Anyone who has ever fallen of a horse knows how hard it can be to get back into the saddle. The last time I fell of S. (knock on wood) was during my final weeks writing my BA thesis and it took me months before I dared to go hacking again. S. didn’t get injured at all and although I was literally black and blue after that fall, it didn’t take me long to physically recuperate. Mental recuperation was a completely differnt thing. The pressure I felt writing my BA and the knowledge that – if it hadn’t been for the bramble bushes that stopped me – I could have died there and then, the knowledge that it was just a metre or so and S. could have died, was simply too much for me and it took me a while to get over it.
But I am not here to talk about horseback riding. However, I think that this saying perfectly captures the difficulty we experience when we resume something after we stopped doing it for whatever reason. It is so bloody hard to get back into the right mindset, to create the habit of doing something and I think it is even harder when you know that it used to come easy to you. It can be physically painful to do so and not just when it is an actual physical activity that you pick up again.
Sure, it is hard to pick up a sport that used to be an integral part of your life, a sport which you excelled at. You know that you have the talent to play it again but you will still feel that you have aged 10 years since you last played it (a round of applause to Team Germany for winning silver and bronze at this year’s Pesis World Cup in Turku – you did us all proud, you old buggers! Bronze was won after an historic loss – yes, you can be proud of losing a game if you were just one point short against Finland.)
In my case, my figurative saddle is my desk. I need to finish a project before mid-September. Finding the will and the energy to sit down on my behind and study is extremely challenging. This is not due to the fact that I have problems comprehending the material, I am generally good at analysing texts and writing papers, it is simply the fact that I need to sit down and do it. I am utterly out of practice and my bed and my books (or TV) are like sirens calling my name, like the Loreley leading me into a rock called procrastination. My head gets heavy and I lose my focus.
Keeping in mind that I will never feel like it, I do my best to perservere. I know I want this degree, I know that I cannot afford to ignore these deadlines. So, I force myself but at the same time give myself some grace. Mentally lambasting myself for not achieving certain things is a fool-proof recipe for self-sabotaging. This is also the reason why I had to pull out of an arrangement I had with a friend. She offered to be my butt-kicker as I have been one for her in the past. I thought it would help me but it turns out it only triggers some infantile traumata and I retract. So, I say no to the butt-kicking and yes to forgiving myself for minor relapses.
Getting back into the saddle is onerous and it can only work with positive motivation and the right kind of attitude.
And finally, who doesn’t like some inspirational quotes?
Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.
In the realm of ideas everything depends on enthusiasm… in the real world all rests on perseverance.
J.W. von Goethe
Header pic from here
Loreley ca 1900 from here