I am not grace under pressure. I am necessity under pressure.

“Courage is grace under pressure” is a famous quotation by Ernest Hemingway. Tell us about a personal moment of your grace under pressure.

I’m having more fun researching the quotes than I expected. This is actually not an accurate quote, nor did Hemingway himself write it.The character said the following in a movie about Hemingway:

“No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if it affirms courage and grace under pressure.”

Courage is not grace under pressure, rather courage and grace under pressure are separate attributes of a good subject for a writer. Nonetheless, the editor asks me to describe a situation where I exhibited grace under pressure (so I don’t have to pick apart the quotation too much do I?)

I don’t really conceive of myself as a grace under pressure kind of person. I’m a bit too hot-headed and emotional for that. Now I can be good in a crisis – I keep my head and tend to things that need tending.


When my 80 lb dog fell down a flight of stairs, I caught him and kept him still. Together, Laura and I eased him down the stairs not knowing what might happen once we were at the bottom. He was okay, but it was the last time he ever climbed stairs. Or tried to do so.

I’ve been in multiple car accidents (never at fault, mind you) and I’m pretty good about remaining calm, checking on everyone’s welfare and filing the appropriate reports. I managed well when my beloved dog Jack attacked me, leaving me with several serious bites. I didn’t panic when a political candidate yelled at me. I was calm when my father was rushed to the ER with a possible stroke (he was okay.) Car accident on the turnpike with 5 clients? I’m calm. Car vandalized, twice? I’m okay. DEA destroys our backyard gate during a drug raid on a neighbor’s house? OK, I tie it up to keep the dogs contained until our neighbor can do some repairs.

I’m cool if someone vomits, bleeds, urinates, passes out or worse. I’ll hold your hair, even if I don’t know you and find you alone in the ladies room getting sick. I’ll sit with you and help you. I’m the person who is okay holding the hand of your wife who is suffering from dementia while you pay the grocery  bill – she thinks I’m her granddaughter and really that’s okay with me.

If something is actively happening and there’s someone’s welfare at stake, I do something.

It is after the incident that I flip out. I’m the walking definition of PTSD – get through the crisis and then my reserves crumble. I cry, I shake, I heave. I run away. I overreact to things. I shut away the reminders, push away those who participated.

I am not grace under pressure. I am necessity under pressure. I will console, speak softly and draw deep into the spaces where my understanding of what to do has been tucked away until this very moment. Then I will realize that my reserves, my resiliency is limited and must be built back up again before I deal with the aftermath.  The pressure gets me in the end.

But I’ll still hold your hand. Maybe that’s my saving grace?



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