"There comes a time," my mother said, "when you go to many more funerals than weddings."
She was right. These days I find myself reading obituaries because these days the names actually mean something to me.
Sally Brampton is one such name. Because my day job is all about clothes and fashion I recognised the name of the woman who was the first UK editor of Elle Magazine, and later Red.
What I didn't know was that she struggled with depression for much her life and that eventually this caused her death by drowning.
Her obituary contained a brilliant quote from her 2008 book Shoot the Damn Dog. "Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer," she wrote. "We don't kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long hard struggle to stay alive."
Which brings me onto some more wise words, this time written by a fellow writer and blogger, Chuck Wendig, in his recent blog Winning, Losing, And Participating: Shut Up About the Trophy. In this blog he attacks the grumpy people (among the ranks of whom I was recently included) who cry,
"You shouldn't just get a trophy for participating. When everyone gets a trophy, nobody wins. If everybody is special, nobody is special."
And yes – the grim reality is that in life there are winners and there are losers. We remember the people who get the Olympic gold medal, not the also rans.
But you can bet that if your friend got as far as even competing in the Olympics you'd be proud of him/her. You would remember that achievement – even if no medal was brought home. We remember our local heroes. They are special to us.
The other reality is that, without participation, then there is no victory for anyone. Losing means rejection but, as Chuck says, "Participation is everything. And rejection is vital to that. Rejection is a battle scar. It's proof I'm in the arena. It's two gladiators showing off their injuries: "I GOT THIS ONE WHEN I FAILED... I LOST THE FIGHT THAT DAY, BUT I HAVE THIS COOL SCAR TO SHOW FOR IT. AND I LIVE TO FIGHT AGAIN." Rejection (failure) is a sign of doing the thing and surviving."
Many of us have days of frustration and failure. We have tasks we have failed to accomplish; relationships that have floundered; jobs we have lost and a list of rejections as long as your arm.
I recently wrote about becoming perfect. It's a process which often feels like failure. Chuck's slant on this is, "Get shut of the illusion that winning is everything, participation is nothing, failure is the end. Failure is more important to us than victory. You will fail a lot more than you win, and you learn a lot more when you lose — you don't improve through victory. Victory is a plateau. You improve by capitalizing on your loss."
But if we're still here, still alive, that's our very personal victory. Tomorrow we fight again.
A Moodscope member.
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