This has been a hard week.  My managing editor got sick and we had to cancel our weekly meeting.  Then I got sick and had to take a day of rest.  Then a dear friend got sick and was suddenly hospitalized.  All this while facing the added challenge of moving.  Last night on Facebook, my friend Leila said I was the embodiment of grace under pressure.  In truth, I could have said the same of her and of many of my friends.  The idea of grace under pressure, for me, may just be the simple act of following through in whatever situation I am given.

First of all, maintaining grace under pressure is not possible without having strong people around you.  Without support anyone of us would fall apart.  This week, I have had to call on many of my friends for counsel and guidance, and all of them have been generous with their words and ears.

My ex-partner, who remains a very good friend of mine, told me yesterday that one of his friends recently lost his partner.  In the memorial announcement, the surviving partner wrote something that reminded my ex of the way I used to speak about the universe: “I am going to try to keep anything I say at his service positive and avoid my tendency to be negative.  That is the legacy that [my partner] gave me.  He taught me to work hard at staying positive and told me that if I asked for trouble, the universe was surely going to do as I asked.”  My ex ended his email to me by saying, “Keep thinking positive.  The universe is listening.”

How often do our own words come back to haunt us?  In this case, how often do our own words come back to remind us of who we are?

Keeping a positive outlook may just be the guise I give to following through in a situation, that is, I might simply be doing what I am asked to do.  Here is what I mean:  I once went to the 7:30 p.m. mass at St. Thomas’s church in Woodley Park with my friends Lindsay and Nicole.  This was long after I had ended my relationship with the Church — a long, meaningful, and painful relationship — so my friends knew I was going with them to spend time with them, not necessarily to commune with the congregation.  During the mass, Father John gave a homily that addressed the importance of having faith in whatever call or commitment beckons us.  He said, “When you are asked, say yes.  When you are called, go.”  These few words had a profound effect on me.  They suggest that anything before you is meant for you, and anything asked of you has been determined by your ability to answer.

Since that Sunday evening I have used Father John’s words to guide my actions at work and in my relationships.  If I am asked to do something, it is because a colleague values my capabilities.  If I am asked to go somewhere, it is because a colleague or friend values my presence.  Saying yes and going have opened many opportunities for me, doors that have led to more doors.

This week has been hard, but rather than think of the adages “everything happens for a reason” or “this too shall pass,” I prefer to think, I said yes to this week, and I am capable of answering whatever challenges it has in store for me.  And I know that along the way, I’ll be greeted with the support of my friends.


4 thoughts on “Grace Under Pressure

  1. I saw your blog linked from facebook and clicked thru to read the post about Natalie Portman in Black Swan. That was one of my favorite films of the year by far — it was beautifully haunting. After that I scrolled to this post and saw the title.

    One of my favorite things about the Hemingway legacy is that his mother instilled in him that courage is grace under pressure. (I love Hemingway and his legacy enough that choosing something to be a front runner was difficult for several years.) I use it as my mantra to get through so many things: stressful meetings at work, personal trials, and family situations. I catch myself almost floating out of my body and looking down on the situation at hand saying “grace under pressure, grace under pressure, grace under pressure” over and over again until the situation subsides enough for me to get a handle on it.

    Anyway, I love this post and hope that you don’t continue to need quite as much grace to get through the pressures of your current situation for too long. I’ll be in DC the first week of April — we have to meet up at some point!


  2. Zach, I loved this entry. I think about this topic a lot, maybe because I study Grace in my practice of yoga, but more likely because teaching requires Grace, demands Grace and cultivates grace every day. I think being in front of students alchemizes the of life – maybe it is what you speak about -the being there for others – that creates the heat that shifts and opens and eventually evaporates the sharp edges. I am inspired by what you wrote.

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