Invincible yet vulnerable, smooth while raw, bulletproof and bleeding. This is life.
Before we dive in I’d like to explain the contradicting statements you just read, but I cannot. Those poetic battles are a paradox mirroring the short years we are granted to live. Life, for most of us, is chaotic at times. We struggle to make sense of the nonsense, to reason with the unreasonable, to find our way out alive.
While the moral and faith compass will vary between each person, we all long for clarity in our chaos. I can’t say that this article will help you in that journey - hey, for all I know I’m just writing this to sort through my own head – but now, allow me to open the door to my perspective.
Interestingly enough, the brain processes both physical and emotional pain in the same way, releasing an opioid that allows us to deal with the stimulus. We have all fallen off of a bike as a kid. A good number of you reading this may have been banged up in a fight. Others have experienced the sensation of bones shattering. Given our prior experiences with pain caused from similar triggers, we make a choice to avoid the bicycle…or to get back on. As a child I remember patching my scrapes, grabbing the handlebars, and attacking my bike again. Harder.
Fighting emotional pain takes the same fortitude but often times can be more challenging. Perhaps it’s because it is intangible. You can’t grab your fears and change their course. Choosing to get back on the emotional bike, so to speak, takes mental toughness and a resilient mind.
Losing a job, not quite reaching an achievement, feeling inadequate to someone – whatever your story is, you missed your mark. Often times the knife of defeat leaves a deeper cut when multiple attempts are failed. Aiming for one target and repeatedly missing can begin to feel like a game of Jenga, waiting anxiously for the next attempt, the next move, to send your world crashing to the ground.
Working hard, and ethically, only to be ripped down by a low blow is a particular setback that leaves a scratch in the paint as well. I have had it happen to me, and have seen it happen to close friends. The way I see it is: if you beat me outright, fair enough and congratulations. But if we are under the pretense of respect and honesty and I’m taken down by lies and cheating, it’s even more of a sting. This begs the question, however, what is fair play? Well, it depends on the game.
Remember, just because you missed the bullseye doesn’t mean you don’t have other target numbers on the dart board.
We’ve all felt it. The emptiness in your hand where your lover’s once was. The metaphorical hemorrhage in your soul after a loved one passes on. The sad reality is that, unless you die first, everything in life will leave you at some point. This cold hard truth leaves us with two options – live a mechanical existence keeping life and love at arm’s length, or allow your feelings to be exposed in exchange for valuable, intimate connections and relationships. To experience the latter, you have to step into the gunfight and embrace the risks.
I’m sure you have heard the “glass half empty vs. half full” analogy several times by this point in life. For me, the glass is always, always, half full. Don’t get me wrong, when I’m going through hell I may be slower on the draw with a positive outlook, but I will find it. Amidst some of my hardest struggles – moments where I was flat out wrestling with life – I forced myself to take a step back and ask “how could this get any worse?” Answering that question honestly, and setting aside my self pitty thoughts, left me with the ways it could be worse.
Simply put, I have the ability to get out of bed, stand, see, hear, and think freely. These gifts often fall to the wayside of consideration and even reading them may sound insignificantly fundamental – but they hold true. Every day, if nothing else, I can be thankful for that. I apply the same philosophy to making my bed. While the act itself seems hardly worth mentioning, it bears an important meaning to me. No matter how bad my day gets, I will go home to an accomplishment. A win for the day. And whether you cross the finish line running or you drag yourself inch by inch, beaten, and on your knees…a win is a win.
It is with this mindset that I am undeniably aware of two things. One, is that it could always be worse. No matter how bad the storm gets I have the gift of being alive. Two, I always have the ability to change my situation. Being stagnant and watching things unfold around me will not change anything for the better. Even when all of the options on the table flat out suck, doing “nothing” is never a consideration. Control the space you have, starting with the precious area between your ears.
The scars of yesterday may fade, but never fully heal. However, all of the falls, pains, and struggles will serve only to remind you of things that tried to stop you, to kill your spirit, and failed. In time these scars become lessons, sharpening your thought process and making you even more dangerous toward the next punch that tries to take you out. To phrase it concisely, you decide when the fight is over, not your opponent.
Your edge is being honed. You are being baptized in the fire. Remember that you always have a choice. Embrace the turmoil of life’s gunfight because it is only by this path that you are becoming bulletproof.