There Is No Armour Like Perserverance

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THERE IS NO ARMOUR LIKE PERSEVERANCE

Someone, sometime, somewhere, said that. I wrote it down on a scrap of paper and every so often I find it. Or shall I say it finds me. It’s uncanny or just the way the world works when we’re not looking that it always presents itself at exactly the right moment. I imagine it shuffles forward, diving through all the other scraps of paper on my desk, unnoticed, until that moment when it lands on top of everything else and says “READ ME.”

Armour: We all know the #1 definition of armour  - The whole apparatus of war collectively; military equipment, both offensive and defensive; arms, weaponry.

Here is the # 5 definition per the Oxford English Dictionary - Mental or spiritual defence or protection; a quality, trait, characteristic, etc., which provides this. Now rare.

How unfortunate to be losing this definition of armour! I was walking in a cactus garden with a friend recently and she pointed to a large tree which had all these spiky sharp things on its trunk. She said “Look how beautiful!” then opined, “We need that kind of protection.” Indeed. Some kind of natural protection that could ward off the unwelcome intruders, the digs and jabs, large and small, that get under our skin, worm their way into our soul and erode our confidence. Sometimes it’s the littlest thing that people say in the breeziest of ways that cut the deepest. Like. “You can’t carry a tune.” Or. “One day you’ll be pretty.” Or. “You’re terrible with money.” Or. “Don’t even try, it will never change.” Or. “Your best wasn’t good enough.” Or. Or. Or. Whatever it is, you find yourself branded with these pronouncements for life.

If we had armour those things would bounce off us like water off a duck’s back. Animals come with protection. Sharp teeth, legs or no legs, wings, smells, stings, claws, speed, flight, burrowing, climbing. Humans have thin skin and no other discernible protection, except...for our minds. A friend’s meditation teacher says there are two types of experiences, ‘pleasant and unpleasant,’ and she encourages her students to whisper the appropriate word when encountering one or the other. Just name it. Pleasant. Unpleasant. Soon you realize that all experiences, all moods are always changing, flowing from one into the other, passing over like clouds in the sky. To name in a calm inner voice instead reacting is using the mind. Building armour.

 

THERE IS NO ARMOUR LIKE PERSEVERANCE

 

Perseverance: constant persistence in an undertaking; steadfast pursuit of an aim.

Persevere:  to continue steadfastly in a course of action especially in the face of difficulty.

It’s etymology is from severe: austere, grave, morally hard.

To persevere is simply to continue on. I say this to myself a lot. “Just continue on.”

Whenever I read this quote I think of turtles. Disclaimer: I think about turtles a lot. I love everything about them. They are my totem animal. I’m convinced I’m leashed to a turtle. Turtles are the best symbol for perseverance. For 230 million years they have been taking their slow walk across the earth. They can live up to one hundred and fifty years. They can survive through most all swings of temperature. They hibernate and don’t move for months at a time. They have a bony shell calcified with keratinous scales, similar to our fingernails. And we all know they can withdraw into their shell whenever they want. Like diving down into bed and pulling the covers over your head. Now that would be a good trick! Whenever your skin feels especially thin and vulnerable to soul crushing encounters just pull the blanket over your head until you decide to come out. And for learning perseverance and patience there is nothing better than watching a huge tortoise cross a patch of earth toward a leaf of lettuce. When I watch these creatures move, at their glacial pace (with global warming can we use that metaphor anymore?) it reminds me to slow down, to pay attention. Remember the tortoise and the hare? The tortoise just keeps on going, while the hare gets all distracted, running around, so sure he’s going to win he takes a nap, and dreaming of winning he wakes up to realize he’s lost.

 

THERE IS NO ARMOUR LIKE PERSEVERANCE


The quote always makes its way back into my field of vision when I’m feeling quite sidelined by difficulties, setbacks, extreme doubt, obstacles, lack of inner and outer support. Knowing that perseverance arises from the word ‘severe’ is helpful; as in when things are grave - the place of burial literally and metaphorically - when they are morally hard. This is especially the moment when we need to persevere: To continue on, to find a way through, to pick oneself up, to call on our spiritual beliefs, our humour, our kindness toward others, to do the right thing even when it is the hard thing. I sit. Recall. Become mindful of all the many ways I have gotten through before. All the experiences of perseverance that have created this lovely armour that I sometimes forget I’m wearing, it’s so light, so invisible. This armour. It is our shell, our spiky trunk. It is made of strong stuff. Like the thread of a spider’s web. It will protect us.

So persevere. And know you can fly.