“Atticus said that Jem was trying hard to forget something, but what he was really doing was storing it away for a while, until enough time had passed. Then he would be able to think about it and sort things out. When he was able to think about it, Jem would be himself again.” - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A little over a year ago, I experienced something that put me in that place. It was something that most people around me still don’t know about. Something that happened TO me; something I had no say in and no control over. Well, I suppose I could have made a choice, but the two options were: 1) Cut my losses and accept it, or 2) Risk EVERYTHING.
I chose the first option.
In the name of forced diplomacy, I couldn’t tell anyone about it. Everyone knew (and still knows) SOMEthing, but few know the WHOLE thing. The action led to a lot of disillusionment for a lot of people. Many called me a quitter. People said I'd turned my back on something important. I’ve never had to “eat” something like that without having the ability to fight back before. Or at least to explain.
I dealt with the situation however I could for a while and I put it away fairly quickly, until enough time had passed. Then I was able to think about it. I became filled with anger. The “feelings hurt” kind of anger. I allowed myself the grace to feel this for a while, thinking it was part of a process.
Eventually, I came to see that my anger had become my trophy, which I displayed defiantly. Usually to the wrong people.
As I came to realize that my anger and paid had become idols, I again sought to put things away. Until enough time had passed that I could think about them and really sort them out.
That time has been coming for a while now. I don’t know how it will manifest itself, but I do know that I’ve been filled with a growing anger again. Not a “feelings hurt” anger, like before; but rather, a righteous anger.
The other night, I chatted online with an old friend who was going through a rough patch. Through the course of our conversation we jointly came to the conclusion that each of us knew what we ourselves, and what the other, were born for; what each of us were born to do. Knowing each other as we did, it was obvious.
As I went to bed that night, for some reason the words of Rocky Balboa randomly floated across my mind. Every Rocky movie has a motivational speech; usually from Adrian to Rocky. In the final movie in the series, Adrian is dead and it’s Rocky’s turn to motivate his son:
“I'd hold you up to say to your mother, "this kid's gonna be the best kid in the world. This kid's gonna be somebody better than anybody I ever knew." And you grew up good and wonderful. It was great just watching you, every day was like a privilege. Then the time come for you to be your own man and take on the world, and you did. But somewhere along the line, you changed. You stopped being you. You let people stick a finger in your face and tell you you're no good. And when things got hard, you started looking for something to blame, like a big shadow. Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard ya hit. It's about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done! Now if you know what you're worth then go out and get what you're worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain't where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain't you! You're better than that! I'm always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You're my son and you're my blood. You're the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain't gonna have a life.”
"If you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth." I began to realize that THAT is what’s been bothering me about this whole situation.
When things unfolded, I had a few options for how to look at the situation.
One way was the simple – and not completely untrue – conclusion that things were simply out of my hands. As I said, this option isn’t completely untrue…however; I’m learning that things in this life are very, very seldom truly and completely out of one’s hands. The alternatives may not be pleasant, but there usually are SOME kind of options.
Another option – and the one I chose at the time – was to look at things as though God wanted them to be this way. I’d been questioning things at the time it all came down and I was looking for “some kind of sign”. I took this to be that sign.
But it didn’t sit well. It never sat well.
Going back to Rocky’s words, I realized: This situation never sat well with me because I know what I’m worth. And I let someone put a finger in my face and tell me I’m no good. When they did that, I went along with what they wanted, and I turned my back on what I knew I was worth.
I know the world is a mean and nasty place. I come more and more to grips with that with every day that I grow older.
“Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair. Or fuckin’ beatins. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man. And give some back.” - Al Swearengen (as played by Ian McShane on “Deadwood”)
Even though the world is a mean and nasty place…I still know what I’m worth. As I mentioned in a recent blog post, I believe we all know – somewhere deep down inside ourselves – who we are.
I betrayed that. I consciously, knowingly, and willingly turned my back on it.
I have spent more than a year telling myself that I’m not angry with myself over it. But the truth is that I am angry. I’m furious.
Everyone wonders why I’m so cranky lately. You wonder what makes a young man like me with a beautiful family so grumpy? Turning his back on what he knows he’s worth. That’s what. Forsaking who he knows he is.
People do this to themselves every day, in many different forms. And just like Scout, the main character in To Kill A Mockingbird, and her brother, Jem, I’m wrestling with how seemingly reasonable grown-up people can do this kind of thing, which is obviously completely insane. How can the world be this crazy?
I SEE people do this to themselves every day. And I wonder how they sleep at night. I wonder how they can marvel at how I’m so cantankerous when they should be, too.
But they aren’t my concern. I am my concern. I’m the only one I ultimately have any control or power over.
I don’t know where it goes from here. But I know where the righteous anger that burns in my heart is coming from now. I also know that it is not wrong. It may be “complicated”, but it is NOT wrong. And I’m done allowing myself – or anyone else – to convince me that it is wrong or inappropriate in any way.
I suppose the next step is figuring out how to keep living in this messed up crazy world while doing something about the anger inside.
I don’t want to put it away anymore, though. I don’t want to not think about it anymore. I don’t want to wait and sort it out later. I want to do something about it.
"An' I have so many chances to be
The hero I believe's inside of me
But I get busy and I get distracted
And I do nothin' when I could've acted
I laid low when I could've stood high.
I said nothin' when I should've asked why.
I saw somethin' that I might've done and I didn't,
A chance to speak my truth and I hid it."
- Jeff Bridges, “Maybe I Missed the Point”