For nearly eight years on this blog we’ve talked about fortitude: the ability to just keep going despite what life throws at you.
Today I’d like to talk about what we’ve learned over all these years about resilience and why choosing to not give up is itself a choice worth celebrating.
The Many Alternate Endings of Courage 2 Create
There were many possible endings to Courage 2 Create. Something happened practically every single year that made me think of giving up, and stop writing it.
At first it was my own insecurity: not thinking that this blog would be good enough. Then, when the blog succeeded, I wanted to withdraw from fear of the critics and the haters who started to come after me.
After that, there was a period of time where life was going very good for me, and I very seriously considered ending it then. But I didn’t. I decided to keep writing it for my readers, besides: helping all of you still gave me joy, even if I no longer needed this blog for my own personal validation.
There many possible endings to Courage 2 Create.
But they wouldn’t have been right. It wasn’t time then. It would have been too soon.
Now that the blog is in its final chapter, I often think about what I had to endure to keep it going–the behind the scenes of Courage 2 Create is probably just as fascinating, or even more so, than the blog itself.
Personal traumas, a job loss, then a job gain, break ups and make ups, confusion then clarity, then confusion again as I kept becoming more deeply involved in my own spiritual journey and realizing this may pull the blog in a tangent so far off it could never return again to any semblance of coherence; and then, there was a point where I feared I was losing my touch and people had stopped listening.
Then later, after I assumed I was right, I had the sudden realization that no, you all were still listening, you were just being very quiet. And here I thought no one was seeing the new “hole in the wall” that was developing.
Over seven and a half years, I toiled, edited, revised, re-revised, deleted countless blog posts that were just crap.
I re-read and reviewed old posts obsessively to make sure the blog followed a coherent story arc as best as I could that one could follow from its conception… work I knew would probably go unnoticed by most people.
I thought very hard, probably too hard, over the right words to use, the exact punctuation, the right soundtrack to listen to as I wrote each post.
I was as picky as I could have been when it came to the teachers, writers and prophets whose wisdom I have shared with you over the years.
I tried my best to show up for you every single week as much as was humanly possible.
To inspire you, to motivate you, to make you laugh, to make you think and, most of all, to make you smile.
To help you.
I’ve been running a WORD marathon for over seven years.
And now that I’m nearing the finish line, gosh darn it, I’m going to make it through this final year, even if it killls me.
I’m going to finish this novel, on the final deadline I set for myself, once and for all.
The Grace of Fortitude
Each of us have our own marathons we run in life.
For some us it is being a parent to a special needs child, for some of us it’s being a caretaker for a sick loved one, for others, it’s a long painful divorce.
We each have to endure some things. These are not things that you can “win” at, these are not situations you can “succeed” at. These are things that even when you try your hardest and your absolute best, you will still “fail” in the conventional sense of the word.
But still, it doesn’t mean your a loser. It just means that not everything is about winning, sometimes it’s just about making it through.
Endurance, I have learned, is not some game of chess, it’s not a game of strategy or wit.
No it’s a measure of things that can’t be analyzed or studied: the people who are resilient even through the hardest of circumstances are often observed with wide-eyed amazement by the typical intellectual.
This because your survival in those specific situations is not determined by the strength of your mind, but in the strength of your soul.
You have to know, deeply know, that what’s happening means something. Endurance is a test of blind trust: blind trust in the fact that it will all make sense in the end. That what you have to put up with today, this situation you can’t win, no matter how hard you try, is serving some purpose you can’t see or understand.
You’re “enduring” for a reason.
You often don’t know the reason, but believing there is a reason is what gets you through it.
This is because when you get through something that’s really hard, you don’t get a medal or award at the end of it, you just get to say to others that the thing you endured didn’t succeed in killing your spirit.
Fortitude is all about your human limitations reminding you that you are human that, for far too many times, life’s not about winning or losing at all, it’s just about making it without completely giving up.
Putting up with the current “suckage,” until life becomes brilliant again.
Allowing yourself to suck, horribly, until things get better. Being the worst writer of all time, until one day, life gives you a chance to hit your mark.
Showing up not because anyone will care, or because anyone will remember you for it, but because there is some unquantifiable value in your day-in and day-out “showing up” and giving it your absolute best.
Courage 2 Create wasn’t always good. Sometimes, it was terrible. And then, sometimes, it was great. But the difference between the two sometimes had nothing to do with me, but by some miracle I still can’t fully explain. All I did was show up every week, and that was my part. Whether a post was a masterpiece or trash ended up being a mixture of luck and blind luck.
(Don’t ever let anyone tell you there’s a formula for genius–there isn’t. It’s half showing up and trying your best and half divine intervention, beyond that there is no formula.)
It’s something that an introspective writer like myself can explain to you, because mathematicians and scientists and business men see no need to understand something that can’t give them a concrete prize at the end, a solid quantifiable solution.
No company’s balance sheet has a section for “here’s how much we endured”–no, it’s only losses and gains. Assets and liabilities. Negative numbers, zeroes, and positives.
Nothing as ambiguous as “resilience.”
You will always fall short in some way. People will not understand you, they’ll criticize you, belittle you, take you for granted, but you keep going… Until the time comes when you know you’ve reached the end of the finish line.
Fortitude is a grace. Its most potent.
There’s nothing outside of us that can give us this grace, nothing we can think of, nothing we can buy, and no one else can give us the Grace of Fortitude. It’s something that’s developed internally, it’s something that’s already a part of us in someway.
Mysteriously, we can feel this grace arrive at the worst moments of our lives. In the midst of our tragedy, heartbreak and sorrow. The things we don’t think we could ever endure sometimes happen to us, and it is fortitude that is the only thing there to comfort us.
Because fortitude is simply telling us to look at the truth of this moment.
And it’s the truth of this moment that frightens us, the feeling that it will always be here, and won’t ever go away. The fear that this pain will never go away, this tragedy will never subside, this confusion will maintain stubbornly and fiercely present.
Oh the things that we must endure: the unbelievably horrible things… the utter pain and hurt… the trauma… the fear… the anxiety…. the horrendous heartbreak… the darkness… the persistent attacks… the loss of faith… the betrayal… the betrayal… the betrayal…
It often makes you wonder: what is God playing at?
I don’t have all the answers for you. I wish I did.
I can only share with you that in my darkest of moments, I have prayed for grace to help me, and I prayed specifically for the grace of fortitude.
I asked to be given the ability to endure the people I cannot handle, the situations I cannot handle, and my own frustrating limitations.
And the Grace of Fortitude came. Eventually, it always arose in me.
Knowing this moment shall pass, as the monks say, is one thing, but even then, you still have this moment to contend with and sometimes this moment is you, blindfolded, standing on a precipice, being asked to tip-toe your way back to solid land without much help from anybody or anything.
What a cruel joke life can sometimes be, right?
I do not know why it has to be this way at times but I do know that fortitude can get you through it.
If you can accept that your best is sometimes not good enough, and that’s actually okay, as simple as that, you can make it through any hard situation.
What will only help in situations where there is no way to win–or no way to look good in the process of winning–you just have to accept your own human limits.
I have found when you do that, you do make it through.
You always make it through.
Because there is a reason why you are going through what you are going through… you may not know it and I may not know it, but if the simple knowing that there is a reason for your present pain, even though it’s a mystery, can lead you through the present pain–what does it matter if the reason is hidden?
Just know there is a reason, trust in that knowing, follow that knowing. That’s fortitude: not an excerise in logic or reason but an excercise in blind trust.
Why blind? I don’t know.
But what does it matter? If fortitude gets you through it, if He breaks through the unbreakable dungeon you are currently being tortured in and helps you escape out the backway of that black castle—who on god’s green earth cares if you can’t make out his face in the shadows?
He’s showing you the way out, he’s freeing you.
Know, always know, that what you are going through has its reason and that you will come to understand it in due time.
But accept that this reason must remain a mystery for now.
It just needs you to trust it.
So trust it.
Some of you are just staring your story, some of you are midway, some, like me, are veterans of this storytelling marathon.
To the new and the old, to all my fellow marathon runners in life and in writing, I say to you: endure, don’t ever give up until you reach the finish line.
Give up trying to win at it, just show up and try your best, even if your best isn’t good enough and you have to come face-to-face with that heartbreaking reality.
But don’t be dismayed by your human shortcomings on your way to the finish as “wrong” or “weakness”: it’s what makes your story human.
Fortitude is here to help us all: it’s not the most glamorous of life lessons, in fact, it’s one of the most irritating of life lessons–but it cannot be learned without the help of meaning–for they go hand in hand—a meaning that you will not come to know until you’ve endured what this moment is here to teach you.