We live in a culture that tells us nothing is impossible. We’ve all heard it countless times: ‘The sky’s the limit’. ‘You can do whatever you set your mind to’. ‘Every great achievement was once considered impossible’. And, perhaps most ubiquitous of all, ‘Never ever give up’.
The truth is, some things are impossible. Sometimes the only thing to do is give up.
Now, I don’t want you to get discouraged or think I’m advocating wanton apathy. I’m talking about the importance of giving up.
That sounds crazy, right? We’ve always been told that only ‘quitters’ give up. Like it’s some crime, some sin against humanity itself. How dare we give up. How dare we turn away from an unfinished task and let someone else take over.
Picture Something You Cannot Do
I want you to think about that for a moment. Picture something that you cannot do. I mean, no matter how hard you try. Let’s say, picking up an elephant. You can’t pick up an elephant, right? You can throw yourself into the task for as long as you want, work yourself to exhaustion until you are utterly spent, but you are not going to budge that elephant.
What is the harm, in our scenario, of letting someone else take over? Your buddy over there has a giant crane with a conveniently elephant-sized sling attached. He’s even got the key in the ignition. All he needs is a nod from you and he’ll fire that sucker up. You can even help him get the sling under the elephant’s belly. So what, exactly, is wrong with that?
The answer, of course, is that nothing’s wrong with it. We all run up against things that are impossible for us (at least alone). We all need help sometimes; other times we just have to walk away and accept that our energies are better spent elsewhere. Giving up is not failure; it is an acknowledgment that there are better uses for our time and resources.
It’s right there in the words after all. Have you ever thought about that verb, ‘to give up’? Taken literally it does not mean ‘failure’. It does not mean ‘not good enough’. It means ‘to pass to another’, or maybe ‘to lift from oneself’. Merriam-Webster offers these synonyms: ‘deliver’; ‘hand over’; ‘lay down’. You don’t just give up tasks; you can also give up burdens, vices, and unhealthy habits.
In short, we all have to learn how to judge when to give up and when to press on. It becomes the difference between ‘hey, I can’t do A, but you can, so you take over that and I’ll tackle B’ and ‘you know what? A is pretty hard but I’m sure I can do it!’. Both views are equally valid, and if the lesson was never learned the world would be full of frustrated, exhausted people and half-finished tasks.
A Lesson That Is Universally Useful
It’s not just a hemi-thing; this is a lesson that is universally useful. However I’d venture to say that we tend to come into it a little earlier; we’re ahead of the curve. We learn fairly early on that there are some things we can’t do and others which are only possible with a helping hand. I will never spin a basketball on my left fingers, for example; I can’t even hold my fingers still as I type this with my right. Is this process frustrating? Sure it is. We want to do what everyone else can and it’s hard, very hard, to accept that sometimes we can’t.
However, as time goes on the focus shifts. We learn to judge what we can’t do and throw ourselves all the more into what we can. The times when we have to give up grow less frequent; our teeth-gritting, bullheaded, do-or-die successes occur more often and are more satisfying because we learn our own limits and know when we can pour every bit of energy we have into one thing and come out flushed and grinning on the other side.
My favorite pair of earrings I made myself, out of tiny gears and chains. They took six hours to complete – three on each earring – and I lost control of my hand for a week afterward. Was it worth it? You bet it was.
There are many elephants for us in life; for everyone but, yes, a few more for us Hemi-Kids and people like us. We, like everyone else, learn the importance of giving up. We learn to spot those elephants coming and call in reinforcements before we burn ourselves out trying to lift them. Better yet we learn to tell when we can lift the elephant. We learn when and how to use our resources to their best effect.
They Will Find Success
Really what I want you, Parents, to take away from this is that giving up is not the same thing as failing. It is a wise and prudent choice, one that conserves energy for more important things. As you go forward I hope you will not be discouraged by your child’s struggles. He will give up on tasks. He will even give up on entire days. But on life, the grand and glorious arena of the world, there he will never give up. There he will throw himself into his living and there he will find success. There lie his many, many victories.
Article written by CHASA blogger, Elizabeth Tarney, a student at North Carolina State University majoring in Zoology. Elizabeth was diagnosed with hemiparesis due to a stroke in utero at about four months of age, but hasn’t let that stop her from doing… anything, really. She is a fencer, hiker, rock climber, and white-water rafter. At NC State Elizabeth is an activist for disability awareness and the president of a disability advocacy club. She plans to combine that passion with her love of animals to someday train service animals for children with special needs.