My boys and I went to Harpers Ferry this weekend, at the request of my older son. We parked at the visitor’s center, hiked past Lincoln Rock, downtown, up the Maryland Heights Loop, and back into town. The total mileage was about 7 miles, with an elevation gain of 1,404 feet and took us about 3 and a half hours. They did so well, and I am so proud of their sense of adventure, and appreciation of nature. Unprompted, my 8 year old said that he found the water, woods and birds chirping to be so peaceful that he wanted to move into the woods when he grows up. This past Tuesday I was sitting down with my ex going over finances, and, as a reaction to a low-blow I gave, he told me “I didn’t love you. Maybe I never even liked you. So don’t be bitter that I found someone I can love and I treat her better than you.” That lit a fire that will burn for a long time. I do sincerely hope he does treat her better than he treated me, because that is the exact reason I left him.
The number seventy has become very significant to me recently. I reached out to a male friend to help me with something house-related last week, and I said to him, “I’m about 70% capable of taking care of everything in the house on my own, but I’m still missing that last 30%.” I realized later that those percentages match my current child custody arrangement, so maybe my subconscious holds me 70% responsible. But often I am carrying the load, way more than that. I was supposed to go camping this weekend, but I sacrificed my trip so that my ex could go away with his girlfriend. This was planned weeks ago, but combined with his recent comments, I was growing bitter and angry. Not about the fact that he has a girlfriend, but the fact that he has bailed on our kids early to be with her. Often. I know what it is like to be second, third, or maybe not even on his radar when something better is there. I cannot take pain that my kids may or may not feel. It won’t do anything to lessen it for them. Once I let this go, joy dove right in. I no longer owe my ex anything. Plus, I wouldn’t have traded this hike for anything in the world.
The fire that is burning bright in my solar plexus is a hereditary gift. It’s my sisu. My paternal great grandparents emigrated from Finland, and Finish culture has always been something very important to my dad. He joined a Finish Civic Association when I was in high school and began to explore his Finish roots more. I am the female replica of my dad, so I was very drawn in myself. Sisu is a Finnish term that doesn’t directly translate into English. It is usually translated as “guts” or “fortitude” but also includes stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience and hardiness, rocklike obstinacy, patient endurance, and dogged courage. It is a part of Finish culture; it has to be to live so far north on the globe. My grandmother used to say it meant “resolve and stick-to-it-iveness.” So as I realize that I am not only vastly more capable of 70%, I am celebrating that fact. Everything I need, I already have. Anything I need to get done, I can do myself, within reason.
Several points during the hike this weekend, I questioned whether it was a good idea to take them on a trail marked as “hard,” on a hot day, with gnats swarming and one of them carrying a pack with supplies. There is a good mile or so of pretty intense incline. We slowed down, we rested a few times, they complained about the bugs, but they wanted to keep going. They have sisu. In the past they have completed tasks, begrudgingly, just for parental approval. Today, however, I could tell they were digging deep into themselves to continue the elevation gains, for their own purposes. According to Wikipedia, (which as a teacher I hate to use as reference, but as teacher in May, that’s about as far as my research is going tonight), “the Finnish usage derives from sisus, translated as “interior”, and as “entrails” or “guts”; a closely related English concept evokes the metaphor grit, sharing some denoting elements; still, the Finnish concept also entails “stress management”, and passion for a long-term goal. Sisu may have an element (not always present) of passion unlike in the case of grit (as defined by Dr. Angela Duckworth).” A passion for long-term goals, the literal, genetically Finish guts to stick to it and their great-grandmother’s resolve to see it through is something so cool to see in my children. Time to let our sisu burn bright.