Know who you are

The Three Soldiers statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC,  April 2012

The Three Soldiers statue at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, DC, April 2012

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”Maya Angelou

Nobody likes to lose.  Loss hurts, sometimes irrevocably.  But there are lessons in defeat, if we are wise enough to learn them.

If you are experiencing defeat right now, take courage from Angelou’s words above, and in this video that features her incredibly incandescent hope, and know you can rise above your despair.  If you have painful memories of past defeats, I hope you are able to look back and find some good that came of it.

If you’ve never felt the sting of defeat, you’re a rare and blessed person, and have reason to be thankful.  But it’s almost certain that you know someone who isn’t so fortunate, who might need your compassion and help in facing their loss.

Defeat, as any other crisis, can be a catalyst for growth and change.  In fact, often defeat will give us no other choice but to grow, if we wish to survive.  Today let’s draw inspiration from the many people around us now, and in our collective history, who taught themselves (and us) how we can rise above setbacks and keep going.

One year ago today:

A daybreak that’s wondrously clear


  1. HarryS

    How many thousands of lightbulbs did Thomas Edison have to make before he finally got one to work?
    How many thousands of drinks of liquor did I have to take before I decided it didn’t work?

    🙂 Harry 🙂

    • Well said, Harry! I’m sure we can all think of similar “slow learning” situations in our own lives.

  2. bobmielke

    The Vietnamese won in more than one way as their products fill our store as do the communist countries of Cambodia & China. It turns my stomach to think I served my country to stop the spread of Communism.

    • The consolation (if there is one) is that the presence of their products in our stores means that they are becoming more capitalistic. Perhaps the human rights issues will not be far behind. We can only hope so.

  3. singleseatfighterpilot

    I would like to add something to Dr. Maya Angelou’s short video clip. She speaks of “bringing everyone who has ever been kind to you, with you” (let’s extrapolate, and say “onto life’s stage”). I believe there are those who have been kind to us in the past, but may be estranged at present – these are the ones, as challenging as it may seem, who must be carried with you onto the stage.

    • Eric, I agree. I believe that no act of kindness is ever wasted, and usually no such kindness is forgotten, either.

  4. Defeat is just another word for “get up and try again!” 🙂

    • I like that!

  5. Much truth in your post, Julia. Deafeat can make or break.
    A person who puts his hand into an open flame, and learns not to do it again, shows he is wise.
    One who foolishly insists on repeating the same action, shows he is proud.
    Knowledge that does not transform to wisdom, does not do so because of pride.

    • Alan, I agree! Often we think that repeating the same mistake is simply ignorance or outright stupidity, but I think far more often it’s pride. That’s probably one reason why 12-step programs start with admitting no control over a problem; it puts people on humble ground which makes true change more likely.

  6. Julia, even if defeats are few and far between, we somehow are stronger for the endurance that we go through regarding these situations. Your words, the video, and the comments here are an inspiration to me this evening.

    • Thank you Sheila. Every time Jeff seems to fear that I have unrealistic expectations about his prognosis, I remind him of a beautiful bit of dialogue at the end of the movie The Way We Were, which has always reminded me of us:

      Hubbell Gardner: You never give up, do you?
      Katie Morosky Gardner: Only when I’m absolutely forced to. But I’m a very good loser…
      Hubbell Gardner: Better than I am.
      Katie Morosky Gardner: Well, I’ve had… more practice.

      I keep reminding Jeff that I know how to be a good loser. I’ve had lots of practice… ❤

  7. I just love Maya Angelou. Thank you for sharing that quote and video.

    • I do too. She just exudes strength, dignity and the best kind of high expectations of herself and others. I’m glad she left so much of herself for us to ponder and enjoy.

  8. Michael

    I think I could listen to her for a long time. I would have liked to hear her in person and am saddened this will not take place. This was also on my bucket list. She carries such a spiritual presence and had a way of telling the profound with directness and everyday language. Did she do any audio books? I am sure -she must have.

    • Yes, I just love Maya Angelou’s voice and words. She projects such strength and compassion. She did make audiobooks; I have one of her reading her poetry, and I have listened to one of her autobiographical books (Gather Together in My Name).

  9. Michael

    Your comment from the movie above -“The Way we Were” Redford and Streisand reminds me of the “Steely Dan Song.” whose name I can’t recall- ” Deacon Blues?.- “They have a name for the winners of the world -I want a name when I lose. They call Alabama the Crimson tide -Call me Deacon Blues.” I have to look that up now.

    Watched a sad and touching the movie the other day” The fault in our stars.”

    • Wow, “Deacon Blues” — does that ever bring back memories. That song, along with everything on the Aja album, was on my frequently-played list when Jeff and I were first dating. I love Steely Dan, strangely enough. It’s not just their amazing sound, so different from everyone else’s, but also the themes that come through in their music. Although their topics are vastly removed from my own life (drinking, drugs, violence, wild abandon) there is a melancholy underneath it all that resonates with me, and on the flip side, a carefree joy in so much of their music that I love to hear. Jeff and I saw them in concert a few years ago and to my surprise, Walter Becker came across (at least on stage) as the real personality and seemingly driving force of the two, not Donald Fagen; I had always imagined it would be the opposite. They have remained consistently great over the decades, at least during the years they have been together, and have aged well in their music. Some of their recent stuff is very good. I used to tell Jeff (before he got sick) that their song “The Things I Miss the Most” sounded like something he could sing about me after I died, assuming he outlived me, as I always used to assume he would. I had not heard of the movie you mentioned, but I looked it up and I think it looks like something we might like to watch — if we can stand it.

  10. Michael

    Yea- Deacon Blues

    • This is how they looked when we saw them a few years ago. They still sound great.

  11. Michael

    Perhaps a movie about teenagers with terminal cancer is not the best suggestion. Actually my daughter in law Rachel suggested it. She also said the recent flick- Vincent with Bill Murray is good.
    Last weekend we watched Reds again with Warren Beatty- long movie over three hours- but I thought it was well done- as I did the first time I viewed it. I am about half way through the Dr. -Zhivago reading and find it difficult with all the extremely complicated, long, difficult to pronounce, Russian names. I have visited Reed college several times in Portland and a friend from high school went there- by the way he is a dentist in Anchorage. This friend was our brilliant high school valedictorian and his dad a retired Army doctor.
    I will have to look that song up- ” The things I miss.”

    • I remember that I really liked Reds, but have forgotten most of it. I love Bill Murray so I will definitely want to see Vincent. As it is, Jeff and I have been trying to get around to viewing the very last episode of Downton Abbey before the new season starts. We seem to be so exhausted at the end of each day that we have no interest in starting to watch anything. Re: Zhivago, the Russian names become less confusing if you get the hang of the patronymics and nicknames, which result in the same character being referred to by different names. It’s certainly confusing. I think my version of the book has a kind of key at the front that includes all the various names for each character, which helps. The novel is definitely not easy reading, but the scope and depth of it was brilliant, I thought. There’s a lot of talk about plot-driven novels vs. character-driven novels, but I have to say, with a backdrop such as the Russian Revolution, it’s amazing to me that Pasternak managed to build such believable and ultimately sympathetic characters in the midst of all the historical intrigue and carnage. I would have expected the plot to run away with the story, but not so. It’s mostly a story about people caught up in events, and it’s the people I remember most about the book, which is why I found it impressive.

  12. Michael

    The novel- Zhivago- is sitting on my side table with a book marker on page 252. It has not been opened for two days. I made it half way. Can’t fault me for that. It seems like they have been on that train- riding toward Yuriatin- for a long time.
    It seems so cold there in Russia and I am not sure I want to visit- though I did want to see the painting by Rembrandt of -“The Prodigal Son” in St. Petersburg. Not open to the public by the way and Henri Nouwen wrote a book about it. He got to visit the painting for a one on one viewing that lasted an hour. He describe that in his book. Still on my bucket list. Reading Zhivago in it’s entirety was also on the list. Oh well.

    • Not to worry, Michael, there are plenty of other good books out there. Besides, you can always see the movie. I don’t know if I would have made it through the book without having seen the film a couple of times. It’s fun to compare. BTW that train ride to Yuriatin WAS long – maybe we are supposed to experience it with them and feel some measure of relief when they finally get there! I remember even as a child I thought Varykino looked enchanting in the movie. The modern-day Trans-Siberian railroad is bound to be a bit more comfortable. That’s a journey I wouldn’t mind taking if I could afford it. I have always wanted to visit Russia. I hadn’t heard of Nouwen’s book about the Rembrandt, but I should look it up, as I really admire Nouwen.

  13. Michael

    I think the book is called simply -“The Prodigal son.” His description of actually seeing the painting, which is quite huge like 10 by 14 feet is unforgettable. There is a back story too on how the painting ended up there.

    • Thanks Michael, I have placed a hold on that book through the interlibrary loan of my public library. I will look forward to reading it!

  14. Michael

    Varykino reminds me a bit of the Hobbit House in Waimanalo. I think if I have my druthers I will take the Hawaii ticket.

    • The Hawaiian location definitely has the edge when it comes to climate. Even Yuri and Tonya would agree.

  15. When I look at the Three Soldiers memorial, I can’t help but feel dread for what those men indured. Especially that so many were drafted against their own personal choice. If I think about world news too long, it really breaks my heart to know how many are in dispair globally. I must think, as a parent, it’d be much harder to watch your children be hungry and homeless, so much more than it hurts yourself. I think of my own low times in life as so minimal when others have or are facing life and death situations. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel guilty for having so much happiness in life when others wait desperately for help. I don’t know what it’ll take to change things in these war torn countries, it seems endless. To leave on a positive note, I’ll focus on the part of Maya Angelou’s quote that suggests you will rise above it. Hugs K

    • K, I think all of us who are blessed with abundance and happiness sometimes feel guilty when we think of others who are suffering. But maybe guilt is not the right word for it; maybe humility and concern are more to the point. Then we can use our tangible and intangible gifts to help others, whether with a smile, a kind word, a donation of money or time. In this way we can help each other rise above it all. The trick is not to feel overwhelmed, and just keep doing what we can each day, one person and one step at a time…

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