On the Miracle and Grace of Perseverance

19 May

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I am thinking today about the persistence of the human spirit, and about how it sustains us even as life propels us forward into domains which we are not quite ready to face.  And more importantly, how we just “keep on keepin’ on,” as my mother would say.  It really is remarkable that we make it through the things we have to make it through.  Sometimes what we find ourselves pushing through is relatively minor, and sometimes much more profound, but I suspect each of us has stories to tell about how we just kept pushing till we got to the other side.  I am thinking of the nurse who was coaching me to birth my daughter; I looked at her wide-eyed with terror and pain, saying resolutely and repeatedly, “I can’t do it.  I can’t do it!”  I can not, I thought, move beyond this threshold of pain, seriously; I literally cannot do any more than I am doing.  “Yes you can,” she said tenderly but with conviction.  “This baby is coming today and you will be able to do it.”  (My eyes are filling with tears at the memory of it as I type.) I probably don’t need to tell you that she was right and that my daughter is proof that this nurse knew something I didn’t.  And ‘bless her heart,’ as we say in the U.S. south, that she was able to be motivating to me when she sat there with rather bloodied scratches all over her arms and chest from my clawing at her through it all, says a good bit about her own spirit. 

I’m thinking too of the conversation I recently had with my daughter, who is 19, as she filled out her tax returns and her FAFSA for college financial aid.  “This is scarey!” she said; “I’m too little for all of this.”  It is scarey, I thought; that paperwork stuff for the feds is still scarey for me even.  And I’m thinking, especially today, about my recent/current boat adventure which has churned my stomach for a solid year but regarding which I am, if all goes well, about to ‘break on through to the other side,’ to say it like Jim Morrison.  I saved for years to buy myself a pontoon boat.  Then decided that my kids didn’t much care for leisurely pontooning as much as I did and that maybe we ought to do something more sporty.  So I researched used bowriders that we could ski with for about a year and finally bought one last May.  But the thing was too much for me, intimidating and not relaxing, so I had to sell it, knowing nothing about how to sell a vehicle or deal with strangers from Craigslist.  I mean I barely knew how to even start the thing and we never did ski with it.  Plus, I wouldn’t be able to answer any of the questions a buyer might ask b/c I felt so over my head with that boat.  I’ve been literally sick about it pretty much since I bought it.  Today, I have a buyer and am about to be released from it at last; I am forever grateful for that.  And I am rather surprised that I was able to navigate this grown-up sale when I felt so adolescent through it all.  I am thinking too about  the fact that, after years of teaching public speaking and years of doing public speaking I am still quite rattled when I have to speak publicly. And I keep doing it (not totally sure why).  I gave a keynote address at the MIRCI conference this month and was so absurdly nervous through the entire thing.  Normally I push through those nerves after the first few minutes of a speaking gig but this time I was shaking through the entire thing and until after I sat down.  And now I’m planning a performance on motherhood that I’ll be doing at the NWSA conference in November, through most of which I’ll be shaking once again, no doubt.

While I was at the MIRCI conference, I was talking with my mother, whom I brought with me and with whom I shared the delights of Toronto, a city I do love.  I was talking with her about how intelligently and tenderly she handled the discovery of my having been molested by a neighbor, and how she really did, for the most part, lift the burden of that experience from me. I am thinking today about how she was able keep on going the day that I told her, sitting there, a mother and her five year-old , her brushing my hair.  And how she would talk about it with me only as much as I seemed able to handle, and then would back off from it, even though I know, as a mother, she was a complete mess inside.  And I’m thinking about how I grew up functioning reasonably well, in large part due to the choices she made about how to handle it but also in part to what just seems to me the miracle of how people so often can push through scary or awful or damaging moments and live to tell the tale with grace.   So here’s to all the ways in which we have persevered, even to our own surprise.  I hope you will comment here on your own pushed-through moments.

BIO: Dr. Mama (Amber Kinser) is a writer, feminist mother, professor, and speaker who lives in Tennessee. Check her out on Facebook, follow her on Twitter @DrMamaWit, and see her webpage. Kinser writes for the MamaBlogger365 series each Thursday at the Museum Of Motherhood, Mamapalooza and Mamazina Magazine.


Posted by on May 19, 2011 in Families, Feminism, Motherhood, Parenting


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5 responses to “On the Miracle and Grace of Perseverance

  1. Elizabeth Phelps

    May 19, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    This is such a great post, Dr. Kinser. It reminds me of my biggest “pushed through moment” which was 6 months ago when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. All of a sudden I had to start pricking my finger four or five times a day and giving myself four shots a day. My first shot after my stay in the ER was terrible. I sat there and cried and told my husband “I can’t do it! You have to do it for me!” He just calmly said to me “I can’t do it for you. I go back to school tomorrow. I’m gone all day. You have to do this by yourself.” So I held this damn needle for like, 10 minutes before finally jabbing it into myself.

    Just the other day my husband said to me, “I was watching you give yourself a shot tonight at your parents’ house before dinner. You’re such a pro. I”m so proud of you.” It was a great moment for me, remembering how terrified I once was. There’s more to diabetes than just the shots, though, and it continues to be an adjustment and a learning process for me, but I’m “pushing through.” Thanks for the post.

    • Dr. Mama

      May 19, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      Elizabeth, I knew, when I posted this and asked for blurbs, that you were going to post. And I knew it was going to be about diabetes. I didn’t know I’d get teary-eyed at the image of you and your husband at the hospital and him telling you that you had to do it on your own–a lonely, lonely moment. But yes indeed, you did push through. A great story and great example of how, somehow and despite our doubts, we are able to keep going. Thanks so much for sharing this story with all of us.

  2. Christy Buckles

    May 20, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I was in a prety bad car accident in 1999 that almost broke both my body and spirit. I was only 22 years old and working as a raft guide on the Ocoee River. I was young, strong, and ready to meet the world head-on but as I left Chattanooga …to head home and visit my parents in Nashville one rainy afternoon, a stranger changed all of that. I was hit by a mini-van head on on the interstate and broke my neck in two places, broke my left arm, my left femur and ankle, and shattered my right foot. This should have killed me and, as my dad like to point out more than once, “if I had been a dog they would’ve taken me around back and shot me.” I was in the hospital for weeks and then transported to my parent’s house for a lengthy recovery. I wore a halo for months as my neck healed (my dad also liked to point out that this was the closest I had ever been to being an angel) and was in a wheelchair for even longer but the physical issues were nothing compared to my broken spirit and the new found realization that I was not invincible afterall. I realized through this experience that: one, I sure do love my parents, and two, sometimes in life you can either give in to your circumstances or decide to change and grow from them. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything (the scars are great conversation starters) and have known from that rainy day froward that grace is real and that the human spirit can endure almost anything if it is ultimately fuled by love.

  3. Kelly Church

    May 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm

    When I was 17 years old I ran away from home, quit high school (my junior year), and went on the road for almost a year with a man a later married (and several years later divorced). A year of travel and adventure seemed a lot more interesting to me than sitting in a high school classroom at the time. I got pregnant a year later, came back home to Tennessee, reunited with my parents, and got married to my boyfriend. I remember attending my friends’ graduation when I was five months pregnant; it was quite depressing. My family had lost all hope in me at that time, and I remember them telling me that I would never finish school and would live a life of poverty due to the poor choices that I had made. They said this despite the fact that I got my GED before I would have graduated with my class. I had completed it when I was three months pregnant. I remember beginning the first part of the test so nauseated with morning sickness that I didn’t think I could make it through, but it really wasn’t a choice for me because I knew I couldn’t allow myself to give up. I couldn’t afford to retake the test, nor could I face my parents or friends if I failed.
    Two children and two years later I recall reading the weddings and engagements part of the newspaper and two of my close friends from high school were getting married. The write up about their engagement included a paragraph discussing their accomplishments.They had both went to prestigious colleges, and one had already completed their master’s degree and the other was working on her doctorate. I felt like such a failure. I had taken honors courses in high school and made decent grades, but because I dropped out and later got pregnant I didn’t apply to college. The next day I went down to ETSU and got the paperwork to apply to the university. After completing all the entrance tests I was accepted and signed up for courses. Dr. Kinser was one of the first people I met at ETSU, during orientation (If I recall correctly she was yelling at a computer that was running too slow for her liking, lol.) My second semester I signed up for Women’s Studies. Having met Dr. Kinser during orientation, my interest had been peaked in the subject. Anyway, 2 1/2 years later I completed by bachelors degree in sociology (in record time I might add :), and three years after that I completed my master’s. I now have a third child and a satisfying career that I love. Yes, my life at times has been tough, but a few poor decisions certainly didn’t ruin my life. I was able to persevere.

  4. Dr. Mama

    May 23, 2011 at 5:36 pm

    Thank you Christy and Kelly for posting and sharing. Pivotal lessons here about invincibility and its lack, limits and their lack, and maybe most importantly perseverace as self love.


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