For the long haul

The dictionary defines the long haul as a prolonged and difficult effort or task.  It also brings to mind carrying something for a long distance or time.

I am great at starting things: projects, cleaning, research, study.  When I started my Chado studies, I was hungry for lessons.  I wanted to know everything.  I jumped in with both feet and immersed myself, insisting my sensei give me more.  At least for a while.

But I am not so good at continuing or finishing.  Learning Chado has tested my commitment over and over.  My study has no end, so the goal of finishing is not an incentive. I have wanted to quit many times.  Sometimes I was bored with my studies. Sometimes it seemed like to much trouble to continue. Sometimes I felt there was no end, so what was the point.  Sometimes I felt like I just didn’t have the time, the money or the energy to continue.

But always, there was something that pulled me back and made me excited and enthusiastic about it again.  I was trying to articulate to a friend of mine who asked my why I have devoted so much of my life and time to the pursuit of Chado. Sometimes, I attend a tea event and the magic of the gathering makes me remember how Chado has changed my life.  Sometimes a student will ask me a question I cannot answer, and I try to find an answer.  Sometimes I come across something that I want research to find out more about.  Sometimes I set myself an assignment like leading a discussion, making a presentation, or writing a blog post.   Sometimes I introduce people to the way of tea and their enthusiasm reignites my passion for it.

At this point in my life, I cannot imagine my life without it. I am more than committed, I am devoted to the way of tea.  What tea has taught me that I get out of life what I put into it.  The intensity I put into something equals the intensity of the experience I get out of it.

I have been studying Japanese calligraphy for 6 years.  Starting something new was exciting and fun.  But as a complete beginner student after many years as a teacher, it was humbling and frustrating.  Last year I started learning how to paint watercolors.  Again exciting and fun, but after awhile frustrating and humbling.  My expectations for these things were that I would be competent — no I wanted to be good, if not expert with 6-10 weeks of intense effort.

It wasn’t until I accepted the fact that I was not going to be good or expert at something that I put short term effort into.  I didn’t see much improvement until I buckled down and began to work on basic skills and fundamentals, and yes, hours of practice, practice, practice.

But with many things we say it takes only talent or good luck to achieve, it is setting expectations, getting a foundation with basic skills, and practice.  Getting in shape?  Yes.  Athletics?  It is the  same thing, with gardening, with relationships, with parenting.   You have to be in it for the long haul.

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