To rust unburnished

It’s a strange and difficult thing to be broken. It’s even stranger to be broken not because of excess, but because of too little. It’s strange, as Lord Tennyson says (or Ulysses if you prefer) “To rust unburnished, not to shine in use”. It’s difficult, shameful even, to know that the strength you once had, you have lost.

You never felt your muscles atrophy and die. How could you? After all, you were never using them, which is exactly the point. And then, all of a sudden, when you did go to perform some act of exertion, you realized that you couldn’t. Or maybe, it wasn’t even that. Maybe you were idle so long that you forget exertion was even a possibility, or at least, a possibility for you. Maybe, what finally opened your eyes was someone else, someone exercising the very faculties that you were once proud to possess, that you were once known for. And you thought to yourself, “Hey, I could do that too”. Or did you think, “I could do have done that once, but no more”.

And how, exactly, did you feel then? Did you feel ashamed? Enraged? Weak? Foolish? Did you feel a crushing sense of regret and self-loathing at all the days you had let pass, at all the chances you had to actually do something, and proceeded in due course to squander without so much as a second thought? More importantly, what did you do then?

Did you realize that it was vile to hoard and store yourself and your potential? Did you wallow in self-pity, waiting and hoping for things to change, magically by themselves. Or did you then start to actually do something, to flex those old and unused muscles? Did you start on some work of perhaps noble note? Did you realize that even though you are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven (at least in your own eyes), that what you are, you are. You have been made weak by time and fate, and more so by your own negligence and callousness. But maybe, just maybe, you are still strong enough in will to turn your ship around.

It will not be easy, it will not be clear cut and simple, there is probably not a 12-step program (though if there is, please use it). But you have already come a long way. You were lower still, and now you are slightly less so. The first step, as they say, is accepting that you have a problem, now all you have to do is fix it. Sounds simple enough, yes?


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