…as a mule, goes the saying. Inflexible, pig-headed, obstinate, a failing in one’s character. Not a compliment. On the other hand, there is sticking-power, resilience, never giving up. Now those are more positive.
We are a family of stubborn people. If we believe in genetics, it’s mostly my fault.
When my daughter, Anna, was nine, she and I had huge rows about piano practice. She would play her piece once and claimed she was done for the week. I remember screaming at her, ‘If you’re this bad now, what will you be like as a teenager?’ (Actually, much better – her teenage angst came early). We called her stubborn but recognised that one day we would call it strength of character. We do.
Stubbornness leads to the desire for high standards, not to accept second best. My husband, Tony, is now adept at intercepting burned cakes as they head for then rubbish bin and pans of lumpy custard about to be thrown across the kitchen. (He hates waste, especially where puddings are concerned.) Actually, I don’t need to do everything well. I’m happy to be a poor cyclist and accept I have no sense of direction. But where it matters, it matters.
I have to win at Scrabble. I am a terrible loser. A series of losses (and I admit, they happen) sends me into a serious decline. But I stick at it.
Recently, my ‘resilience’ was tested. Tony and I walked half of the ‘Coast to Coast’ path, from St Bees in Cumbria to Kirkby Stephen. (We’ll complete it next year.) On the second day, I had a bad fall. I toppled backwards, knocked Tony over and we both rolled off the path for a couple of metres, stopping just short of a stream. It could have been thirty metres and I would not now be telling the story, stubborn or not. I hit my left knee on some rocks but I could walk so nothing was broken. As the pain increased and the knee swelled and stiffened, I realised I was in trouble. The remainder of the day is a blur. This was Day 2 of 7. A long-planned adventure we both wanted to complete. I could not let either of us down and I knew that if I gave up, Tony wouldn’t continue.
My knee was bruised and double its usual size. I dosed myself with ibuprofen and paracetamol and plastered the knee with pain-killing gel. Stairs were difficult but I was still moving the following morning. Armed with my medications and a hefty dose of bloody-mindedness, I carried on.
By the end of the week, my leg was purple from mid-thigh to my toes. But that only increased the sense of elation when we reached our goal. As we popped the cork on a bottle of champagne, I toasted stubbornness.
One last thought on the subject: while I know the stubborn traits in my family – the children and possibly grandchildren – may be due to me, I am not totally responsible. Perhaps stubborn people marry equally stubborn partners. I say no more.