The novelist Stephen Wright once said that when people ask him what book he would bring to read if he were shipwrecked, he always responds with ‘How To Build A Boat.’

And that is basically the epitome of grit:

Being in a less than desirable situation and figuring out how the hell to get out of it.

Getting diagnosed with, let alone managing, chronic disease can be daunting, even on a good day. It feels like a revolving door of frequent doctors’ appointments (as well as the worry of taking time off of work or finding transportation to and from), followed by the all-too-often labs, imaging, and infusions that ensue. Making time for second opinions, finding board-certified specialists, and trying to maintain a sense of normalcy takes a toll. On top of that, finding more time to communicate with insurance companies can be especially soul-draining. It’s a challenge and a lifestyle adjustment that no one is prepared for until they are in the midst of it.

We're all allowed to have days when we let it get to us. 

Grit doesn't require us to be some stoic, John Wayne type that never falls apart -- that wasn't even John Wayne. Even his most famous character, of the movie 'True Grit', Rooster Cogburn, was a hot mess sometimes. But he showed up when it mattered. 

Courage, John Wayne said, means being scared to death, but saddling up anyway. 

Below, you'll find what I like to call 'The Grit Directory' -- it's some of the things that feed the fire in my soul, and replenishes my own grit, when I've had a hard time replenishing the well myself. 

Claire Wineland reminds me how to be grace under fire.


Jonathan Mooney reminds me to prove the naysayers wrong.


Roseanne Cash so powerfully reminds me of the presence of her father, Johnny Cash, and to question, persist, and verify until I'm satisfied... and to remember that some of the most beautiful pieces of me are a result of things that broke me.


Aimee Mullins teaches me that when I change my perspective on adversity, I change the outcome of my life. 


Al Pacino in 'Scent of a Woman' teaches me to stand up to the man.


On days when humanity is disappointing me, Charlie Chaplin's speech in 'The Great Dictator' makes me feel so proud of what we are all capable of becoming.

For me, developing grit means learning from others that I find gritty. And I find grit in great senses of humor -- in passionate monologues from great movies -- from music that nourishes me right down to my bones -- from books that I can't put down -- from people who are going through things entirely different than I am, but overcome, and inspire me to do so also.

Below, I give to you a boatload of grit. 

When you are feeling shipwrecked, I hope these things help you build your own boat. 

Movers and Shakers

“You’re never going to be happy with what you get unless you’re happy with what you have. And that’s what you have to do with your life. You have to look at all of it. All of the pain, all of the loneliness, all of the beauty, all the friendship and the family, and you know, and the sickness and the health and you have to lay it all in front of you and you have to say, ok, this is what I have, it’s all wonderful, and what can I make with it.”

“I walked back across campus to Father Young and said, ‘Not gonna be an English major,’ and he said ‘why?’ And I said ‘that guy thinks it’s too hard because of my disabilities.’ Father Young was real quiet, then he looked at me and said in a way that only an old school Jesuit can, ‘Well son, I guess you’re just gonna have to prove that bastard wrong.’”

“I love being relentless, because that saved my life.”

Roseanne Cash

"In our desire to protect those we care about by giving them the cold hard truth about their medical prognosis, or on the expected quality of their life, we have to make sure that we don’t put the first brick in a wall that will actually disable someone. Perhaps, the existing model of only looking at what is broken in you and how do we fix it serves to be more disabling to the individual than the pathology itself. By not treating the wholeness of a person, by not acknowledging their potency, we are creating another ill on top of whatever natural struggle they might have."

~ Aimee Mullins

Belly Laughter

Music for the Soul

Movies for Spirit Cardio


“You are never going to be happy with what you get unless you are happy with what you have — and that’s what you have to do with your life — you have to look at all of it: all of the pain, all of the loneliness, all of the beauty, all of the friendship and the family, and the sickness and the health and you have to lay it all in front of you and say ok this is what I have, it’s all wonderful. Now what can I make with it?” 

- Claire Wineland