Life Is Not Losing

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Last Sunday night at the Golden Globes, George Clooney accepted the Cecil B. Demille Award for lifetime achievement. In his speech, he talked about how he had lost much more than he'd won at award ceremonies like this. In fact, 80% of the actors and actresses in the room, he pointed out, don't win.

"And then, you are a loser."

Many of these actors would feel like losers, and many people at the after parties and work the next day would treat them like losers. Clooney went on to say this, though: "For the record, if you're in this room...you get to do what you've always dreamed to do and be celebrated for it.

And that just...it ain't losing."

I've been thinking about that idea ever since. That even when you feel like you're losing, you're not really losing.

You'd think it'd be easy enough for George Clooney to convince a room full of wealthy, talented people that they're not, in fact, losers. The truth, though, is that all of those people at the Golden Globes are mere mortals, like you and me. Despite the success and the admiration they've garnered, they still know what it is to feel defeated. They still bleed when critics pick at their flaws. They still try to claw their way out of the shadow of insecurity.

Nobody's immune to feeling like a loser. Not them--the glittering, glamorous gods of Hollywood--and not us--the ones who are fooled into thinking fame cures the fragile human ego.

No matter our backgrounds, our races, our genders, our socio-economic statuses, our careers, we all know what it is to lose.

We have all been losers.

We've lost games, matches, and races.

We've lost jobs, and we've lost money.

We've lost opportunities.

We've lost friendships.

We've lost our innocence.

We've lost our dignity, or our self esteem, or our confidence.

We've lost loved ones to the slow, measured sunset of aging or the blinding flash of tragedy.

We've lost sections of our hearts sliced off by lovers to whom we've bonded ourselves.

Like our keys, wallets, or phones, we've all lost ourselves in some crack or crevice or some field or forest of addiction, manic romance, or winding, confused pursuit of happiness.

We all know defeat. We all know discouragement. We all lose.

But what if life isn't about the amount of awards on our mantel? What if it's not about how many times we can get a "yes" from people or a prize when we scratch the ticket? What if it doesn't even matter if you've lost the battle but are winning the war?

I think that when it comes to life, if you lose, you're not losing. You're not losing because that's not how life works. It's not about fighting to keep the number of W's higher than the number of L's on the scorecard. We're not trying, like some of our teams, to fight our way to a playoff spot for a chance to make it to the Big One.

Life is not winning. Life is not losing. Life is mending, moving, and making.

Life is mending, about how we heal from our inevitable wounds. We rebuild our broken homes. We ice our strained self images. We rethread our tattered hearts. When someone passes away, we grieve and mourn and laugh and cry all manners of emotions from our eyes. When our hearts are broken, we lock ourselves away. We fight and grab for some semblance of control over anything. We drink wine or whiskey or the cold air of lonely walks at night. And then, time passes. And more time passes. And the bleeding stops, the ache downgrades from jet engine to portable fan, and we realize we're still here. We can still do this.

Life is moving, about oiling our creaky joints and using our limbs again to step out of our static, stuck, self-pitying positions. We move, and we must move forward--because the world is moving, and time is moving, and the people who love us and need us--the ones we know and the ones we've yet to meet--are all moving, and none of that goes backwards. We regain our bearings, we rediscover our goals and dreams, and we begin to walk in that direction. It may feel like we're simply moving from loss to loss, from disappointment to disappointment. I'd like to think we move through losses and disappointments to something better. Something more beautiful.

Life is making, about exercising the power to build and mold the shape of our experiences. We can look at each rejection, each bit of bad news, each slip and fall and fracture and see a discouraging arc. We can see a story whose every scene clubs its audience over the head with this theme: "Count the losses--you are a loser. This is life." If we do that, we make our losses into monsters that grow bigger and deadlier every time we experience them. We'll build a life that buries us much earlier than we should be buried. We'll build our own coffins, box ourselves in panels of pine, and seal ourselves in the dark.

But it doesn't have to be that way. When you experience a loss, when a plan falls through, when a door is shut, when you lose a job, when someone whom you love tells you that you are not worth the fight, when your losses threaten to bury you under the earth--

--you can build stairways to the surface. You can make skylights to let the sun shine on your battle-worn face again. You can create life from loss. Because life is not counted and measured and defined by losing. Because you will heal, and become stronger. Because you will move forward through defeat and toward hope, and love, and all that is better. You can make a life that is made of sturdier material than winning.

You will lose in your lifetime, but you will not be losing at life.

You will move. You will mend. You will make life more than that.

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Feature photo ©2010 Adam Foster | Flickr