CONFESSIONS OF A SOFTIE
The Value of Hardness, & The Softness of Caring
by Jesse Wolf Hardin
I’d frankly prefer that you called me a “healthy balance of extremes” than a “bizarre bundle of contradictions.”
Call it instinct or attitude, but I do like feeling still capable of responding effectively to emergencies that come up at home, of physically repelling attackers if the situation arose, moving heavy objects that need to be moved, even being able to sprint into a burning building and carry someone safely out. I’ve surprised myself with how much strength I’ve maintained in spite of a liver-compromising virus, numerous sleepless nights, and the handicap of most of my waking hours being spent sitting in front of a laptop’s glowing screen trying to reach out to the world. That said, I’ve decided at 60 years of age to join Kiva working out on the weight bench. The way I figure it, one is never too young or too old to harden up a bit…
…especially, if you’re a convicted softie.
I suppose my virility has never really been in question, given the number of children I sadly helped create without getting to help raise, and yet one has to question how much testosterone is involved in my fussy attention to way each page looks in Plant Healer Magazine. My favorite rifle is an antique Winchester with flowers carved into its walnut burl stock. And I’m on 24 hour call as the family hair designer… kindly spare me the more stereotypical jokes.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always been quick to defend principles, rights, my land and loved ones, to stick up to bullies and protect the small, even on those rare occasions when physical violence was required, and with inordinate success. The contradiction, is that as much as I would hate to lose in a confrontation that mattered, I don’t much enjoy winning either. I’ve apologized to those belligerent drunks I once had to render immobile, felt oddly out of sorts even after my onetime brief battle with a child abuser, and have actually paid tribute to the few honorable opponents. We enjoy watching the fierce determination and martial skills demonstrated in Mixed Martial Arts videos, but I’m always relieved when a rare decent referee steps in to end a fight that has become one-sided, and get choked up when a favorite and kindly Brazilian combatant is hurt.
Likewise, although I know myself as an unapologetic part of the natural food chain, I have gotten a tear in my eye or an quietly aching heart anytime I have killed some, feeling love and connection, both the gift and the loss. The only real joy I’ve ever found in shooting something, is dramatically putting holes through ugly, environmentally unsound, plastic sheathed machines that have not just insulted my aesthetics but failed me in their designed purpose, such as confounding computers, irreparable remotes, and especially my friends tasteless TVs (with their permission, mind you). Kiva has also pointed out the fact that I seldom go out to target practice without first spraying myself with some of Rosalee de la Foret’s scrumptious lavender spritzer.
Just as ridiculous, I suppose, is how much pleasure I get from shopping for Rhiannon, Loba and Kiva, and my having 14 different women’s clothing searches saved in my Ebay preferences. Or my penchant for designing clothes (the just don’t make ‘em the way I see ‘em!).
I’m constantly cleaning and decorating our tiny studio cabin, and regularly redecorate it. How hard is that? And let’s just get it out of the way… I kissed Kiva’s plush-toy ringtail after she left for town today, and love tender snuggling above most activities.
I can pretty well harden myself to most levels of physical pain, yet I have a history of crying when watching movies, and I can barely deal when our daughter suffers in any way.If you want to catch me making silly little cooing kid noises, just show me a picture of a kid… like the one below of Nick and Sloane’s clever little Django.
There is an inarguable value to a certain hardness. There’s be few successful efforts in this world without trying hard. Being too soft can border on amorphous, undefined and ineffective, and can lead to being spineless or inactive, a victim or spectator rather than an active participant with purpose, will and determination. This world needs more hard commitments on our parts, to try to make changes, right wrongs, defend the innocent and helpless, recreate culture… to love, and to help heal.
Juniper allergies or not, I plan to do some bench presses and curls sometime today, tempering those mammalian muscles. I will try not to be quite so sensitive and get my feelings hurt when we have inadvertently disappointed or pissed off somebody. I will continue to make ever harder commitments to the places, people, creatures, plants and values that matter most. But as much hardening I ever do, I confess I’ll always be a bit of a softie.
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