N.B. This draft is four years old. FOUR. I’m both appalled that time has vanished, and kind of proud that these sentiments still hold true. I’m going to post it below, unedited and unfinished, as a time capsule unaffected by my experiences since – which are hopefully the subject of a future post.
Endurance is one of the primary Mysteries of Sigyn, the Lady of Compassion. It’s one of those things that sounds so simple in theory, yet can be so difficult to actually accomplish in practice.
It’s worth noting that there are various layers of this virtue. At its most basic, it is the Nyd-fire instinct to simply survive; that hanging-on-by-the-fingernails because Letting Go is something that one simply Can or Will Not Do. Above that is what I call the “Screw You” level – basic survival with a side dish of awareness, because the sun may not rise again tomorrow but by golly it’s going to not-rise to find you Still Hanging On.
Further layers are, I think, somewhat more fluid and personal. Some endure out of duty or obligation, some out of optimism, some out of spite or a wish for revenge. Some even endure out of fear, or a sense of fatalism, or a feeling of powerlessness. It’s interesting to note, here, that it seems rare for any one of these lower-to-middling levels to sustain one for any length of time – or, at least, not without causing some sort of psychological problem. Even though endurance is generally regarded as a positive virtue, to mindlessly engage with it for an extended period of time, without examining oneself and one’s assumptions, reactions, and motivations, and thinking of how to move on to something better, can still cause a great many problems (the least of which would be an inability to consider change or progress, if the reliance on one’s own form of endurance has become too ingrained, and the worst of which could be the emergence of some form of long-term problem such as an Anxiety or Dissociative Disorder, or PTSD).
The higher level, the point at which we move from virtue to Virtue, if you will, is the sort of endurance that is, at its pinnacle, the stuff of myth and legend, of hero and martyr, the endurance that happens because it’s the Right thing to do, and to step back from that Right-Doing would be a greater personal suffering than whatever pain or misery one is required to endure. It is, above all, a conscious choice to stay one’s course, and it is this mindfulness that makes the difference between endurance as an instinct, as a coping mechanism, as an obligation, or as an ideal, and endurance as a Mystery and a Virtue.
I say “the higher level”, but the Virtue of endurance isn’t simply heroic, the sort of thing one does under dire threat and in moments of crisis. One of the most profound lessons one can learn from both Sigyn and Holda is that Small Things Matter. As above, so below – or, as within, so without, and vice versa.
Sometimes the big, dramatic demonstrations of endurance are the easier ones – having something to fight or defend against can be a catalyst for strength one didn’t know one had, even in a long, draining, exhausting situation. Most of us a more likely to encounter the endurance of day-to-day living, of holding together a household and a family (biological or otherwise) – the endurance of repetition, of routine, of the slow march of desired improvement and security for oneself and those one cares for. What rewards there are in that are slow, and quiet, and often quite impersonal. It can be hard to know that one is on the right track, let alone able to continue so, when the evidence that one’s endurance is actually worth something is usually so unspoken and incremental.
I’ve done my share of lower-to-middling level endurance. I’ve made mistakes with it; hung on when I ought to have let go and taken some rest and healing, failed to move on when the opportunity arose (because in the survival/fear mindset, opportunity = risk, and risk is too dangerous to be trifled with). On the other hand, I’ve maintained my obligations and some degree of independence when (apparently) many others would have thrown in the towel and abrogated all responsibility. I’ve always thought it was because no matter how bad things were today, they could always get better tomorrow, or next week. Things could always be changed.