The art of losing gracefully.

Nobody likes to lose. Nobody. It’s not fun. It kind of sucks actually. But there are ways to do it that seem to take the sting away a little bit. Even if it’s just a little bit. But losing isn’t always about the game. Losing is a lot of what happens in life. And losing can be something that is imperative to our long-term wellbeing. In order to really understand the beauty life gives us, we need to lose.

I watched some of the women’s world cup games and was a fan just like the rest of the country, of our US women’s team. They fought hard. They took a grueling sport to come back from when you are down, and made it look like something you would see out of a movie. They won, they fought hard, and they lost. And in the end, they lost that last game with grace and dignity. They were simply outplayed. There is no shame in that. Sometimes we come up empty. Holding the bag when the bottom falls out. Still, holding the empty bag. They did just that. But they acknowledged the journey. That it was more than the score at the end of the game. They won in intangibles. And while many athletes and coaches may read this right now and cringe, (because what competitor loves to lose the outcome?) The intangibles build a stronger human being in the end.

I just finished up two weeks of summer camp last Thursday. The first week, we were at Avon Grove LL fields, the second at Limerick Community Park. The kids both weeks were great. Something stuck out to me particularly the first week. With no prodding, they cheered each other on during our Softball Olympics day. They were split into two teams and they started to cheer for each other. Even on different teams. I was taken aback at first, wondering what was going on. I listened carefully as they applauded the other team’s efforts, telling each other that they did a good job at that event and even if they didn’t win it, they congratulated the person who did. WOW. This was fun to watch. It was very competitive. The Olympic day always is. However, we encourage spirit points. They came dressed in crazy outfits and capes to show their team unity. The second week, they did the same thing.

I started to wonder what this “sportsmanship” thing was all about. How you could honestly be happy for the other team when they won? I watched them have fun, and keep reminding each other that the fun is why there were there. That it’s not just about winning. Then I remembered sharing the word “Compete” with them. Compete comes from the Latin competere …”To strive WITH or Together.” I explained that most of us think that it is about playing AGAINST the other team, not WITH them. In this case, win or lose, they did it gracefully and with respect and love for the game. And at the end of the day, win or lose, I know they were building stronger human beings throughout the process.

As with most of my blogs, I can’t help but think of my mom here as well. There isn’t much she isn’t losing. Her ability to communicate is almost completely gone. She can get out a word here or there, but for the most part we are left with assuming we know what she is trying to tell us with her actions, her eyes and her smile. She makes noises, and most of the time we can tell if she is unhappy. She is very much aware it seems, just can’t let us know that. It’s a journey for sure, one that I wouldn’t jump on if I didn’t have to. Yet through it all, it is teaching me so much. Grace is one of those lessons.

My dad told me last week that when he went to feed her dinner the evening that I was there at lunch time, he asked who came to visit her that day. She said matter-of-factly, “JEN”… of course, that brought tears to my eyes, as it did to my father as he told me the story. While we are losing pieces of her as time goes by, her grace and dignity are still there in my eyes. When I look at her, with her nails done and her pretty outfits on, she is as beautiful as always. She has lost a lot. We all have, watching this disease continue to take her away from us, but she does it gracefully, every day… with love and a sparkle that will never leave her eyes while she is on this earth.

I spent some time alone with her yesterday. I told her about my 4.0 in my master’s program and how I have my final paper due this weekend for my “capstone” project and then I will be finished and graduate a part of the International Honour Society. Her eyes lit up and she smiled. She understood. I asked her if she was proud of me and she told me yes with her eyes and partial head nod, her noise of approval. I told her I loved her and she said “I” and moaned the rest. I know exactly what she meant.  I answered with “I know you love me too.”

Grace is a way of life. When we do things we don’t often like to do or want to do, we find ways to do them with grace, to preserve our dignity, to persevere with heart. We say I’m sorry when we hurt someone, we admit when we are wrong. We are graceful in how we approach sensitive topics. We win, we lose. We do it with class.

It’s an art. And sometimes a lost one at that.
I am acknowledging the journey and looking for the stronger human being in the end.
…And praying for grace in the process.

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