Debunking stoicism

I’ve hummed and hawed over writing this down for a few days now, until something I read set me free.

What led up to this was a weekend of walking the streets of London.  My legs have been weak and unsteady for four years now, but I was convinced that I could soldier on.  It was as soon as the first evening, that my horrible reality kicked in, and literally (almost) knocked me off my feet.  My husband and I had to cut short our walk to Piccadilly Circus and the alluring lights of the Chinese quarter to go back to the hotel.

I cried a lot then – frustated with my bad health, my inability to walk confidently, and especially, the impact it was having on everyone close to me.  The second day, I still walked more than I was capable of, and was practically bent over myself by early afternoon.  It was only the next day, after having to sit down after a short time on my feet, that I got out my stick.  I decided that the humiliation of staggering into people was greater than leaning on a stick.  It helped, but of course didn’t miraculously strengthen my legs.  We made it to Covent Garden, and sitting on a bench in a church yard there, I remembered a bench by a lake four years previously, where it had dawned on me that I had a serious problem.  There was a reservoir of tears in me.  They come out sometimes, but mostly I push them down, not wanting to distress anyone else, hating the weakness that they show.  Or the weakness I thought they showed.  After the first bench, I went to counsellling, and the insightful lady there said

‘You know Ruth, it’s alright to grieve your loss of health’  That really, really helped, and the memory of those words still help me.

Following my second bench last weekend, I was given more wisdom.  It was a book called Lament for a Son written by Nicholas Wolterstorff following the death of his 25 year old son in a mountaineering accident.  The thing that liberated me was this:

‘But why celebrate stoic tearlessness? Why insist on never outwarding the inward when that inward is bleeding? Does enduring while crying not require as much strength as never crying?…And why is it so important to act strong?…I shall look at the world through tears.  Perhaps I shall see things that dry-eyed I could not see.’

I truly hope that is true.

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