Tag Archives: survival

The Fight

fight1Life is a brawl, but some of us have the innate ability to pull ourselves up from the mat, even when every cell in our bodies is screaming at us to stay down. Why do some people reach for that rope while others accept defeat?

This has been a central question throughout my writing, research, and life. I’m endlessly fascinated by survivors and the wiring required to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles with the mentality that failure is an unacceptable option. It’s more than willpower and a strong constitution. The defiance to fall is born from a fire raging deep within the recesses of our memories. It’s fueled by history and circumstance.

I can only speak from personal experience, but low self-esteem and an unrelenting drive to prove myself worthy have combined to transform fragile guts to concrete. My reluctance to bow is propelled by an incessant need to demonstrate inner strength. Spitting in the face of slim odds and disheartening diagnoses became my religion. Of course, there were times when that resolve faltered, but the mentality endured. I credit the “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” mantra for my health and sense of purpose today.

Is this level of fight something learned? Can people be trained to be survivors or are they only built on the battlefield? Will someone without a difficult past still find the determination needed to break down walls of fear, despair, or hopelessness?

These are questions I will continue to ask in my pursuit of clarity. The human condition and the psychological puppet master pulling the strings are fascinating areas of study. Plus, what’s a day without some wildly complicated topic to obsess about?!

Adolescence Interrupted

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A Ghost at the Gate

gate1“We should not fret for what is past, nor should we be anxious about the future; men of discernment deal only with the present moment.”-Chanakya

I look at this quote and I’m shocked by how thoroughly misaligned my life is with this concept. It’s a popular notion, and philosophers and spiritual advisers have preached the benefits of “living in the now” for almost as long as we’ve been questioning the purpose of existence.

Fear is a funny thing. It’s hardwired into our survival brain, enabling us to avoid potentially life-threatening situations. But left unchecked, it can significantly hinder our growth, fulfillment, and sense of adventure. Factor in a dash of trauma, and we’re reduced to rats spinning circles in the corner of a cheeseless maze.

My car was hit two weeks ago by another vacuous LA burnout. There weren’t any injuries, but I was subjected to the thrilling roller coaster ride of insurance company phone calls, repair shop appointments, and rental car confirmations. There was also a hovering tension that the other driver would devise a nice piece of fiction to wiggle his way out of responsibility, and at the conclusion of the proceedings…there was the fear.

It’s typical to be jittery behind the wheel after a smash, but I’ve realized that this gun-shy, knee-jerk reaction never sits too deeply beneath the surface, regardless of my station, environment, or circumstances. I walk through the world with a wary eye, untrusting and cautious, nervous and neurotic. I want controllable variables in an uncontrollable game, and the desire to maintain that power puts me in uncomfortable positions. This recent situation falls under a much larger umbrella, and lands in line with a trend that appears to be growing only more potent with each passing year.

As an introvert, I gain energy from my own fuel cells, as opposed to needing someone else’s power pack. I’m self-reliant and feel most at peace when I know that nothing will disrupt my carefully-calculated balance. I’m more productive and relaxed when I’m not watching for curveballs in the batter’s box.

But how far will I go to maintain these systems?

Will fear and trauma always hold the pen, charting my course from point A to point B, or will I regain the sense of freedom I found as a younger man, chasing a future of hope and potential? Is it possible to uncover a layer of my psyche that’s willing to bend and morph to accommodate surprises and the hidden gems waiting in the wings?

These are questions not easily answered, and there’s no definitive proof that one lifestyle is necessarily more optimum than another. But fear is a sturdy beast, and it will take some strategy to murder a monster that retains residency in the mind.

Inspiration

photo (6)Every time I think I’ve hit a wall, there’s a little spark that fires inside my brain, helping me swap train tracks like an invisible brakeman.

I’ve never been able to pinpoint the catalyst or explain exactly what forces are at play, pushing that first domino, but I’m inclined to believe it’s some sort of survival technique, allowing me to stay malleable in a world of rigid roadblocks. I generally chalk these things up to unexplainable phenomena. But, they might more aptly be classified as…inspiration.

There were times when I sat with a guitar or a recorded track of my band’s material and words and pictures seemed to appear from the hidden recesses of my mind. Images and narratives wrapped themselves around poetic phrasing, lining up like soldiers at a roll call. Before I even grasped what happened, a song had taken shape.

Many people refer to this as the “zone.” Athletes who can’t seem to miss or artists who find bottomless reserves of creative energy welcome these waves with open arms. Peak performance can accomplish some pretty impressive feats, regardless of the arena or context.

So, I find myself staring at another elevated wall. The tendency is never to run, but to find a way to traverse these unexpected obstacles. Clearing my mind and crafting attack plans, building potential roads, or devising alternative movements all align to form one comprehensive, sweeping force, and that coordinating energy is inspiration.

I’m grateful for the neural pathways that remain open and willing to accept information from whatever anagogic source is willing to send these much-appreciated gems. Not only do I reach a sense of personal satisfaction for slaying the proverbial dragon, I’m left even better equipped for battle when the next fire breather shows its uninvited face.

Fatherless Figuring

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The only thing that I can even remotely relate to the notion of having a child is someone handing me a scalpel and asking me to perform a complex medical procedure. It’s wildly intimidating, I’m completely unqualified, and a human life is at risk.

For those of you with children, this concept probably seems absurd. You’d argue it’s the most natural, most biologically-hardwired thing in the world. You barely remember a single day before parenthood provided you with purpose, granting you a gift that made you feel alive and empowered. You were waiting, wandering without focus, until you were blessed with this tiny bundle of instant selflessness.

I get it. Well, I get the general drift. But, I just can’t seem to choke down all the Kool-Aid.

I imagine a number of factors are to blame. I’m an only child. I grew up without a father. I think the survival of the planet hinges on population reduction. Blah, blah, blah.

But, recently, I had a mini revelation. I’ve lived (for longer than I care to admit) with the general belief that serious life decisions and responsibilities are handled by adults. Grownups are experienced, knowledgable, and capable of tackling whatever unplanned catastrophes happen to surface. They can get married, buy houses, have children, organize barbecues, and generally have a damn fine time.

Well, now I’m considerably deep into this “adulthood” everyone keeps talking about, and I don’t feel I have even the simplest skill set required to navigate that world. So, since I live in a constant state of contemplation, I’ve arrived at a couple of conclusions.

1) It’s difficult to foster someone else’s childhood when you still want to revisit your own.

-Many thanks to Mom for this one. Ages 0-18 were a self-actualized dream come to life…full of wonder, hope, love, excitement, and security. Sure, there was one major bump on that perfectly-paved road, but that’s why George Hansburg made the pogo stick.

2) You can’t have a kid when you still ARE a kid.

-Obviously, this isn’t true. Every major city in America proves this thesis false on a daily basis. But, I’m referring to a state of mind. Undoubtedly, there are some who would argue I’m a 90-year-old man, living in the body of a weird, writing hermit. However, habitual handcuffs and erratic sleeping patterns aside, I watch the world with the same discerning eyes I had at 15. Maybe everyone feels like that. There’s a saying that we never realize we age until we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. Well, that may very well be the case. Regardless, these teenage peepers still see the news of impending fatherhood with the same, balanced mix of pity and terror. It’s not celebration. It’s sympathy.

But, I suppose there’s some future awakening or dormant life event waiting to flip those tables and make me one of the “normals.” Anything is possible.

For now, I’ll continue to stay in awe of these crazy youngsters and their fancy adult lives, living like an old man with a teenage heart.