There are many times when I wish life was more like the movies, where there’s almost always a happy ending. I wish that I could know for sure that no matter how bleak things look, if I just keep on trying hard enough and don’t give up, that I will triumph in the end. That I will have that moment of victory, usually accompanied by lots of applause and inspiring music. Sadly, real life seldom works that way.
The truth is, sometimes my best just isn’t good enough. I tried for years to become a commercially successful children’s book writer, but it never happened. Instead of a shelf full of my published books, I have a file cabinet stuffed full of rejection letters. I have taken aerobics classes, yoga classes, pilate classes, and spent hours on my exercise bike and walking around the neighborhood, but my chubby upper thighs are still with me. (I strongly suspect that even if I starved to death, they would still be there. They are that resilient.)
I head down to the local humane society three times a week to walk the shelter dogs, but no matter how many I walk, no matter how many frightened dogs I comfort, or how many rowdy dogs I work with to teach the most basic of manners, there are always more dogs that I don’t have time to help. My husband and I work hard to take care of our house and my mother’s house, but no matter how much time and money we spend on them, there is always something else that needs to be done.
Real life rarely comes with a sense of closure, never mind triumph. The older I get, the less I believe in the whole concept of winning. I think I am one of the few people who approves of coaches giving the young children on their team a trophy at at the end of the season, just for being on the team. Those trophies aren’t rewards for winning, but they do acknowledge the perseverance of showing up for every practice and game and always giving your best effort, even when you don’t win. Which, if you think about it, is probably a better preparation for real life than playing on a team that wins every game.
The only thing I can ever offer is my best effort. I don’t know whether or not my best effort is going to fix a situation or guarantee that I reach my goal, because the truth is that sometimes it will, and other times it won’t. But I think the important thing is that I don’t get discouraged and quit trying, because that will guarantee that I never accomplish a thing, and I don’t want to live like that. I want the courage to keep trying, the wisdom to change strategies when necessary, and the perseverance to never stop trying to make the little bit of the world that I touch a better place.
So I’ll keep writing, because I love to write and I’m not a happy person when I’m not writing. I’ll get back on that exercise bike and head off to my yoga class because I’m a healthier person when I exercise, even if my chubby thighs insist on staying with me. And I’ll keep heading down to the humane society to help shelter dogs, even with the terrible knowledge that I won’t be able to save them all. Because I’m finally realizing that the real victory is not giving up.