Why do we push ourselves?
Monday, June 08, 2009
I have a self-imposed deadline to finish the mural. It's before graduation, which is Friday. We lost two weeks of work in early May, when it rained and rained here. So I'm trying to finish the mural single-handedly.
I spent five hours working today. Everyone else was in the auditorium for the awards assembly. But I was halfway up the ladder, setting tile in the upper portion of the background. Trimming tile four feet above the ground is not my favorite activity. I'm not great at heights. I'm not graceful, and have been known to fall. I developed a cramp in my left hand and in my right food; my shoulders and neck are tight; I caught a finger in the tile cutter while trimming a tile, and I have two nice nicks in the finger which is quite sore.
So why do we push ourselves? Why do I take great pride in my ability to tile for 4 to 5 hours, when my students, who are 1/4 my age, are exhausted after an hour?
I don't know. Part of it is wanting to finish the task at hand - in this case, a 250 square foot mosaic mural - it is wanting to just be done. Part of it is knowing that if I don't get the grout in before summer, the mosaic will face hurricane season and I'll risk losing tile. Part of it is wanting the mural finished for graduation, when the governor, senators, and my students' parents will be here - I want to present a finished work of art to them. I want that for my students, for them to see their beautiful artwork finished and completed, so they can beam with pride as their families ooooh and aaaaahhhh over the magnitude of their work. So the kids - and I - can show off.
And part of the reason I push myself - and friends here push themselves - is to stay young and fit and energetic. The minute I STOP pushing myself is the minute I become old. If I'm not willing to push myself to do hard physical labor, or exercise, or to complete a big project, then I'm admitting that I can't do something, that I'm middle-aged (or older), that I'm no longer strong, that I have no endurance. I've never had speed, but I have always had endurance. And if I lose that, then I have nothing.
So I push myself to work despite the rain and puddles as I work, despite the sun in my eyes; I push myself to work through the cramping hand or foot or throbbing fingers or cuts from tiles; I endure the scraped shoulder (I'm horrible with putting up the ladder).
Because at the end of each day, as I cool off in my office in my cement-covered overalls, I know I've accomplished something. I've maintained my strength and my endurance. I've worked on my flexibility and built muscle and toned my upper body. I've tested myself and found myself able to accomplish the task.
And I've gotten one step closer to reaching my self-imposed goal.