(I first wrote and published this blog in 2015. I am republishing it tonight for a friend who needs a reminder about how powerful they are and even when it may feel the world is against you, you still have choices.)
I felt the thud on the back of my head and heard the bones in my neck crack as I hit the canvas. Everything went black. I could hear every noise as though amplified in my ears a thousand times. I heard some cheering but they were overwhelmed by the jeers who sneered as they laughed when I fell. I could smell the sweat of my opponent and feel his breath on my cheek as he leant over me to check if his killer punch was enough to knock me off my feet and keep me down. Then silence. The sort of silence when you play musical chairs as a child and there is no seat left for you. The silence as you stand on the touchline begging for the captains not to leave you till last when they pick their teams of friends for football. The silence of loneliness. When you are alone, your driving test, a tooth extraction. Oh yes there may be other people around, they may hold your hand but you feel the loneliness, cold and isolating.
The silence was broken by the cold splash of water on my face. The miserable ring attendants who just wanted me out of the way so they could clear the ring for the next bout. They swept up my teeth and mopped my blood off the white boards. The bell is ringing and my opponent holds the winner's belt in his hand. Jumping for joy, he does the media interviews, collects his winner's fee and puts his arm around his new best friends. I however, lie, limp, lifeless and lost. I am forgotten as the winner's circus continues.
I have my decision to make and I must collect my thoughts. This decision will define me, it will say who I am. This decision will live with me till I reside in a wooden box. I have to choose. Do I let his hurling blows and my fall to the canvas define me, am I the loser, for all to see. Do I quietly leave, step out the ring, avoid the stares and eye contact of all around me. If I go quietly I can be at home shortly away from his terror.
Or do I choose to define myself not by the way I have been defeated, not by the way I hit the canvas, nor by the way I lie alone. But do I have enough left to be able to stand back up in the centre of the ring. To look each person in the eye, knowing I tried. Can I stand and walk back to my bloody opponent and shake his hand. Congratulate him for being the better player on the night. Can I hear my vow to challenge him again. Can I tell the media I did my best and I will be back. Can my resurrection and rise from the dead start now, can it start right now in the moment of defeat. He may have won, I may have lost, but I win because I choose to be defined by the way I get back up, walk towards the bad people and vow to fight again
I choose to fight again.
Well, I watched my dad on the canvas when he lost his job at 58 after 40 years of service in one company as a plumber. I watched friends floored when rejected by their lusting partners. I have seen charities on the canvas when overwhelmed by need with little to offer comfort. I have seen broken families in the middle east with nothing left but a slither of hope. I have seen sickness and misery of people who I really care about. I have seen leaders lose and losers win. I have watched bullies bully and bigots bigot. And racists disgrace the name of many innocent people with their rants and behaviours. But this leaves me with just stale air in my lungs. I am not moved by misery.
I am moved by courage, grit, bravery, tenacity and simple human spirit. Because they still had hope. Watching with tears roll down my face as my dad knocked on doors looking for odd jobs. Bravery was looking at my friends as their put their lives and families back together when a life partner leaves. Charities rattling cans, determined to rebuild their resources and those in my life struck with despair determined to laugh when Dad’s Army repeats one more time. Standing up when you have a crowd stood round you takes guts. And it's humbling when the loser stands, amongst the jeers of the crowd to take back the crown of dignity.
I am moved by courage. I am moved by the courage of loners who are knocked down but won't stay down.They are to bullies a damn nuisance and to me, they are the modern heroes in my life.
So if you are knocked down, badly beaten, alone, with jeering ringing in your ears. Follow the example of those who have lost before you. Stand up. Stand tall. Walk back into the ring and vow to come back stronger. Be an example and leave a legacy for the losers who are watching you on the canvas. Stand tall and show them how it can be done.
When I lay on the canvas, it was cold, confusing and I was alone. But when I thought of my dad, my friends and loved ones I knew I had to stand up and fight again. I did not owe it to anyone else, I owed it to me. I got up and immediately I was not alone. I got so much help from people I knew and beautifully from people I had never met.
So if you are dazed and alone, I know it's hard when tough blows strike, but remember, you decide how you get back up off the canvas and no one else.