Different kinds of strength

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.

Show Comments