Bring It On!

+bring it on! Oct 12 climber on mountain top4671735_sMy husband and I have been watching— yet again – our favorite TV dramatic series, The West Wing. Late in the second season, President Bartlet’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, which has been concealed from all but a few people until this point, is about to be revealed to his staff and ultimately to the general public. Knowing this information was hidden during the campaign and election and may be seen as an illegal cover-up, the President seeks advice from White House Counsel, Oliver Babish, before going public.

The conversations with Babish are a tense ones. Babish is a tough, formidable presence who takes quite seriously the battle that President Bartlet is about undergo. Eventually, he lays out his requirements for acting as Bartlett’s lawyer. He insists that the President immediately create an investigatory committee headed by the most critical, Democrat-hating Republican that can be found and that Bartlet allow full access to all information. He closes his demands by saying, “And, when you’re asked for any thing, any scrap of paper, anything at all, you will cooperate fully. Your attitude will be – bring it on!

Locking eyes with the President, Babish repeats, “So, when anybody asks for anything, what will you say?” Bartlet looks back. We see him weighing his decision to agree to Babish’s terms. Finally, in a voice blended with resistance, resignation, and, ultimately, determination he responds, “Bring it on.”

The challenges we witness on TV are not often the challenges of our everyday lives – and thank goodness! Few of us are likely to encounter the prospect of the public examination, humiliation or impeachment that President Bartlet faced on West Wing. But there are plenty of real people in real life facing challenges that require an enormous amount of determination and resolve to make changes and get the results they want and need. One such person is Jill Bolte Taylor, the author of My Stroke of Insight.

At the age of thirty-seven, Taylor, a Harvard-trained brain scientist, experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. The left hemisphere is the part of the brain that controls our ability to walk, talk, read, write, and recall life memories. With the left hemisphere inactive, Taylor’s right hemisphere’s intuitive and kinesthetic functions were heightened. She was in a euphoric state of complete well-being and peace – a captivating feeling – where she was tempted to remain; except that she couldn’t walk, talk, read, write, or recall memories of who she was!

It took eight years of incredible challenges and hard work for Taylor to relearn how to do all the left brain functions that most of us take for granted. Many a day, even many times a day, she had to motivate herself to keep going through this long journey of recovery. In My Stroke of Insight, she tells us, “Most important, I had to be willing to try. The try is everything. The try is me saying to my brain, hey, I value this connection [brain function] and I want it to happen. I may have to try, try, try, and try again with no results for a thousand times before I get even an inkling of a result, but if I don’t try, it may never happen.”

This is a real-life application of bring it on that deeply inspires me. Imagining trying “for a thousand times before …getting even an inkling of a result,” puts into perspective the tiny amount of effort I usually put into something before I give up on it. My pattern is to try for a while, look for immediate results, and wither in disappointment when they don’t appear!

Ok, that may be a slight exaggeration; I don’t wither so easily, but Taylor’s statement impressed on me that it can take a long time before my efforts will show changes; longer than I might be inclined to invest.

I have experienced a version of this long learning process as a music major in college. The amount of time it took to learn a piece of music felt like I was trying “a thousand times.” Mastering a piece from start to finish involved learning the notes, memorizing them, going deep into the piece to discover its nuances, and eventually being accomplished enough with the piece to play it with all of that in place – notes, nuance, memorization – while in the excitement/pressure of a performance. It took a lot of showing up at the piano, over and over and over again, to get the music to that level.

Most of my current challenges fall nowhere near the level of Jill Bolte Taylor’s – they tend to be at the other end of the spectrum, in fact. Most are what I’d term “First World” problems – challenging, certainly, but neither life-threatening ones nor ones born of severe hardship. But, my challenges are important to me, and they push me to move out of my comfort zone, to shift and improve in situations I’d sometimes just as soon not deal with. Some mornings it can be a challenge just to get out of bed and start another day!

So, when I’m discouraged or not seeing immediate results, I remind myself of the time and effort it took to learn a piece of music, of the drive and determination Jill Bolte Taylor invested to regain her regular life. I even think of the courage displayed in inspiring scenes on TV dramas. I whisper reminders to myself to keep showing up, to try, try, try. Sometimes in a whisper, sometimes with a shout, I invite the world to bring it on.

Comments

  1. How perfect that I was led to this blog post this morning! I have been awake since 1:30am, unable to sleep with nerves over my impending climb of Mt. Washington today. This is the 3rd time in four years I’ll make this climb. I shouldn’t be nervous. The first time I did it was exactly 5 months after I’d been hospitalized with heart failure…. Surely that should have been the most nerve-racking, right? I think I had more of a Bring It On attitude then, when I’d just had a sort of “close call.” But what I realize after reading this blog is that I’ve been saying Bring It On for the past almost 4 years! It’s why, after today, I will be able to say I’ve scaled the highest peak in the northeast 3 times, not just once. Bring It On!

    • Spiral Energies says:

      What an inspiring message, Jen. Thank you for sharing your courageous story. Hearing each other’s experiences really brings the message home. I hope it was a good climb for you that day. Bravo for bringing it on!

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