Well, I had written a letter to send out on Thursdayâ€“but I’d written it the previous Sunday, the Sunday before the horrifying events of Wednesday, January 6th. I did not have the heart to send out what was a nice letter but wholly inappropriate to the day. And I felt mired in the muck of Wednesday, unable to write or accomplish anything.
I, like most people, have a very difficult time maintaining equanimity in the face of terrible events. Equanimity or “mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation” is challenging in the best of times. But in the face of huge, painful events, it’s easy for the healthiest of us to fall into despair, become stuck, angry, or depressed. There are those whose words we can look to, however, heroes who continued to rise above and keep going. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of those. He once wrote,
â€œIf you canâ€™t fly, then run; if you canâ€™t run, then walk; if you canâ€™t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.â€
And his life exemplified that very thing of moving forward, stalwart, in the face of racism, scorn, and danger.
On Thursday, in my despairing state, I listened to a short meditation on equanimity by Roshi Joan Halifax. As a mantra, she suggested the wordsÂ strong back. I like this because it’s simple, understandable, and easily imagined as a symbol of strength of character, self-containment, and yes, equanimity. A strong back holds us upright, enables us to do many things, ensures that we remain rooted in who we are and what we believe. We don’t waver; we don’t collapse; we are who we are, regardless of what’s going on around us.
Soft front (gentle heart), strong back.
â€œLet no man pull you so low as to hate him.â€ – Martin Luther King, Jr.
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on myÂ website. And if you like this letter, you’ll find past letters and poems here.
It’s nice for me to think of you out there, reading this. I hope we all weather this crisis with soft hearts while standing strong for what is right.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”