This post is from my archives.

climbing.jpgWinston Churchill once wrote, “The heights of great men reached and kept, Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upwards in the night.”


I love that quote. And I remember it throughout my day. On many days.

Because even as the milestones–landing a job, celebrating 20 years of marriage, publishing a book–garner the praise of family and friends, the harder work happens in those invisible moments when no one but you sees the struggle: to beat back all the resistance to good health, and to say yes, over and over again … to do the harder thing consistently and continually in the name of recovery.

Today was one of those days where my discipline was left on the curb with the recyclables.

I didn’t want to get out of bed. I had plenty of reasons not to. But I thought of Winston’s quote and how this moment was most probably one of those instances where courage could push me toward better health, or laziness could swing me around and into the danger zone of the Black Hole. I could vegetate the whole day and no one might notice, but by tomorrow I could very well be crying.

So I sat down at the computer and slogged through a piece . Although I preferred to order a pizza for lunch and finish it off with some mint-chocolate chip ice cream, I ate a salad with the right kind of nuts for an Omega-3 blast. And I finally mounted the stationary bike after my neurotransmitters whispered in my ear that they’d hang out with me all afternoon if I listened to the soundtrack of Rocky while I peddled.

I stumbled all day long, walking toward better health with the grace of a kid wearing leg braces. Each decision required courage and stamina. I never stopped wanting to give up– to give in just this one time, and do the bad brain things: sleep, wolf down simple carbohydrates, stay sedentary, and let my brain atrophy.

However, I arrived at the end of the day with some successes, and I realized that it’s definitely not the noteworthy achievements that should be celebrated. It’s the days where you choose over and over again to get well, even though the other side is beckoning you to sleep in, eat pizza and ice cream, skip the exercise, and unplug your computer.

Churchill was right. The heights of great people aren’t reached in spectacular leaps or sudden flight. They take place in the mundane decisions on rainy days, when no one but the one fighting has a clue about the war of wills taking place, of the battle being fought in the name of health.

Originally published on Beyond Blue at

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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6 Responses
  1. Colleen

    Hi Therese-
    I’m a fan and supporter and always look forward to your pieces. But I have to say for the first time, a phrase you used rubbed me the wrong way– “the grace of a kid in leg braces.” Not cool. I’ve worked with children with severe and profound disabilities for 12 years and am here to say, they are some of the most graceful creatures on the planet.

    I thought your use of that phrase was tone-deaf and outdated…a gentle suggestion….maybe practice some gratitude that you do not have children who need leg braces.

  2. Pat

    Thank you for this reminder. I am recovering from hip replacement. Doing really well, but today hit that low point that wall, that was a needy hole that couldn’t be filled. This is part physiological but stepping forward is the right path