I like fighting. The sheer brutality about it. The conquering of something. Sometimes things that were larger than me. Larger than life. I have only been in a few fistfights in my life, one was in middle school – and I lost in a positive way. But as a 21st century westerner, most of my physical fights are exclusively daydreams, or they are not physical fights.
The only physical fights that I daydream about are the ones where I swoop in and kick the ass of a mugger threatening someone else. The one where I take out the office shooter with extreme prejudice. The one where I stand up to some ignorant asshole and send him packing.
But the things that I need to fight? Those things are sometimes hard to even put a name to. They often have names, but learning what their name is can be tricky. Depression is a good candidate for that category. Laziness fits there, too. Ennui and other existential terrors. Sleep.
Sometimes they have no name, and I have to fight for their opposite. Discipline (which is not always the opposite of laziness) with my body, with my money, with my emotions. Time management. Health.
These are things that stop me from doing things that I want to do. They are limiting factors. They are the “things in the way”
So, what stops me more often is myself.
I had to stop writing for a moment and think about that again. I think that I hear it all the time. From myself, from others, from media, from everywhere. I am not sure I really believe it.
Emotionally, I know that this isn’t true – I am good to myself, right? Of course I am. There is nothing that I want more than my own fulfillment, joy, and happiness- why would I short circuit that with some bullshit that gets in my way?
Intellectually, I carefully follow a trail of terrible black footprints round and round the dark caverns in my mind until I realize that I am walking in a circle – the monster I am tracking, the one that keeps me up at night and tells me that I am a terrible person – it is me. and nothing but me. The only evidence I find on the ‘stress’ region of my internal world has all been placed there by myself. I will not take the blame for all the stressful and traumatic things that have happened to me – but my reaction to change my inner landscape because of those people and situations, and to maintain that landscape by emotionally attending to it without emotionally dealing with it is most certainly me.
This is one of the reasons that I hate my inner self. There is this part of me that is convinced that it has to police the rest of me – out of the fear that the rest of me will start getting into some extraordinarily bad situations if I am not constantly policing myself. It is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, only without the amazing super-strength that makes it almost worth it. Jekyll always controlling what situation that he is in, being very careful to discipline his emotions and reactions, while this terrible beast within is raging at him and telling him that he needs to let loose so that he can overpower the world to their mutual pleasure. To get a little Freudian on you, basically my superego has been given too much power.
Only I don’t have a Mr. Hyde. Or perhaps, the normal me is the Mr. Hyde, and there is this annoying little pipsqueak Jekyll constantly telling me that I need to calm that shit down before I hurt something, keeping me out of situations that might upset the very careful balance between me and … other me. But I don’t need him. I am a gentle man. I do not fly off the handle until I know that I am in the right situation – defending someone’s physical body, for example. Or a metal mosh pit (which are a ton of fun, by the way). I am a disciplined man – not as much as I would like, but I’ve been paying my bills (mostly) on time for a really long time now – even though I don’t exactly have a salary that matches my experience.
Sometimes the things that stop me are not me, as well. Sometimes they are other people. Sometimes they are fundamental concepts. Time, for example. Sleep, as another. The importance of my family, as third. My loyalty to my friends. My need for food. My (oft-neglected) need for exercise.
[personification of these things as demons. not in a religious way. not in a physical way]
I like to personify these things. Matthew Inman does a great job talking about the personification of your personal problems in his running comic at the oatmeal. Reading his story about running has helped me to do this well. I have a little graphic of the blerch posted everywhere I have a computer, and one in my wallet. Because I need to fight him.
Obviously, I cannot fight the need for exercise except with exercise. I cannot fight the need for time management/discipline except by being disciplined about my time management. So I turn it around a bit and personify these negative behaviors as little demon thingies that are telling me to do things. This helps me to fight them.
[philosophy of fighting. you fight for a why, not a what or a who. you fight “because…”, not “for…” or “against…” (those are just extra details); you fight to conquer the future and to be free in the present, not to wrestle the past.]
But here is the kicker – you never fight anything just because it is there to be fought. No one does. You only ever fight because there is a reason to fight. You don’t line up a bunch of dudes near a football because you like making touchdowns, you do it because you like playing football. Matthew Inman doesn’t fight his Blerch because he hates fat fairies, he fights his Blerch so that he can find peace. I don’t fight laziness because I enjoy productivity – I fight laziness because I want to get something done.
Those specific things, the “Whom do we fight?” the “Where do we fight?” the “What do we fight for?” the “Whom are we fighting against?” – these are not anywhere near the question “Why do we fight?” Those are just extra details. These might be important details – so important that you would be otherwise unmotivated. But these are just details. We only fight “Because…”
Because I want to see a more just world. (other details: abuses by the government. Dishonesty amongst friends. My local community.)
Because I want my children to look up to me. (other details: bullies at their school. My job. My overall ability to provide.)
Because generosity helps me to become a better person. (Other details: My job and professional ability. Room in my budget and schedule. People who put a strain on my resources.)
Because personal growth is important. (Other details: Myself. In my head. The alarm clock)
Because I love my wife and my children. (Other details: everywhere. Anyone who endangers them.)
And I have so many of these demons. Despair. Laziness. Depression. Confusion. Greed. Selfishness.
And I will fight back the demons.
Not because they are demons.
Because they stop me from doing what I need and want. They stop me from giving you something good. They stop me from giving myself the tools that I need to pull myself up. They stop me from empowering me, and from empowering you to be the greatest things that we can be.