The Wisdom of Winston

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I was lucky enough to be selected as an advance reader for Thea Harrison's newest Elder Races offering, Moonshadow.  As I've mentioned before, I love getting advance copies from my favorite authors. I also loved being a beta reader the one time I had that opportunity (thank you Lilo J. Abernathy!). But back to Thea Harrison—I love her books and I was delighted to see that she hadn't lost her touch.  Moonshadow introduces a new arena (Great Britain) and a new addition to the Elder Races, the Daoine Sidhe knights of the Dark Court (and doesn't that just sound delicious?). These alpha males are strong and sexy and are locked in an interminable battle with an implacable enemy. Their leader, Nikolas, has watched his cohort decline to a mere handful of men, and his enemy laugh at his losses. He has been fighting so long, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't locked in mortal combat. The temptation to let go, to give up is strong at times. He feels the pull of despair and the seductive call of surrender. But, he is committed to his cause and dedicated to his mission and those he serves. He refuses to give up, and he perseveres.

I wrote last week about my own dance with despair with respect to my writing. Nikolas' struggle and his triumph over despair inspired me to think about my own willingness to take Winston Churchill's advice to, "Never, never, never give up." Considering that the man led his country successfully through World War II, which included some very dark hours, it's probably advice worth taking.

There is a paradox involved in surrender and giving up. On the one hand, giving up usually connotes quitting, which of course no one wants to do (well, perhaps I shouldn't speak for everyone—I don't want to be a quitter). Quitting usually means ending something before it is completed. The thought is anathema to me. I still think about the dissertation I didn't finish twenty years ago (well, maybe closer to twenty-five, but who's counting?) It took me years to come to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to finish and to make a definitive decision to quit—and while it was probably the right decision at the time, I still regret it on occasion.

Sometimes letting go is the right thing to do. I've written about that before. It's so hard to know when we've held on too long. In Nikolas' case, was it the right thing to do to fight until all the knights of the Dark Court were dead and there was no one left to fight, or to heed the adage that sometimes discretion is the better form of valor? Or is it better to die trying? I haven't personally come across an actual occasion to test this theory, thankfully, so I'm not sure. Does victory vindicate the dead? Nikolas thinks so, and so do those who fought in our popular wars—not so much the ones we prefer to sweep under the rug, but you know, the ones fought by the Greatest Generation, not to mention the Lost Generation.

The jury is still out for me with respect to the price we pay for perseverance. I respect the hell out of dedication and I admire stick-to-it-ness. Grit is great and also necessary. But sometimes the cake isn't worth the bake and the victory, far from being triumphant, is pyrrhic. 

Sometimes, the best strategy for conquest is surrender. Sometimes, resistance is futile and we must give up. This is the paradox. Nikolas achieves victory by surrendering to love (this is a paranormal romance, after all). And I have found peace and joy in surrendering to reality, acceptance and uncertainty, even whenever fiber of my being is screaming for me to fight, fight, fight, in a futile effort to control. Sometimes, it is only when I give up the fight that I get what I want. 

And I know this. But, of course, it's situation specific. And discerning whether a specific situation is one where tying a knot in the rope and holding on for dear life is the right thing to do or letting our hands slip down to initiate the free fall, well that is the question, isn't it?  We don't know, often not even in hindsight if the road not taken would have led to better things. Occasionally, a choice we make about holding and folding is exquisite in its clarity. Hopefully, we are contented with our lot.

Perseverance, discipline and commitment are three character traits I strive to cultivate. And, annoyingly, the cultivation of these traits requires the very characteristics I'm trying to achieve. Please tell me how that is fair?!

But, as I've also written about before, life isn't always fair, so we've got to suck it up, Buttercup (I like that phrase, can you tell by how often I use it?). Nikolas finds his HEA through both persistence and surrender. I suspect that this is true for all of us. So, for today, I will be persistent in reading my beloved books, and surrender to the joy I get from reading them. Win-win