Around my blogosphere circle, there have been some interesting discussions about choosing a word, a character trait, a virtue, as your own special word for the year. Someone likened it to a star to follow. Others have described it as a key for prayer and reflection, a way of bringing some focus to faith and growth. I didn’t pay much attention, I must admit. I’ve been busy, I continue to slowly but surely catch up on all the things that I fell behind on as I got through the hard days of the end of the year. It’s not that I want to dismiss something as faddish or think it’s a trend to avoid. It just wasn’t something that called me in any way.
Today I pushed myself. I pushed myself pretty hard with the walking. One of the nice things about inhabiting my life now is I recognize a lot more parts of myself that I used to ignore. One of them is how competitive I am. I don’t say that out loud much, but it’s the truth. My favorite way of dealing with competitions, especially as I learned about it with my uber-competitive older brother, was by bowing out, not finishing, or not even playing. Signing up for this half-marathon walk has meant accepting that I am anxious not that I won’t walk the full distance but that it might take me too long to win the medal-thing they apparently give you if you complete it in under four hours. I started out to increase my distance when I set my route for today.
But at 6:30 this morning, when I began to actually walk, the nagging anxiety had the chorus of itty-bitty-s&*^%y little voices getting me good and worked up so I thought, what the heck. I am going to push myself. If I get into a comfortable stride I’m going to try a little harder–not too much, but I’m going to try. And then, when it was clear at 8 miles that even with a good pace, I still had strength left, I pushed a little more and altered my route enough to put in the full 9 miles.
Sometime about the time I had come off the 17th Street Causeway, a word began insinuating itself to me. I had not been listening to any music, and wasn’t aware of thinking much of anything but this word formed inside my head, persistent and insistent. Endurance. Yes, I thought, I am building endurance. From there, I thought, I need to look up the etymology of this word. With lots of time on my hands I broke it down in my head. En-dure-ance. Right there in the middle is the key–dure. In Spanish, the word for hard is duro. I imagined it was derived from something like dure and endurance is related to hardened.
Over and over, the word tumbled in my mind and with it all kinds of associations. I wish endurance wasn’t related to being hardened. But the truth is, this year has hardened me. When I stand and touch one of my legs, it feels like steel now. I like that and I don’t. I have a lower tolerance for games people play and my own. I am less sentimental. Les Miserable was cloying to me. Give me some asperity any day. Endurance tumbled this way and that. I remembered the prayer I wrote about in this post with that beautiful line, “Bring me the courage to endure what cannot be avoided for your will for us is health and wholeness”. I have no idea how long I spent on this, and then, as if all along, there’d been a sifting, a process of discernment, I started thinking about El Camino de Santiago, that amazing pilgrimage pathway in Spain.
One of the last wonderful conversations I got to have with my friend Michael before he died was about his pilgrimage. I remember him telling me about choosing boots carefully, trying dozens on before he found a pair that almost immediately felt comfortable, and how he put vaseline on his feet every day and never once got a blister. But it was the journey to his own heart that I was so privileged to get to hear about. As he told the story, I thought to myself–I would love to make that pilgrimage. But by then, my hip was so riddled with arthritis (and I was so overweight) it was nothing more than wishful thinking. I first began to really push myself in Gloucester last year (and it is precisely one year since I arrived at Eastern Point Retreat Center) and I was aware that all my walks were pilgrimages of a sort.
When I had walked for 9 miles today, in the light drizzle that went with me most of the way, when I made some mental notes about some training I need to put in place for myself for the hill-walking that will be involved in Birmingham, it was so clear as well that if there is a chance for me to do El Camino de Santiago, it will be because of my growing endurance. And just like that, it had become my word for 2013. I came back home and did some of that etymological research I had started. Here’s a first, quick pass on endure, the root of endurance:
Endure: early 14c., “to undergo or suffer” (especially without breaking); late 14c. “to continue in existence,” from Old French endurer (12c.) “make hard, harden; bear, tolerate; keep up, maintain,” from Latin indurare “make hard,” in Late Latin “harden (the heart) against,” from in- (see in- (2)) + durare “to harden,” from durus “hard,” from PIE *deru- “be firm, solid.” (http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=endure).
A good word, that. Certainly one that tells a lot about my life these days.
Then I went pecking for El Camino. If you take the French path, the pilgrimage is almost 800 kilometers long. If I were able to walk 9-10 miles a day, and accounting for the unaccountable, give it 6-8 weeks. This is probably totally crazy, but I am going to start looking for sabbatical grants. I have been in ministry for over 10 years now and the thought of doing this as my sabbatical, maybe even this year, fills me with great joy. A whole lot else would have to fall into place. But yes. Endurance. That is the word for 2013…