Padre’s Corner: Hanging in there when I feel like letting go

St. Brendan’s Chapel at Stadacona. CFB HALIFAX

Padre’s Corner: Hanging in there when I feel like letting go

By Lt(N) Padre Graeme Carruth,
MFRC Chaplain

I recall an experience I had just after finishing basic training. I was an 18-year-old AB (S2 in today’s Navy) and the unit was doing late winter war games in Borden. As we approached the end of the exercise, I was among the exhausted many. That’s when it occurred to me that, were I to be ‘shot’ then I’d be ‘dead’ and could spend the rest of the exercise hanging with the other ‘casualties’ out of the cold and elements –with actual coffee!!

A very tempting prospect.

How often in life we can find ourselves feeling like we just want to pack it in. Maybe our relationship isn’t what we imagined, or maybe it feels stale. Maybe the career course or the posting, the promotion or the deployment we were expecting passed us over – again. Maybe that ‘lovely person’ we have to work with did not get posted out this year, etc. You know the reasons, because some version of them from time to time hits us all. And when this happens, the urge to ‘pull the pin’ can feel overwhelming. After all, we think, ‘what could be worse than what I’m going through now?’

And let’s be honest, sometimes that’s really true. Sometimes we really are better off making a change. But far more often ‘letting go’ ends up meaning ‘losing out’. At least that’s what I discovered on that long ago Winter Ex.

While I didn’t quite do that First World War thing where I wilfully let the enemy shoot me to get sent home, I certainly lost my will to carry on. And sure enough, in a moment of inattention, someone picked me off.

For me, the war was over, and I went to the “dead-tent.” Given the things I had to look forward to I should have been happy. I was out of the elements and there was actual coffee.

The trouble was none of my friends were there! They were all still in the field enjoying the camaraderie of shared purpose. And though I had company in the tent, it was kind of like being dead. No one had anything to do, and of course no one was allowed to leave, so the mood was as somber as a graveyard.  And worse still? The coffee was cold!

In no time, all the things that had looked so inviting while I was slogging in the field fell far short of my expectations. I soon found myself wishing I’d been more alert and not been shot. Things became more depressing when at the end of the Ex my friends, the majority of whom had survived, were all bubbling with ‘war stories’ of things that had happened after I’d been removed from the game. And just to salt the wound… they all got fresh hot coffee!! I suddenly felt like an outsider with my own gang.

I guess what they say about the grass always appearing greener on the other side of the fence is true – you might get there and discover it’s just as yellow and patchy as the lawn you just left.

I suppose what I discovered is that even when the going is tough, it’s often worth slogging on. Let’s face it: No matter what we do, there will always be boring, aggravating, disappointing or even upsetting times. But what I discovered is that there really are also rewards that come with hanging in there through those times.

It’s been many years since I was that 18-year-old new sailor. But when I’ve remembered to apply what that experience tried to teach me, I have tasted the victory of hanging on through the temptation to let go, and enjoyed other experiences and fellowships that I didn’t even see coming.

There are times when it is wise to cut our losses and move on. But often the greater gains come from having the courage and fortitude to hang in there with our current relationships, employment, and activities, and working to make what we already have into the best it can be.