Cool Martha. This stalwart woman. Arms outstretched to welcome the gusty north winds of Lake Superior in October. Hair blowing wildly away from the imperfections of an elder face; wrinkled skin welcoming the moisturizing spray of the waves. Head held high, daring the cold day to send her inside when outside was dressing her with all the reasons to remain just there, planted firm on the soil of her Scandinavian ancestors. Carpe diem! Seize the day! Oh, it was a grand day to be alive!
Stalwart: “…marked by outstanding strength and vigor of body, mind, or spirit.” (Merriam-Webster)
Stalwart synonyms: bold, courageous, dauntless, fearless, gutsy, intrepid, undauntable, tenacious
Oh, to be that woman today!
It can take but one change to bring a stalwart to a dead stop.
I sigh as I write this, because I have learned over and over that some change is inevitably going to invite me into the next lesson that is just waiting for me to be ready. It always does. For all of us. We’re not meant to rest forever on our laurels when life is good and nothing unwanted can touch us. Life’s movement is always forward.
The good news is that I sense that stalwart still is hanging around, ready to be reclaimed. The kinda unwanted news is that it still takes some time to grow into the new place where I’m meant to be. No magic wands. Just time and attention.
So here was the change that robbed me of just about every ounce of my stalwart woman status.
On November 30, 2019, I lost my 16-year-old Medicare drug prescription benefit. Uffda! My generic cholesterol drug was listed at over $700 for my three-month supply! Good Grief! I discovered it in mid-December. I immediately went into full-blown panic.
The panic ebbed and flowed over the next three weeks as I negotiated the problem. My last phone call, where I had my iron-clad case ready to make, took 24 hours of stomach-churning terror before I lifted the phone and tapped out the number.
And learned that I had already been reinstated as of January 1!
Did I say that I was relieved? I was saved from the poorhouse. I could breathe again! Life could go on as it had for the past 16 years. I could forget about how vulnerable and scared I’d been. Go back to normal. Ah, yes, normal.
Enter stalwart! I said, “Enter stalwart!”
Finding only silence.
Waiting for my resilience to kick in.
Anticipating the return of my lovely calm.
Instead, I still live with the nagging reality that life turned in a different direction in those weeks, an entirely strange direction that I didn’t ask for.
That direction was into an unexpected and unwelcome vulnerability. But I wasn’t doing vulnerable any more. I’d rocked that long ago.
So I thought.
So what was this new place? This place of dis-ease that has challenged my sleep, my appetite, my sense of well-being and order?
No familiar patterns of recovery were working this time. I’ve been stuck.
Then I happened upon Father Richard Rohr, a modern Christian mystic who has enlightened me more than once in the past. I also happened upon Eckhart Tolle, another modern mystic whom I’d never listened to. Thank goodness for YouTube!!!
And wow! Suddenly, I’m being reminded that these times – of dis-ease, of unsteadiness, of confusion and change – are the very times when the Spirit that lives in us is preparing us for the next road that we’re ready to take. And we won’t even think of taking it as long as we’re comfortable and safe and think we’re in charge. As long as we’re in-vulnerable. Like stalwart woman thought she was.
I was reminded that the “false mind,” as Rohr names it, craves certainty and control, that it hates mystery and the unknown. It is the ego that wants its own way and will go far to achieve its way. It doesn’t find itself without drug prescription benefits! And it sure doesn’t do vulnerable.
I was reminded that the “true mind” takes center stage only when we are ready to get out of the way so that it can “arrive” of its own accord. When the next step on our life journey is just ahead. When the conditions are ripe for the change that is just over the horizon.
I was reminded that it is in silence that we discover the Spirit again, the Spirit that has always been with us. I don’t have to “think” about it, which is discouraging, because I love to think my way through stuff. Truth: I overthink everything!
No, when the dis-ease of change hangs on, I remember (again!) that I do best when I just give myself over to a wordless silence over which I have no control. But which will guide me on this new path.
The Spirit in the silence will be my teacher.
The Spirit in the silence that simply reminds me of how deeply and completely I am loved. And how that Love will take my vulnerability and my need for control and overcome them with the assurance that I am not alone. That perhaps a new kind of stalwart awaits its birth.
I’ll be reminded that life is still good. And it’s going to be good in some new ways as soon as I get used to living more bravely with the vulnerability and the fears that can be pretty strong forces in elderhood.
I believe that I shall find a new kind of stalwart. In its time. Meanwhile, hopeful is good. Silence is golden. And in the words of another mystic, Julian of Norwich, all shall be well…and all manner of thing shall be well.
And I’m reminded all over again that grace always bats last.
And I’m very okay with that.