Gentle Strength

Gentle Strength

I have a complex relation to Jaguar. If there is anything like a personal power or archetype for me, it is that. It’s something that I lean torward and something that is me, but not the way I am clouded leopard and raven. Not really. At the same time it is as real and intense.

I grew up as Jaguar. Before living as myself, a clouded leopard and raven Liminal being, I lived as Jaguar for a long time – strong and self-confident down to arrogance, smart, stubborn, angry, unstoppable. Did not accept weakness, did not accept failure. And for a long time, it worked. And people were either fascinated, or clashed very much, but in all case I didn’t care what they thought of me. I went on fabulous adventures and accomplished my dreams and life was good.

And then someday all the pain and abuse and what I went through earlier in life caught up with me, and I developed a severe anxiety disorder. I got very sick and depressed and shut down completely. I exhausted myself by trying to live up to Jaguar standards when it wouldn’t work. I had less and less energy to spare for pretty much everything, anything. Jaguar kicked me in the butt repeatedly for not doing anymore the things I used to be able to do. I hated myself for it, and that felt like I was becoming the opposite of the person I used to be.

Eventually I had to put aside my pride for a moment and try and ask for help. This was so humiliating to me that I had delayed and delayed it again until I couldn’t do otherwise. For the first time in my life I was ready to let people have an impact on my path.

I happened to meet by chance someone with an anxiety disorder who had gone through everything I went through, and had taken the decision I was just taking, and who had gotten better for it. We talked a lot, one night, snuggling against each other on a bench because although it was the middle of summer the weather was so cold. His example gave me hope and purpose. Instead of trying so bad to be the person I was before, maybe I could just too move forward to get better. I had to accept that there was no going back, and that I may be scarred for life, but there was a Future for me.

I realized that I wasn’t in a dire situation because I was somehow weaker or worse than anybody, but because life had been really tough to me – even though I had never wanted to admit it. What I considered “normal” and “okay” for a long time actually wasn’t at all. I realized that it’s human to be vulnerable, and that being vulnerable and accept it actually requires Strength. And asking for help actually may not be important because of what you expect other people to do for you, but because it means you no longer fear to take the necessary steps to get better even when it costs you some.

Everything Jaguar had taught me seemed all wrong. I realized Jaguar nourished some really toxic attitudes towards the Self and Others. Jaguar was destructive rage. Jaguar never allowed for a break. Jaguar never showed empathy and assumed it was in position to judge others. Jaguar’s way was supposedly the only way. I did all these things, but it’s not following Jaguar’s answers that I got better.

It’s by redefining my standards more healthily and allowing myself to be gentle, caring and patient. Accepting that I don’t have all the answers, that since people had a hard time figuring what I was going through, I too had to accept that I could never know truly, perfectly what other people may go through. And all the while, I stopped being so angry all the time. In part because it was a waste of my energy to be angry at myself and others, and in part because I no longer cared about the way other people led their life. Whatever floats your boat. Which doesn’t mean that I can never be critical about some attitudes, but I react differently than I used to.

I think I may have written before about this metal bookmark that Chaos – a duiker/puma animal-person – offered me years ago. It has the chinese for “Strength” and the following quoted from St. Francis de Sales by Ralph Washington Sockman: “Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as real strength”. When I received it, I was still following blindly Jaguar and could not understand the quote – that was not Strength to me. I had to go through the life-changing experience of developing my anxiety disorder and fight it, in order to know what it meant.

If there’s one thing, other than some compassion, that this disorder has taught me, it is that I am fucking resilient and have all the Strength I need to get on with life, deep down. Pursuing a goal isn’t only about being stubborn and pushing my limits, but also about knowing how to spare my resources and accepting to change an inadequate strategy. That I won’t get very far with my metaphorical car if I never take care of it. That if I take small steps, it’s still better than going backwards. And that if sometimes I have to get worse before I get better, so be it.

I am nourishing a whole new Jaguar now. A Jaguar that has learnt from being clouded leopard and raven. One that drives me to get through what needs to be done and fuels my projects, but without feeding negativity when I decide to do it on my own terms. One that doesn’t center pleasure around productivity but around quality. One that allows oneself to be vulnerable and accessible as part of being Strong. One whose sovereignty doesn’t walk over others. One that controls its destructiveness and toxicity for safer, healthier attitudes and relations.

There is still much left to do, but I don’t have to stress over it anymore. I can just get on with it.