Saturday, August 11, 2012

The unconquerable human spirit

INVICTUS by William Ernest Henley (1849 - 1903)

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.

from One Hundred and One Famous Poems, copyright 1958, Contemporary Books, Inc.

This is one of my favorite poems, because I can identify with the tenacity and endurance that is required to live well despite the many difficult life challenges.  I have never been a particularly theatrical person; I tend to be more on the stoic end of the continuum.  Some people may believe I am a pollyanna, because I choose to live my life counting blessings rather than counting hardships.  But I can tell you I'm no pollyanna.  I have a firm grasp of reality that doesn't always serve me well.  Sometimes I think it would be so much easier living in a shroud of fantasy, because reality can be pretty darned tough at times.  I prefer to be in control over myself and my destiny rather than living my life as a victim.  Victimization is a downward spiral that renders people helpless, which is not a good place to be.  When you view yourself as a victim you give up the only thing you can control in the whole universe -- you.

This evening Sid and I went to Fallbrook's Hot Summer Nights street festival.  Fallbrook has a street festival every other Friday night during the summer and there is a theme for each festival.  People always bring their old cars, which line the street on either side for 2 blocks.  The main street is closed to local traffic during each festival.  This evening's theme was Open Header Night.  People bring their drag strip cars and old muscle cars, and the headers are "uncorked" to make as much noise as possible.  Many people with fibromyalgia are sensitive to loud noise and I'm actually no exception, but I just can't resist going to the drag strip with all the smoke and fumes and loud noise and Open Header Night is just the right thing that makes everybody smile including me.  It's a bunch of "boys" with their toys.  While I was there this evening I saw an old friend of Sid's.  Several years ago this man lost his daughter to illness and then months later his wife.  This man's life has spiraled out of control ever since.  He looks unhealthy and his face conveys a sad message that his spirit is completely broken.  He is only 65 years old, but he looks 85.  A person's spirit is written in the lines on their face and tell the story of that life.  The other window to the human spirit is in their eyes.  It's important to keep your spirit alive and have enthusiasm for life no matter the obstacles you face.  Some of the old cars that I saw this evening have real attitude and their owners do too.  Those old cars made me think about the importance of having an attitude and spirit.  I didn't last long at Hot Summer Nights this evening, but the time I was there I caught some real attitude and thought I would share that with you.  Those cars roaring on main street between the buildings is a deafening sound!  So in closing, I have found that starting my day with positive energy and the right attitude not only makes it easier to manage the day's challenges, but it is also written on my face.  I want my face to convey that I have an unconquerable soul, that I live my life well and my spirit is very much alive and well.

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