Truth, struggle and reward: lessons for another year

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

 

There is one word here that needs to be changed…the word greatly.

Our daily human darings are rarely epic or ostentatious. We need the big words of course…for inspiration, for those moments when we’re exhausted and lost and would beg the universe for a reset or exit button.

When we dare, we dare softly, with hesitation, with so much doubt sometimes. Sometimes we dare because we feel brave, sometimes because we’re cornered and it’s the only thing left to do.

The darings are modest. Like facing a terrifying moment with nothing more than a prayer. Like taking a chance without any answers or reassurance whatsoever. Like standing up for ourselves or another with a few awkward words, knowing there will be hell to pay. Like holding someone while they cry, even if we can’t do anything else to help. Like choosing to take another step and agreeing to endure the pain and fear that come with it. Like trying to treat others based on love not merit. Like giving without measuring the cost, and for someone else’s wellbeing, regardless of our own.

This past year, although better than the infamous 2013 (a year more people referred to as the worst ever than any other year I remember) was in a way far more difficult. It was a year of facing things head on…heavy, big things. It was an all-or-nothing year, promising…allowing change and progress, but at a high price.

The first price…truth. Not every truth can have a voice, and not every truth that does have one will make a difference.

The second price…struggle. Not every battle can be won, or even most of them.

The third price…reward. There isn’t always one at the level we need or deserve.

As for the lessons this year, it seems to me there are three…learned and earned in the most unexpected, often ironic ways. No matter what is done to them, some things can not be destroyed. Love and grace always win. And last but not least, it is always possible to choose on behalf of what is best in ourselves, so that even if we don’t or can’t bring all that much light into the world, at least we didn’t add to the darkness.

In the end, it’s one lesson really. So, to celebrate it, I offer this poem, because it says it far better than I can.

Happy New Year! May you keep daring in small ways, never bow, never settle for less that who you are.

INVICTUS
by William Ernest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

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