Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Think I Can

My Dad was a great believer in willpower. He always insisted that once he decided he was going to do something there was nothing on earth that could stop him. In the course of a lifetime I’ve learned not to underestimate the importance of that kind of steely determination. It can mean the difference between success and failure when the odds are stacked against you.

I suppose I may have inherited a tiny bit of my Dad’s stubborn will. At least it shows up occasionally when I tackle jobs that are manifestly too big for me. That was the case when I decided not to wait for help in moving some furniture to an upstairs bedroom in our farmhouse. I managed to tip the dressers, minus their drawers, onto their polished tops and so was able to slide them along on the wall to wall carpet without much difficulty. Even the stairs which were also carpeted posed no great obstacle as I pushed each piece up to the second floor.

I kept at it until only the wardrobe was left to move. It stood at least a foot taller than I was and looked massive. It did occur to me that I was being a tad foolish but I was determined to finish the job. I’d just have to be smart about it. I wrestled the wardrobe to the foot of the stairs moving first one side and then the other a few inches at a time. Once there I very carefully tipped it onto its side so that it rested against the stairs with its top reaching halfway to the upper landing. I got my shoulder under the bottom of it and somehow managed to straighten my legs and start it moving. It was even heavier than I’d imagined but by then I was committed. I couldn’t figure out how to extricate myself without the effort ending in disaster so I struggled onward with every muscle vibrating with the strain. I was two thirds of the way up when I lost my balance for a moment and the force of gravity took over. I ended up slipping with the monstrous weight of the wardrobe bearing down on me and I lost several inches before I managed to stop my downward slide. I froze, paralyzed by the vision of me lying crumpled at the bottom of the stairs, the wardrobe splintered to kindling on top of me. If ever there was a need for a healthy dose of my Dad’s willpower it was in that moment. It was keep pushing or perish so I tapped into reserves I didn’t know I had and resumed my slow upward progress. I did manage it in the end but you can bet that my husband, Bev, had words for me when he got home and discovered what I’d done. What was I thinking indeed?

They say that the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree and I must say that my daughter, Lauren, has also been known to tackle obstacles with that same disregard for what other people might see as her limitations. She’s never been very big and some might even think her fragile. They would be mistaken in that. What she lacks in muscle she makes up for in the strength of her will and her indomitable spirit. Back when she was thirteen or so she and Bev went on a father and daughter canoe trip with another Dad who had twin girls the same age. The trip involved a 300 meter portage and she was determined to pull her weight when they reached that point. The men shouldered the canoes and moved off along the trail leaving the girls with the packs. They planned to come back for anything the girls couldn’t carry. That probably should have included the pack that Lauren decided to take. It looked as though it weighed more than she did and that might not have been a stretch. She wore size 0 in those days. It wasn’t easy but she somehow managed to get it hoisted onto her back and once she settled her shoulders into the harness and got her balance she lost no time in marching off after the others who’d gone ahead.

The trail was a bit rough in places. There was even a low section built up with logs like an old corduroy road. That was where she came to grief. One slip and her feet shot out from under her landing her squarely on her back. Luckily the pack broke her fall. Then again, maybe not so luckily. Once she caught her breath she discovered that she couldn’t get up with the heavy pack anchoring her to the earth. With her arms and legs in the air she felt much like a turtle that has been flipped onto its back. No matter how hard she struggled she just couldn’t get herself turned over. She was just about to try extricating herself from the harness when another canoeist happened along and, seeing her dilemma, reached down to grab the top of the pack where it protruded above her head. With one heave he lifted the heavy pack with Lauren still strapped in and set her back on her feet. Undaunted, she offered him a slightly red-faced thank you before resuming her trek. She managed the rest of the trail without incident and I have no doubt that given the chance, she might have tried carrying the canoe as well. I wasn’t surprised at all when I heard the story. There’s a little of my Dad in all of us.

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