By tabbykerwin, Jun 13 2019 08:41AM
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." ‘The Man in the Arena’ – Theodore Roosevelt (23rd April 1910)
‘The Man in the Arena’ was to become one of former US President Roosevelt’s most famous speeches and it still resonates as much today as it did when he gave it in 1910.
But for me, it has resonated more, both personally and professionally, in the last few weeks than it ever previously has done.
Let me break it down as to why…
In the past few weeks I’ve been commented on behind my back (yes, it always filters back!) as not coping, crazy and some other rather more critical phrases following the death of my husband Simon just seven months ago.
This has been born out of the fact that, quite often, on social media I will post pictures, memories and thoughts of Simon, grief and my life and work, which revolves so much around Simon, being as we set-up our business together and one of the businesses, our publishing house, solely hinges on his musical legacy and work.
Sometimes, these are also more than once a day… oh the shame!
But here’s the thing…and I don’t expect half of you to understand, but try, or at least empathise if you can’t understand.
This does not mean I’m struggling, crazy, in need of help, incapable of doing my professional jobs, or anything else you might like to say… It means I am embracing grief, not being overwhelmed by it and choosing happiness.
Likewise, if you comment on something and it displays a lack of kindness or subtlety, I will be quite defensive (and slightly sarcastic!); again, not because I’ve lost the plot, but purely because I won’t tolerate unkindness, humiliation or bullying from anyone. Surely that’s not exclusive to someone living or in others’ words ‘struggling’ with grief?
I currently have around 1726 Facebook friends (give or take as my honesty loses and gains people along the way or I get rid of a few!) and when I post on social media I do not do so expecting a response from anybody; I do it because it is my right, right for me, my life and my honesty and often it resonates with many who choose to contact me privately. For me, it is not about public ‘likes’ and ‘comments.’
Of those approximately 1726 people I can count on two hands the number who check-in with me regularly as real friends to see how I am.
A vast majority of those 1726 know me from many years ago. Those I know from school and university years know me… anybody who has been my real friend over the last 18 months knows me… anyone who is basing their knowledge of me from about 2005 to 2018 does not know the real me... honestly, you really don’t! They know someone who was steeped in anxiety and living in a very dark place in their mind. Someone who went to some really difficult places but all the time was hiding it from you.
But the person who stands here writing today is the happiest version of myself even when I’m living with grief.
How and why?
I’ve not been afraid to seek advice and learn and change and to share my story with others.
Simon saved me when we were friends and then married. He gave me the self-confidence and skills to be me, to not worry about other people’s opinions, to strive to always learn, develop and change. He taught me to be honest and that showing my vulnerabilities is OK. It was really only once he died that I realised what he’d done for me. He’d made me focus on myself to get strong. Strong enough to deal with anything, including grief. He gave me the ultimate gift of giving me myself back.
That’s why now I’m dedicated to putting myself and mental health awareness ahead of everything I do in my personal and professional life. Kindness costs nothing, but it changes everything. If I’m writing, working with clients, running events, mentoring, teaching, conducting or adjudicating it all comes from a place where my own and others’ mental wellbeing comes first and the words come from a place of kindness.
I am proud to be me, to be honest about my thoughts, emotions, successes and vulnerabilities and so I will share these thoughts and feelings, and if my story resonates with just one person, then it is a story worth sharing.
But vulnerability is only vulnerability when it has boundaries, hence most of you will never know everything about me or what’s going on in my life.
Talking about grief is a taboo subject; it shouldn’t be.
Talking about mental health is a taboo subject; it shouldn’t be.
I refuse to let them be taboo anymore and I will share my experiences to show that whilst anxiety, grief and other mental wellbeing issues are the worst things in your life, they can help you be the best version of you in your life.
If you want to comment on me and my mental status (or anyone else as the same applies to anyone whose social media feed you might follow), talk TO me, not ABOUT me. If you’re genuinely concerned for my welfare message me. Ask me HOW I am, find out WHO I am and then you’ll actually see I’m really good and posting about Simon is a celebration and a strength, and not a sign of weakness and craziness. Don’t judge me on your assumption of the person you think you know. I have changed; I am continually changing and I’m using my personal experiences to live my life and develop my professional life.
I am the man in the arena.
… and we can all be the man in the arena if we are vulnerable, honest and brave and I will treat you as the ‘doer of deeds’ also.