A few weeks ago, I felt (and gave into) the urge to binge-watch all the old Rocky movies. There's something about this scrappy, huge-hearted, defy-the-odds boxer who inspires me to keep getting back up again whenever life throws punches and I get knocked down.
At the end of the original (1976) film comes the famous fight between Rocky Balboa, an unknown underdog fighter from a working-class Philadelphian neighborhood, and Apollo Creed, the Heavyweight Champion of the World. The night before the fight, Rocky tells his beloved girlfriend Adrian that while he doubts his ability to defeat Apollo, he wants to "go the distance." He wants to walk away from the fight knowing he pushed himself to his outermost limit.
And push himself he does. Round after round, Rocky gets bludgeoned by Apollo, but manages to stay standing and keep fighting. In the 14th, Apollo finally knocks Rocky down. Everyone assumes the fight is over. But Rocky shocks the crowd by standing back up. Calling up the last ounces of strength left in him, Rocky ducks a few times, jabs Apollo's ribs a few times, and finally pins his opponent in the corner. He unleashes a series of punches that render Apollo helpless and senseless. The final bell rings.
The fight is declared a draw. Which means that, by default, Apollo is allowed to retain his title as World Champion. Rocky did not, technically, win the fight. But the final scene paints a powerful picture about what winning really means. A battered and blinded Rocky stands in the middle of the ring, surrounded by reporters and the roaring crowd, with a look of total euphoria on his face. There is no doubt that he has "gone the distance." Over and over again, he calls for Adrian, who crawls into the ring and into his arms. The movie ends with the two declaring their love for one another.
Sometimes life doesn't hand you a clear win. Even when you go the distance. In those times, remember that you're the one who gets to decide what winning means. Did you fall down and get back up? Call it a win. Did you keep fighting for your dignity and integrity when you felt blinded and bloodied by everything coming against you? Call it a win. Did you dredge up the very last of your reserves to protect yourself against destruction, or to weaken whatever's trying to bring you down? Call it a win. Did you bring everything you had, even if that wasn't quite enough in someone else's eyes? Call it a win.
Most of all: Did you decide that, in the end, love is the most important thing?
Definitely call it a win.