Sometimes I Win. Sometimes I Fail.

When you push your limits, you're bound to win some and lose some.

We are, as a species, different. Bipedal with opposable thumbs, complicated emotional creatures, able to fully articulate our external and interior landscape—we are all these things. In my estimation, though, Homo sapiens greatest differentiator is our capacity for continued physical, emotional, spiritual, creative, and psychological growth. Put another way, we were not made to be static individuals, reaching our full potential by the age of 2 or 3 as some animals do. We were made for a lifetime—80 years or more—of change.

In my last newsletter, I wrote about those who chase the limits of human potential and their desire for indomitability. Chasing the outer limits of human capacity isn’t for everyone, and to be honest, I’m not sure it’s for me. Still, having weathered this dark pandemic season, having watched as even the toughest among us have struggled, I wonder whether pushing our limits—even if only a little—might strengthen us physically, mentally, and spiritually for the next pandemic, whether metaphorical or literal?

I think it can. And judging by your response to my last email, many of you agree.

Pandemic Realities

First, some caveats about the ways we approached the pandemic. On the whole, research indicates we did not all thrive. Rates of depression soared. Substance abuse, compulsive gambling, and pornographic consumption skyrocketed. Depression rates rose. And after an initial decline in deaths by suicide, rates rose in the second COVID wave. (Some countries report increases from between 7% and 30% as compared to pre-pandemic numbers.) Simply put, many of us were not prepared mentally, spiritually, emotionally, or physically for COVID.

The need for spiritual, mental, and physical grit has never been more apparent. The need for true sobriety, too. And the truth is, I’ve watched many in my own community push themselves into grittier, more sober ways of living during this pandemic.

One friend works to formulate a rule of life, a set of principles that guides him in spiritual growth, difficult though those principles may be. Another digs into his past, taking careful note of broken relationships, and actively working to make amends. Still another enters therapy week after week, and she hopes to grow in emotional awareness and strength even as the world around her applies more and more pressure. I know artists who’ve finished enormous tasks—the novel that’s been sitting idle; the song they’ve always wanted to write; the painting that’s been half-finished on the canvas for months. And then there are my friends at the gym, folks who know that a strong body is a more resilient one, and so they push and push and push.

It’s this drive, this push toward growth (in any area) that can connect us with a bigger purpose. It’s the drive that reminds us we are not creatures resigned to live a life that happens to us. We are active participants in life, co-creators with God as we try to actualize the potential he’s given us.

A Life of Growth—Mentally, Physically, Creatively

If you’ve been a reader in this community, I know this much about you: You are growth minded. This is not to say you are achievement oriented or Type A or even driven in the classical sense of the word. It is to say you are unafraid to examine your life and pursue what’s good while shedding what’s not so good. And though I didn’t need proof of this fact, your response to my last newsletter did just that. So many of you emailed, shared how you’d been pushing yourselves since the onset of the pandemic, and these were not all fetes of strength or physical endurance. You’ve been exploring your limits physically, emotionally, spiritually, and even creatively. It’s been inspiring to read.

Like me, I’m sure you’ve had successes and failures along the way. I’ve finished a novel (which you can read here), mucked around in the gym with sometimes uninspiring consequences, and failed at achieving sustainable prayer and meditation practices during this season. Today, I’m inviting you to share your stories of pushing yourself during the pandemic. I’d love to hear the risks you’ve taken, the results you’ve achieved, even the failures you’ve experienced. That brings me to these questions:

  • How have you pushed yourself physically, emotionally, creatively, and spiritually over this last year?

  • Where have you succeeded?

  • Where have you fallen a touch short?

  • Are you going to keep pushing?

Please share your thoughts in the comments or in an email.

A Few Little Things

  1. “A Drink With a Friend”

    Do you have a Rule of Life? Do you know what a Rule of Life is? Join Tsh Oxenreider and me as we discuss the importance of creating a guiding document. While you’re at it, sign up for the DWAF Substack, where we have a different conversation each week!

  2. Support an Author, Buy a Book (or a Novel)

    If you haven’t read The Book of Waking Up, a book which is acutely in line with this email, consider grabbing a copy. And if you’d like to follow the journey of a novel, sign up to read Bears in the Yard (reviewers give it 10 bears out of 10).

  3. Sometimes I Instagram

    Since Easter, I’ve been playing Patty Griffin’s “Mary” on repeat. Today, I reflected on why that song speaks to me, particularly in this Easter season.

    A post shared by @sethhaines

Thanks for reading along. I’ll see you soon.