Apparently I am a quitter. I didn’t know this about myself, until suddenly, this year, I observed myself quitting things. Quitting takes a lot of courage, I discovered. In both circumstances, I felt that I was faced with a horrible choice: A) Stay the course, stick it out, and live up to the expectations other people have of me (or the expectations I imagine they have). B) Do what my gut is telling me is the right thing; listen to my heart, listen to my body; stop this; walk away; rather than saving face, save yourself, protect yourself.
This is an amazing lesson I am learning. My body is wise. My body remembers both joy and pain. My body knows when it has stepped into a safe space — it relaxes and breathes easy.
I’m glad that I’ve made multiple decisions to quit things. To understand why, you have to understand that risk-taking does not come easily for me. I play it safe, I make good choices, I avoid making mistakes at all costs. I have been trying to unlearn this for years now. Years ago, I would have been much more likely to regret missing out on an opportunity, than I would be to regret trying and failing at something. So, the fact that I’ve quit things means, to me, that I have taken risks, albeit small ones. I have stepped forward despite uncertainty. I have stopped wondering what it might be like to do things, and done them. And in a few cases, my body has told me, this isn’t working, this doesn’t feel right. And I listened. I did the courageous thing, and walked away, as responsibly as I could. Maybe your body is telling you to quit something, but you’re having trouble giving yourself permission. For what it’s worth, you have mine.
Here are some words I wrote 2 years ago about giving up. I found them in the archive of “lost posts” that I was afraid to publish, for one reason or another. It feels safe to post those words now, so I am. At the time I wrote this, I was thinking about what it means and what it looks like to “give up”, which to me is different than quitting.
I stand by my closing statement. I won’t give up. I may need to quit some things along the way, but I won’t give up.
Giving up looks lots of different ways. Sometimes giving up looks like walking away, but other times walking away is the only path to deliverance, the only way to free yourself from a cycle of defeat. Sometimes giving up means remaining stationary, settling for this space I am in at this moment, ceasing to dream of possibilities beyond, never even taking stock of whether I have the stuff, the gumption to push forward.
I am a runner, mostly because running protects my sanity, and helps me make sense of my life. I am trying to get back into a routine, and during one of my runs this week, I was constantly fighting the urge to give up. This just happens some days. Hauling myself out of bed and out of the house zaps all the self-determination I can muster, and 6 minutes into my jog, my mind is at war with itself. “I can’t. I just can’t. This is too hard. You are asking too much.” Rarely does this have anything to do with my legs or my lungs asking me to stop… my brain simply decides to quit. It says, “No. I don’t wanna play. I refuse to show up for the task at hand. Good luck to the rest of y’all getting through this without me.”
Of course, I’m using running as an allegory, and this giving up thing pops up other places. It happened this past year with school. It happens with friendships, and even basic human interaction. Something in me decides to quit, refuses to show up, and the rest of me acquiesces. This isn’t new. Since around age 22, I’ve lived with this occasional scared-shitless feeling, this self-absorbed notion that my pain and my fear is bigger than anyone else’s, ever, and I’ll be damned if anyone’s going to fault me for my weakness, for declaring, “I just can’t do it. I am going to curl into a little ball on my bed, and wait fearfully, but patiently, for life to resolve itself, despite my inaction. Someone wake me when it’s all over and it’s time for us to go home.”
It used to be that when I felt like this, I would pray, or I would journal. To be honest neither of those activities hold the same appeal as of late. They feel forced and foreign, kind of how I imagine a square peg feels inside of a round hole.
I am always reluctant to write much about my faith. What I believe about God and Jesus. Why the things Jesus said here on earth – and reflecting on what they mean for me, Mawiyah, specifically – led me away from a job at a church in San Diego and to North Carolina of all places, because social work feels to me like the truest vocational expression of my faith that I will find.
But somehow, despite all of that, I have to admit that my faith is on shaky ground. Not that it has vanished. But it is this oddly misshapen thing, with rough edges, dingy colors. I hold it in my hands, wondering, “This is not how my faith used to look. Is that bad? It doesn’t feel bad. And then again, sometimes it does.”
Not giving up. I don’t find God in the places we used to meet with frequency. It could be I’m doing it wrong, but I’ve looked in prayers, journals, sermons, all the usual places, and it wasn’t until I’d walked down a cliff face in Laguna Beach to the nearly empty beach below that finally, after all this time, I was able to sit for a few moments, and my senses led me toward an understanding of God that I can still grasp, for now. It helps me to have something tangible, tactile, like the feeling of sand on my fingers. It helps to experience an absence of voices, and focus on the sound of waves approaching and retreating from the shore. It helps to understand my existence in the context of that empty beach, that I am very small and very important all at once.
This is an image of God that I can understand. It has become quite difficult for me to understand him in other terms and other contexts.
May we all feel permission to speak of the things that frighten us, anger us, immobilize us, keep us tossing and turning. May we speak them aloud, and then move forward, and try again today. I can. Even when I can’t. Even when I don’t want to. I won’t give up.