whoever you want to be…

Invictus

I have been having an interesting few weeks; and I use the term “interesting” in all its synonym glory. I have been affected, amused and concerned; diverted, engaged, engrossed and entertained. I have been left enthralled and excited, fascinated and intrigued; not to mention, hooked, snared, tantalized, preoccupied, riveted, tempted and stirred! I joked yesterday that I was having a rollercoaster life – full of high highs and low lows and all the twists and turns in between.  I also joked that I’d rather be riding California Screamin’ at Disneyland, but that’s another story!

I guess the point is that life is messy. Life is also challenging; and life provides us some of the greatest joys and the deepest griefs.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people lately about some of the “inevitabilities” in life – death and taxes, certainly; but also that pain is the price we pay for joy; failure is the price we pay for success; and grief is the price we pay for love.  What it comes down to is that the great things in life all require risk. The alternative is that we box ourselves up tightly, withdraw from everyone and everything around us, and stop dreaming, striving and growing. When I realised that those were my options: to risk, or to shut up shop, per se, I decided that risk was the only effective decision I could make!

When I look to the people I admire most throughout history – as well as those who are in my daily life – all of them were, or are, risk-takers. One of my favourite quotes is attributed to Winston Churchill. He said “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

Sometimes it’s about taking a stand for a cause – we risk criticism. Sometimes it’s standing in trust of others (or oneself), not knowing if you’re going to be hurt, but being willing to do it anyway. Even honesty, patience, integrity (giving one’s word and keeping it), kindness and love – all of these are risks too! A risk is something we take, whenever we put ourselves, or our hearts, on the line. When we do this, we are standing for Greatness; the characteristics, ideas, ideals and beliefs that move us toward a more compassionate, open and understanding world.

The amazing thing is that we all get to choose risk. The benefit we get for risk, is reward. Growth. Joy. Love. Exhilaration. All of these and more! We don’t have to live a small, boxed up life. Every time we stand for something we believe in, or we open ourselves up for learning and growth, our mind and heart expands! With great adversity often comes the greatest depth of learning. A mindset I am in practice of this year is, in the face of adversity, to say to myself: “don’t ask ‘why me?’; instead, say ‘thank you for this opportunity’ instead!”

I have been particularly moved, recently, by a poem written in 1888 by William Ernest Henley, all about the risk and adversity of life. It’s entitled ‘Invictus’, which means “unconquerable”: 

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.

Whenever I read this (and sometimes, on difficult days, it’s several times!) I feel encouraged, to the point of goosebumps. No drifting in the tide; no wallowing in the shallows; no sinking in a storm. To Captain one’s own soul, is to choose a destination, a goal, a dream, a belief, a stance, and chart your course toward it, whatever it is, unwaveringly. After all, the nemesis of fear is courage!

 

Where do you choose to risk?

{Beautiful image available from Lovely Sweet William on Etsy}

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About Erin Le Clerc

Erin is a psychologist, facilitator and life coach. She's also a writer, traveller, singer, dreamer and award winning air guitarist. She's passionate about encouraging people to live and love to their fullest potential, while having a bit of fun at the same time.

16 comments on “Invictus

  1. Carolyn Lane
    October 19, 2012

    And for days when you might need to augment Henley….

    “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” Louisa May Alcott

    In Maori, there is a blessing and exhortation which also gives me goosebumps, so let me share that with you too:
    “Kai kaha, kia toa, kia manawanui” Be courageous, be strong, be steadfast/stout-hearted/determined.

    It seems to me that it’s not that we want the messiness of life to be able to be encapsulated in bumper-stickers… but sometimes other people’s words remind us that we are not the first to be struggling through whatever tar-patch we’re (temporarily) in.

    Thanks for expressing the rewards of the risks so well.

  2. Erin Le Clerc
    October 19, 2012

    Carolyn, I love that LAM quote too! Ships really make good metaphors for life, don’t they. 😉

    The Maori blessing is beautiful. So many qualities in a short statement (only slightly too long for a bumper sticker…) that you can live a life by!

    I am ALWAYS encouraged to read quotes from years past, exactly for that reason – I’m not the first, nor the last, who shall wrestle with life.

    Thank you so much for your comment!

  3. Fran
    October 19, 2012

    I love this article, I know a lot of people that let negative experiences shape who they are, instead of the positive ones. Yes, every risk we take is a gamble, we never know which way life is going to lead us, but that is all part of the journey. No risk = no reward. In the words of Helen Keller “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure”.

    • Erin Le Clerc
      October 19, 2012

      Absolutely, Fran! I love that Helen Keller quote, too. She’s one of my heroes. 🙂

  4. Vicki
    October 19, 2012

    You have hit the nail right on the head with this article. It is something that I have been struggling with and you wrote down exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • Erin Le Clerc
      October 19, 2012

      You are so welcome! I’m really glad it helped! x

  5. Erin Le Clerc
    October 19, 2012

    A blog response from Evidence by Fran: http://www.evidencebyfran.com/2012/10/invictus.html?spref=fb

    🙂

  6. Bodhimoments
    October 19, 2012

    Thankyouthankyouthankyou! I have been feeling small and ignorant and unworthy. ANd thi spost is a timely reminder that I am not any of those things,,,,,,,,

    • Erin Le Clerc
      October 19, 2012

      Wow, Bodhimoments! Those are some pretty awful things to feel. And you are CERTAINLY not any of them! Stand in whatever your Greatness is, and strike out your course!

  7. Kathryn Bradshaw
    October 19, 2012

    I, too, thank you for Invictus and your very sage essay. It is truly eerie how sometimes something comes into your life which is exactly what you need. I am struggling with some difficult life changes and this has given me something to hold onto and be ME.

    • Erin Le Clerc
      October 19, 2012

      It’s difficult to breathe sometimes, especially when you’re neck-deep in the ocean of life. I hope that your struggles pass soon, and that their passing leaves you with growth and joy. Learning to be ourselves (and to love who we are) is, I believe, the greatest challenge we ever face. xx

  8. yvonne oberlander
    October 19, 2012

    Believing in yourself is by far the most difficult thing in life. Once you’ve mastered it
    you can do anything, despite negative influences. Because negative becomes positive,
    with your own imagination. A “bad “experience is never an “useless” one. One never stops
    to learn.

    • Erin Le Clerc
      October 19, 2012

      Absolutely! The only “useless” experiences we have, are the ones we choose not to use! 🙂

  9. Naomi
    October 20, 2012

    “Nothing is waste of time if we use the experience wisely.”- Auguste Rodin

  10. Pingback: The Juggling Act | Bea

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This entry was posted on October 19, 2012 by in Bea Adventurous, Bea Inspired, Bea Spiritual, Bea Yourself.
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