Monday, February 6, 2012

the upside of defeat

Last week I had an epiphany (don’t you just love those?). It was the end of a pretty disappointing day. Things weren’t working out the way I hoped they would--or rather, they were working out they way I hoped they would not. There’s a difference, you know.
There was disappointment. Sadness. Maybe even some anger or bitterness. But more than anything, I felt defeated. This feeling of defeat went deep, for it was too familiar. The kind that seems to show up over and over again and, in the past, had acutely and profoundly affected me. This was the Oh-No-Not-Again kind of defeat. A repeat offender, so to speak.
On to the epiphany.
I was in the kitchen making a salad for lunch the next day, even though what I really wanted to do was watch an episode of The Bachelor online so I could simultaneously commiserate with and ridicule the women "looking for love."
So there I was, chopping away at a heart of romaine, having a pick-me-up conversation with myself when I heard a voice inside say, "Defeat only lasts as long as you let it." I stopped chopping and put the knife down. Stared without seeing at the kitchen cupboard, and repeated it to myself.
Defeat only lasts as long as you let it.
This salad could definitely wait. I was having an "Aha!" moment. I washed my hands, turned on my laptop, and wrote it down. The realization had my brain suddenly whirring with thought and I didn’t want to forget that moment.
Here’s the thing about defeat. It’s absolutely real. There comes a moment when you realize it's there, when you're looking it straight in the face, and you know: "I've lost." 
Here’s the thing about that moment. Once it's happened, it's gone. That incremental second of time is history, it's in the past. You may have lost, but now it's over. It doesn't mean it doesn't suck, because it definitely totally sucks. But it is done.
I did not want to spend the rest of the week wallowing in self-pity and misery. I really didn't want that. I clung to  my newfound realization and impressed it upon my mind the rest of the night. The morning after my epiphany I got out of bed on time. I felt like wearing my glasses and being all mopey and hipster. Instead I put in my contacts. I felt like wearing whatever pair of jeans most closely resembled a pair of sweatpants (which isn't all that much, to tell the truth). Instead I put on a dress. I did all of my makeup, instead of the usual quick foundation and mascara swipe because I'm always in a hurry. I accessorized with my soul mantra necklace.
I looked darn good. So I felt good. I blasted "Pumped Up Kicks" on the radio on the way to work, and when I got there I threw myself into the huge and difficult project sitting on my desk that I wasn't really quite sure what to do with. After work, I remembered (barely) to water the daffodils. I did some hardcore yoga. I made real food for dinner instead of the bag of microwave popcorn calling out to me. I watched an episode of The Bachelor online and both commiserated and ridiculed.
Truth be told, I still felt like hell by the end of the day. It’s a lot of work to not look back over your shoulder and relive your defeated moments. But it sure beats dwelling in them and letting them saturate you.

This is the upside of defeat. I love the fact that we have even some small choice in otherwise helpless situations. We may not always be able to control when we win and when we lose, but we do get to choose how long we stay stuck in that moment. There is such freedom in walking away from defeat in the direction of whatever's coming up next.


  1. Learned about your blog from your mom's blogpost. You have some fantastic photos!

  2. What an awesome post! Thanks for writing this.. I love the very last line!

  3. Thanks, MaryJo! So wonderful to see you here. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...