Staying Down For The Count

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Things were not going her way, or any way at all. She was in debt up to her eyeballs, her husband was considering moving out and she had put on a few kilos over the holidays. When I asked her ‘How are you?’, her response was ‘I’m fine.’

So many of our mindless responses to questions of ‘How are you’ or ‘How are things going’ get dumped in our faces that we begin to believe them. Or we believe that any other response is not socially acceptable. Probably the worst we’ll allow ourselves to admit is, I’m ok, or surviving. It’s just a flesh wound after all, right?

When we believe that we should always be fine, it becomes uncomfortable to admit we’re down, especially to ourselves. We’re supposed to warrior on even though we’re feeling shitty and uninspired and driven over.

I’m not in with that rationale for a few reasons:

  • We mislead ourselves and others into believing that things should always be okay.
  • We don’t have permission to be down because nobody else seems to be, and why on earth should we be any different? Maybe we’re just trying to gain sympathy. And so we serve ourselves a nice helping of guilt on top of whatever mess is sitting in our plate right now.
  • We don’t get to benefit from the full value of being down, which is a chance for us to stop and catch our breath. It’s an opportunity to go over what’s just happened, understand where things went wrong and strategize how we’re going to heal from it.

When we’re constantly fighting against being down, mere gravity becomes exhausting. Breathing vertically becomes an effort.

I’m all for keeping up the warrior cry, but there comes a point in every one of our lives when we know there’s no fighting the fates. Unless we seek rock-bottom and spend a little time there, we’re not going to comprehend the full impact of how we got there, and we’re not going to have the precious time to strategize a way out.

Instead of clinging to the edge of the hole, being neither in it nor above it, we just hang there, with no control over our next steps. When we’re down, we at least have control of what’s next.

When a boxer gets hit too many times and can’t see straight, he’s better off going down and staying down for the full count before getting back on his feet. He gets a chance to catch his breath, allow his body to recover for a few precious seconds, and has a small window to consider another strategy.

Life works the same way, when you’re hit in the face and falling, let it happen. Stay down for the count. Breathe, consider how you got there, and plan an alternate strategy, then get your ass up again. The alternative? Hang on breathlessly, arms burning and sweat pooling into your eyes until a total Knock Out throws you out of the game.


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