Thursday, February 2, 2017

Undefeated

Elizabeth Gilbert tells about her efforts toward becoming a published writer. Each time she received a rejection letter, she would mail her work to another publisher. She calls it an attitude of stubborn gladness. It seems there are people who take set-backs very seriously, and those who take them less seriously. I’ve tended towards the former, feeling set-backs are meaningful (See? You weren’t cut out for this.) and foreshadowing (This dream will not pan out.) They seemed like hard, cold facts. Evidence even.
But then there’s Liz and other optimists. If they can respond so differently to obstacles, and sometimes find fulfillment, then perhaps it isn’t evidence at all. Perhaps it’s just the road to giving up verses the road to a chance for success. The first approach boasts, “I’ll outsmart fate by not dreaming or trusting the odds. I can avoid disappointment entirely.” The problem is, you’re disappointed from the start. We're built for dreaming and seeing dreams come true, so by cutting that possibility out of our lives, we’re already gutted.
So what’s the alternative? Trust the odds. Or not just the odds, trust the universe, the larger plan, your purpose, God. Believe there’s more to life than what people esteem and more to our purpose than what our cohorts consider purposeful. Gilbert decided from the beginning never to expect her writing to support her. She promised to support it. She also knew she would write til the day she died even if she was never published. She believed her writing/her creativity had existential value and she did it for love of it. Unconditional love of it.
When rejection letters arrived, one after the other, they didn’t stand a chance of dashing Liz's hopes. They couldn’t convince her she was wasting her time. They were, on some level, superfluous to what she was doing. So while her track record could have been 0 in 300, she was undefeated.
Stubbornly optimistic.
Stubborn gladness.

This concept has ridden into my life like a hero on a white horse. I needed this anyway, but so much more with the mood of our country now. I hesitate to go on social media because I feel wiped after three minutes. How do I stay aware and ready to act without feeling sucked under? How do I enjoy life's blessings while others go without? I guess this has always been the case, but right now it feels the only acceptable response is grief, anger, disillusionment and shame for the security we enjoy. But here's the problem.

In yoga, there's talk about vibrations (low verses high). This all sounds pretty hokey and unscientific to the average westerner, but think about it. Anger and fear are low vibration, while joy is high. When you're in a place of low vibration (or low energy), you can't think up brilliant ideas or problem solve. When I get overwhelmed, even simple solutions elude me. We just aren't much help to anyone when we go there. 

However, high vibration or joy, is a place of strength. The joy of the Lord is our strength. How likely are you to fall off the wagon if the wagon is the most fun you've ever had? When we're in joy, we can stand strong and do good. Big good.

So I'm flexing my muscles. I'm painting paintings and listening to music and yoga-ing my heart out. It may look irreverent, but I'm keeping my vibration high so I will be ready. 

Ready to love my neighbor if it becomes illegal.

Ready to play the trickster to anything or anyone targeting people in the margins.


Stubborn gladness. 

When it seems impossible or even inappropriate, maybe that's when it's needed most. Tuesday, Brian and I sat in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant eating amazing food. People came and went: a man with a man-bun, a new mamma, an academic and a businessman. Different cultures, different genders, different orientations and certainly different world views. All of us together, peaceful and happy, appreciating the presence of the other.

I thought, "Look at us. We're doing this." It's so freakin' beautiful. I wanted to memorize it, appreciate it more deeply for the realization that it's fragile. If one thing's good about this moment, it's that many of us have decided to be guardians of good in a more conscious way than we ever have before.


Let's do so with stubborn gladness and we'll not be defeated.



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