1.a : a mustering of scattered forces to renew an effort
b : a summoning up of strength or courage after weakness or dejection
c : a renewed offensive
My twenty-one year old son Eric called late one night, convinced he was a failure at pretty much every aspect of life – particularly the ones that revolved around making adult choices and dealing with the fall-out afterwards.
“Look,” I said. “I am not going to kid you, and maybe I should say something more positive than this to cheer you up – but life can be pretty fucked up. Shit is going to happen. Mistakes are inevitable. And it seems like, for you and I, shit happens more often than not. But, here is the thing: all that really matters is how you come back from it. The important thing is what you do next. Life is all about the rally.”
That conversation stayed with me for months, turning itself in my mind like a stone in a river. My answer shows that I have never been happy with the limiting definition as being either a “glass half empty/glass half full” kind of person. I am a “glass has tipped over, now what?” person.
This past month I attended a ski industry demo weekend that culminated in an evening of shot-ski Fireball rounds and waking the next day to 17” of fresh, light powder. “Waking” is a term to be used loosely after a night that had gone a little too well for me. I could barely haul myself into the backseat of the Subaru for the trip up the mountain where I stayed wrapped around an empty red solo cup in case I threw up. It wasn’t pretty. But I rallied. Setting my goals low (ie: do NOT puke off the chairlift), I skied off by myself, and enjoyed face-shots of pure pow, the particular silence of falling snow and the joy of only doing what I wanted, when I wanted. It was one of my best ski days ever, despite the stomach ache.
Later, I found out some friends had not only missed the untracked snow of the morning, but had bailed early on an afternoon of blue-bird skies because of the same brown-bottle flu. I was puzzled. If they had said they were struggling, I would have shared the Pepto Bismol that my boyfriend had so generously bought me. Even with a self-inflicted sickness , I didn’t understand how could you give up so easily on such a marvelous day at an event that only comes once a year. I had certainly made mistakes that resulted in feeling less than ideal, but I wasn’t going to let it stop me from getting what I wanted out of my day. A day that hadn’t gone as planned; it had, in fact, gone even better.
Much of life my life has been one good idea after another turning out to be a hot-mess. Instead of utilizing my intelligence, I have often excelled in establishing my stupidity. And too many choices made with good intentions snowballed into regrettable mistakes through no fault of my own. I used to punish myself endlessly, wallowing in the “bad” moment as if reminding myself of my shortcomings was going to make things better. But as the saying goes, there are plenty of other people to tell you that you are an idiot, so don’t do it to yourself.
Over time, I learned to let the bad moment or bad choice go, leaving room for what was going to happen next. A terrifying thought if you believe you are not worthy of good things or that you may puke in front of a bunch of people. But really, when we take conscious action with our best intentions, the odds are just as good that it may be fine as that the world will end. The mistake only matters if we let it keep us from living fully – if we let it define our day, our week, our career, our attitude. We learn nothing from perfection. Life is all about the do-overs and the recycle bin, our successes and joys clearly built on the heels of devastating decisions.
But there is one more definition of “rally” applies here for my son and my friends….
2a: a mass meeting intended to arouse group enthusiasm
Eric called a couple of days ago to confess that he’d been having difficulties again. But after two weeks of floundering anxiety (and ignoring my voicemail and texts), he reached past the terror of failure and embraced into the possibility of success. He stopped being immobilized by the slowly tightening noose of bad past decisions and focused instead of what he wanted next.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were having trouble?” I asked.
“I needed to do it by myself, Mom. I needed to know I could get it together on my own. Things are great now.” His voice was full of optimism.
I was proud that he pushed through his uncertainty to get what he needed. “I understand. But next time, tell me. Even if you have to say you don’t want help, tell me what is going on. Let me support you just by sending extra good vibes your way.”
No matter your mistakes or your choices, you never have to be alone. Get over your embarrassment and ask for support from you “enthusiastic group”. Let us rally on your behalf. Pepto Bismol and a sympathetic ear go a long way in calming stomachs and fears.