My grandmother was one of the strongest, fiercest, bada** ladies I know.
She demonstrated strength through adversity and bravery in times of uncertainty.
She fought for the rights of women through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and WWII. She represented grit and determination even into her Alzheimer’s stricken end of life.
At nearly every holiday and family gathering when I was growing up, she would share excerpts from her favorite poem. Even when she was suffering from Dementia and much of what she spoke didn’t make sense, she could still mutter parts of this poem. This alone impressed me. But at the time, I was just a kid and I didn’t care about what she was saying—her words meant nothing to me.
Earlier this year, I was inspired to dig up the poem.
I’ve been in a funk, working through a transformation of sorts.
It’s in shedding old ways of being that no longer work, that we look for advice or guidance, or anything to hold on to keep us inspired and going during the most monotonous and heavy days when staying in bed seems like the legitimately superior option.
I took the time to read it slowly out loud to feel the emotions behind each word.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
~ William Ernest Henley
Henley’s words are a reminder that we too often forget in the rat race—we are the only ones who control our lives.
The last two lines of the poems send shivers down my spine every single time.
It’s not that we forget our power but it’s that the need to uphold our outward appearance sometimes becomes more pressing and urgent.
I’ll leave you with this as a reminder and a gentle nudge toward new, confident beginnings where you recognize that you’re powerful beyond measure.
“In our natural state, we are glorious beings. In the world of illusion, we are lost and imprisoned, slaves to our appetites and our will to false power.” ~ Marianne Williamson
The Poem that got Nelson Mandela through 27 years in Prison (& 12 Wisdom Quotes from Madiba Himself).
Author: Caitlin Oriel
Image: Ryan Vaarsi/Flickr