Issue #25: Sustenance

In pursuit of growth

Before our vehicle runs out of gas, we drive it to a gas station for a refill. Before our phone dies on us, we charge it. We pay attention to the needs of the things around us, what about ourselves?

It is challenging to take the first step because much is needed to overcome the inertia. It might be equally, if not more, challenging to sustain the journey. As we celebrated our first year of writing for The Bridge Press in our previous issue, the topic of sustenance arose. How does one sustain the long haul towards growth, stay committed to one’s core yet lean into new possibilities at the same time? In line with how we are in the mid-point of the year, how are you, dear reader, continuing your journey for the year?

Much to ponder about, much to cover. For this issue, read about the fraction we’ve considered and have to offer:

Here’s what we have for you.

  1. Essay // Trusting the Process of Despair // by Daryl

  2. Essay // I listened. Now, I rest. // by Rosslyn

  3. Reflection prompts // Sustaining your growth

  4. Poetry // The Journey by Mary Oliver

May you be supported by your intelligence and steadfastness to continue living your dreams.

Warmly,
Rosslyn & Daryl


ESSAY // by Daryl

Trusting the Process of Despair

Since we’re now into our second year of essays, this would be the phase of growth. No longer are we taking our first steps but moving forward. Hence, it would be a good time to explore the topic of growth and, more specifically, sustaining it.

In my opinion, sustaining any endeavour is infinitely more difficult than beginning it. As with all new endeavours, I’m filled with a bubbling excitement that drives me to engage in it. During this phase, I witness new gains aplenty (to coin a gym phrase), and remaining motivated at what I do is easy.

The test comes when those gains start petering off, and it gets tougher to remain motivated. “Stay disciplined!” the voice in my head screams. But stay disciplined in what? Is there even a point when I’m not sure what or where it’ll get me?

Herein lies the issue: I’m not sure what or where it’ll get me. More often than not, I stop what I’m doing because I’m preoccupied with the outcome rather than focused on the process. The fear that everything I do now will be for naught gnaws on my consciousness. And this fear isn’t unfounded. After all, what I’ve been doing has gotten me the results…until now. Suddenly, the improvements have halted and I’m seemingly stuck in this quagmire of unending changelessness for who knows how long? The dopamine hits from seeing improvements regularly have all but disappeared. What is a man supposed to do in this pit of despair?

Trust the process. Easier said than done. This, I presume, is the most difficult thing to achieve because it requires me to set my pride aside. All those successes I’ve gotten used to enjoying don’t matter now. But what do I want? Do I want to improve and continue to succeed, or do I want to live only in my past glories? If I sincerely want to see my efforts come to any kind of real fruition, I had better keep my eye on the ball and lay my ego to rest. Vanity is probably one of the worst vices to have since it prevents me from seeing what’s real and before me, preferring the comforting mirage of a past era.

I suppose I have philosophy to thank for firmly anchoring me back in the present moment. I know I’ve been presenting the shiny aspects of philosophy so far: the wonder, joy, and fun in pondering questions that don’t seem to brook any real solutions. But truth be told, philosophy can be rather disheartening at times. Those moments arise when I suddenly can’t grasp even some of the fundamental principles. Self-doubt creeps in and a crisis of confidence ensues. Little wonder, then, that Hegel ominously likened the philosophical journey to the “highway of despair.” To philosophize is to become intimately acquainted with the act of building and rebuilding the structures of knowledge I thought I could stand firmly on. If I am to be true to my creed, I had better get used to this unending oscillation between stability and instability.

What if one isn’t inclined towards philosophy? Is there any activity one can engage in to get in touch with this ‘despair’? Yes, yes there is. Just go to the gym. There, we get to understand what it means to hit a plateau. Initially, we’ll be amazed at what our bodies can achieve, only to inevitably hit that plateau and not achieve anything more than what we were previously capable of. Be patient and keep believing in the process because it’s the only thing that will see us through to the end when the future appears bleak.

Till next time, may you remain confident in your despair.


ESSAY // by Rosslyn

I listened. Now, I rest.

I am writing this today with my heart in repose, tucked in a cavern by the sea, rocking to the soothing waves of Simple Gifts by Yo-yo Ma. How will it be to write with only mind and body online? This is a pretty new experience for me too, and we shall find out together. I’m inclined to let my heart rest after almost a week and a half of feeling and processing emotions. My precious heart, wearied by the immense stretch from love. I never knew love was this much to feel. If you are wondering, yes, to feel is an activity and some form of work is involved too. After all, emotions are energies in motion. When we open our hearts to feel the myriad of emotions in their varying intensities, our hearts are working out to allow the energies to pass through it.

Which, to my delight, gracefully segues into the topic of sustenance. How might I support myself to keep myself going for the long haul? How do I ensure my wax burns at a sustainable rate till it reaches its natural end?

Currently, sustenance for me comes in the form of listening and allowing. Trusting my soul’s intelligence to do what it needs to return to its state of equilibrium best poised for living. It is as simple as getting out of my own way and let nature do its work, yet as arduous as dissolving the concrete structures that harden with every resistance.

“Rest, so you can go the distance.” The cliché began as a line of truth. To enable continuous giving of myself to the world, I also need to rest and nourish myself. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of self-care, even to myself. We simply cannot serve or contribute from an empty vessel. Yet, self-care looks different for everyone; as in gardening, different plants require different types of soil, and amount of water and sunlight to flourish. It takes a deep listening to what our mind, heart, body, and soul need to know how best to care for ourselves.

Right now, my heart has reached its current limit, wanting to hole up and be cradled, so I acknowledge its weariness and give it a cosy space for repose, surrounding myself with pillows and plushies while writing on my bed.

I’m also marveling at how much strength and courage are required to rest. It’s easy to say I’m tired, it’s difficult to listen to it. What do we do when a baby is tired? We tuck the baby in and put it to rest. But we are no longer babies, right? Yes, and neither are we machines. We can rest when we are tired; we can nourish ourselves when we are drained. Even the plants recede into slumber with the sun’s retreat. We live up to duties and obligations, and we forget our responsibilities to ourselves.

Self-care is being responsible to ourselves—taking care and protecting this body of ours when modern industrial culture seeks to besiege it. Can we remain true and stand up for ourselves when the wheels of productivity seek to dehumanize us? Can we recall our humanness and rest in it? Can we be courageous and step into our vulnerability?

Today, strength shows up in my taut shoulders creating a cavern for repose, and in my resolute door to keep the world out and the wolves away. Knock first if you are looking for me, though I have little to offer now; I have no more left to feed, I keep the last bit for me. My dear one needs to rest, so away you go, away.


REFLECTION PROMPTS

Sustaining your growth

As a mid-year check-in for yourself, how has your year been?

  • What has supported you? What support would you need from yourself or from others to carry on with your dreams?

  • What do you need to let go of? What do you need to keep?


POETRY

The Journey by Mary Oliver


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