In the car on our way home, my young daughter suddenly piped up through the silence.
“Don’t give up,” she said.
“What?” I said, startled.
“I mean, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” she said firmly.
Well. I pondered this for awhile, this small piece of solitary wisdom, imparted as if from nowhere. Unsure of why she had chosen this particular time to share her thoughts on the state of human fortitude and self-possessed longevity, I tried to fit her advice in to the context of my life like a long-awaited, albeit potentially ambiguous, puzzle.
Don’t give up.
I could plug that phrase into my life at any given moment. And I could think of many times I had given up, in the past. Quiet dreams of a career in the theatre, for example. Auditioning, and becoming frustrated beyond belief. Ducking out, right quick, when I realized I possessed not an ounce of backbone for such a thing.
The relationship that began when I was sixteen, and which ended at twenty-seven. He, alcoholic. I, mulling over how it would be for our future children to wake up and find their father passed out on the stairs as they crept down around his splayed legs to their bowls of Corn Flakes.
Then there was the Master of Fine Arts degree, which ground to a halt when my relationship ended, and things became disjointed, I left in a flood of upset and unwritten words spilling behind me and onto the floor of my city apartment.
I gave up. Many times.
And now, here was my daughter, the words virtually tumbling from her lips and up into the empty seat next to me, the three little words sitting there like a silent, invisible partner, ready to hold my hand. Don’t give up. Try, try again.
But there are some things one must give up on. There are some things that simply cannot be helped, no matter how much one wishes it to be otherwise. Is this giving up? Or, is it giving into another thing, the next journey in a life of multiple journeys? Sometimes it’s wise to give up. The tricky bit is knowing when it’s that time to give up, and when one must put on the big boots and trudge on.
As I write this, I realize that I’ll never give up, as my darling girl so strongly urged. But the thing that I won’t give up on is me. I’ll never give up on me, no matter what might happen in my world, and along the journey that comprises my life. Although there will be things I never complete, things I might falter on, things that might cause me to fall – and there will be those things – the core that binds me here, strong to the earth, is one which will never let hold its grip. So long as I have a hand to clasp. So long as I have an eye to the smoldering, triumphant sun.