When we quit for the right reasons, we are changed. Something breaks inside of us when we finally say, ‘No more.’ The Holy Spirit births a new resolve within us. We rise above our fears and defensiveness. The hard soil of our heart becomes soft and ready to receive new growth and possibilities” (Gina Scazzero).
Quit Isn’t a Bad Word
Weeks ago I fell in love with Robert Frost’s thought, “The afternoon knows what the morning never even thought of.”
It seemed to perfectly describe the last year of my life.
On the morning of September 14, 2013, Candace and I woke up late. Very late, as a matter of fact, and so missed breakfast. Once again, Vienna was clothed in showers and clouds and a sharp chill in the air. We bundled up and headed for Innere Statd (Inner Vienna, District 1) for our much-anticipated Sacher Torte.
I was set to watch her sketch.
The biggest question I faced that early afternoon was what to eat and drink. And then what to eat and drink, again. You see, a complete sketch session lasts about 3-4 hours, so that means a lot of patient waiting. Oh, I didn’t mind. There was plenty to keep me busy. Two stunning pots of Darjeeling Tea. One delicious sandwich. An even more delicious, and famous, Sacher Torte.
The plans for the afternoon/evening were to walk to the Danube River.
“I can’t come to Vienna without seeing the Danube,” I said. “That would be terrible, right?”
“Of course, Mom,” Candace said. “We’ll do it.”
So, after stopping by the apartment to drop some things off, i.e. lighten our load, we headed out. The plan was to walk to The Danube Tower.
Eat dinner in the elegant cafe. See the amazing view from the top. Enjoy our last night to the fullest.
Unsure of the actual distance, we figured we could walk. Candace, my trusted guide, is an expert map reader. (She got that from her father, not me!)
Somehow, though, she got a little turned around, adding quite a bit to our walking time. I didn’t mind because there is always so much to see. By now, dusk was upon us. We walked and walked and walked.
“How far do you think we have to go?” I asked.
“Well, according to the map, it is up here.”
We kept walking. I don’t know how far we actually walked, but my body began to signal that we had walked a long way.
I ached everywhere. Not one to “own” my fibromyalgia, I kept pushing forward. You can do this, Janell. Keep going.
Finally, a couple hours later (at least that is my body’s estimate, Candace can validate), we reached the Empire Bridge (Reichsbrücke) and…
The Danube River.
Just as we approached the bridge, I turned my head to the right and saw it.
“Wow. Candace, look at that! What on earth is that?” I asked.
Candace looked at her map and smiles.
“Mom, that is the Cathedral of St. Francis.”
“No way!” I yelled. “That is quite possibly the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. That literally took my breath away.”
There before our eyes was not only an awe-inspiring historic cathedral, but one named after one of my favorite saints.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. Oh how I wanted to go inside. Attend a mass. Be closer.
Yet, we kept going. After all, we had a goal: get to the Donauturm.
Halfway across the bridge, I gave out.
“Sweetie, I don’t think I can go another step,” I sighed.
“Mom, it’s ok.”
“No, it’s not ok. We said we would go to the Donauturm. We can’t quit,” I said.
For the next few minutes, my very wise daughter had a serious talk with her mom. I wish I had it on tape. Part of me kept thinking, “When did you grow up and get so wise?” The other part just marveled.
She shared about her own struggles on the Camino de Santiago.
“Mom, it’s not about getting anywhere. We’re here. Your goal was to see the Danube. And as a bonus, you saw the Cathedral of St. Francis. You didn’t even know about that. When I travel, I have a destination only to have a destination. But the journey is always more important.”
“Oh, I hate to quit,” I said. “I feel like I’m letting you down. Letting us down.”
“Mom, stop. Let’s enjoy this moment. Let’s go back to that lovely Italian restaurant that we passed, sit down, eat a nice dinner, and relax. We probably have another 4-5 miles to go, anyway. It’s still pretty far away from here.”
And that is exactly what we did. Dinner never tasted so good.
I’m not sure where or when or why I began putting unrealistic expectations on myself. All I know is I actually hate that about myself. Limitations are not bad. Quitting is not bad. Sometimes it is exactly what we need to do. Sometimes our unrealistic goals actually become our worst enemies. Keep us from enjoying the view. Keep us from the moments right in front of our eyes. We become so hell-bent on accomplishing the goal that we actually miss out on life.
When, oh when, will I learn this valuable life lesson? I keep tripping over it, year after year.
Thankfully, this time, my very own daughter reminded me. I admire her so much. She gracefully placed her hand on my back, helped me turn around, and gave me a fresh perspective on life.
Maybe you are being faced by your own limitations today. Maybe, like me, you need to call it quits. Turn around. Set realistic goals. And, most importantly, be a little easier on yourself.
Tonight, when I set my dinner table, I will be lighting a beautiful white taper in honor of you and me. Women who continue to learn that life isn’t about the destination, it is all about the journey.
May the wisdom of St. Francis be our prayer today:
“And St. Francis said: ‘My dear son, be patient, because the weaknesses of the body are given to us in this world by God for the salvation of the soul. So they are of great merit when they are borne patiently.”