Though I fully accept the gift of prophecy and "hearing from God" I'm not quite sure how I would perceive her today if I were to time warp myself back 20 years. But I was thinking today of something she once told me after praying for me. She said that the Lord told her of three things I needed to pray for: patience, fortitude, and perseverance.
How can you really go wrong, praying for any virtue?
But here I am, twenty years later, thinking about those virtues and the prayers she and I offered for them at the time and later. I have to tell you that I was hoping for a more exciting word from God at the time. What 20-year-old wants to pray for patience? Or imagine what sort of future lies ahead for which one needs these strenuous-sounding virtues?
Just the other day I happened to look up a definition of fortitude, and found this:
The virtue of fortitude, or courage, is firmness of spirit, steadiness of will in doing good despite obstacles in the performance of our daily duty. It suppresses inordinate fear and curbs recklessness. Because fortitude also moderates rashness, it is the special virtue of pioneers in any field.
Fortitude is the obverse of temperance. Where temperance limits inordinate desire for major pleasures such as food and drink or the marital act, fortitude limits inordinate rashness and fear in the face of major pain that threatens to unbalance human nature.
I was struck especially by two things: the notion that fortitude is specially linked to pioneering, and that it is the obverse of temperance. I don't know what I am pioneering, but that word resonates with me quite a bit. And I also see that while culturally, temperance seems to be the virtue everyone feels the need for, I almost feel like I need to drain off excess "temperance," which is really another way of saying I have a huge, ongoing need for fortitude in simple daily things.
Immediately after the Tea Party in April, my family had dinner with our speaker Jim Babka and his family. It doesn't happen all that often that I am thrown into this kind of social setting where I am to strike up a conversation with someone I have never met and barely know, but with whom I have some common experience. So it was interesting as I found myself talking about my life with him. In this unusual setting I noticed a trend developing. We were talking about the fact that I threw together this Tea Party in three weeks pretty much on my own, and that I had encountered a few scary glitches along the way. Then we discussed the fact that we chose unschooling as an educational method. Jim seemed familiar with this approach as well, and noted that a lot of people get scared off by it. We talked about the fact that I moved to Japan by myself and lived for 2.5 years in the midst of a completely difficult foreign culture with very limited language skills. At one point Jim commented that it seemed I liked to do scary things. I nodded and said "Yeah, it sure seems that way, doesn't it?"
I could add a few things to the list as well that others might find scary, like uprooting from two different religious systems and eventually joining the Church I thought I had hated, giving birth at home, and others. Heck, people even tell me they'd be scared stiff to cantor at Mass.
When I look at my life objectively, I see how patience, fortitude and perseverance have played out in my life thus far. My life is so different from when I was 20 that I can't even count the ways. The funny thing is that I still see myself as one who is in desperate need of courage, especially in small things. Dialing that stupid telephone, for example. Going down the street to arrange a playdate for my daughter. Joining a conversation where two people are already talking. These things, oddly, often require the sheer steeling of my will. I suppose if they didn't, well, I wouldn't be me, and I would be struggling with something else!