Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Fighting Spirit

I am a fighter, first and foremost. That is not always readily apparent, but it is always true. I don’t spend as much time talking about that part of who I am because I don’t believe it is usually necessary. It’s like liver or kidney function. It just is. As long as things are working as they should, you don’t generally spare any thought to it. There are so many more things that actually require thought or effort or explanation. There are so many more things that are routinely important.

That isn’t to say that being a fighter isn’t important. When it is necessary, it can be among the most important. It just isn’t necessary very often, for most people, and almost certainly not on a daily basis. Most of the time, even those who use it daily don’t use it in an active capacity daily. There are exceptions, of course, but most people just don’t need to understand being a fighter nearly as often as they need to understand other components of living a mindful life.

They do still need to understand it, though. Living a mindful life means being mindful of all aspects of life, including the ones that aren’t used as often or aren’t as popular as others. Generally speaking, those who pursue a mindful life often don’t find fighting - or anything that seems to smack of violence, really - to be a popular thing. It isn’t popular, but it can be necessary. At the very least, the will to fight, the fighting spirit is required. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and you can’t live a mindful life unless you are alive. It’s an active process, and requires active participation. As much as we might prefer otherwise, it sometimes requires opposing participation.

For me, the decision to be a fighter was the decision to live. The opposing force was my own mind. For whatever reason, something within me was trying to destroy me, and if I hadn’t decided to fight back it would probably have succeeded. It was well on its way, and not just by the obvious methods of depression and suicidal fixation. Those were present, to be sure, and remain ever-present in various forms to this day, but they were far from the only enemies on that field of battle. Self-destruction is more insidious than self-annihilation, and far more common. There are many people who have never knowingly contemplated suicide who have nevertheless all but succeeded (or, in some case, actually succeeded) through a string of decisions so horribly destructive that, viewed from the outside looking in, could never have been expected to have any other result. When you combine those self-destructive tendencies with an active suicidal fixation, it’s a runaway freight train heading for a bridge that has already been blown to smithereens.

That was me by the time this journey began. I had reached a point in my life where the options were fight or die, and the dying part had far more potential variations than the fighting. Thankfully, I had one overlooked advantage. I had a will to fight, and at least some experience in putting that will to use.

As a child, I had problems with my temper. I learned to fight as one method for addressing that problem. Patience and forethought are natural side effects of the mental preparation necessary to fight well, and those who truly learn how to fight often find that they have less reason to fight. I don’t know that I ever achieved the status of truly learning, but I got far enough along to accomplish what I needed in regard to the mental education. I learned enough to know that I didn’t need to come out swinging at every provocation.

I also learned that I had the spirit, though that was secondary and didn’t require as much education. I’ve always been inclined to stand up for people, to oppose injustice and help people who are being pushed down. Defending others was as natural to me as breathing. What I had to learn, though, was that defending myself could be just as natural. I had to learn that I had as much right and reason to be defended as anyone else.

This was a difficult lesson for me, but learning it became a critical tool in combating my depression. I don’t just know how to fight, I also know why to fight, and I know that my own well-being is something worth fighting for. As much as I want to help the world, I can’t do that if I’m not helping myself. I have to fight for myself so that I can continue to be able to fight for anyone else.

I am a fighter, but you will never see me bragging about that. You will rarely see me making much noise about it at all. I don’t need to. The fact that I am still here and going strong is testimony to my success. I will, however, speak up when doing so might help others to find that needed fighting spirit. That, too, is part of my fight. We all do what we can, when and how we can, and this is part of what I do. I fight, and I help others to learn how - and, more importantly, why - to fight. If you are just beginning, stick with it. It’s worth it, and so are you. If you’ve been doing this for a while, thank you. Much like the more you know how to fight the less you need to fight, the more people we have fighting the good fight the sooner it will be that we no longer need to fight. Every little bit brings that day close, and makes the world a better place in the process.

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