Soft, Not Strong.

The older I get, the more I think it’s not about how strong we are
but about how soft we become.
The more I meet people the more I want to know what formed them
what hurt them
and what still hurts them,
and how their soul is moved and affected and changed by the suffering?

It seems that we’ve gotten really good at being strong
but we have forgotten how to stay tender
how to stay sensitive
when the tide comes and washes over our wounds
we’ve gotten really good at turning ourselves into shells
Hard, unbreakable shells
that can’t see or feel anything
over time
And maybe we’ve come to believe that that is the point
and that’s what we have to do
in order to survive
but that’s not the way to a full life
I’m beginning to know that now

And I didn’t know it back then and so I turned myself into a shell
a really strong shell
that looked pretty on the outside
but there was no life inside
no feeling
no caring
no hoping
or believing for anything
on the inside.

For many years, I was just a shell
a hard unbreakable shell
afraid of feeling and loving and living
and now I know better
I know what a lonely and unfulfilled existence that is
and so slowly I’ve opened up my heart and let the light and the feeling back in

I’ve decided that I’d rather be the palm tree that droops and sways
and almost breaks
by the storm
than to be forever lifeless and unmoved and unchanged
by it
I’d rather be the flower that blooms and
bends and gets trampled on
and rises again
than to become
like the rocks
underneath it,
hard and unshaken.

I’d rather stay tender and risk getting crushed
than to become so strong
that I don’t feel anymore

I’d rather stay soft and feel and believe
that even if I get momentarily bruised and buried and broken
I will rise again
brighter and more alive than I was the day before
I’d rather take the plunge, feel the fear, allow the damage
and trust that in the process I’ve become
more God-like and human and compassionate and aware
than what I’ve been

This is after all what changes us.

So when I meet you at the park or the coffee shop
I’m less interested in how strong you’ve become
and what you’ve survived
but rather in how soft you have stayed
through the pain,
How much have you allowed it to mold you, break you, change you
and how much do you still feel?

What do you still cry and ache and long for?
What do you still care about so much that it hurts and keeps you up at night?
What still makes you angry
and what after all this, would you still risk
What are you still willing to do and to feel
and what depths are you willing to go to
for the joy
of simply being here
of waking and living and breathing
and helping others do the same?

The question is not how hard and how strong life has made you
but rather how sensitive you have become in the suffering
and that my friends, is so much harder
It’s so much harder to walk until you can’t touch bottom and let the waves
wash over you
trusting the work that it will do in you
than it is to stay where you are and proudly proclaim
It’s much harder to let yourself enter and to feel
and to be honest with what is happening
than to quickly slap a band aid over it
and hope it heals
before anyone notices

It’s much easier to walk around with our bandaids
and to show only our good sides,
and our strong points
and not what’s underneath
that makes us afraid
It’s easy to show the world our scars and our badges
never telling the truth behind
our stories and our symbols of strength
because it’s much harder.
It’s much harder to admit
what almost killed us
and what still kills us
and how it changed us
and how it’s still changing us
and how we’re not the same

we’re never going to be the same

but we are still beautiful
and we are still useful
and we are still here.

And so I wonder, what would you risk for being here and for still having some feeling
and what will you show me
all the weathered pride and outer shell
of your inpenetrable strength and your false sense security?

What are you willing to give in exchange
for your soul not becoming calloused
and for you not living a nice numb life on the shore
but to be engaged
in spite of the pain
fully activated
deeply involved
forever changed
and changing

And that’s what I want to know when I meet you
I want to know how you have changed,
no matter how thick or strong or impressive your shell is
I want to know how you see the world differently
because of your pain
because of your frightening and sad and near death experiences
and because of your bravery
and remaining sensitive
in a world that makes it so easy to do the opposite
I want to know all the ways in which you have become softer,
and how you have managed not to become hard and removed and apathetic towards it, but how you have stayed willing and hopeful and curious

I want to know, not what has kept you strong
but what in all your longing and endless dying,
has kept you here
hopelessly, breathlessly, wholeheartedly
fully alive?


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