Sunday, May 3, 2015

The many faces of giving up

Giving up - we all know the words and we all feel the negativity associated with the notion of "giving up".  We embrace perseverance - those we point to and say "he's a fighter...".  But what about those of us who aren't fighters?  And does "giving up" deserve the dread and negativity that we attribute to the phenomena?

I attended a rural school that included all grades from Kindergarten through High School in the same building; something that is rare today, but which resulted in high school relationships often formed from long standing grade school relationships.  My earliest recollection of a "giving up" reference is from a conversation a few years post high school.  Out of perceived need, I had done some Army time to obtain college money and although I don't recall specifics of this conversation, I recall a reference to a former school classmate as someone who had "let herself go" - As in "Hey, have you seen so and so lately?"  "No, but last time I saw them, they had really let them self go...".  Somehow we know what it means.  First and foremost, it infers that the subject has dropped out of the social circle of the speaker.  Beyond this "letting oneself go" is often applied when one doesn't seem to be applying their former level of self care - perhaps they have become less physically fit and/or gained some flab and/or their grooming has declined.

Another face of "giving up" often arises in the relationship phase of a life.  Friendships that were formed in high school or college often drift as the friends migrate to coupling.  Sometimes friends will reflect on the the coupling of their friend, particularly when they aren't so fond of their friend's choice, that their friend has settled... "They were so full of life... and then they settled...".  Evaluation of a partner through the eyes of a friend is never objective; there is always a trace of the longing for the friendship that used to be and which is now different.

You don't have to look too far to find many references to "burn out" and combating burn out.  Many find themselves locked in a job or a profession where they have achieved a level of success.  Unfortunately, they become a victim of their success because there is a real cost to changing to something new.  Translation: "entry level" job means low paying job and as you acquire responsibilities in life it may not be practical to swing from an established well paying job to an entry level position.  Many in this situation give up to a certain extent and work to maintain the status quo.  I have heard this face of giving up as "retiring in place" - where one continue to "work" their same job, but largely have a singular goal of surviving and not getting fired.

Eleanor became my friend and my hero.  It was an unlikely friendship due to our ages; she being older than my parents.  I never had a good grasp on her exact age as Eleanor was of the generation where you did not ask a lady her age.  She reflected that the date of birth on her driver's license was not accurate and you could never really nail her down on her precise age.  This was in an time long before computers and an adaptation of your date of birth could be done on a driver's license.  Despite the many beers that I drank with Eleanor when I tried to give her the remaining stock of a bottle of Black Velvet she drew a line on the bottle to mark the level and would always insist that it was a loan.  My friendship with Eleanor continued for many years as her health declined and she was eventually hospitalized.  The day came when I received the call from her daughter, P.  P sadly related the passing of her mom and in the course of the conversation remarked that they had just talked her into going to a nursing home that same day... it made me smile.  I knew Eleanor well; Eleanor had no intention of going to a nursing home - she had won by giving up.