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4 months ago · · 0 comments

If: Rising to Meet Life’s Challenges

If
by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Just yesterday I had a dear friend observe: “Bob, you simply don’t give up!” (This was in reference to my apparent patience in current book-writing, in which a nearly three-year process has borne witness to three, virtually distinct and complete versions of a single book, still being birthed.)

And then this morning, Rudyard Kipling…

This verse of his has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, as with so many poems I have loved, I committed the entire piece to memory several years ago. Funny thing: where I used to have over a hundred such, most prized poems committed to memory — and deeply valued that whole process — in more recent times, I have gently laid them to rest. Which brings me to today’s meditation: managing challenges.

Any creative process demands that we find some balance between the challenges at hand and our capacity to move through them. It used to be that memorizing poetry (some of them several typed pages long!) presented a worthy challenge to me. I loved/hated digging into the memorization of each. (Let’s admit it: rote memorization presents its own, stern expectations.)

But then something shifted.

I began to feel increasingly led to create ideas from scratch, not relying on others’ thoughts so much, even those of the poets, whom I love so dearly. A more purely creative process. What I discovered over time is that the demand of creating ex nihilo (literally, out of nothing) simply did not allow for (me, at least) the mental space to continue rehearsing and reciting lengthy passages of poetry previously etched into my memory. It’s as if I had to be willing to sacrifice those precious poems-in-memory in order to clear out room for this newer creative process. And sacrifice it has been…each poem has gradually begun to fade — if not in importance or meaning, at least in ready, verbatim accessibility.

What I find now is that, when for example I am faced with having to hold in mind multiple sources of brand-new information as well as move forward in organizing, then creatively writing it all down on printed page, I do feel most of the time, thankfully, the capacity to meet so rigorous a challenge. And what does indeed seem to be true is: I don’t give up easily! (This said after multiple iterations of a single book-in-the-making…)

Closing then for now, in the spirit of Kipling’s immortal advice (intended by the way as inclusive of both sons and daughters):

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…

If you can…watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools…

If you can…lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss…

If you can…hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If…

Categories: Addiction, Calm, Creativity, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Happiness, Healing, Life tips, Meditation, Mindfulness, Nature, Philosophy, Recovery, Self-Compassion, Shame, Spirituality

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