By Christine Gunderson
This month we’re blogging about things we learned in 2019. This year I learned the meaning of word ‘endurance.’
I learned it by watching a show with my kids called, I Shouldn’t be Alive.
I Shouldn’t Be Alive features gripping stories told by people who, well, Shouldn’t Be Alive. Like the experienced outdoorsman who tipped his four-wheeler in the Yukon and was pinned underneath it for days as coyotes circled, looking for an easy meal. As the temperature dipped below zero, he had to survive the night using ingenuity and superhuman endurance.
Some of these stories involve “endurance athletes.” Like the marathon runner who fell into a ravine and was seriously injured in the middle of nowhere, with only her dog for company. Her leg was broken so she did sit-ups all night long to keep from falling asleep and succumbing to hypothermia. I’m not kidding. Hundreds and hundreds of sit-ups, with broken bones. She credited her survival to her training and mindset as an endurance athlete.
Let me state for the record that I am not an endurance athlete. In fact, I the opposite of an endurance athlete. I am an I Just Spent Ten Minutes on The Peloton and Now I Am Exhausted and Need to Take A Nap and Eat A Brownie type of athlete. So, when I watch I Shouldn’t Be Alive, I feel pretty inadequate. If I was pinned under a four-wheeler in the Yukon, the title of my episode would be, “She Fell Asleep and Was Eaten by Coyotes.”
But I’ve been thinking about the word endurance and I’ve decided my definition is too narrow. Physical endurance is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word, but writing a novel is also an act of endurance.
I just spent two days alone in a hotel room for hours and hours, writing. I had seven writer friends with me at the same hotel. We socialized at dinner and breakfast, but for the most part, we parked ourselves in our rooms with our laptops and wrote.
Keeping your derriere in the chair, your mouth closed and the TV off when the words aren’t coming is a form of endurance. Continuing to put words on the page when you have no idea what’s going to happen next is an act of endurance. And like so many acts of endurance, it’s also an act of faith; faith that there is a reward on the other side, that your efforts will yield fruit even if you can’t see what that fruit looks like as you labor.
I’m also learning that endurance doesn’t have to be a hardship. I love writing more than anything in the world, but writing a good book is hard. My parents have been married happily for fifty-one years but hearing the same stories from the same person for five decades is an act of endurance. Raising kids is an act of endurance. Stop any minivan you see on the street and ask the mom inside how many miles she’s driven this month. That’s endurance.
I also have celiac disease and ulcerative colitis, two super fun auto-immune diseases that over the course of the years have limited my diet to air and water. Those are basically the only two things I can ingest without feeling crummy. But I stick to my restrictive diet because I want to feel good more than I want a donut (though I really, really love donuts). Denying myself everything on the menu but salmon, asparagus and the fruit bowl for dessert so I can stay healthy is an act of endurance.
(Note to people who run restaurants: a bowl of fruit is NOT dessert and you should stop pretending that food without butter, sugar or chocolate is dessert. Because IT IS NOT. Would you like a cantaloupe cake on your birthday? No. You wouldn’t. So just stop this fruit-is-a-dessert ridiculousness and serve people with celiac disease the flourless chocolate tortes they deserve).
In 2019 I learned to expand my definition of this word and I learned to give myself credit for having some endurance. The book I started on Martin Luther King weekend in 2019 is now on submission. And this year on Martin Luther King weekend I started a new one. I have six thousand words so far. Only about 75,000 more to write. And I’ll get there, even when it’s hard, because to my surprise I’ve learned that I too have endurance.
Just don’t ask me to run a marathon.
Christine Gunderson lives outside Washington, DC, with a patient and supportive husband, three kids who love Star Wars as much as she does, and two high maintenance dogs who sleep under her desk when she writes. Her hobbies include sailing the Chesapeake Bay, re-reading Persuasion, and unloading the dishwasher.
You can contact Christine at her website: www.christinegunderson.com.