Celebrate the gifts only you can give! Sharing a favorite post from 2015. Enjoy!
One of the great challenges of the virtuous life is dodging the doubts that creep into our thoughts. A speaker I heard yesterday named some of them: You’re no good. If people really knew the truth about you, they wouldn’t want to be with you. You can’t do that.
When I was eight, I came to love Beethoven’s sixth symphony, the Pastoral, because it told a story plain as day without paint or words — using only musical instruments. I told my funny grandfather that I wanted to be a composer when I grew up. “Don’t bother,” he said, “all the good songs have already been written.”
Fast forward to now. The doubt that visits me most is, “You’re not as good at this as other people, so why even try.” Writing and giving talks gives me great joy because I get to share with you the treasures I have found pursuing the virtuous life. I have found solidity, clarity, peace, and freedom in learning to think and behave from a place of love instead of fear. But, still, there are tons of people more qualified to communicate this than I.
To the rescue comes Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007) in A Circle of Quiet. After reading something she wrote, her husband commented, “It’s been said better before.” How to recover from that?! Her reply to herself (and us) is, “Of course. It’s all been said better before. The thing is, it has to be said by me….We each have to say it, to say it in our own way.”
This frees me to say and do what has been said and done before, better, with everything I bring to it and everything I lack. The choreographer Martha Graham (1894-1991) said, “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.”
Our dance is to live out what has been said and thought and done before in the way that only we can do – while remembering that it is not our words and actions that are the core of the dance, but rather who we are. “Who we are” is what we bring to every situation and it would be sad to listen to our doubts and fail to nourish that core however we can. How sad it would be to miss out on our own life!
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) wrote, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
The key is in the last line “with too high a spirit.” This high spirit that overcomes the regrets of yesterday, doubts of today, and fears of tomorrow comes from plugging into the Holy Spirit, for whom there is no yesterday or tomorrow, but only the eternal, creative now.
John E. Brown
My lovely mother, not nearly as poetic as Emerson, simply advised her family, “Never look back!”. Sage advice indeed!
Maybe not as poetic, but your mother got right to the point! I know she looked back in love, but never in regret or woulda-shoulda. Great lady!
Oh my gosh Rose, your words really hit something in me! Thank you for these wonderful insights you, and the others you quoted, gave us. I’m feeling ready to write a novel, run a marathon, and save the world!!! But first I’m going to drink my coffee and walk my dog. Thank you so much, it has really turned on a light in my head and heart.
Sr. Mary Grace
Really great, Rose. It is so encouraging to just be who I am not be concerned about what I am not. Thank you.
I agree — thinking about what I am not (and never will be) takes precious time away from giving who I am today.
That means drinking your coffee and walking your dog IS how you’re supposed to help save the world this morning!
A very profound article, thank you for sharing. It helped me to realize that more important than our skills, knowledge, abilities, talents, knowing that we are a child of God is what really counts each day. With the light of Christ in us our doubts and the doubts others have about us quickly fade away. We begin to believe that God can take the impossible situations in our lives and make it possible. Today, you are so blessed to be a both a composer and writer. You are such a beautiful testimony of what God can do. God bless you.
Thank you for the additional rich insights. Yes, Christ makes everything possible that we are meant to do.
I just copied Martha G’s quote so I have it on my computer and printed so I can read it often.
And I’m sending this post to our Carmelite Group and my family.
Merci mucho, Rose, this is Magnificent !! You are a good example of exactly what this says. Patti
Hi Rose, wrote a long comment with great delight and when I pressed send the electricity went off. No trace of the post !! But I loved Ms Graham’s words and am forwarding to others. Mucho mercis, Patti
I’ll just enjoy imagining all the wonderful things you almost shared with everyone. :)
Thomas W Roberts
The eastern half ou our university campus is devoted to the Arts and Sciences, history, philosophy, music,mathematics, chemistry and the languages. The western half is devoted to research started by an obscure Augustinian monk who twice failed the exam for a teacher’s certificate and who’s research was ignored for 35 years. His name was Gregor Mendel, now considered one of the greatest scientists of all time. Today every life scientist knows the Mendelian laws of genetics which propel research from biochemistry to cancer. Did he have confidence? We don’t know. What we do know is he had curiosity, passion and perseverance.
What drove him was some of the stuff that drove Mother Teresa:
“Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.”
“In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
Often, because of the daily messages of discouragement, we’re not prepared to take on some of the good that comes our way. Last week my wife and I were driving through the countryside by ourselves, at last. I turned to her and said “You look gorgeous!” She replied “Thank you anyway.”
Thanks for (St.) Mother Teresa’s quote, whicht I consider to be “the great equalizer” — “It is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
Your wonderful post, reminds me of this quote by Miguel Ruiz:
“Be Impeccable With Your Word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
Thanks for sharing your words. dd
Thank you, Dan. A great reminder not to speak against ourselves!