I distinctly remember, as a child, looking at the cover of Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory and thinking: those words are what I want. In particular I gravitated towards glory (I’ve never been very interested in power). That’s what I thought I wanted to be able to say I’d had at the end of my life. Glory.
The words I lean towards now – as goals, ideals, inspirations – are very different. They don’t have the glamor or the sparkle of glory. No, the words that I hold onto, and aim for, now are humble. Nice. Peaceful. Solid. Steadfast.
This last word in particular has been in my mind since I read the following words from Pema Chodron:
How do we cultivate the conditions for joy to expand? We train in staying present. In sitting meditation, we train in mindfulness and maitri: in being steadfast with our bodies, our emotions, our thoughts. We stay with our own little plot of earth and trust that it can be cultivated, that cultivation will bring it to its full potential. Even though it’s full of rocks and the soil is dry, we begin to plow this plot with patience.
Sadly, to my own disappointment, I am far from steadfast. My footing is unstable, I am blown around by the winds, I feel insubstantial. I want to be more sure, more certain, more definitive. I want to trust, in myself and in the world. I’ve written before of how I give up before things even get hard. This is a theme in my life, and one I am quite ashamed of: it is rare that I grit my teeth and just stick it out. Unless, of course, I really have to. I think of Grace’s birth, or my most recent half marathon. Both of those were things I truly thought I could not do. But somehow – in the former, I didn’t have a choice, and in the latter I was determined not to walk, as I had the first time – I pushed through the resistance to the end.
How do I develop this determination, this commitment of spirit and heart? My friend Pam writes – as usual, gorgeously – about realizing that she, too, has not fully committed to herself. In the woods, during a trail race, she found reserves and commitment within herself. Her words made my eyes well with tears (okay, fine, they usually do) and I recognized myself in them.
While I am not at all sure how to become more steadfast, I am certain that the effort is about gradual, not sudden, growth and change. I must let my few but important episodes of seeing something through become a well I can draw on, a source of strength, a reminder that I actually can stick it out. I don’t know what else to do other than to keep trying, even as I stumble, to inhabit my unassuming, yet urgent, words: nice. peaceful. solid. steadfast.
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