A very dear friend of mine recently penned a piece which you can find here; this piece in particular followed a conversation that we had shared, like many other conversations we’ve shared in the past.
To say that my life can be tumultuous at times is a bit of an understatement, and oftentimes my attitude doesn’t aid me in any way, shape or form. It would be easy to blame it on the various events of my life that have led me to where I am now – sitting in front of my computer typing this – but blaming everything on consequence and history seems incredibly irresponsible, not to mention ineffective for change.
From a very early point in my life I was faced with difficulty and hardship, thanks in no small part to inattentive and abusive parents and a broken social services system that viewed me as little more than a chore; a mess to be swept up and hidden from sight. The saving grace for me in those days were my loving grandparents, who no doubt made great sacrifices to see that I was taken care of, and to make sure that I had at least some positive influence before our time together was finished. In total, I only really spent a few years of my life with them, but they remain to this day the most impactful years of my entire life.
I learned of courage and strength from my grandfather, a man that refused to be beaten or to quit. He also taught me the value of hard work, the kind that breaks a man’s back but callouses everything else. My grandmother endowed in me an understanding of true compassion, of forgiveness and love, all virtues that she simultaneously extolled and embodied. These were great people, especially through the eyes of a young boy who’s life they had quite literally saved – even if I didn’t fully grasp what that meant. I felt it in my heart, though, and that is really all that mattered for me.
Losing the two of them a few short years later hurt me immensely, as I felt I was only getting to know them, but this feeling was greedy – they had lived rich lives and deserved to find whatever peace waits for us after this life is concluded. While much of my early childhood had distributed lessons on pain, fear and neglect, this would be the first time that I felt enriched by losing something dear to me. While they had left myself and this world behind, what they had taught me would never leave my heart.
From that point onward I was alone in the world, only responsible to and for myself. Living like this isn’t the way that any of us are meant to live, I think, and I missed out on a lot as a result. My socialization was poor, and I very nearly despised anyone that I perceived had it “easier” or “better” than myself. Despite being self-accomplished and learning to live my life, I only cared about what others had or what I felt I lacked.
In the decade or two since, I’ve found myself fighting in a war with an enemy that I couldn’t personally identify, who seemed to shift and slip and swirl like sand in an hourglass – which is how I might also describe battling cancer.
While I wouldn’t argue that it takes courage, tenacity or even bravery to stand up and keep moving forward, they are simply vessels that must be fueled in order to work. Some that act courageously do so out of love – running into a burning building to save a child, or undergoing a procedure that would give another person a second chance at life. Other acts of courage can be fueled by things like anger or hatred – a child standing up against his abuser, for instance. In any of these scenarios, the deciding factor is that a choice was made to move.
Fighting cannot always be simply about winning, as there are some fights you simply cannot win; sometimes fighting is choosing to stand up and let yourself be hit again until whatever is hitting you gets tired or bored, like an angry bear that decides to find easier food elsewhere – sometimes you have to play dead.
In the end, what matters most is that you keep moving, keep standing up and keep motivating yourself to get past the obstacles that life throws at you. Sorrow and pain are very much like a black hole, vacuous and hungry, consuming every fiber of your being at a snail’s pace, with you watching all the while and wondering how this happened.
My personal advice is to find something worth fighting for, pursue it relentlessly, and repeat.