Does Discouragement Always Lead to Defeat?
Last Monday night, I was ready to throw in the towel. I had spent a long day of teaching on zoom. I had given assessments via digital platforms that were definitely not providing success to my students. (aka- students taking difficult tests on zoom).
Children’s scores in math were not displaying an upswing trajectory. I cringed as I looked at the data.
So, I came into the kitchen to tidy up and complete some chores, but to my dismay, I found Kiara (my large German Shepherd) laying on the kitchen tile. She definitely did not look her usual perky self. When I went over to pet her, she started to cough.
Oh great, I thought to myself. I remember that sound. It reminded me of the barking seal cough I had heard when my daughter’s would come down with croup when they were babies. The only thing I could think of was. . . kennel cough. So, Scott got on the phone with the veterinarian, and of course, there was no availability until late Tuesday afternoon. In the meantime, we were told to quarantine the dogs to make sure that it did not spread among them.
Trudging along, we had dinner and things were moving forward semi normal. After dinner, I decided to try to get caught up on all of my grading, so I brought my laptop to the dining room table. Trying to be somewhat present for my daughters, while I worked, I thought this was a perfect compromise. They were in the living room and I was at least physically sitting next to them.
Well, my daughter was trying to clean up the dinner dishes, and by accident, as she reached for the half a glass of water to clear from the table. . . it slipped out of her hands, tumbled onto the table and seeped onto the bottom of my Macbook. I didn’t really think twice about this. We got the dish towels to clean up the wet table, and cleaned up the floor. We placed everything into the washing machine. Then, I wiped down the bottom of my computer and moved it onto the kitchen table.
I was more annoyed that my dining room table had been soaked for the 100th time (even though this was a common practice that I did every morning as a kid- spilling milk onto my brother or my dad!)
Taking deep breaths, many deep breaths. . . I thought I would call it a night and start getting the bedtime routine going. An hour later, I heard this weird noise in the kitchen. Scott said “Why does that computer sound like it keeps rebooting?” I really had no idea. The girls were finally settling down, reading their books before bed, and I thought I would finish up the grading that I needed to complete. I noticed the computer had shut down by itself. Hmm, I hadn’t done that. Well, I refreshed it and began my grading of essays. . . 5 minutes later, the computer shut down again.
It was at that moment, that I realized what was happening! It brought me back to two years ago when my phone fell in the gutter in the rain. Oh no, oh no I thought!!! This is not good. The computer. So, I went from calm mode to crazy, frantic mode in the matter of 5 seconds. I explained it to Scott, mind you, he was outside finishing up a woodworking project, when the original water spill occurred. He had no idea what had happened.
As we quickly started to google what to do, anger, defeat, discouragement, even resentment swept over me. Every little event that led up to this moment, flooded into my head. I all of a sudden was angry that I had been teaching on zoom for almost a year, I was flustered that Scott had surprised us with another animal, I was discouraged that my daughter’s have not had a year of social interaction with other children, I resented that I have been working harder than I ever have in my life in education, and then this wave of defeat began to settle in. I looked at the dead computer, and I thought to myself “I am not sure how much longer I can keep this up?”
I think we have all had these moments. These moments when life continues to throw curve ball, after curve ball, after curve ball, and the crescendo might be minor but it is definitely the “straw that broke the camel’s back.” When faced with these moments, we have two options:
Option A: Throw in the towel and be defeated
Option B: Get Back into the game and fight with all of your might.
On that Monday night, it was Scott who helped me to choose Option B. I was tired and overwhelmed. I couldn’t see that there was another way to get around the large boulder in the road.
He quickly called my mom to ask if we could borrow her computer for the rest of the week. He got the attachments all set up, we tested it out to make sure I would be able to teach. He also got the laundry room ready to quarantine the dogs in the event that the “cough” was contagious. My daughter kept apologizing profusely that she was sorry and it really was an accident.
The week went on and I can’t say that it got easier, but it did get bearable. These are minor problems in the grand scheme of life. I have been faced in life with illnesses, death of loved ones, financial struggles, and I wondered why these small events in the past week, seemed like such large hardships?
I think because the reality is we have been working as a society harder than we ever have in my lifetime. We have been thrown curveball, after curveball, for over a year.
But what I also realized is there are people that lift my spirits when I begin to have self doubt or discouragement. Those individuals are not a pure happenstance. I firmly believe they are placed in our path to provide us that extra boost of confidence to keep moving forward.
For example, my mom and I made our way to the Los Angeles Flower Mart this past weekend to purchase the flowers for all of our floral arrangements. We quickly went to our Growers Direct supplier. As we gathered up all of the beautiful cut stems, the owner asked us if we liked carnations? My mom and I said yes but we had not ordered them. He quickly bundled up 5 dozen of them and gave them to us. My mom and I looked puzzled at each other. He immediately said, “I wanted to give you ladies some type of gift. You have been so faithful to our business even during the darkest times in the pandemic. Please take these flowers. It is Valentine’s Day. I want to show you my appreciation to you.”
With that gesture, I felt like we both stood taller, we had huge smiles on our faces, and my heart felt warm. This is a person that we really do not interact with very much. But the gesture of gratitude he gave towards us helped catapult me into a weekend of spreading joy to others.
My daughter also surprised me with a “love tunnel” that was a garland of paper hearts that was in my hallway. She said this was to bring love when I was feeling tired from a long day of work.
A student of mine on Friday explained that the brightest part of her day is when she is on zoom with me in class.
These were all serendipitous moments. But, then I paused for a moment, these were not random, . . . these were intentional.
Last Monday night, all of those acts of discouragement seemed too much.
I needed some help. I was ready to say “Enough.”
What I found, is in my moments of discouragement, that is when something beautiful is about to emerge.I am shown the goodness in others and raw beauty that surrounds all of us.
We are all human. It's okay to stumble from time to time. But, it’s how we get back up that shows our true strength.
So, does discouragement always lead to defeat? It all depends on your mindset. You have the power to choose to give up or to get back into the game and fight with all of your might.
I think deep down we all have an inner warrior. Sometimes, you just need to have a troop to help you find it.