Today I offer for your enjoyment my entry in Elana Johnson's Never Surrender Blogfest, celebrating the release of her second novel Surrender. This week participants are supposed to blog about a time they didn't surrender. Trained for a marathon? Queried agents? Had to study for an entrance exam? She is looking for inspirational stories that her readers might have experienced. Once again, I'm bending the rules a bit. Instead of discussing a specific experience, I'm going to let you see how I acquired this trait in the first place. Although a lot of memories from my past are cloudy at best, I can recall this just as clear as the memory of pouring my last cup of coffee. I can remember the exact spot as well...underneath a '57 Buick.
There are those that would say never giving up, backing down from a challenge, or stick-to-it-ness, is just a result of being stubborn. Fair enough. I can see where some might believe that. Personally, I feel that it takes an equal portion of discipline inter-mixed with that obstinate reaction to resistance, to truly overcome obstacles. My exposure to that kind of discipline came from my father. He was a military man, in the Navy for 25+ years. He went in as an enlisted man and retired an officer. My dad was a strict disciplinarian who kept few secrets (or held them so well I still don't know them) and you always knew where you stood with him. But it wasn't his ties to the military that taught me the most about discipline, but rather cars.
His passion was working on cars. He learned that skill from his own father, who operated several used car dealerships throughout the years, some of them out of his front lawn. Automobile repair was a necessity in his family. Although my dad tried his hardest to pass that skill on to me and my brothers, with me it was time wasted. I wasnt interested in spending my Saturdays tooling around with broken down relics, but that didn't stop him from trying. As it turned out, I did end up learning something invaluable from him.
On one particular Sunday afternoon Dad had me with him underneath the '57 Buick he had been restoring for months. Living in military housing, we had no garage to shield us from the weather while we worked, so together we endured the chilly temperatures, drizzly rain, and irritation of sharp pebbles from the street pushing into the back of our heads. Needless to say, I wasn't in the best of moods. We had been trying to replace the starter on the Buick for days but were having difficulty removing this one tricky bolt. It was in an unworkable angle where getting a tool on it was next to impossible, and when you did it wouldn't budge. I had given up on it long ago, content to have the car towed to a shop and let a professional have a go at it. But not my dad. Not him. I laid there as hours turned into days, watching him try tool after tool, angle after angle, position after position, all with the same result. And my resentment of him grew with every passing minute, every piece of grit that fell in my eye, every shiver that went through my body from the wet and cold.
Until it moved!
I couldn't believe it when that bolt finally turned. I cried out as if the prettiest girl in school had just agreed to go out on a date. My surprise and jubilation was unrestrained. But my dad just removed the inflexible bolt and simply continued on to the next task. For him, it wasn't shock...but an expected result. It had just been a matter of time, determination, and discipline. I learned something that day, and continued to see it time after time as I watched my father come up against persistent bolts, or screws. No matter the time involved, he would crack the obstacle. EVERY SINGLE TIME. There continued to be occasions when I'd be laying there beside him thinking its time to throw in the towel, or resort to dynamite (kidding - of course), but he stay with it until he conquered the impossible. Over time my resentment turned into admiration, and although I never did come to enjoy working on cars, I did enjoy seeing that side of my father. I was in awe of that quality in him, and found myself trying to emulate him in my own way.
It's important to point out that there were times when father did seek the help of others. He would recognize those situations in his life when he didn't have the requisite skill or know-how to do a job, so he would seek the help of experts. But where cars were concerned, he was the authority and he was always going to see it through to the end. That's something else I learned from him. Seeking help from others is not surrendering. Whenever I can, I try to become an expert so I don't have to relinquish control, but there are times when that is just not possible.
There is no need to surrender, when you have friends!