Whatever you do, don’t boast
Our culture is seriously confused and we’re not just confused like, indecisive confused or the inability to resolve a paradox confused, but we’re confused in massively destructive ways. In ways that make the use of the word, “insane” appropriate. Our culture is insane.
We are in a torrent of messaging regarding sex, its appeal and value and our personal value as humans specifically through our sex. Gorgeous Hollywood actors on television and in movies play out dramas that reinforce false paradigms that we aspire to. These dramas are interrupted only briefly by messaging targeting the brain while it’s in a state that’s vulnerable to suggestion, while more delightfully sexy people portray happiness through the ownership of an object - a house, car, a special mop, unaffordable jewelry, and so on.
Turn off the TV and instead receive the images through where many of us spend more time, the internet. Or magazine covers, billboards, the bus, train, the design of uncomfortable and unaffordable clothing - all designed to highlight the value of sex.
Yet how is a woman received if she embraces her sexuality? Oh you mean that slut over there? Shameful. And insane. Truly, insane. And while we target women, men aren’t off the hook - we are also taught by what Daniel Quinn refers to as Mother Culture what impossible set of standards that we must also aspire to and in so doing, fail at every turn. If I can squeeze in more more quote, it’d be Thom Yorke from Subterranean Homesick Alien, ”Of all these weird creatures, who lock up their spirits, drill holes in themselves and live for their secrets.”
All this has been a really long ass preface for another insane dichotomy of not being permitted to share your successes. Or if you DO share them, do so artfully. For fuck’s sake, do NOT be proud and say, “Hey look what I made!!! I did this! I thought I couldn’t, I was filled with self doubt but I just kept coming back and I did it! I was told I couldn’t but I did it I did it I fucking did it!”
And I make this point because this is exactly what I’m doing in this post. I’m bragging. Or actually, no - I really am celebrating. I am so blessed and I’ve had things seemingly taken away from me and told I couldn’t because it’s impossible and there are certain realities I need to accept, and I heard that and thought, ‘Maybe they’re right but then again, maybe they’re not’
So here I show off my crooked back and write out my little list of what I got to overcome, all the while, through deep interdependence. Meaning, yeah “I did these things” but I did them because I had an army of love and support at every step I took. Even when I was frightened, felt isolated and alone, I was being supported, sometimes carried, but always in the company of an army.
In NOT-chronological order
- They told me that 17% of people who try to stay clean, succeed at doing so. Well, as of writing this post, I haven’t had a drink or shot dope in over 29 years. If you’re built like me, you know that’s a miracle. I still remember not being able to go until noon without a drink and somehow I got this far? What??? Yay me!! And yay everyone I get to love and who can count on me, even when I fail and behave like an ignorant ass. I’m alive to do that: I get to breathe. I no longer put a lot of stock in the 17% number; something else I was told and have learned to be true is that sobriety is for people who want it, and not necessarily those who need it.
- After I shattered my heel and was meeting with the surgeon, I asked him how long until I returned to running and to CrossFit. He answered that this was a big unknown but that the odds were not in my favor and that I should get comfortable with the fact that I’d likely never do those things again. Short story: I get to! I again do dead-lifts, overhead presses and squats and I run.
- After I tore my pec. major muscle off my arm, the surgeon said that regaining the same level of ability, motion and force with respect to the shoulder and its ability to press was unlikely. And yet here I am doing muscle-ups, push-ups, pull-ups….everything. I don’t perform these movements defiantly with a, “You said I couldn’t and you were wrong, so IN.YOUR.FACE!!!” attitude. I do them with reverence and gratitude.
- Riddled with so much arthritis in my 20s and then 30s, that the discs in my neck were degenerating and had to be fused, no one saw me as an athlete, least of all me. I was frequently depressed at the notion of not being able to do things that (in my story) everyone else could do like carry groceries or turn to talk to someone in the back of the car without throwing my neck out and having to miss a week’s work while I lay motionless. And yet now here I am - I run, I swim, I do CrossFit, I lift weights, I surf - I move!
- I’m pretty sure it was the violence at home that shaped me as a very insecure, withdrawn child. I started failing subjects in the 5th grade and was placed in the special class for problem children in the 6th grade. My parents tried to fix it with private schooling which shows that they, the likely cause of my insecurities were also helpless to their own ignorance. I barely graduated high school and was what we then referred to as a “burnout”. Yet somewhere deep inside, I didn’t feel as stupid as my grades indicated me to be. Once sober, I started at a community college and began taking classes of increasing difficulty. First remedial math. Then introductory algebra. Then intermediate, then college algebra. What? Now I was in trig, calculus, physics, biochemistry, opera, literature - I was teachable. Many people I know have advanced degrees and the MBA has faded in and out as the degree du jour and I think, based on the number of doctors I know, must have been replaced by the Ph. D. And while I think that’s awesome and amazing FOR THEM, I could not be more proud of my Bachelors in Biology with a minor in Chemistry. While no one came out and said I couldn’t do it, all of the indicators that my culture says matter, namely grades, said I was stupid and literally a failure.
These are only some of the major challenges I’ve been blessed through the support of my every changing army to have been able to experience, face, overcome and then brag about it. And please understand, no one has been more surprised, more delighted and more grateful than me.
I’m big on bragging. I think our culture that tells us we’re small or vain or somehow otherwise wrong for bragging is a jealous and insecure culture. Have you gone a day without a drink? Have you gone 12 hours without cutting yourself because you want to find a way out of Hell? Brag? Get a Sharpee, write that shit on a t-shirt and wear it to the grocery store! Did you take your beautiful 310# frame into a public pool and do some water aerobics because you want to improve your circulation or increase your mobility? You know only a handful of people will understand what you overcame to accomplish this and far more people will knee-jerk to criticize so that’s why you should brag about it!
We need to turn the culture back on its ass and say, “I did this and if it makes you uncomfortable that I’m proud, then I can live with your discomfort. You’ll be okay”
Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, least of all, the only person that matters: you. You can do this. Do it and fucking brag about it!