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We’re all tough people

TRAVERSE CITY — I heard a sportscaster the other day describe a pro athlete as “tough.”

He didn’t define what he meant but I assume he meant the guy plays through pain, rises above adversity etc. – the usual jock stuff.

Cynical Andy thought, “Well, of course he does, he’s paid $20 million a year!”

Besides, you and I play through pain, so to speak, every day. We rise above adversity. We don’t cave into pressure. If we did, we’d never get out of bed in the morning.

So, where is our sportscaster telling us how “tough” we are? If we’re smart, he or she is in our head, but few people give themselves credit for being tough.

But we are. To live is to be tough, I figure.

I have several friends, for instance, who have been battling cancer for years. They’re tough, wouldn’t you say?

Other friends have lost parents, grandparents, friends or pets in the last year. They stumble but they don’t crumble. They grieve, endure the pain and get on with living.

That’s tough.

I know people who are fighting addiction and depression, in some cases both. I know people who are chronically sleep-deprived or perennially anxious. People who work three jobs. People who endure the indignities of age. People who are trapped in poverty. People who are transitioning. People who have been disappointed by life. People to whom life has been completely unfair. People who are battling self-doubt. People who have had numerous surgeries, both major and minor. To me, any surgery is a big deal. But my mom, for instance, once had surgery but didn’t tell us about it until after the fact. “What the heck, mom?” we said. Her answer: “Eh, it was no big deal. I didn’t want to worry anyone.”

That’s tough. Crazy, but tough. All the people in that last paragraph are tough as hell.

Life is mostly a joy, if we’re doing it right. But it’s also difficult. Day in and day out. No one has it easy. For instance, I know a million moms and dads with young kids, full-time jobs, elderly parents and endless demands. They are all ordinary – yet completely extraordinary – people.

They’re also really tough, although no one ever tells them so.

Toughness is all around us, not just on a football field or basketball court. Small example: Many people I know have horrible, horrible bosses. (Bad bosses seem to be epidemic these days. Why is that?) Others have jobs that bore them to tears. Others have had industries and careers crumble beneath them mid-life, which, let me tellya, ain’t easy. But do they give up and quit? No. They retrain. They move on. They start a business of their own. They find a way.

Because that’s what tough people do.

Tough people take what life gives them and fights back. Tough people go around, under and through. Tough people get there early, stay late and stick to it. Tough people hear that little voice inside their head that says “You’re not good enough” but they get up every morning and do life anyway. Tough people soldier on. Sometimes they just endure because sometimes that’s all you can do.

Toughness comes in many forms. It’s not just reserved for jocks.

We’re all tough people, I figure.

Maybe it’s time we gave ourselves some credit.

— — —

Andrew Heller, an award-winning newspaper columnist, appears weekly in the Daily Press. He graduated from Escanaba Area High School in 1979. Follow him at andrewheller.com and on Facebook and Twitter. Write to him at andrewhellercolumn@gmail.com.

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