Being a Fighter

Thursday, February 16, 2017 0 Comments A+ a-

While this blog is called "Sclero Scoop", there is more that goes into a life with chronic illness than just the illness itself. Relationships, experiences, and the generally living of life have an impact on our health and how we manage it ALL.

With that said, today's post is more about life and how I developed the fuel that is my desire to fight.

People often comment that I'm so strong or that I'm such a fighter. Most days that's true. Quite frankly, there also plenty of days where it's not true. Truth be told, there are days that I don't fight and I'm not strong. There are days that I do the basics to get through the day and I hide in the comfort and safety of my house and whichever "comfort" location is for that day.

Mostly, though, yes .... I fight and use the strength I can muster to persevere and rock this life.

I don't mean to make light of the strength or my will to fight and dismiss it - if it seems that I am, it's because I believe we all have it. So, I don't see myself as being special or different for exhibiting it.

It's part of all of our survival toolkit. We are all born with the "5 F's" as an innate part of our makeup. Our brain processes every situation (whether we are aware it's happening or not) under one of these F categories:

  1. Fight - do I need to fight this thing?
  2. Flight - do I need to run from this thing?
  3. Freeze - am I just going to stay put and see what happens?
  4. Food - do I eat it to fuel my body
  5. Fornicate - Do I need to mate with it to procreate and continue my species growth? (I was going to be my originally colorful self, but I'm trying to tone it down a bit)
So, see? We all have it. I think we hone (or not) those skills based on the lives we lead and the examples set before us by our families, mentors, and peers.

As a child I learned what it meant to "fight" early on. Not fight as in "I'm gonna go whoop some ass on the playground", but fight as in "I will get through this and keep on going". I learned it from my parents. From my family. I don't believe anyone in my family has ever had anything come easy to them.

You see, my father was born with Polio and had a rough life from the start. He underwent surgeries, spent years in corrective leg devices, casts, and lived with his left hand permanently like MY left had is today. And yet, he played little league, he played basketball, he bowled, he drove a manual transmission, he went to college to get a degree in heavy equipment maintenance, he held a job doing manual labor for 25 years of my life. He tinkered on cars as a hobby. If any of my friends had a broken bike, he'd fix it. He taught me to maintain my own car.

Aside from all of that, my father also fought a battle with alcoholism. A struggle, that from what I understand started early in his life.

My parents met and had me when my mom was very young. She gave up a lot to be a mother and a wife and took on the struggles of being the wife to a man fighting a whole world of battles.  None of it was ever easy. I believe my parents struggled to get us by more than it was ever easy.

That's not to say life was horrible and down-trodden. It just wasn't easy. There were plenty of good times. There was plenty of laughter. There was love - however poorly expressed - it was there.

My father's mother was a great little lady. I refer to her as the closest thing to Mother Teresa as I will have ever known. She was my father's rock and biggest support system throughout his life with an uncanny ability to get him to "get back on track" at anytime he was struggling. When my grandmother passed, there was an obvious shift in my father's will to fight any struggles before him. Most obviously, his alcoholism.

As things go, my parents loved each other, but were not meant to be life long partners. Even at 17, when they separated, I knew this. Sometimes, one person's burden to bear is too much for even two people to bear. Looking at the situation from my now 40 years of experience and knowing what I know about people and relationships - it's obvious to me that they were not meant for a lifetime of happiness together. Their time together served it's purpose and it was time for their paths to go in different directions.

My father picked himself up and started a new life. He got himself right for a time. He was a great path. For the first time in a long time he as proud of himself and what he was doing. He went and ordered a new truck from the dealership - the first and only new vehicle he ever had. I remember the day we went to pick it up like yesterday. It was bittersweet - he was proud as punch of this new vehicle and the idea of moving forward ... while being a little sad at letting go of the past - that past being represented in the truck that he traded in that had been in our family since I was born - 17 years! I was so proud of him and happy that he seemed to be doing really well.

In the years to follow, his journey would take him on and off the wagon with alcohol and ultimately, he just lost his care for life and the idea of living and alcohol won it's control over him.

Through it all, he managed to keep the truck. It meant something to him. It represented a lot and yet, at the end of his life, the truck was a pile a junk that had just enough life left in it to get it to its final resting place - the junkyard - where it quite literally "died".

The day I cleaned out my father's things and cried as I watched one of his most prized possessions limp off, I took one of its keys and put it on my keychain to have as a twofold daily reminder
  1. What we can achieve if we fight and overcome and have the drive to do so, no matter the lifetime of obstacles put in front of us.
  2. To NEVER give up and let any of my own demons keep me down for too long because to do so allows life to be simplified down to a pile of junk ... and is to waste time and energy and the ability to experience all of the beautiful things in this lifetime. I want my life to be LIVED!
I've been struggling emotionally lately and in doing so, knew I need to keep reminding myself to not stay "stuck" for too long.  I had the idea to change the key into something more. Today, my roommate brought me the completed fruit of my vision ... The bottom of the key is now worn with the cairn I wear 24/7 and the top has been put back on my key chain.

I cry happy and sad tears in one. For the lessons I've learned and for what "could" have been if the will to fight were stronger and what "was" because the will to fight was lost.

We grow up because of our parents or to spite our parents ... or both.

My parents have taught me invaluable lessons in this life. Some they meant to. Others, they didn't know they were teaching.

Regardless - if you ask me where I learned to fight - I'll tell you, "believe you me (one of my dad's favorite sayings) I learned it from my parents. I've never known any other way."

Persevere and rock on!