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Throwing in the Towel: Quitting — It’s Always Too Soon

I’m well aware that U of M isn’t playing in tomorrow’s Super Bowl because they’re a college team (and my son would be telling me about it if they were.) But that’s about all I know about Super Bowl Sunday (other than it’s a good excuse to make some great food.)

I guess I know one other fact about football…the teams that make it to the finals never give up. They don’t throw in the towel (at any time, for any reason.) Quitting isn’t in their vocabulary.

It shouldn’t be in ours either. I remember last spring one day in particular when I wanted to throw in the towel and not follow through on an opportunity (that ironically, I had asked for, looked forward to, and was excited about…)

I was getting the chance to observe a total hip replacement surgery and had happily marked it into my calendar not realizing I had committed to speak at a women’s group the night before. A few days before the surgical observation day, I received an email confirming my talk with the professional group. My heart sunk for several reasons.

Although I love getting the rare opportunity to enter an OR and watch an entire procedure, I’m not comfortable there. I’m not a medically trained person, so I go into the unfamiliar recognizing I have to be at my mental best if I’m able to accurately capture what I’ll be watching. Secondly, it’s exhausting mentally and physically to pay close attention, take legible notes, and stand for several hours. Third, it’s always somewhat uncomfortable going into a situation where you don’t know the people around you.

So for me to best prepare, I need a quiet evening at home the night before to be well rested and ready to go. Thus, my immediate internal panic when I received the speaking engagement confirmation. I momentarily felt like cancelling one or the other…but that wouldn’t have been courteous or respectful of the people who opened the doors for me to do both.

I still vividly recall arguing with myself over my lack of good planning then threw up my hands and decided to make the best of it.

The speaking event went better than I could have anticipated. Was I tired? Yes. Mentally drained? Yes. Emotionally spent? Yes.

The morning of the OR observation came a few too many hours too soon. After a sleepless night, I arrived at the hospital and was taken back to change into scrubs (and if you want something to break, put me in close proximity to anything mechanical) when the machine that distributes the scrubs got jammed. I stood there thinking, “breaking hospital equipment is not the perfect way to start this…) The thought of quitting right then went through my already weary mind.

After a few unsuccessful attempts to unjam the machine (by a very capable surgical tech) several nurses kindly stepped up and went to their lockers in search of scrubs for me to borrow. I felt like crying, I was so grateful. In my mind’s tired eye, I could envision me standing there alone…with no one I knew to ask for help, no way to fix the machine, no options left. Quitting looked pretty good at that moment.

I tell this story because I believe we all come very close to quitting on things that matter to us. And it often only takes a small gesture of kindness to stop us from throwing in the towel and giving up.

Discouragement can be a powerful force to quit.
But kindness, no matter how it’s offered, is more powerful still.

Because those kind-hearted nurses moved fast and placed a set of scrubs into my hands faster than I had the chance to escape, I stayed.

And for the rest of my morning? It just got better and better.

I learned so much new information and I took away a fresh appreciation for how marvelously medical professionals work in concert with the human body to heal and strengthen it (while giving discouraged people a new lease on life.)

Quitting — it’s always too soon.

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