Tag Archives: Perseverance

What I learned from my aunt

In honour of my aunt’s 80th birthday, I’m re-posting a piece from a few years ago. Blessings to her again!

A woman on guitar beside a toddler on piano
Aunt Erma and my daughter entertain – 1997

My Aunt Erma celebrates a birthday today. She is a strong woman in a family of strong women. I’m proud to say that when the women in our family have an idea or a purpose, stand back.

From her I learned:

  • How to be authentic – You might not agree with my Aunt Erma’s opinions on any given matter, but you can be certain to know what they are. She never puts on airs or hides her true feelings behind a façade of false politeness. I admire her forthright approach to life and the authentic soul I see because of it.
  • How to tell a tale – My aunt has had many stories published in the local paper, and her writing group—The Henscratchers—published a book. I appreciate her ability to capture life in a story or a poem.
  • How to weather a storm – She has had more than her share of uncommon heartbreaking events in her life—the kind that knock you off your feet for more than a few days. I respect her strength and resilience in bouncing back, picking herself up and carrying on.
  • How to entertain a whole room – Give my Aunt Erma a guitar and some elbow room, and she’ll happily provide the songs for the night. She and her sisters (including my mother) have sung together at community events. I envy her enthusiastic ability to sing out without inhibition.
  • How to teach with calm assurance – My aunt was the kind of teacher who kept order in the classroom and expected the best from her students. She’s petite, so her authority came from her manner, not her stature.

There’s a whole lot of power packed into a diminutive woman in my Aunt Erma. I would say that she’s like her mother in that regard (my grandmother), but I’m not sure she’d like that. .

Like all strong women, she might have ruffled some feathers over the years. More than one person might have shaken their head and said, “Oh, that Erma . . .”

If I can live authentically, inspire with calm assurance, weather life’s storms with strength, live to tell the tale and entertain a whole room with songs, then I will be happy to ruffle a few feathers along my own way.

Book Cover for Pick of the Crop by the Henscratchers
The book published by her writing group.

Hasten slowly

I spent time in my garden on the weekend. I’m creating a new pathway beside my house—a project that requires heavy lifting and dogged perseverance on my part. The work reminded me of a post I wrote in September 2011: Hasten slowly. I decided to share it with you again, because I like the sentiment so much.

______________

hasten-slowly“Hasten slowly and you will soon reach your destination.”   —Milarepa

I came upon that quote in Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron. When we busy ourselves doing something that we really believe in but rewards are slow coming, it is easy to get discouraged. Whether it is raising money for a good cause, writing a book, or facing another day with a troublesome co-worker,  sometimes we just need a little push to carry on.

But, how can we hasten . .  . slowly? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

And yet, it seems we do. When I think about it, every valuable part of my life has come to me out of hastening slowly.

    • A university degree: scribbling notes and typing assignments during caffeine-driven all-nighters—for four years
    • A thriving marriage: career juggling, whirlwind vacations, chasing around after toddlers, paying down the mortgage—for 22 years
    • Children: pacing the floor during sleepless nights, car pooling to hockey games, gritting teeth at parent-teacher interviews, wanting everything to be perfect for them—for, well, forever
    • Published writing: handwriting first drafts, transcribing messy second drafts, editing, reading aloud, pacing, getting up in the middle of the night to change a word—for days, weeks, years

No matter what the destination, to get there, we need to hasten, and then wait.

To create the perfect garden, we hasten to plant the seeds, remove the weeds, water the seedlings, and slowly a beautiful garden appears. To learn to play “Moonlight Sonata,” we hasten to the piano bench and play, practise, play, and slowly the music smooths out to a beautiful melody. When we learn to speak a language, we hasten to recite the verbs, converse with friends, practise the accent, and slowly we come to think, live, dream in the language.

And if we stop typing, juggling, paying, pacing, gritting, planting, weeding, watering, playing, practising, reciting, conversing—if we stop hastening—then we never reach the destination.

Whatever your destination, hasten to it, and slowly you will arrive.

How the universe answered my request for perseverance: Fun.

Photo courtesy of RozSheffield from Flickr

Photo courtesy of RozSheffield from Flickr

Have you ever had an unusual and timely answer to a plea or question?

I spent the weekend at a Healing Pathway workshop. During one session, I had to ponder an intention. It didn’t take long for mine to bubble up.

I needed a push to persevere.

Being a writer isn’t easy. Every day I receive feedback from someone about something I’ve done wrong. It could be as simple as a misplaced comma or as a grand as a challenge to my central theme, but no matter how large or how small, every negative comment dents my armour. Most days I’m strong. I accept it as part of the job and use it to better my work. But every once in a while, all those dents blast a hole. When feedback tells me, over and over again, I have failed in some way, or my writing is off target, or “not what we’re looking for,” or just plain “not good enough,” I wonder why I do it.

In my daily life I get paid to write in a corporate environment. I’m not passionate about the subject for which I get well paid. I am passionate about my creative writing, though. My short stories and my blog stir my blood—and garner very little financial compensation for me. Lately, that frustrates me. I’m supposed to follow my bliss, right? All the self-help gurus say when you’re doing what you’re supposed to do, money flows to you. Why the disconnect? What gives?

What. Is. Up. With. That?

I carried my frustration and discouragement into the weekend. Why bother with all this creative writing? Life would be so much easier without it, really. I said to the universe (or God, or whatever you choose to call that mystery we’re all trying to figure out): “What do you have to say to me about perseverance?”

At the end of the day, I climbed into my car, turned the key and the song “Carry On” by Fun. blasted out of my radio.

Let it never be said that the universe doesn’t have a sense of humour.

My favourite line from the song: “May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground.” What a profound, inspirational blessing. The line fires me up and rekindles my spirit. In ten years, or 20 years, no matter what happens, I hope to look over my shoulder at the past and listen for the sound of my feet upon the ground, step by step, going somewhere, taking action, doing something, trying. Persevering.

Hasten slowly

“Hasten slowly and you will soon reach your destination.”   —Milarepa

I came upon that quote in Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron. When we busy ourselves doing something that we really believe in but rewards are slow coming, it is easy to get discouraged. Whether it is raising money for a good cause, writing a book, or facing another day with a troublesome co-worker,  sometimes we just need a little push to carry on.

But, how can we hasten . .  . slowly? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

And yet, it seems we do. When I think about it, every valuable part of my life has come to me out of hastening slowly.

    • A university degree: scribbling notes and typing assignments during caffeine-driven all-nighters—for four years
    • A thriving marriage: career juggling, whirlwind vacations, chasing around after toddlers, paying down the mortgage—for 22 years
    • Children: pacing the floor during sleepless nights, car pooling to hockey games, gritting teeth at parent-teacher interviews, wanting everything to be perfect for them—for, well, forever
    • Published writing: handwriting first drafts, transcribing messy second drafts, editing, reading aloud, pacing, getting up in the middle of the night to change a word—for days, weeks, years

No matter what the destination, to get there, we need to hasten, and then wait.

To create the perfect garden, we must get out there and plant the seeds, remove the weeds, water the seedlings, and then wait. To learn to play “Moonlight Sonata,” we must put ourselves on the piano bench and play, practise, play, and then wait. When we learn to speak a language, we must recite the verbs, converse with friends, practise the accent, and then wait.

And if we stop typing, juggling, paying, pacing, gritting, planting, weeding, watering, playing, practising, reciting, conversing—if we stop hastening—then we never reach the destination.

Whatever your destination, hasten to it, and slowly you will arrive.