Saturday, January 1, 2011

Taking the Hit

When I was a kid, New Year's meant the Tournament of Roses parade and football afterward. It also meant Christmas break was almost over and I'd have to face the prospect of going back to school. It was really hard to get excited about a holiday with that kind of baggage. I've never been one to "party hardy," so as an adult, I tend to spend New Year's Eve at home, explaining to my dog and cat why New Year's is such a big deal. They usually end up falling asleep somewhere in the midst of my soliloquy and I don't blame them.

Last night, however, I got an unexpected treat when the 2006 film Rocky Balboa showed up on commercial television. I hadn't seen it in quite a while and all I could recall was, Rocky is an older, retired fighter who has a chance to come back and tackle a younger and presumably, hungrier opponent. I'd forgotten some of the things that made it such a moving film the first time.

Mostly, I'd forgotten Rocky's impassioned speech when his son appeals to him to turn down the invitation to fight the reigning world heavyweight champ on the grounds he has felt eclipsed by his father's name and reputation. "The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done. Now, if you know what you're worth, then go out and get what you're worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit, and not (be) pointing fingers saying you ain't where you are (or wish to be) because of him, or her, or anybody."

Listening to Rocky's character, I couldn't help but think about people I've known (and know, by the way) who've had experiences that lead others to ask, "Haven't you had enough? Isn't it time to rethink your options?" And instead of rethinking anything, they find a way to keep moving in the direction they've chosen. Not stubbornly, mindlessly, without regard for life or limb, in the name of an overblown sense of pride. But out of commitment to something larger than themselves, a dream, a vision of their future they're unwilling to abandon simply because the way has gotten tougher than they thought it might.

I'm impressed by their determination, but especially by their integrity. When they've called or written to say they've taken a hit, they don't talk about how they've gotten a bad break or who's to blame for their situation. They consistently tell me what they've done and how their actions have resulted in what they're facing now. If they blame anyone, it's themselves, but not in an off-handed way that suggests they think someone else is responsible after all.

These are the people who keep me going. When I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself or think I'm all alone in a big blue sea of things that didn't go right, they're out there, swimming against the tide instead of treading water. The waves wash over their heads, they sputter, clear their faces, take another breath, and keep on going. They know land is ahead whether they can see it or not and refuse to quit until their feet touch solid ground. If they can do it, so can I.

From my dog and cat, Dr. Bob Z, Jessie, and all the rest -- including me -- Happy New Year!

(Creative Commons image by Lord Henry via Flickr)
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