Unusual endurance

I was out of town for July 4th, and attended a relative's ward the Sunday immediately prior to the holiday. It's always interesting to be in a different ward, both to see how things are the same, and how they are different. This particular Sunday was, of course, Fast and Testimony meeting, and there were, of course, lots of references to the sacrifices that had been made by those who went before us. Lots of tearful women talked about how grateful they were for those people who had fought for our freedom, and how wonderful it was that the gospel could come forth in a land where religious freedom flourished. And more than one said something like, "I'm sure I couldn't have gone through what my ancestors did. I know I was saved for these days because I wasn't strong enough to go through the trials they had to face." Ok. I'm all for being grateful for brave men who sacrificed their lives for what they believed in, and for honoring the incredible women who supported these men. But must we always insist that these women were stronger than we are? What is it about women that makes us devalue ourselves, and underestimate our own strength? I just don't like it when women talk like that. It makes me feel like they either really think they themselves are weak, or think they are being humble by deliberately undermining their own potential power. Both options just bug me. I recently started reading the book "My Antonia", by Willa Cather. I'm not very far into it, but a few words have already struck me. One description I love is when the main character is describing his grandmother, and he calls her "a woman of unusual endurance." What a powerful description. I would love to be described like that, and when I think of the really cool women I know, I would definitely use that term to describe them. And no, none of them have walked across the plains, or had to send their husbands off on 3 year missions, or anything that we think of about the trials of the early Saints. But they face their own trials and life with strength and optimism, and I am sure that they could accomplish anything that the Lord would ask of them, no matter what it involved. And hey, I just traveled across the country with a 3 year old, and our flight back here to DC left at 5:30am. Yes people, that meant that I had to wake my sleeping child at 3am and make him travel for over 12 hours. Seriously, if dealing with that without completely flipping out isn't unusual endurance, I don't know what is. (Ok, I did lose it just a little bit after I had been awake for about 24 hours, but I didn't have a single Diet Coke the WHOLE plane ride, so cut me some slack people!)


Anonymous Andrea Wright said...

First of all, you have my utmost respect for traveling with your 3 yr. old on a plane for an extended period!

I wonder if the reason women tend to say things like "there's no way I could handle that" is that they really really hope they won't have to. We all hear that we won't be tested beyond our ability to bear it and so we keep trying minimize our ability in hopes of minimizing our trials.

We're kidding ourselves with that attitude. My grandparents and parents are constantly telling me how much they do not envy the things we face as mothers. I think we have much to learn from the amazing women of prior generations, but we're here now for a reason and it's not going to be a walk in the park.

7/13/2005 04:21:00 PM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

Two thoughts:

(1) You may be interested in the book "More Work for Mother" which debunks the myth that women used to do more housework than they do now.

(2) I've decided to complain less because I want to be, as you quote, a woman of unusual endurance. So I'm trying not to kvetch when the kids are difficult.

7/13/2005 05:16:00 PM  
Blogger annegb said...

I am certain I would never have made it across the plains. I'm a room service sort of girl.

But I have some pretty strong friends who I know would make it.

It's all sixes.

7/13/2005 07:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Sue M said...

Eh, I don't know that I like the idea of endurance. Life is a series of trials and challenges to endure. So depressing. I realize that is probably not what you meant, but when I picture "a woman of unusual endurance," I picture someone who values and emphasizes her trials above all else. I'd rather have someone call me "a remarkable woman." Yeah.

7/14/2005 08:59:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Sue M-

Remarkable women are cool,too. I just wish more women would consider themselves as such.

7/14/2005 10:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

I have a friend who served a mission in Ecuador. Life there was very hard on women and when she came home, she told me she could never be as strong as they were and go through what they went through.

I told her she'd be surprised at how strong she could be. You don't know how strong you are until you're called on to use your strength.

People talk about how strong Nephi was when even Lehi had begun to murmur and Nephi made a bow and went out to catch some food when everyone else had given up. And I agree, but I also think that it's easier to be strong when there's no other choice. It's harder when things are easy to be strong. When you're not forced to.

7/14/2005 02:45:00 PM  

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