On Weakness and Fragility
I woke with a nervousness around my heart. An inability to handle stress and to feel easily anxious is one of the symptoms of my current ailments, and not one I like to talk about. I mean, who wants to hear someone whinge and moan about their fragile little feelings regarding the minutia of life? We’ve all got bigger fish to fry. There are real problems in the world, and people dealing with real issues. Thus the voice in my head admonishes me for putting any attention on my feeble complaints. Only the big ones are deemed worthy of contemplation, of time, thought, and energy. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with disseminating and categorizing. If one doesn’t prioritize, life can be taken over by things that don’t really matter to the one living with them. But it makes me feel small and incapable of handling anything of real importance.
I woke with a nervousness around my heart. A kind of faint tingling that grows with the slightest provocation. An irritating email, an impatience in my husband’s voice, a misunderstanding of the tiniest type, and the tingling expands down my arms and grows more intense. Like a burst of unwanted energy, or a slight electric shock that leaves me drained and forlorn. These are the last vestiges of effort by my worn out adrenal glands. Like me, they’re trying to do their best. But in putting out such effort, they only exacerbate the problem. And what is the lesson there?
I woke with a nervousness around my heart. It got me thinking about weakness and fragility. If I am not strong and wise, what do I have to contribute? What use am I? I checked in with the oracle, Google, and asked, “Is there any virtue in weakness and fragility?” A lot of Christian sites came up, sharing the key ethics of prudence, courage, moderation, and justice. I asked about other religious ethics, since I am of no particular faith background. Muslim ethics were markedly parallel - wisdom, courage, chastity, and justice. The Jewish Encyclopedia pointed to the early Stoic influence of wisdom, courage, temperance, and justice. I’ve been sniffing around Stoicism for a couple of years now, appreciating it’s logic and commitment to emphasizing the best of humanity. Coming from either a religious or secular perspective, I could get behind these virtues.
Prudence is practical wisdom, and wisdom is something I strive for every day - in what I read, what I observe, what I say, and what I do. I am committed to growing and expanding my capacities as a human being, even when I’m weak. Courage does not require a lack of fear, but rather the commitment to act in spite of it. It can be argued that one cannot be courageous without fear. That would be mere bravery. And so my fragility, my concern about breaking, is no hindrance either. I just need to keep moving forward, despite my current sense of inadequacy. Moderation, chastity, temperance. These point not to an absence of something for me, but to balance. And balance is key to my wellness. Finally justice, a sense of fairness, is one of my core values. So it seems that even with these unwanted feelings of mine, I can still lead a good life. A life of purpose and meaning.
I woke with a nervousness around my heart. I was worried that I would have nothing to write this week, feeling the way I did. But then I remembered that the point of this blog is not to have answers or give advice or appear superhuman. It is exactly the opposite. Despite the countless books and blogs and tips and techniques on how to get ahead, life is not a to-do list. It is an experience. The best I can do for anyone is to share my very human experience. To shine a light on my weaknesses is to allow others to do the same. Not to emphasize or glorify them, but to share in our experience, to see our similarities, to allow them and us to be okay. What would life be life if we stopped trying to fix ourselves and each other and cultivated compassion instead? Rather than trying to fit into an inhuman mould that someone else created, what if we understood that we are whole, without ever having to change a thing? I think, quite possibly, that may be important.