Friday, August 19, 2011

The Power in Perseverance

I guess that one of the really invigorating things about life is that we get the chance to continually experience strife, learn from it, suck it up, and finally re-inspire ourselves. If it weren't for this process, I must admit that life would become pretty routine, and we'd never get the chance to re-experience that wonderful feeling when life again seems fresh, bright, and full of promise!

It certainly was a difficult fist half of the summer... so many questions about potential cancer in my liver (jury's still out on that), frustrations with my healthcare provider, and an entire laundry list of personal bullshit that I find no longer serves any purpose in re-treading. Anxiety and I don't make good playmates, so I've recently, and once again, focused on letting go of the stuff I can't control and have instead decided to center my positive energy and hard work on the things that I can. And, at the end of the day, leave the rest up to a higher power in the hopes that the positivity I put out into the universe will return to me.

It seems this summer has been tough for a lot of people... it's certainly easy to look at the world as a whole and believe that all the horrible things happening are directly tied together, and reflective of the turmoil within ones' own soul. But even if this were true, wouldn't it behoove each of us to cultivate a positive energy and hold that mirror up to the world? Certainly we can't do much about the high-pressure shelf hanging above Texas like dead weight, causing what will prove to be the worst drought on record. As individuals, we can't do much to fix the U.S. economy or downgraded credit rating. Mind you, these are very real problems, and in the long-term picture, we've all got to work together to fix the root of these issues. That not what I'm talking about here. What I'm talking about specifically is letting go of fear. Letting go of anxiety. Fearlessness cultivated through maturity, not carelessness. It's about knowing what challenges are in store for us, and meeting them head on for lack of any other option.

Let's say you have to get over to the other side of a river, and the only way to get there is by crossing a bridge. You can't really get there by going backwards. Collapsing into a nervous heap isn't going to help you cross either. You sure as hell don't want to jump off the bridge. Your only option at this point, it seems, is to move forward. Now, the bridge itself may even collapse before you make it. There's no way to know. But you do know that you won't get across any more quickly by worrying about it!

I often think of the character of Perceval in early English Literature. In later interpolations of the story, this guy was the knight in King Arthur's court who went out with all the other fellows in search of the Holy Grail. Perceval himself wasn't the most talented, cunning, fiercest, or bravest of all the knights. But after everyone else had failed or given up many years later, it was Perceval who held true to his quest and achieved the Grail, thereby restoring health and prosperity to the ailing king and the land itself.

This is a basic precept of the hero's journey, older than the tale of Perceval itself. It is reflected in much older manuscripts such as St. Thomas' Gnostic parable, the Hymn of the Pearl, and in even earlier scripts such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and many others. But the story is always basically the same. And these mythological contexts, these heroic journeys, resonate enough still to apply to our own lives.

So, I guess what I'm saying here is: Stick with the program! And don't be a wuss about it. That's really about it, in a nutshell. Look, we all have strife. We all have tragedy. We all fuck things up pretty badly occasionally. But that's what life is all about. Learning from it and improving ourselves. Overcoming obstacles. Trying, as we might, to achieve our full potential. Nobody is born perfect. Unfortunately, that's actually about as close to perfect any of us will ever get. But we can strive for perfection, even knowing that we can never fully achieve it. Therein lies the beautiful, wonderful, terrible truth.


  1. Wow Pat, thank you so much for sharing this with us. I am sorry to hear about these health issues and will keep you in my prayers. Your words are full of truth and I'm glad you shared them-- life is full of pain, tragedy and strife, and it is easy to become overwhelmed, depressed and to let fear take you over. Our biggest struggle is often not with our health, finances, or romances, it's with the negativity and fear that make us question ourselves and lose love for ourselves.

    It's easy to feel that life is unfair, we can't change things, we have no control over our lives, but quite the opposite is true... we have tremendous power to channel our energy into light, love, hope, gratitude, and to generally be positive about the future, rather than deciding that this or that will go wrong and there's no use in trying.

    The only thing I disagree with you about is that "Nobody's perfect." I actually wrote a song that tackles that exact sentiment...

    Just the Way We Are

    I was always told “nobody’s perfect,”
    “we all have our flaws,” “we’re only human”
    Only human

    I was always told “don’t take to strangers,”
    “look out for dangers,” “don’t wear you’re heart on your sleeve”
    We must try just to get by

    And I was told “if you can see the glass half full,
    What a wonderful world it would be”
    But I was also that that “this world is cold,”
    “Nothing is fair, nothing in this world is fair”

    So I made my way through life, and I found lots of pain and lots of strife
    Always worryin about my flaws
    And I’m only human

    But I wondered to myself “What’s the good and what’s the use
    Of always believing that nobody’s perfect and wishin’ I was someone else
    What’s the use?”

    But I sure have learned a lot
    Like not to worry about the things I’m not
    And I have found beyond a doubt that everybody’s perfect
    Just the way we are