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QUINTESSENCE

Best Worst Day

Why didn't the skeleton cross the road?
He didn't have any guts.

- Pediatric surgeon to young patient

It's Homecoming Weekend at colleges all across America. Football, dances, Halloween concerts. I'm in Annapolis, Maryland, for Parents Weekend for the USNA Second Class - one celebration specifically for junior year Midshipmen - a mark of having made it thus far and "earned" that all important double stripe of authority and responsibility within the Brigade. What a beautiful weekend of weather, all the proud families and Mids, the exciting home football game against Eastern Carolina in Marine-Navy Stadium. That game framed what I'd call "the proverbial streak of bad luck," what my grandfather called an ebb life tide, when it seems not much is ever going right. The much needed touchdown in the 4th quarter to win is ruled out on review, the saving field kick hits the standard and bounces smack back into the field. Navy is defeated. All the best effort met with successive waves of bad breaks, bad judgment, bad luck. Bad news.

I thought about this as I laughed hearing the joke I opened this day's essay with. So what if you get over the road in the most haphazard of ways, at the wrong corner? You had the courage to cross. I am so proud of these young men and women and their effort at all they do - from the rigors of Academy academics to the demands of leadership and upholding personal accountability at all times. These Mids are heroes to me in their selfless commitment to serve our country, and their determined endeavors to get what is required of them at all times right. Who among us upholds that standard? Precious few. It makes the man or woman from the inside, from character out. Bravo Zulu, Class of 2013.

Now the idea of an ebb tide of life, that life has its swells and shallows, times when everything we do is met with disappointment and failure, and we hang on to the hope of a turn in the tide, is one any of us over the age of 40 is well acquainted with. Somewhere along the line in my own hardening into adulthood I learned this phrase, "I don't understand, but I accept." And it has come to symbolize, to me, that forever-seeming balance point of not knowing if or will you endure but waking up each day and arming for battle. The Battle of Today: one more day living with struggle or heartbreak. The specter of cancer in the family, of the loss of a job, of the tragic death of a parent, of the unexpected illness in a child.

"I don't understand, but I accept," holds the heart's door open to perspective, to the tide coming in. To the sense of balance of good and not so good in life. And sure, the field goal smacked the post and kicked back at the kicker - a failed attempt if ever there was one - but that player made the effort. Attempted the summit to carry the day. And next time, he will. Because he had the guts.

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