The first home I bought was arguably the smallest dwelling among the lush estates in Benedict Canyon. I needed to move, they were selling the house I was renting, and it was the only place I found in a decent neighborhood that I could afford. I called it the Doll House. It was two stories, one cylinder stacked on top of the other, which made it feel even smaller. It was located in the 90210 zip code, a much sought after address. The reality show of the same name was all the rage at the time, everybody wanted to live in Beverly Hills, but in this case, the status symbol didn’t deliver.
The garage was too tight for a sedan, there was next to no parking on the street, the undersized breakfast nook doubled as a dining room, the steps of the staircase were so narrow, they were a hazard and the ceilings were so low, it seemed like I might graze the top of my head when I got out of bed in the morning. I felt like Alice in
Wonderland in her blue pinafore after she ate a cookie that made her grow so tall, she had to throw an arm out the window and a leg up the chimney to fit into the room. I think you get the picture. But the above is only setup for what comes next.
I lived in the Doll House for a year with a musician boyfriend who stayed up all night listening to music and God knows what else. I went to sleep on the early side, and when I woke up a little after dawn, he had just gone to bed. My first book had been published by Simon & Schuster the year prior, it had done well, and I was determined to write the next one. I refused to use the close quarters as a reason not to write, so each morning, I made coffee, put my laptop on the wooden table in the breakfast nook/dining room and wrote for several hours while my boyfriend slept. When I finished the book and submitted it, I was glad I hadn’t given up. Whether or not a publisher would want to buy it, I had no idea, but I had done it. Instead of feeling guilty, I felt accomplished.
If we could be as diligent with our creative projects as we are in finding reasons not to do them, we’d be masters in our craft. But there are often obstacles to overcome. I’m presently having a deck rebuilt, and yesterday, when I was working out with my online trainer, there was constant banging, whirring of an electrical sander and loud Mariachi music playing. Even though I closed the windows to muffle the sound, I could barely hear my trainer’s voice on my iPad. There was a part of me, a large part, that wanted to give up and stop the session. I considered it quite seriously for a minute or two until I said, No! out loud and carried on. Maybe it was my rigorous
ballet training that had taught me to never miss a training session, even when I was injured. Maybe it was my meditation practice that had taught me to ignore anything on the outside. Whatever it was, there was no way I was going to let anything stop me and when the hour was over, I felt the afterglow of having pushed myself physically and mentally.
Along with two online training sessions, I walk four miles, three times a week with a friend. His mantra is, “Not doing this is not an option.” If you’re having trouble sticking with something that you know would be good for you, create a support system. It helps to have a cheering section when you’re trying to keep yourself on track. When I was writing a book for Johnny G, a cycling record holder and creator of Spinning, he told me that sometimes his wife had to literally shove him out of bed in the morning so he could train. Swimmer Michael Phelps and gymnast Simone Biles who each won a number of Olympic gold medals, said that they didn’t consider
themselves better than anyone else. They just trained harder and they never gave up.
Doing what’s in front of you with no excuses is a rewarding way to go through life. It’s the only way we can keep our bodies strong and our minds sharp. My girlfriend’s father is 103 years old and he works out every day and feels grateful every morning that he’s still here with new mountains to climb and new ways to challenge himself and find purpose. We can learn to see challenges as gifts and embrace the parts of us that defy the odds and stay the course. But let me be clear here. I’m not finding fault with ailing or elderly people who let go when their time is up. I don’t see that as losing. I’m not fond of the expression, “He lost his battle with cancer.” That’s not losing or giving up. That’s surrendering to what we can’t control and knowing when it’s time to accept the inevitable.
In my experience, the only things worth giving up are revenge, resentments, blame and trying to be perfect. We can never be perfect. Life is not a race to the finish line. It’s not about punishing someone else for their behavior. It’s not about looking or doing
better than someone else. It’s not about comparisons or seeing how much you can accomplish in the shortest period of time.
It’s about continuing to put one foot in front of the other, having compassion for your fellow human beings and yourself, and moving forward with no excuses or reasons why you should be doing
something else. Giving up when the going gets rough is letting go of hope, the thing that encourages us to hang on to life, no matter how difficult things get or how often they change. If we’re committed to living the best life we can, no matter what, and helping other people do the same, we’re giving back instead of giving up.