You can now listen to this as an audio file read by Paul Waggener:
Woke up this morning hurting.
A physical pain, sure- sprained fingers from 7 hours of jiu-jitsu in the last two days. The inside of my mouth torn up from my crooked and chipped teeth gouging tender areas as I got choked over and over by higher belts on the mat.
Ear is thick, filled with fluid again, cauliflower ear setting in worse. My right foot, exploded years back in a motorcycle crash and never surgically repaired, gets swollen after lots of time on it, little stress fractures that have me limping like an old man at 33.
I could go on- there’s been a lot of savage miles put on this frame from a life lived without much thought given to the future, or “leaving some in the tank.”
But it’s not all the physical stuff that’s the real bitch- today, like many others, it’s a spiritual pain.
An existential one.
As I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, I realized how tired I was. How washed out. A bone-deep exhaustion brought on by stress, uncertainties, friendship disintegration, loss of loved ones, shattered expectations, knives in the back, and every other low and dirty trick that life often throws in the path.
When you’re young and you’re suffering, people will always tell you “it gets better.”
Like so many other things that adults tell youth, this is total bullshit. It never gets better, or easier- in fact, it gets more difficult, more complex, more deeply cutting.
You just have a choice to get harder along with it, and tougher, so that you can deal with what existence has to offer, or you become someone that life broke to pieces. A crippled casualty, traumatized and left to bleed.
It’s been a long year, and easily the most difficult of my life in every area- but this article is not about complaining.
It’s about understanding the choice that you are presented with every morning, every day, every hour, every moment. The choice is: keep moving, or sit down and quit.
No matter who you are, whether hard-case or housewife, life is tough.
You’re not special. Everyone is suffering everywhere, all in their own way.
You can face your suffering as a victim or a victor, and really, like everything else, it all comes down to the mindset you choose.
If today is kicking you in the ribs with steel toed boots, I am going to do my best to give you a quick roadmap through it. Not because I know you, or necessarily care about your problems (see step 1), but because somewhere deep down, no matter how many disappointments life throws my way, I am an idealist.
I want to help people. I want them to prove me wrong when I am at my most cynical and misanthropic. I want to believe that people change, and improve, instead of just being revealed for what they are.
Mostly, I am going to offer a helping hand, because at my lowest moments, like today, I wish someone would do it for me- and I find that in doing it for someone else, I do it for myself as well. So here goes, with fire and fury.
First- No one wants to hear about your problems- realizing this is step one on the road to changing your mindset during the hard times.
Complaining doesn’t help, nobody gives a shit, and you’re on your own. Even if that’s not totally true, and you’ve got good people around you, you should still live by it, because those who don’t often burden the people around them make for better friends.
That sounds harsh, but we could use a little more “stiff upper lip,” and a little less “embarrass yourself with daily emotional displays” in this day and age.
Second- just like days when you don’t want to go to the gym, or go train, or fix your kids lunch in the morning, or whatever it is: those are the days you most need to.
If you don’t, life becomes a series of excuses not to do your duty, instead of a series of challenges overcome. And, even if you can’t squeeze anything more out of it, a life spent living up to your duty as a man, a son, a brother, a wife, or a parent is a pretty good way to cross the finish line.
Third- Don’t spend too much time thinking.
On days like these, the more time spent in contemplation of the roadblocks, the failures, the grey waste that stretches out on the horizon, the more likely you are to succumb to despair or enervation.
Even if you feel like sitting down and dying, stand up and fight.
Do not offer yourself up as a willing victim, or surrender when life itself rises up against you!
Hit the gym like it owes you money, run until you’re ragged, plan a murder or start a new religion. Throw yourself into a task- any task, until the blackness subsides and you are in control again.
Fourth- realign yourself with the stars.
By this, I mean remind yourself of who you are and where you’re going.
If all seems lost, look to the heavens and remember what your North Star is: who you are at the core, what it is you are seeking to be an archetype of.
Yourself, sigilized, and burning like a supernova on your way to glory and immortal legend.
Fuck faith, and hope, and fear- be filled with your own fire, your own purpose, and if you cannot find one, just create one, out of nothing, and hold it in your hand like a weapon.
This is who you are now, and have always been, and who you must continue to be, forever, amen.
Don’t surrender, don’t give up, don’t quit.
“O men! Do not be afraid. Do not retreat. Perform sacrifices.
Let those who perform sacrifices prosper.
May truth, passion, and darkness make you complete.”