Be Yourself

all the way

“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. If you’re going to try, go all the way. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. Go all the way. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. Do it. Do it. Do it. All the way. All the way. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

― Charles BukowskiFactotum

Making drastic life changes is a dicey process with countless twists and turns and stops and starts. At the beginning, trails are welcoming, wide and flat and winding, paved with optimism and good intentions and hope. The dark forest paths are tree-lined with time and space for conversation and dialogue and consideration of things like obligation and loyalty and how it’s always been. How you’ve always been. It’s slow, the change. Gradual. You start to break a sweat. What if what I’m doing upsets other people? What if my trip hurts your ideas or feelings about me? What if some people don’t like the way I change?

Slowly, eventually,  you realize you are completely and utterly lost. You have to double back and start again in a different direction. Is it this way? No, maybe this way? Is that the sun? OH MY GOD I DON’T KNOW WHERE THE SUN IS! AM I DEAD? DO YOU HAVE SNACKS? WHY AM I YELLING? You waste time walking in circles talking to yourself, cursing this stupid, gigantic, epic mountain. You get angry, frustrated, anxious. You scream and yell at the trees for not helping you. You curse the sky and the earth. You drink too much coffee. You stay up all night. You keep going. You don’t want to be in this part. This part is hard. You try to be patient. You try to remember that you will get through this. You try to make the best of it. You think you are making the best of it.

Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, you get attacked by a vicious goddamn grizzly bear who wants to make sure you know who is in charge of the forest. The bear scares you, surprises you, and makes you cry. Perhaps you’ve got some bear scratches that are bleeding. You become defensive and angry and wonder if the bear is right. Maybe you are not behaving the way you should be.  Maybe you’re never getting out of here. Maybe this mountain is inside a zoo and you’re going to be trapped here until you die alone with a bunch of zebras and giraffes that eat all your carrots and don’t even let you play with them.

Look, you can’t blame a bear for being a bear. Bears only know how to bear. That dumb bear doesn’t know shit about you and your mountain climbing skills. Or this forest and who is the boss of it. Or the world outside this little enclave. That bear doesn’t have the deep life experience you have. She doesn’t know how hard you fight to show up to life every day and be a better human being than you were the day before. That bear doesn’t know how many times you’ve chosen to be your best self over your base self, how hard you work to be kind and empathetic and friendly and helpful and smart and compassionate to others, but mostly to yourself. That bear doesn’t know anything about why you are on this godforsaken mountain. She can’t fathom not being a bear, or that maybe you actually  aren’t a fucking bear yourself, maybe you want to be a lioness or a pterodactyl or some kind of flying phoenix pegasus dragon that gives zero fucks about what’s happening inside this sad little bear cave.

You’re just passing through, and nothing that’s happening here – these things, this waiting that seems so hard and unbearable – is going to last.

Today is the day. Now is when you choose what happens next. How bad do you want to make a change? How much do you want to see the top of this mountain?  You could decide to let the bear rip you apart. You could sit down and cry and give up. You could run back down the mountain with hurt feelings and just stay still and build a little hut in a valley and hope the bear stays in her stupid cave and leaves you alone. Or, you could ignore the negative, bullshit-slinging bear and remember your goals. You are going to the top. All the way. Do it.

Do it.

The thing about climbing mountains is that the higher you go, the better and stronger you get, the narrower the path becomes.The more people tell you you can’t keep going. It gets harder. Steeper. Sometimes, it’s only wide enough for one at a time. The more times you fall down and scrape your knees, the more bear attacks your survive, the better you learn about how to cope in the future. The more time you spend working on your forward motion, the more you befriend yourself. You discover all the things you are carrying that you don’t need.You begin to drop weight.

You begin to forgive yourself. You let go of things and people that don’t serve you. You identify toxicity in environments and you plan your escape.

You heal up from an aggressive attack and realize that’s about them, not you. You learn what’s worth fighting for and what’s worth ignoring. You stop caring about what insignificant people think about your choices and actions. You know you are honoring the highest and best in yourself when you are climbing.

You drop expectations and you climb higher.

You begin to realize your only obligation, your only loyalty, is to yourself. Fuck what anyone thinks. You know how strong you’ve become, how much you can take. How much you have to give and what you can create and share.

You reject limitations and climb faster.

You have time to reflect on your progress, the entire journey up to the bottom of the mountain. You are empowered. You have overcome so much. SO MUCH. Broken pieces stop shattering and you start reforming like T-1000  in Terminator. Liquid metal. Unbreakable. Unstoppable. You are nimble. Determined. You are going all the way to the top. There is no going back to the beginning. There is only forward. There is only sky. You can only get to the top and fly. You are a magical fucking flying tortoise.

Bears. Give me a fucking break.

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