The Arena

I fell in love with the idea of living life in the arena when I heard Brene Brown read from Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech. It was one of those moments a dozen clichés could describe – the turning point, an aha moment – they all fit. As I listened to Brene read the speech Roosevelt delivered in 1910, the words provided structure to what I had been thinking about for years. I was finally able to quiet the critics in my mind, the imaginary ones I invented whenever I wanted to try something new and the real ones who doubted (loudly) my ability to start over.

I was six years in on a total life rebuild, kind of like “Fixer Upper” if Chip and Jo needed to fixer-upper a house with no money, materials or help.  Why I was rebuilding my life at 45 is a story for another post. For now, I will simply say it was terrifying and overwhelming, but also exhilarating and incredibly, marvelously fulfilling.

There were wins and losses. The losses were so painful, I wanted to quit. There were people who told me I would never succeed, would never work again, would never have the life I dreamed of. But there were also a lot of people who believed in me when I didn’t. They said they would believe for me until I could.

So, when I heard “The Man in the Arena”, it made sense. I found the place where I belonged. My face was, indeed, marred by dust and sweat and blood, but I was in there and I was thriving.

For those of you who are still searching for your place, here’s a portion of that speech:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”