Some thoughts on quitters, fools, and pig-heads
I’ve heard it said that stupidity (and, alternately, insanity) is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results, but I think after some reflection I have to disagree. At the very least, I would argue that doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results is ALSO stubbornness. And honestly, I think somebody who was nothing more than a quitter thought up the insanity/stupidity argument, and other quitters everywhere have taken up the mantra so that they, too, will look cooler when they give up and go turn on the TV, leaving we who are still ramming our heads into the wall to look like utter fools.
The doggedly determined, the iron-willed, and, on our less glamourous days, the pig-headed: that is what we are, we who, in the face of all logic and an inviting distraction, keep doing something we shouldn’t. Sometimes even we can see the idiocy of it. For example, right now, I’m drinking a cup of coffee. I shouldn’t be drinking it, because my stomach is upset and has been so for days. It’s working through something, or my colon is collapsing under the strain of poor workouts for
two weeks over a month (they really are related, which blew my mind), and every few hours I experience white hot pain and go to embrace the patiently waiting toilet. Well, I say embrace, but it’s my ass doing the embracing. (The toilet, bless its soul, will accept you in whatever way you come, including whatever noises you chose to make.) Coffee is a bad idea just now. It should be nice soothing herbal tea, and hot water bottles, and maybe a gingersnap. But the trouble is, coffee smells so good. I drink more coffee than I should–far, far more. People love to tell me how I drink too much coffee, all except my husband and my father-in-law, both who spy the empty pot and ask, hopefully, "Does anyone want any more coffee?" to which the answer is always "Of course!" (The king of too much coffee is my father, but he has an unfair advantage: he runs a cafe. Can you imagine? Coffee, on spigot, all day. This is the stuff of heaven.)
I shouldn’t have coffee, but I am. I’m drinking some now. I have a huge mug of it, hot and wonderful, brewed from beans in my fancy, free from a posh coffee club machine, with lovely beans roasted right here at home, and there’s a full pot downstairs. Twelve cups. I’m capable of drinking that, all of it, in the space of an afternoon. The only time I can’t drink it is before a workout, and believe me, I was pig-headed about that, but there’s something about feeling your heart race in your ears that makes even the most determined mule back down. But right now? Right now, coffee is good. Right now coffee is warm and thick and bitter, and it makes me go ping, and as my digestive system sends up alarms, my brain in the shape of a pig is saying, "Look, you can just bloody well cope. (My brain thinks it’s a bit British.) The coffee is good, and honestly, aren’t you bigger than this? Don’t you enjoy coffee? The rest of us do. Suck it up." It turns a deaf ear as my intestines try to explain that this, actually, is part of the problem, and my brain shuts its ears completely as my stomach sends up memories of the sharp pains felt less than half an hour ago. That’s past, my brain says. Ancient history. We live in the now, in the Zen of now, and now is coffee and determination!
The thing is, sometimes pig-headed works. Yes, sometimes we’re the sad sots other people shake their heads at as we bang ours against the wall for what seems a shocking amount of time, but what most people fail to notice is that, every now and again, the wall cracks first. And the true tragedy is what they miss when the wall doesn’t crumble. When they see us stumble back, bloody, dizzy, and vomiting, or when they see us clutching our gut as we run to the bathroom–again–what they miss is what goes on in the head of the pigheaded. Only those who truly don’t understand "quit" and who would never demean their favorite activity by calling it insane understand what it’s like to pull back from the immovable object and realize that, honestly, they don’t want it anymore. Not at this price. It isn’t quitting: it’s leaving. There’s a big difference. I suppose some people just get their faster than the pig-headed, but I suspect a lot of those people never really wanted it in the first place. The true beauty is in clawing to attain something you want enough to abuse your soul to get it, only to discover during the abuse that actually, no. At this point it isn’t a loss. It isn’t a cowed defeat, a sad surrender to a greater force. It’s a loss of interest. Abandonment. If you fail to quit, you don’t lose dignity or pride. You just change your goal.
But really, most times, being determined lands you far more in some grey area between. You don’t walk off consoling yourself with platitudes or abandoning, but you achieve a different sort of success than you’d imagined. For example, if you put a bit of milk in the coffee, this somehow helps. If you only drink one cup, this helps a bit more. If you make sure you had something heavy in your stomach first, the problem is nearly solved. It’s the little things. If you just keep going, even when most people would be folding up and heaving a sigh, you learn the ways around, the modifications, and myriad other adjustments. You stop caring, even, about the quitters glowering down at you from the peanut gallery, fingers itching at the rail as they track your every movement, waiting for a mistake, because you’re too busy watching what happens when you keep trying, when you do it anyway, when you ask for the impossible and find sometimes that you get it, but most of the time, actually, that you get something even better, that only you can see.
I am a pig-head, a mule, and probably, a fool. You should see the things I see.
Also, the coffee’s just fine so far. You see? Sometimes even your colon is wrong.