One of the routes I can choose for my afternoon walks is a round trip on a abandoned asphalt road. It is the most challenging of my various alternatives because it involves a series of roller coaster hills that give me a more strenuous workout, and the hills especially have become my special companions. I have even named each of them depending on some special feature: there’s Painted Hill, Turnstile Hill, Holly Hill, and the longest and most imposing of all, Slog Hill at the center of my outing. Every time I laboriously climb Slog Hill with my head down watching one step at a time I am reluctant to look up and see how far I still have to go. And I am feeling a little like life is like that right now as well. Humanity has been on a challenging climb for some time now, and although we sense there is an end in sight, we are also emotionally and physically fatigued from it all. We just want to rest. Do you feel that way as well?
A “slog" is defined as "to plod (one's way) perseveringly, especially against difficulty.” That seems like an apt description when the whole world has been coping with Covid-19 and negotiating what has seemed like an endless series of adaptations and long waits associated with it. And those of us in the U.S. have also endured the Trump administration for four “slogging” years, not to mention climate disruptions, racism and militarism. We are now able to "look up” somewhat from it all with Biden as Prez and the availability of vaccinations as well as more humane and professional leadership. But we also well know there is much more of the “hill" to climb, and we are feeling increasingly tired of the “slog” of it all.
But I choose to continue to do the more difficult hill route for my exercise routine because I realize that it demands greater resilience and commitment, and ultimately it is the most beneficial to my health and well-being. I usually end my workout more fatigued than if I had taken an easier course, but there is a special sense of satisfaction knowing I have been able to take on something difficult and succeed. I have no particular sense of “success” with all we have been coping with in these tumultuous days, of course, but I am clear that we as a nation and as communities and individuals are the stronger and wiser for our humbling experience of loosing so much control over our lives and learning to “make do." As difficult and heartbreaking as this past year has been for so many, and our sadness over our nation’s corrosive divisions, on the whole we have shown an admirable resilience politically, economically and socially. I appreciate Biden’s confidence that we can and will recover from the disorienting confluence of historic negligence and injustice that now call for a reckoning.
At the end of my more demanding walks I measure the level of my fatigue, but most importantly, I measure my sense of self-respect and self-care that the exertion represents. I’m the better for the test and the commitment. Likewise, we as individuals and as a nation are all aware of the many benefits for attempting to face down the defining challenges of this era along with the creativity of new, beneficial technology and social behaviors that have evolved.
We will continue to need to push up and over the next “slog hilsl" of fatigue and reckoning in our lives. But these recent "slog hills" of fatigue and reckoning have often poignantly reminded us about what is truly important and, if we are fortunate, they will have instilled in us a commitment to build on what we have learned about what needs to be confronted and changed to make us stronger, more just, and more resilient.
Future roller coaster “slogs" must yet be endured and overcome if we want to continue to be fit and sustainable. May we have the physical and moral strength to rise to those challenges.