It is NOT What You Accomplish — It is What You Overcome

A LONG TIME AGO. As a child and teenager I was a very good athlete. I was always one of the first ones picked on the playground when teams were chosen. That always felt good — ya know, to not have to wait around for your name to be called. A couple of my friends had to go through that: “okay, Henry is the only one left I guess I’ll take him.” Not me, I was top of mind when it came to others wanting me on their team. When I got to high school, I played varsity basketball, was All-League in cross country and ran a 4:50 mile in track. My medals still hang from my now-too-tight letter sweater to remind myself that at one time in my life I could run really fast for a long period of time. My basketball coach told everyone at an awards banquet that “Jerry can run like the wind.” It was the nicest thing he ever said to me, as he didn’t say nice things very often.

After graduation, I continued to play sports on competitive basketball and softball leagues. I also still ran and took up golf and tennis. My accomplishments in sports are evident not only by the medals, but by the many memories of how others treated me in Jr. High and High School and even thereafter in summer beer softball and recreational basketball leagues. I was noticed and I received attention and respect from those who put a value on such things. I was always just one of the guys at the bar after the game where testosterone flowed as we bragged of our on the field successes, and where the opposite gender took special notice in our ability to hit a ball, make a shot and flex our muscles. Suffice to say, accomplishing things on the athletic field has rewards and perks not necessary to speak about here, but that which for certain, occur.

MORE RECENT. As a business owner and one who works with kids (I am a licensed counselor) I am fortunate in that I have been recognized as someone who is a good speaker, someone who is effective in helping teens and families open up and communicate with one another in healthier ways, one whose essays get read and receives positive feedback occasionally, and someone who is hired regularly to work with organizations as a trainer and coach. I have accomplished this over time. It has been and continues to be rewarding, tiresome, monotonous and meaningful on any given day. I will keep doing it forever. It makes me feel needed and I enjoy being able to share my life with others in these ways.

Thank you for still reading, as that was fairly self-absorbing.

THE OTHER SIDE. 1973 — I am in speech class at Columbus Elementary on the east side of Detroit. Ms. Robinson, the librarian, is helping me overcome my impediment so that I no longer will be made fun of when I tell friends “I can wun faster than you.” 1990 — My depression is in full swing, and only therapy and my own commitment to try and love myself after years of not will lift the trance. 2007 — My father’s death continues to teach me that today is the only day I am allowed to live in. 2011 — Ulcers. Since developing stomach issues where going to the bathroom over 20 times a day became my normal, I have since been able to adjust my diet, let go of stress when I feel it, and keep a nightly routine of taking medication to equalize my overactive immune system.

I can go on. I used to become attached to people in unhealthy ways. Bugging them, pleading with them, doing things I did not want to do for them, being someone else for them, using my anger and my skills of manipulation on them to satisfy my own needs, and losing myself in myself so that they could feel better about themselves, were all things I did, was the way I lived and what I took myself through because I did not know how to take care of myself.

TODAY. I have learned how to take care of myself. I have learned how to say no, how to stop talking, how to let others sit with their own problems without trying to fix them, and how to let my best self emerge without feeling guilty. These are things I have overcome. They were put in my path and I have addressed and am still addressing them.

TOMORROW. Yet there are more to come — these problems. And I will return to the fray once more, many times more if destined, to look at myself and try to do, say, and be another way. I will need to do so in order to grow and to move on to wherever I am moving on to. The medals will not take me there. Nor will the accolades of my work, or this essay itself. Friends, family and the good will of strangers can assist in clearing my path, but none of them can enter my being and understand the work required to get to my next level. That is for me — alone — in the quiet and in the chaos of my heart.

Think about what you have been able to overcome in your life. Addictions, divorce, deaths, abandonment, and a broken spirit have visited, in part or in whole, all of us. Like a plant left un-watered, they can either force us to plunge further for sustenance, or allow us to wither and die in the wind.

RUNNING. My days of running pushed me to find extra stamina and energy within myself. Just when I used to think I couldn’t go any further at the speed I was going, I’d go one stride more. Of course, I would finally get depleted and would have to stop. But not until I used up the last bit of “extra” I had in me. That is how, I believe, we overcome the unpleasantness and the horrific in our lives.

I find it to be an endless supply of energy of which I call God. I grew up believing HE was in the heavens with my grandpas and my animals, but I have found HER in the darkness of my life playing peek-a-boo with my fears and courage. I wonder if HE gives medals down there?

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