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.
-Invictus by William Ernest Henley
I am the captain of my soul--Within my life I have truly struggled to grasp the concept that I am in control of my own being. It is not the inability to make my own decisions, but rather the struggle to control the emotional state within myself. Only through the wisdom of experience have I begun to understand that within is where our true selves lie.
As a child, my feelings of self-worth were frequently thwarted by my own personal loathing. In the darkest days of my teen years I couldn't bear to look at myself in the mirror. I hated how I looked and could not dispel the grief that welled up inside of me when I saw my own reflection.
Years of this self-destruction led to a lifestyle that threatened to consume me, unless I changed. Unless I came to terms with the simplest truth in existence.
The soul within me is who I am, not the reflection in the mirror.
The freedom that comes with such knowledge is powerful and all encompassing. No longer do the features of my face dictate who I am. No longer do the toils of life, etched upon my skin, have control over my being. I am in control, not my reflection--or more appropriately my soul is in control, not my body.
Does that mean that I am constantly empowered? Absolutely not. I live in a society so entrenched in physical beauty that it would be impossible to not worry about the way I look. Sometimes I hate the gray hairs beginning to crop up all over and the extra pudge around my middle and yet I try to remember that who I am is inside of me. If I am not comfortable with the inner-self there will be no peace in my life--because beauty fades, age takes hold and soon all that is left is the person within.
“People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
The old saying 'beauty is only skin deep' begins to hold new meaning when I look at it through this perspective. Over the years my mind has not changed--I still feel the lively happiness of a seventeen year old, but lack the face of one so young.
My grandmother once told me that she was shocked every time she looked in the mirror. "Who is this woman with the saggy skin and mangled hands? Surely not me."
The soul does not age with the body. This I must remember, because if I am to become the true captain of my soul I must be in command of my vessel and willing to accept its needs and flaws.
Perhaps when life has faded from my eyes my soul will be revealed as the true form of who I am, and if that is so then it is important I make my soul into what I want to be.
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Cannwin spends her time searching for her inner Shakespeare in the hopes that one day she will be able to dethrone the king and take her place as the greatest writer of all time. She currently resides in South Dakota with her husband and four children. You can explore more of her world at The Great and Random Ramblings of Cannwin, The Literary Soundtrack, and askCannwin.
Image Source: Anthropologie.com