Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Willingness to be Strong

My friend Stephanie Bass, writer and strategic planner, had just come from her yoga class. We were having lunch at Logan's, a garden store with a cafe in an old railway station.

She and I started a group about ten years ago that we call Mystic Pizza. It's a bunch of what might be referred to by others as New Age types who meet for lunch once a month to discuss things metaphysical. She missed the last lunch. We were catching up.

Her news from her inner world: the yoga class had been turning into a struggle, especially with poses that required upper body strength. UNTIL she recently had the thought: I AM WILLING TO BE STRONG.

Since then, she has had far less trouble. When she hits a tough spot, she tells herself she can go a little farther. And a little farther. And when she hits a wall, she just stays comfortable there.

As a result, she has become physically stronger. And the attitude is spilling over into the rest of her life: a bit more calm strength than she thought she had, which leads to more still.

I guess I wanted to tell you about the location of the restaurant, The Seaboard Cafe, because both the willingness to be strong and the surrounding plants and the fact that we got much-much-needed rain today all felt so healthy and refreshing.

I feel stronger and more clear-eyed just from the conversation.


Charlotte said...

As a regular lurker here, Peggy, I thought I'd turn up today to say hi. I'm going back to yoga tonight after many months away, so I will remember to be willing to be strong!

Debra Whaley said...

Hi Peggy,

I am getting ready to log off for the evening, but I just wanted to comment on this post.

I really like your friend's perspective on this because I often find myself "hitting a wall". If I manage to push past it, just a little bit, then I find that I end up having a lot more faith in myself. It is a good feeling that reinforces self-empowerment.

Thank you for sharing your conversation. I, too, feel more inspired just by hearing it secondhand!

Peggy said...

Charlotte, thanks so much for stepping forward. I hope the return to yoga went well. You're probably feeling it today. I like that after-exercise soreness. I hope you'll speak here again.

And about hitting a wall, Debra, I ran into another good thought about that in a novel by Frank Conroy about a musician. As a student, the main character would feel he had gone as far as physically possible with the limits of his hands and the piano keys. His teacher said: imagine yourself through to the other side of the wall, and that will mysteriously take you farther than ever before.

Debra Whaley said...


I really love that example! What is the name of the novel that you found that in? I am going to write that one down, to keep close at hand.

We are dealing with lots of fires out here in So. Cal. today. Any prayers or good thoughts would be so appreciated. It is so smokey that it almost appears to be snowing at times. It is really horrible.

Stephanie said...

There's something about having lunch with Peggy that makes a person feel wise.... and that makes a single observation ripple ever outward.

This business of being willing to be strong has been reverberating in my skull for more than a week now-- it turns out to be rather scary. As some of the other posts have indicated, once the mind is willing, the body will often follow. So for one accustomed to taking easy 'outs' on the physical level, the idea of "willing" strength implies that weakness is a failure of the mind as much as the body.

And THAT, my friends, hits the squeaky spot in the floor where I thought my actual strength WAS--my mind.

So I find myself in an analytical training loop-- which element needs bolstering? The mind? The body? Which one is convincing the other to give up too soon, take the lazy way out?

And then I find myself haunted by a ghost of '50s-era upbringing--will people like you if you are strong in so many ways?

I wonder what Hillary thinks.

Peggy said...

Jeez, I posted a comment here a couple of days ago that didn't show up.

I was answering your question, Debra, about the book with the "wall" story. It's Frank Conroy's novel, Body and Soul.

I also mentioned in that message that I'd gone, with my friend Dan Wakefield, to the pub party for that book which was held in one of the side rooms at Carnegie Hall. And Frank Conroy played terrific swing on the piano. It was a memorable night for me.

Peggy said...

And Stephanie, I'm so glad you added the next chapter in the story.

That business of will-they-still-like-me is really tough.

Well, yes, we will. But for most women, it's hard to take that in.

Once in my 20s, I read a book by some great psychology-of well-being theorist, who said that what an individual needs is love and mastery (of some kind of work.)

As I read, I sat there thinking: the greater my mastery, the slimmer my pool of partner candidates is likely to be.

The friend who'd lent me the book, saying it helped him tremendously, was a man. This was in the 70s when the Second Wave of feminism was still new. And I was a bit perturbed, not for the first time, by the conflict.

But the bottom line was and is: if we hold ourselves back, we sabotage the relationship by our resentment. If we fully self-actualize, we stand a better chance of being with the partner...and friends...who wish us the best.

One more thought: On the podcast interview I did on the Design Your Writing Life blog, I noted a number of self-deprecating comments I made. And I'm now in my famously-forthright fifties. It's hard to break a habit.