Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Bravest Thing I've Ever Done

Getting sober is the bravest thing I’ve ever done. To look the world straight in the eye, without self-medicating first, requires this alcoholic to dig deep for the courage that many people seem to come by naturally. And she has to keep digging too, to keep up with the adventures of being human.

The artwork I’m using today is an illustration by Gustave Doré in the 1866 version of John Milton's Paradise Lost. “Satan rises from the burning lake” illustrates what Milton calls Lucifer’s “courage never to submit or yield.” The piece also has been used in reference to one of my all-time favorite poems, “Ulysses” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which ends with these wonderful lines:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
I memorized “Ulysses” for a college speech class, drawn to its celebration of the enduring adventuresome spirit. I never have read Paradise Lost, and I find the Satan connection a little icky. But the prompt for this week’s Poetry Jam asked poets to write something inspired by Paradise Lost, John Milton, or Gustave Doré, and my research led me to my beloved “Ulysses” via the aforementioned Lucifer link.

Courage is the thing that gets me excited. I’ve had to find some. I’ve had to learn how to endure when life goes sideways. I’ve had to learn self-discipline, the courageous act of refusing to yield to my own wild impulses, which would have me flee from uncomfortable circumstances. I’ve had to plumb my inner resources when shit hit the fan, and when I came up empty, I’ve had to discover that God’s grace is sufficient on any given day.

All of which is a boatload of verbiage to introduce a very short poem ~ 160 characters, to be exact, counting the spaces. Visit other poets monkeying around with ultra-shorts at Monkey Man’s place here, or jamming with Milton here.

Here is my extremely short epic poem:

Without a shield, I face my fears
Weak, unarmed, I will not yield
As the smoke of battle clears
I’m still standing on the field
By your cheers my wounds are healed!


Terra said...

I admire you.
"I'm still standing on the field", wonderful words, could be on a coat of arms.

Steve E said...

Your epic poem, derived from Tennyson's "Ulysses"...I LIKE!

Ya know, when a Peep says we are living in hell right now, on earth, I sometimes meander through a forest of thoughts to this view:

Satan was banished to earth (not sure of that) maybe we ARE living in hell already. Wouldn't that be nice? then nobody has to think they might "GO there!"--grin!

Brian Miller said...

smiles. i am glad you faced those demons was very brave of you...nice little verse too...smiles.

Steve E said...

Yup! "Getting sober is the bravest thing I’ve ever done."

Who wants to admit that she/he is helpless, hopeless, powerless? Hmmmm?
Never thought of "staying sober" as bravery, but thanks for that idea. Somewhat like a soldier...recognize the enemy, commit, then do the work!

Good blog! OMG, did I write TWO comments? I may have to stay here with the devil after all of you have left--grin!

izzy said...

Lovely job! courage is a tough one that I work on daily, right along with gratitude-

Monkey Man said...

Love the lead in and your epic poem. Yup, truly epic.

Carrie Burtt said...

You are such a wonderful inspiration to me Chris...i understand courage...i have seen loved ones face the same is a wonderful inspiration to see a person recover through God's grace and strength.

Anonymous said...

I like what you said about having to dig deep for the courage that others seem to come by naturally. I feel that way, too. As though everyone else is one step ahead or just a little more with-it than I am. Perhaps it's all in my head. Perhaps not. Either way, I'll continue to step away from the bottle.

Elisabeth said...

A plug courage and for free will. Bravo, Chris. You exemplify both and your poem offers fine testimony to the struggle.

e said...

Wonderful post...You rock!

Lou said...

I always like when you write about your journey. It helps me understand the struggles of loved ones. I need to remember "just quitting" is not an option for most takes courage and relentless honesty.

Syd said...

Face everything and recover--that's what this tells me. We are still standing after many sad times. We endure. I am grateful for that.

Helen said...

This is immense! A poem meant to be clipped (cyber kind) and taped (real kind) to my bathroom mirror!

Titus said...

Hooray. Hooray. Hooray. For all of it.

Mary said...

Excellent! It is a strong statement to be able to face fears without any kind of shield. Cheering for you.

Anonymous said...

an epic poem indeed packed into 160 characters! facing ones fears is the bravest thing anyone can do. thank you for sharing, Chris!
♥ dani

the walking man said...

How can anyone recover from anything if they are filled with fear? Lose the fear and become recovered.

The Bug said...

Love your poem - but this is the line that will stay with me (and I might make it my mantra for a while): "...the courageous act of refusing to yield to my own wild impulses, which would have me flee from uncomfortable circumstances."

Akannie said...

Hi Chris--long time...

I have met the most courageous people I know in the are so right.

Such a great post./ you!!

ScottF said...

as a fellow recovering alkie, I belicve you've captured the essence of recovery with the last line :-)


Marion said...

"I’ve had to plumb my inner resources when shit hit the fan, and when I came up empty, I’ve had to discover that God’s grace is sufficient on any given day."

Exactly right. I,too,wondered,when I went through recovery, how others just naturally have that courage you speak of, without resorting to self-medication. The above quote explains it nicely. Wonderful post, as always, thank you! xx

eflores said...

this is epic! So much to learn in a small amount of time.

Erick Flores