Friday, December 2, 2011

The Underdog Hero of Your Life

Just a few days ago, I had a conversation with my mother. (This is always fun.)

"...No, Mom, you don't understand. I haven't written anything in that book in months. And do you even KNOW how long it's been since I've even posted a blog?"

"Yes, I know, Dear. That's usually called 'depression'. ...Are you depressed?"

Typically when my mom asks a question that I would consider "ridiculously obvious" I laugh, but this time, I didn't have the energy.

"Uh, yeah. I'm depressed."

And so the conversation went, but not for too long. I can't really remember what all we talked about, except that I remember thinking that I knew I didn't WANT to be depressed. And yet, I knew that I had been. For a while.

I went through a pretty trying situation about this time last year, and it didn't turn out very well. To add insult to injury, I've been the target of someone's ire ever since.

"Oh, I'm sorry you're depressed, honey..."

"Well, I have been for a while now..."

Almost exactly a year, if you want the truth. And it really frickin' sucks. You know, I think I've had enough of this. I hear that I have plenty to be disenchanted about... I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say that it's almost as bad as a rock in your shoe. But while we may always have unexpected challenges in life, that which I am "through with" is less about what is happening, and more about the way I've allowed these big challenges to drag me down.

(Not blogging, for instance.)

Ok, well... Let's be honest here. I'd appreciate a slowdown of the challenges. But this rock bothering me is a bonafide bully that I can't seem to shake out of my shoe. And so I'll just have to live with the challenges for now, somehow. But how? By putting one foot in front of the other. Breathing in, breathing out, then repeat.

Some really cheerful person said that life is 10% what happens and 90% how we respond to it. I guess that means that even if that 10% is pure poison, we still have control over how healthy the remaining 90% is. Good news, I imagine...

I have always been a positive person. People who meet me these days might not realize that, if I'm being brutally honest with myself... I feel like I have lost some of that cheerful glow I used to have. (A real bummer; I sort of liked how I felt, wearing that cheerful glow...) As life prods on, we overcome one obstacle at a time (some better than others) and we learn that we can put in an effort and make some difference in our outcome. It's better, somehow. At least a little, if we try.

But at some point, if we are less effective, we lose steam. We may be less effective for any of a number of reasons; some of which may be our doing, and others, like illness or situations, may be out of our control. Either way, we start to fail a little here and there... And one day we wake up, see our next obstacle. It's big, it's hairy, it's face-on, and we think "...Holy shit!"

When we are knocked down farther and farther by our "failures", whether real or perceived, our obstacles look bigger and bigger when we see them in front of us. Does this mean they are really more of a challenge? Are these obstacles impossible to overcome, simply because they block out our sun? Shivering in the cold shade of our challenges, are we doomed to epic failure?

Not necessarily.

The only difference between the first time we failed and the last time we failed, is how the obstacles look bigger and bigger, as we are closer and closer to the ground.

New Years is coming up, so let's take the goal many have of quitting smoking. Many have tried to quit several times over, and each time they try and fail, a person is less inclined to believe they can quit. Have you ever heard someone say "I have tried so many times, and I just can't do it." Each time someone fails to accomplish a goal, the challenge seems bigger, and more difficult to reach. Every time we fail, we feel lower, because each time, we fall farther.

But remember this: the cigarette is the same. it didn't change. It didn't become more addictive, it's just as hard (or easy) to quit one time as any other. It's not a more difficult opponent to combat. It's the same as it ever was. Why does it seem nearly impossible to quit? Because when someone has tried ten times, and failed 100% of the times they have tried, it is a little, um... deflating. But the challenge is the same.

Whether or not someone is able to quit is based on how they see their challenge... The obstacles to the goal. I guess that's why they also say when we keep our eyes on the prize, we have a better chance of getting there. We don't see our obstacles, or our failures, so we can't be intimidated by them. It doesn't matter if the goal is being nicotine free, or being a healthier weight, or being free of a relationship, or making a better grade in school. The goal matters most, and it becomes no more challenging to achieve. We become intimidated by our own failure, and when we eventually quit trying, that is when we truly fail. As long as we keep trying, we haven't really failed. There is always a chance to win the prize, one way or another.

Remember the movie Rudy? it's one of my favorites... (I think I'll watch it tonight, in fact... It's that kind of night!) I think everyone has seen the movie Rudy, and if you haven't... Watch it tonight on Netflix, DVD or a VHS from the library... Gather your family and grab the tissues, too.

I mention the movie because it is a perfect example of why we must keep trying. Why our failures must not stand in the way of what we know we need in life. Can you imagine any movie in which the protagonist has a very easy time getting everything they want, and have no challenges or failures on their way to the top? (And if you have seen a movie like that, was it any good?) I vote for the underdog! I want the little guy to win. I want the person who has heart and drive and perseverance to be the one who gets a happy ending!

(Well... You know what I mean...)

Movies are great glimpses into other worlds, and can teach us a lot, really... Below are a dozen inspirational underdog movies I either love, or have heard* are really amazing... But all are guaranteed to convince you that it's worth it to fail, as long as you keep trying. As you watch any (or all!) of these movies, think of yourself. Don't see it as selfish... Think of yourself as being the real-life inspiration for someone in your life, whether it's someone you know and love, or someone you haven't even met yet.

Everyone has the chance to be a hero, but the key to being the underdog hero is overcoming obstacles. Think you have to be perfect to win the admiration of others? You are wrong, and this is why... Gaining "success" without overcoming obstacles may be something to envy, but nobody can relate to that, because everyone has challenges. Everyone. People can't relate to someone who has success without first seeing some failure. Consider, too, that it's harder to respect someone who got what they want without any challenge... While you are trying to be perfect, ask yourself if perfection is worth losing real respect and admiration. Isn't a little failure a small price to pay for actually EARNING a hero status in the heart of someone YOU look up to?

(Hell, I know now I'm inspired...!)

Be a hero to the ones you love, and those who love you, by being the underdog who faces your challenges, eye to eye, gets up when you fall, and never stops trying, until you win. THIS is how you gain admiration and respect, not by being perfect and preventing all failure. And remember that the more you try and fail, the better the story when you eventually succeed.

Feel like a coward? Think again. What is something all cowards and heroes have in common? Fear. If you are afraid, you are in excellent company.

So watch one or more of these movies, picture yourself inspiring someone who loves you, then get inspired to take charge of whatever fear you have that is standing in the way of you seeing your challenges for what they are: plot details in a really great underdog story.

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