Kind promise: I will be tender with weakness.

Guess what? Weakness is not a topic our culture embraces. It is something we want to move through and get over. I was looking for quotes to enrich my thinking on this topic and it was difficult to find gentle responses to weakness. That is what I invite myself to do this month.

mother and newbornOne of my meditation teachers, Susan Piver, speaks of the firmness of our spines and the softness of our bellies. Our human bodies are combinations of strong and weak. We are born completely dependent and needy, grow toward independence and power and age into dependence and need. They say that history is written by the winners. So too, our cultural values are framed by those at the zenith of their power. We idealize growth, independence and strength. We would rather not consider decline.

Baby boomers are aging. Perhaps in another 20 years popular magazines will begin to talk about decline and weakness. Right now, in their 60s, boomers are thinking about wisdom, service and discounts. These are not bad things, but their aging bodies will change their priorities.

My own agenda is different. Living with chronic illness means living with weakness. I exercise to slow decline, not build strength. In the last six months I feel I have made a shift from feeling well most of the time, being occasionally conscious of my illness to feeling ill most of the time with occasional good days. My emotional response has not been helpful. I am angry, impatient and judgmental about my weakness. I want, through sheer determination, to escape it. This. Will. Not. Happen.

Deep breath.

An alternative is self compassion.

I like the phrase “tender with weakness” because of the double meaning of tender. I am tender about weakness in the same way a muscle is tender after a wounding. Touch it and it hurts. Bearing the pain is part of the healing. I also want to be tender about weakness as we are tender toward loved ones: “delicate or soft in quality – not hard or tough.”

Imagining how to respond tenderly, I enter yet another contradiction: pushing toward softness will result in hardness. I have to set my intention and then let go.

A Message to my Weakness

I want you gone.
I long for optimism
that once was mine.

Yet no amount of wishing
makes it so.

What now?
You and I are here
We have no existence
apart from one another.

This “I” who speaks to “you”
is an illusion.
We are one organism.

What now?
Let’s gather each other up.
You and I and me and you and us
Let’s embrace
with tenderness.