The words above floated through my brain tonight as I was thinking about my mom. I know, sounds terrible, right? I mean, when’s the last time you really thought about or examined an old bag? If it’s old, it must be all worn out, not tough, right? But American English uses this idiom to describe people who are tough in a long-lasting, enduring kind of way. So in that frame of reference, I could refer to my mom as a tough old bag, as mean as it sounds.
My mom successfully underwent surgery to remove her thyroid this week after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer in May. She has been through a lot of medical purgatory over the last few years, bravely facing hip replacement, shoulder surgery, and the removal of a large brain tumor in 2010. She has seen every kind of doctor I can name for about every kind of ailment I could ever think of, and many I never knew existed. She has had her moments, but she doesn’t give up or give in, as much as she might not want another blood draw, MRI, or cat scan for the rest of her life.
I used to attribute my “never quit” attitude to my father, with his insistence on the power of goal setting (yes, he made us write them down, and once he even put my sister’s goals on a T shirt). However, thinking back to a particular go-round about a commitment a certain person made to playing in the band in middle school, I am going to have to credit quite a bit of that attitude to my mother. She never quit on any of us, and mostly, she didn’t let us quit on any of our goals or commitments.
So, as I started my training preparation for my first Olympic-distance triathlon this week, I started worrying about how much harder it was going to be, and how hard all of my workouts have been to complete since last weekend’s race. I know that I don’t want to quit, and I don’t want to stop what I have started over the past 6 months. But there are times I have my doubts, like when I am falling over (again) at about -4 mph on my mountain bike. However, thinking about my mom’s tenacity gives me an amazing amount of strength and inspiration. Many of us have lots of people in our life from whom we have inherited important lessons about life.
For most of my young life, my mother was a blur of motion. There was no “should I or shouldn’t I?” or “can we or can’t we?”. She just did. As kids, we credited this to an inability to sit down. Today, someone would possibly try to diagnose it as adult-onset hyperactivity. But for me, it’s probably the most valuable lesson I have learned as an adult. Don’t overthink it. Just shut up and do it. By continuing, by going on, moving on, forcing ourselves to keep on keepin’ on, we become tougher. We become tougher because we face decisions and move through them with action.
So my hope is that I can be a tough old bag like my mom showed me through her own example because I know that I will be able to conquer this challenge and all future challenges ahead!