Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Where are those damned boot straps? Thoughts on grit

"There were others who had forced their way to the top from the lowest rung by the aid of their bootstraps." James Joyce, Ulysses

Where does the term "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" come from? I've done a little research, but can't seem to find the exact etymology.

My personal history with this phrase comes from my dad.

Most who know me know I was raised by a Marine. A proud Marine. At 73 years of age, he still wears his U.S. Marine Corp hat when he goes out, and the same logo still sits on the back of his car, the only sticker that would ever touch that metal.

My dad's Paris Island photo, 1958. I grew up hearing stories about Paris Island that make Full Metal Jacket look like a Disney film.

One of my earliest memories growing up was dad quoting Alfred Lord Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade: "Yours is not to reason why; yours is but to do or die." And while my innocent childhood question of "why?" was not in reference to war time or weaponry, my dad meant every word of that quote when he said it to me. My place was not to question why. The daughter of a Marine does not question authority. And I was a good daughter.

Until I became an adult.

For a long time, I rebelled. Full of teen angst, I seemed to question everything, the pendulum swinging the opposite direction. As I matured, the pendulum settled back to center.

But lately, I find myself questioning a lot of things again.

This season has found me questioning, for the first time, why I run dogs. I've tried to be honest and forthright about my realizations. If I'm being honest, there has been so much going on in my life personally that this season has really worn me down. I have searched for my boot straps, but haven't been able to find them.

My dad had grit. My grandmothers on both sides had the same tenacious grit. Some would call it simply being fiercely stubborn.

Grit is a character trait that is essential to this sport. We spend so many hours out with the dogs in all kinds of weather training them for races. During the holidays, when most people are thinking about family and gift-giving, we are calculating miles and spending hours on long runs with our canine athletes.  It takes perseverance, dedication, sacrifice and determination to train for races.

I admit it: this year, I almost buckled under the pressure. There have been challenges - both personal and financial - that have almost broken my ability to "stay the course."

But, instead, I have tapped into my own grit.

Grit helps me maintain determination and motivation over extended periods despite failure and adversity. Grit enables courage and stamina despite set backs.

This New Year's Day, I went on a breath taking, beautiful 20 mile run. I celebrated the beginning of a new year in solitude and quiet introspection with my best canine friends, and we were blessed with a gorgeous sunset over a tundra-covered landscape. My camera on my phone was all I had to capture the beauty, and it's blurry and doesn't nearly capture the ethereal light in the west.

Thank you, dad, for teaching me to pull myself up by my own boot straps and passing along your grit to me. Here is a video to celebrate GRIT!

And, as always,

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