Their life and their limits
“Experience has taught me this, that we undo ourselves by impatience. Misfortunes have their life and their limits, their sickness and their health.” — Michel de Montaigne
Experience seems to be teaching me the same things it taught Montaigne, though I may not be learning it as gracefully. There’s an old saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait awhile.” From where I sit, that bit of wisdom seems to apply to far more than the weather.
Whether enduring a minor annoyance or a life-changing crisis, people have a remarkable ability to adapt and pull through. Situations almost never stay exactly the same. Even in the worst of circumstances, some days will be better than others. Hanging on to that assurance can be a crucial survival skill.
But what to do in the meantime, when it seems things have been gloomy forever? How are we to remain imperturbable when we feel too burned out or discouraged to keep going?
U. S. Marine Corporal Marcus Chischilly could give us some good advice about that. Corporal Chischilly was serving on his fifth deployment when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in October, 2010. It took him two years to recover from the extensive damage to his body, but as the photo above shows, he emerged from the ordeal with strength, power, endurance and grace befitting the Marines and his Diné (Navajo) heritage.
When I contacted Cpl. Chischilly to seek permission to feature his photograph, he responded humbly and candidly, granting me permission to use his name and photograph, and sharing a bit about his story. Cpl. Chischilly lives with his wife and children in California, where he returned to active duty following his recovery. In addition to the military connection, we share their appreciation of California as a great place to live, and their preparation for an upcoming retirement.
We can’t claim to share the amazing fortitude the Chischilly family has shown in service to our country; very few of us can. But we can be inspired by their story and their patience, not only through two years of recovery from life-threatening wounds, but also through the sacrifices demanded in FIVE wartime deployments. To say “thank you for your service” is far too inadequate, but even so, I repeat these words to the Chischilly family and add, “thank you for your example.”
I think we err sometimes in assuming that patience is a passive virtue. In reality, staying active and positive in a chronic struggle is a formidable example of patience, and that type of resolve is anything but passive. Pressing on toward improvement without expecting instant results might make the difference in defeat or victory over a longstanding challenge. Staying strong in the face of irreversible losses can lay the foundation for new beginnings. It sounds trite, but history has shown it to be true.
Calm endurance need not be boring or resigned. While waiting for the skies to clear, distract yourself with the satisfaction of accomplishing small but important tasks, and take refuge in soothing music, art or reading. Call a friend, play with a dog, or watch a funny video. Breathe deeply and rejoice in all that remains. Whatever difficulties or obstacles you may be facing right now, things will almost certainly go better with patience.