Three Choices

Washington Pass Overlook  photo by Mary Dessein
Washington Pass Overlook photo by Mary Dessein

“See this guy here? That’s the toughest opponent you‘re ever gonna have to face,” Rocky said to Donny, the young wannabe boxer with potential as they looked in the mirror. “When he takes a swing at you, you have three choices: block it, flip it, or get out of the way.”
Persistence. Tenacity. Fear. Commitment. Focus. Focus to the tenth power focus, near to obsession. Possibly it is obsession – it gets the job done.

Tenacity and commitment have big pay-offs: accomplishment, goals met, internal satisfaction. And progress.

Joseph Campbell, ancient Greeks, Amelia Earhart, Charles Haanel, Napoleon Hill, Lady Gaga, and countless others have spoken about pursue your passion till you drop. Then they walked their talk.
Watching Donny run miles, charge up flights of stairs, do hundreds of push-ups, jump rope until he can barely stand up boggled my mind. Yes, people do have that drive, have that intensity, have that clear determination. And it always gets results.

Steven Pressfield talks about how distractions get us away from our calling or our creativity, whatever that might be. Sometimes those distractions can be so cleverly disguised I don’t recognize them: obligations, skill at my day job, perhaps even prestige. So I procrastinate in following my passion, my internal voice. It’s a legitimate delay, right? I’m so good at my job, I can write later on. Underneath that deception, if I look, I’ve agreed it’s better to assuage my uncertain ego and fears, than heed my soul calling.

In a heated moment in the movie, ‘Creed,’ Rocky asks Donny what he’s trying to prove.
“That I’m not a mistake.”

Damn. That hits home. So many of us spending our lives unconsciously trying to prove to the world that we are valuable and worthwhile. I sure have. Yet, it is really ourselves, that familiar face looking back at us in the mirror, that we are trying so hard to prove our value to.
And such a contradiction, as the best way to prove it is to follow our heart’s calling. Live our dream and quit listening to the procrastinator and critic in our head that doubts everything we ever do. Block it.

“Be a good girl. Don’t upset people. Don’t talk back. Do as you’re told. People have to like you. Always respect and never question authority. You have to work hard and show people you’re worthwhile. Intuition is nonsense. Always take care of others; never think of what you need because that’s selfish. Never call attention to yourself and your accomplishments or you‘ll be conceited.”
Any of those sound familiar? One that came to me subliminally as I sure don’t remember hearing this from either of my parents, yet I got it loud and clear, and mercy sakes, has it ever caused me trouble, “Never say no to a man.” Oh my goodness. In thinking about that, I am wondering if I learned that or “Always say yes to a man.” Subtle differences. I suspect it is linked to “Don’t question authority.”

Have you ever been with someone and your insides feel seasick as they insist, “No! No!” yet you get in that person’s car, go to their house, or some other directive that so does not benefit you?
All those mandates issued in my childhood were meant to shape me into a good person and strengthen me for an independent life out in the world, not cripple me. Time to flip them, turn them into something useful to me. “Respect authority that respects me.” “Take care of myself as well as take care of others.” “Work hard yet make sure it is work that serves me.” “Keep myself in balance so I know when to blow my own horn and when to be still.”

Intuition. Fascinating, when in my forties, I realized those gut feelings were always right. My intuition is a meter indicating “Caution. Something’s wrong here. Stop.” It can be small things such as that word feels wrong in that sentence to some activity I had best not do. It is never wrong. Anytime I feel ambivalence or hesitation, my intuition is trying to get my attention.

So then, when to get out of the way. The people I cannot change upset me only if I allow it. Oh yeah, do they ever twist around in my thoughts when I perceive I have been hurt, misunderstood, or discounted. If they’re not paying rent, I need to get them out of my head. When there are people and things I cannot change that can harm me, it is my job to move. Okay, that counts for the ones that can drive me crazy, too. I often have to issue eviction notices many times. It’s not the tenants in my head that won’t leave, it’s me yanking on their coattails, reiterating how they’ve wronged me.

My first choice must be to focus. When I was in college, in my forties, college was my focus. My entire life shifted to accommodate the requirements of classes and study and to facilitate my success. Shazaam, it worked. Persistence. Tenacity. Fear. Commitment. Focus.
When I was swimming four and a half miles a week, yee gods, I rocked. It was persistence, tenacity and commitment. How did those remarkable traits fall away?

For that answer, once again, am I looking in the mirror at my toughest opponent?