“Are you as surprised as I am that I’m the only one here behaving myself?” ― Charles Vane, Black Sails
I’ve been feeling so mellow at the moment that I almost don’t recognise myself. Yet I am more myself at this time than I have ever been. More aware of my own peculiar path and my feet upon it, taking one slow yet determined, although sometimes doubtfully confident, step after another.
I’ve always had an easy-going side to my nature, but it has often been pushed into the background due to my life sometimes resembling one of those gauntlets in a computer game where your in-game character has to run along a narrow bridge over a dark abyss while sharp instruments of death swing with increasing speed across the path ahead.
You can’t go back because the game and life require that you go forward. You can pause and assess what lies ahead, take some time to figure out how on earth you got yourself into this mess, reviewing the steps which led you here, and which steps will take you over there, up ahead, with the least amount of effort and damage.
Pausing is useful as long as it doesn’t become a permanent state of being and home. The longer you pause, the more comfortable you become standing where you are which can make the thought of moving painful and stressful, more so than it may actually be if done.
At some point, either through choice, often through being poked by baddies spawning behind you and jabbing you with their swords in the backside, you have to move forward. So you call upon your inner fighter (or fool) and face what lies ahead as best as you can.
Sometimes you make it across in one go, but if you’re me it usually takes several goes, several deaths, several restarts.
My first attempt is usually a reckless rush to get from A to B as fast as possible while shouting – Charge! – as I go. That occasionally works, and I’m shocked and elated when it does – what a rush! – than when it doesn’t. How the eff did I do that!?! Never mind, don’t think about it, just keep going.
More often than not though the reckless approach meets a swift end before I get to my destination, and I have to pick myself up, regenerate, and start again.
Each restart adding a certain caution to my devil-may-care recklessness. That caution often works against me and I move too slowly, hesitating too much, and WHAM! I’m dead again. Start again, again, again… until the right blend of reckless, cautious, and stubborn determination come together and get me across.
But there is no time to celebrate because up ahead is yet another challenge to be met with deaths and restarts, and baddies poking you.
You get used to fighting, so much so that you forget everything else about yourself and become permanently set to fight mode. This becomes who you are…
…until one day you’re faced with a challenge which is completely different from everything you’ve become used to. The game ends, at least that game does, and the new one requires you to put down all your weapons including your fighting spirit and pick up tools which are completely foreign to you, the parts of you which may be estranged in some way. Things which require you to grow something, build something, nurture something.
I reached a point a while back when life challenged me to retire my inner fighter for a while, push that side of me into the background and allow the easy-going side to come to the fore. It was actually something I had always wanted to do, an opportunity I could only dream about but never imagined that the dream would ever manifest as reality.
When life is a fight, peace is but a gossamer mirage beckoning from a horizon which moves as you do, never to be reached.
And I have to admit that at first I fought the new way of being tooth and nail, biting and scratching. My greatest enemy was my fear that if I relaxed and went with this new experience that it would make me soft, expose me to being vulnerable and leave me unprepared for an attack. Letting down your guard can be the biggest fight of your life, especially if you’re the sort of person (me) who likes to make everything harder for themselves, and you are suspicious of things which are too easy.
If it’s too good to be true… it must be an illusion, a lie which is transformed into a truth by wishful thinking.
Over time I learned to relax and allow my easy-going side to take over. The inner fighter could finally sleep, and do it with both eyes closed without clutching the handle of a knife or gun under the pillow.
Life became very different to how it had been and I got used to it, so much so that the life which had come before seemed like the memory of a vivid dream which faded day by day.
Never relax, my fighter had warned before it fell into a deep sleep, the moment you truly relax is the instant that all hell breaks loose. And that is exactly what happened, a self-fulfilling prophecy which fulfilled itself. But in truth it took a while for it to do so, but still it did… and yet… things were not as they appeared.
When hell broke loose, the easy-going side was out of its depth and tried to rouse the fighter. The fighter found it hard to wake up. The easy-going side attempted to handle things on its own, and mistakes ensued which caused the ground to tremble violently enough to jolt the fighter out of sleep. Once awake the fighter took over, but its weapons were rusty and the rust made them heavier and unwieldy. Never store your weapons in a damp cellar.
It became clear that this new gauntlet required a completely new approach, that no longer was it possible for the bridge to be crossed by a one-sided character, this time both sides had to work together. The easy-going side and the fighter needed to merge their natures. Together they would add depth to each other, to me.
And in essence that is what has happened. Whereas before I relied just on the fighter, then eventually switched to the easy-going side, now I am blending the two, and as strange as it may seem, at least to me, two opposite sides once blended actually enhance and support each other.
The fighter in me has always been influenced by the easy-going side. However its awareness of it was always viewed from the perspective that this influence made the fighter weak and careless. But now I can see that it makes the fighter bolder and stronger. It adds patience and calm where before there was restless impatience and a tendency to fly off the handle at the slightest provocation or hint of a threat.
The easy-going side considered the fighter to be a jailor, but now it perceives it more as a friendly bodyguard. I can enjoy the benefits of being laid back and peaceful because I know that someone has my back, and that someone is my inner fighter.
Of course everything has a flip side, the fighter would not need to exist if the easy-going side did not exist. But then I would not exist either, I would be someone else. And… all of this would be irrelevant.
This time last year I was anything but mellow. A frightening gauntlet lay before me and I did not know if I had it in me to restart should I not make it across. But I did, and now I am here on the other side, with that particular gauntlet behind me and another one up ahead… but things feel different. I am different, I am more myself, more mellow, more at ease with my easy-going side, yet ready to spring into fighting action should the need arise, more at ease with my fighting side too.
The reference to Captain Vane of Black Sails, is because I watched the first season of the show recently, and this character was the one I related to the most. His life (at least this show’s version of it) very loosely reminds me of mine.
He allowed life to change him, and he learned from the changes, matured, and while everyone else was repeating the same patterns of behaviour over and over again, refusing to make peace because they were used to fighting, more comfortable at war than trying to make peace, he realised that sometimes you have to switch to a different side of yourself to make progress and move forward. That peacefulness and fighting can co-exist, join forces, and create something new.
And that when you allow those changes to happen, you may surprise yourself so much you wonder if others have noticed… but they probably haven’t.
Or at least that’s my take on his character… and on mine.