Delycia and I welcome people into our home every so often for tea or dinner, and I am realizing that I should be more welcoming to the thoughts that move through the home of my mind. A steady line of thoughts constantly passes through my life, and I want to learn to welcome them all, even those filled with fear or dismay or discouragement. What I am slowly understanding is that my thoughts are not me, but fairly frail and short-lived whispers that will slip smoothly away if I just stand aside, observe them in a welcoming way, and then let them quietly leave. I could welcome thoughts of fear, for instance – politely listen to them, let them take their time passing through, and then see them to the door and down the road. I’m learning that thoughts are as harmless as I allow them to be – simply evanescent voices that will soon disappear if I stand by with something like a smile.
Below are scenes from our wonderful walk on Sunday with Aaron on Mt. Ascutney (NH) …
In my experience, a lot of guys get satisfaction from saying something like “I can do this, man!” It might be “I can lift this 100 pound weight!”, or “I can climb this mountain!” or “I can do the Boston Marathon in my wheelchair!” However, I don’t recall hearing a guy shout something like “I can accept failure!” or “I can handle being hurt!” Many males of my generation grew up with the idea that toughness means always defeating something – overcoming a towering obstacle, or beating incredible odds, or crushing some enemy or other. Life is a battle, we were taught, and better to take the winner’s ribbon than the loser’s shame. Luckily, in my 79 years I’ve slowly learned a different definition of male toughness. I’ve seen that there can be as much heroism in defeat as in victory, as much gallantry in welcoming and learning from loss as in taking pride in triumph. Growing up, I was taught that being vulnerable was a sign of male weakness, but now I see that there’s bravery in staying open to being hurt, in allowing myself to live, and learn from, a full life, complete with big wins and ruinous losses. Guys who accept vulnerability with poise are prepared for a gallant kind of victory. Men who can make honest failure a badge to wear and a teacher to learn from have the truest kind of toughness.
IN TOUGH, FL, USA
In Tough, Florida,
the mornings are always resilient,
ready to take your troubles
for a carefree stroll by the shore.
Freedom, in this stout town,
is found even in every problem,
even inside the prison of sorrow.
Even weakness is indestructible in Tough.
The frailest hospital patient
can carry fear like it's a little feather,
and old, wobbly people
are as powerful as the stalwart surf.
If you think life is harsh,
come to Tough
and see how unbreakable kindness is,
how sturdy and solid patience can be.