In my most recent Soul Writer's circle, the theme was 'softness.' Two poems came to meet me in this reflection. The first poem wasn't about softness, but about strength - and how softness can be another kind of strength.
My relationship with softness is multi-faceted. Sometimes softness feels painful - a collapse of ourselves when our desire to belong arises, especially in the face of other people's strength. At other times I see how softness - the capacity to be soft in the face of discomfort or stress - is a profound gift.
While I wrote this poem, I remembered something I'd read from Sy Safransky, the founder of The Sun magazine. He describes how there can be different words for tears. This made me wonder about different words for strength - and also fed this poem.
"Just as the Inuit have different words for snow on the ground and snow in the air and snow that drifts, maybe we could have different words for tears. Tears we'll forget by tomorrow. Tears we never cried but should have. Tears that fall from our children's eyes. Tears that fall too quickly to wipeaway." - Sy Safransky
Different Kinds of Strength
There are different kinds of strength.
There's the strength that lifts a heavy
load and the strength that muscles
through disaster. There's the strength
of the young pregnant woman, her arm
around her belly, standing at the side
of the road, asking for change.
And there's the strength of enduring,
of making pancakes and paying
the water bill and cleaning up
the dog mess, one more time.
There's the strength of breaking
and the strength of being broken.
There's the strength of rising and
the strength of allowing yourself to fall.
There's the strength of picking up
the pieces and the strength of refusing
to piece together what wants to come unglued.
I want to know how strong I am,
and in that strength, how soft. And I
want to know how soft I am, and in
that softness, my strength.
When I want to be strong but crumble
into softness, I sometimes feel ashamed, as if
I was given a test I couldn't pass. Am I missing
something other people have? Or was my heart
made too fragile, too prone to breaking? What
I most want to soften is how I see my softness.
What I most want is for that to become my strength.