Why “Push Through” Can Be An Illusion

A few months ago my twenty-one year old son and his friends invited me to go hiking.

“Oh, hell yes!” I responded with excitment.

Nature is one of my many loves. I rubbed my hands together gleefully. How cool these youngsters want an oldie but goodie like me along.

“Now, mom,” my son advised, “this is no ordinary hike. I mean, you gotta cross some streams and shit. Like it’s uphill.”

“I’ve hiked before.” I retorted defensively. “I grew up in Alaska learning survival skills. HELLO! Ya’ll should HOPE to have me along.”

We laughed together as we packed our backpacks with carbs and protein snacks, water bottles and extra clothing.

What a beautiful drive to the mountain base. It was to be a mere four mile hike up to where a world opened to more beauty. There, we would have a majestic view of a lake and vast valleys. My adrenaline pumped as I thought about getting up to the plateau and the photo I would get to capture.

The first two miles I cruised along, soaking in the crisp clean air, waving to tree friends, smiling at rock faces, enjoying the streams and waterfalls.

Mile three the struggle began. The trail became steeper. We’re halfway there, my mind told me. I had this hike in the bag. My son paced me, walking ahead of me a bit, then cheering for me as I huffed and puffed my way to him where we would rest a minute and go at it again again.

Halfway into mile four my legs began to shake. My mind said, fuck you, there’s only a half mile left and then you will be sitting, having lunch, absorbing the best view and resting for a while.

But my legs wouldn’t move. My mind spun with thoughts.

“Get your ass moving.”
“You’re gonna let all these people down and be totally embarrassing!”
“Quit being a wimp. You’re stronger than you think.”
“Just rest for a second then push through!”

Still my legs wouldn’t move. The muscles in my thighs were shaking. My body was not complying. I couldn’t take another step up the rocks. In seconds I was crying; angry and frustrated. I had underestimated my body. Here I was, almost all the way up, with only a half mile of this goddamn hike left. This couldn’t be happening to me. I felt on the verge of physical collapse, but my mind did not agree.

I sat on a rock with my head in my hands, warring with my body as the group gathered around me, calling encouragement.

“It’s okay!”
“Wow, look how far you’ve made it!”
“Save your strength. You will need it for the three mile trek back down.”
“You didn’t let us down! This trail will alway be here!”
“We can come back!”
“Next time we’ll do a different, easier trail!”
“We are so proud of you!”
“We love you.”

Not one time did anyone say:

“Get your ass up and Push through!”

This concept of pushing through is over-rated and over used. Quit saying it for everything. Sometimes people need to rest. Sometimes they need to be congratulated for their hard work. Sometimes you need to acknowledge this. Sometimes you need to praise them for how far they’ve come, then help them back down the mountain so they can rest before they try again. Pushing through is not always the answer. Remember that.

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