Aug 27, 2008

On Never Giving Up

by Anna Arnett

The other day as I prepared to get into the shower, a little black spider moved purposefully across the white rim of my bathtub. Now, I'm not against spiders in general, but sharing my bath with one seemed a little much, so I grabbed at a washcloth and attempted to scoop it up. I thought I had succeeded, for the porcelain lay bare and shining, but when I opened the cloth, it was also pristine. This wily spider had simply disappeared. Yet, a hand towel lay in the corner, and I gingerly lifted and opened it. There was the same spider, climbing steadily up the towel.

Okay, I thought, I'll drown him out by simply turning the water on full blast and holding the towel underneath. Still, every time I checked, the plucky spider still clung to the towel, and forged on up, though having been forced downward considerably. After the third or fourth time, my aversion turned to awe. That brave little spider deserved to live. I placed the towel gently toward the back of the tub, expecting the spider to move. But it did not. After all that resistance and difficult work, my spider had given up and died. Somehow, I felt a twinge of loss, bordering on feeling bereft. If only that small spider had managed to hold on another second or two.

How often, I thought, have I put in hours, days, months, and even years on some project or other, only to give up before I'd completed and polished it? How much of my writing is just a few hours away from submission? Was it King Alfred who got his inspiration from watching a spider work endlessly to swing its web high enough to catch the aimed-for crag? Perhaps my empathy for the spider may yet bring me to work with more tenacity, and know the joy of not only submission, but also acceptance and fulfillment.

By the way, my family is helping me celebrate my 84th birthday anniversary this Saturday. I'm pleased and rather proud to acknowledge every year I've managed to keep breathing. I'm also chagrinned that I have not accomplished more--or rather, completed more. But there's hope for another year, during which I might continue learning from such lowly things as spiders, and simply keep hanging in there.


  1. Happy Birthday Anna. I had a similar experience early on in life though not so drama since it was a movie. But it centered on this guy who's plane crashes in the snowy mountains somewhere. And he perserves through horrendous conditions and finally gives up and lays down to die. The camera pans out to show just 10 feet away and up over a small mound was a ski resort. I saw that movie when I was 22 and still remember it clearly. Nevah give up as Churchill said.

  2. Happy Birthday, dear Anna!!! I love your analogy. I felt your emotion and admiration for that little spider.

    I recently learned that the groundskeepers at the Mesa temple don't kill anything on the grounds...not even the nasty biting ants. My reverence for the little buggers increased tremendously. (I still don't like them, however.)

  3. I had an experience in my garden last year. I was picking green beans and saw a preying mantis. I carefully picked around it because I know they are "good" bugs. Later as I went into my house with my arms loaded with veggies I felt something crawling on me. I quickly, very quickly brushed it off while flinging the zucchini across the room. I saw that it was the mantis. I carefully helped it outside. Then my dog ate it...I was so sad, but had to laugh. Instinct, you know.

  4. Thanks. I chuckled, too. I'm reminded of Bobby Burns' poem, "To a Mouse" (or something like that). The two lines I remember are:
    'The best laid plans o' mice and men
    Gang oft aglae." (if I spelled it right.) which means they go wrong. Which mine do so often, which means I'm still alive.


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