be many more and I hope that I can face them with courage and determination. Perhaps one time I will be too tired or even lack the necessary skill for the task, but I have learned that I can do more than I think I can. The only limits are those that I put on myself.
Pat yourself on the back the next time you successfully meet a challenge. Proclaim out loud, “I did it!” even if there is no audience. It doesn’t hurt to toot your own horn; we all need to hear the symphony of our own success every so often.
“And so you touch this limit, something happens and you suddenly can go a little bit further. With your mind power, your determination, your instinct, and the experience as well, you can fly very high.” (Ayrton Senna)
Go ahead, you can do it!