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Te-na-cious

Are you pushing forward in something you don’t truly desire, wasting your energy on something that will not pay back in return? Are you neglecting something you tenaciously desire, treating it as a want or worse yet, a “druther.” What, at the end of this week, this month, will you have wished you poured more of yourself into? Seize each and every moment, enjoy it and savor it. You have the chance to experience victory hundreds of times each day. Why wait?

Written at FOB Bostick, Nuristan, Afghanistan

Te-na-cious: Etymology: Latin tenac-, tenax tending to hold fast, from tenēre to hold. 1 a : not easily pulled apart : cohesive. b : tending to adhere or cling especially to another substance. 2 a : persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desired. 

I think as we all grow older we have these “theories of life” that we formulate, which may or may not have anything to do with fully explaining the reality of the situation, but just simply helps us to compartmentalize information. Being somewhat obsessive about semantics, I began to distinguish between a few words that are probably used enough to lose the nuance that I have come to assign to them. It began while reading the headlines of some of the latest female fitness magazines that folks have sent forward from the states. It seems like each issue had a quick, ten-step process to fixing those troubles spots and getting a “beach-ready body” in just a few weeks. I contrasted that with how men’s magazine’s present the idea of health and fitness. Not once did I notice that they purport a quick or easy fix, rather they seem to cater to the innate desire of a man to sacrifice and push himself, to enjoy the aches and pains as if some badge of intensity. Something that any one of my gym-frequenting friends can identify with.

And then I started hearing folks in the chow hall, while sitting there with plates full of French fries and hamburgers and whatnot, drinking a Dr. Pepper and finishing it off with an ice cream. They talked about how they really wanted to be in shape and even talked some of the lingo, but they really, deep-down didn’t have any sort of commitment to a lifelong lifestyle change. I call these people, “preferrers.” They prefer to be in shape, but they don’t really want it. It’s kind of like playing the game “would you rather.” Of course, if one were to nicknames these folks in the south, they’d be called “druthers.” Which oddly enough passes Microsoft’s spell check. Maybe that should be the real title. These are the kind of folks who will watch whatever they turned the TV on to because they can’t find the remote. They see other peoples’ lives and envy them, but never feel the desire to get it for themselves. 

And then you have your “wanters.” They want it and so they exercise a little bit more towards whatever goal that they have. They “want” all day long and probably put forth about 70% towards the goal, but don’t get tougher when the going gets tough. They see people with desire and motivation and would rather spend time complementing them than developing it within themselves. There is always a reason why they didn’t finish. They did their best. 

And then you have those who feel a deep-seated desire. Who when they look into a mirror are drawn to the intensity in their own eyes. They make themselves feel bad for ever imagining an excuse, because in their mind that is all they will be. They epitomize tenacity and drive, and love when the odds are stacked against them. The only way to push them harder than they normally push themselves is to tell them that they cannot do something. Yes, this is also their downfall in that they are not always prudent, initially, but as they develop they learn to circumvent things like pain and sleeplessness. This, to me, is the foundational substance of being a soldier. 

I am in BAF attempting to get a passport, arriving at the office at 1510, only to learn that the passport office closes at 1400. Yes, I know, how can that be? The SPC who works there only does so Mon-Sat 0800-1400, a 36-hour work week. Fascinating to all of us. Sparing you the details of the tumultuous encounters, suffice to say that time and again I received a “can’t do that” attitude. I would classify her not as a soldier, but as someone wearing a uniform. The soldiers I serve with in 3-61CAV are make it happen kind of soldiers. They scrounge and scrimp and trade. They make calls and call in favors and stay up late until the mission is complete. The first part of the Warrior Creed, “the mission always comes first.” I realize that this isn’t just about making the mission happen, but it instills an attitude of “make it happen,” and “fix the problem.” You never tell a soldier HOW to do something, you just tell him TO DO something and then sit back and watch how he makes it happen. The true soldier doesn’t take “no” for an answer, but finds a way to accomplish it, and usually does it impressed by their own ingenuity. 

Coach Carlisle called it “intestinal fortitude.” You reach down and find some gumption from somewhere and finish strong. You enjoy the last mile. Which brings me to Dave. 

So Dave and I ran a marathon in Chicago in 2003. Great times training together even though we did that in two separate states only running one training run together in Charleston, SC. I don’t recommend running on cobblestones streets. At the last mile of the marathon, Dave became so overcome with emotion that he started sprinting, like full-out-yes-he-used-to-run-track sprinting. And I started to follow. He exhibited what coaches talk about all the time, “leaving it on the field.” I remember it because I was ejecting some gel packets from my pockets as fast as possible because they started clapping against my legs and annoying me. Dave was so focused on the finish line, he didn’t pay attention to the pain in his legs that he pushed through in the 5 month train-up and the lack of glycogen in his body. He pushed on with sheer “desire.” And it is to those people for who the victory is sweetest. They realize that victory is not won over another opponent, but in beating your own personal best, and becoming a better person than you were the hour, the day or week you were before. 

I encourage you to take a moment to gauge your contentedness in life. Are you pushing forward in something you don’t truly desire, wasting your energy on something that will not pay back in return? Are you neglecting something you tenaciously desire, treating it as a want or worse yet, a “druther.” What, at the end of this week, this month, will you have wished you poured more of yourself into? Seize each and every moment, enjoy it and savor it. You have the chance to experience victory hundreds of times each day. Why wait?

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