My Favorite People Are Fighters

2013 August 21

I once had a boyfriend who took no end of delight in making joking asides about the rugged, austere and highly frugal stock he assumed I was descended from – people who performed their own amputations, sewed their clothes out of burlap, gave birth in the field and then went back to digging up turnips with their bare hands, etc.  And as much as his mocking irritated me, the truth is that the only way I could have been more steeped in the Protestant work ethic while growing up is if I had been raised by Martin Luther himself. Although, it should be noted that my understanding of the value of hard work is entirely secular in nature, which probably makes it even more baffling. But man, has it been my saving grace this year*.

 

Beyond talent, beyond resources or wealth and privilege, it’s dogged unwillingness to give in or up that serves you best in this life. Because if you can’t take a punch from the universe and get back up, you’re going to have a hard time of it, no matter how well buffered you are materially. The people I have the most respect for in my life are able to do just that. They’re able to stagger to their feet and manage a department of 15 engineers, turn their mental illness into a stand-up routine, bounce back from business failure to launch another company, fight the healthcare system on behalf of a loved one. They do it because it has to get done. End of story.

These folks understand that feelings and actions don’t always synch up. Sometimes, you feel terrible without reason or rhyme. Sometimes, you’re racking up wins, but victory tastes like stale rice cakes and sometimes, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to keep the lights on in your life – circumstances and synchronicity be damned. Leaving yourself no choice but to keep going might sound like an exercise in masochism, but it’s actually salvation of a sort. The blows you take and recover from toughen you up for the next ones and they teach you that, most of the time, fear of being knocked down hurts more than the act itself. And that just so happens to be one of those lessons you have to learn the hard way. Martin Luther and my hard-bitten ancestors would agree.

 

* That and watching professional wrestling matches from the 80s and early 90s on YouTube while sitting in the tub eating ice cream. Someone compared me to Hunter S. Thompson and I’m still laughing.

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