The process of organizing my thoughts enough to communicate them coherently is good exercise, it helps me feel like I am able to view the world a little bit clearer than I did before. And if the reader enjoys taking that journey with me, then that's an added bonus! I like to think that in one way or another, we are all in the same boat: we all feel joy and pain, we all want to be understood. We are all human souls, and that gives us something in common.
At the close of my last post, I encouraged everyone to "be the best version of yourself". When I funnel a piece of my consciousness through the keyboard, my desire is to give the best version of myself a chance to come out and play, even if only for a brief moment in time. The truth is, I dream of contributing something to the universe that might outlive me. Maybe that is naively ambitious of me, but I don't care. We all have the right to dream. We all have the right to hope that something we do in our lifetime could make a difference in the world; that we might become a part of something bigger.
There are many ways to participate in the human "race". We can walk, we can run, and sometimes the best we can do is crawl. But at the end of the day, our attitude is what provides the real victory. In my heart, I genuinely want to be brave. I want to be the kind of person who can smile through their pain; the kind of person who chooses to dance in the rain. I believe in the human spirit, and our power to choose to learn from hardship. But I have a confession: I don't feel brave.
I don't feel like the best version of me today, I feel flawed, and my batteries are drained. I will admit, my heart aches with discouragement at the moment. Sometimes I fear my courage is a carefully constructed house of cards, and all it would take is a little breeze to remind me that I still have a lot of growing to do. But I know that courage is most effective when combined with humility. A vital component of being brave is the ability to admit when you don't feel brave. Discretion is the better part of valor, as they say.
"Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow." - Mary Anne Radmacher
I love that quote, it reminds me to stop counting my falls and focus on how many times I get back up; it validates the tears that build up in your heart when the harder you try, the harder life gets. In the last two months I have been in and out of the hospital several times due to a grab-bag of medical problems. The first in my recent chain of hospital visits, I was in there for five days. Sometimes the value of simply "surviving to see tomorrow" is not as cliche as it sounds.
Sometimes it seems that life tries to make us feel like our existence has become small and insignificant, that we are just taking up space. Despite knowing that your family and friends love you, have you ever found yourself wanting to be reminded that you really do matter as a unique individual? I am not talking about feeling valued because someone else needs you, although that is important. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are special, regardless of our external roles and relationships.
We all stand to benefit from a clear and sustaining sense of individual worth. In the movie "It's A Wonderful Life" that comes on TV every holiday season, Jimmy Stewart's character gets the rare gift of seeing exactly what the world would be like if he had never been born. He gets to see his neighbors, friends, and family living without any of the good that he brought into their lives... and he has a sobering revelation about the difference one person can make.
As for myself, I know there are people who's lives have intersected with mine in special and irreplaceable ways. In fact, just yesterday I had a wonderful chat with a good friend who was also having an "at the end of my rope" kind of week. We commiserated and helped each other fan the flame of hope. This "you are not alone" type of support is a simple thing that inspires me to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Beloved children's author, Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel was truly a unique person. He shared his imagination with the world in a way that reminds us all to never lose our child-like sense of wonder. He wrote:
"Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You."
This is a simple, timeless piece of wisdom. I may struggle, you may struggle, but that's okay! Acceptance is the heart of authenticity. There is no sense in comparing one person's grief to that of another. Pain is pain, sadness is sadness, and frustration is frustration. If what you are going through is a big deal to you, then it's a big deal to you... and that matters. However big or small a person's worries may seem to someone else, compassion does not have a minimum threshold to meet before we should care for each other and bear one another's burdens. In an increasingly cold and calloused world, a little empathy goes a long way.
Patience and humility are the tools with which we can learn from the challenges we face. Of course, this is much easier said than done, but I recently came across a poem that offers some advice on the subject:
When you get what you want in your struggle for pelf,
And the world makes you King for a day,
Then go to the mirror and look at yourself,
And see what that guy has to say.
For it isn't your Father, or Mother, or Wife,
Who judgement upon you must pass.
The feller whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the guy staring back from the glass.
He's the feller to please, never mind all the rest,
For he's with you clear up to the end,
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the guy in the glass is your friend.
You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,
And think you're a wonderful guy,
But the man in the glass says you're only a bum
If you can't look him straight in the eye.
You can fool the whole world down the pathway of years,
And get pats on the back as you pass,
But your final reward will be heartaches and tears
If you've cheated the guy in the glass.
- Dale Wimbrow
So anyway... I may feel like a total mess today, and tomorrow, and maybe the day after that... but we all have the opportunity to learn to love "the guy in the glass", though a work in progress he/she may be.
I am honestly encouraging you to hang in there, because I need to be reminded of it myself. The synergy of that exchange helps me a lot, and I hope it can help you too. So hang in there! And if you see someone else who is having a hard time, give them a hug and tell them to hang in there too!