This weekend I got an unexpected visit from an old friend, the Blues, which brought all manner of unwelcome luggage as they tracked their mud into the house of my mind, along with memories and dreams of grief and unsettling journeys through the houses of the dead. It was a little like being mugged by that stereotypical street tough in an old British film, the one carrying an absurdly heavy cosh with which he proceeds to brain you.
I call the Blues a friend because, despite their horrible manners and general unpleasantness, they provide teaching and grounding. If nothing else, they remind us that we are human, after all. And when we allow them to become an enemy, well, they win. So I pushed through the flavors of sadness, ate human feces during my online work meetings from ridiculous people obsessed with everything that doesn’t matter amid the (overdue) death throes of a half-assed empire, and then went straight to bed after work hours.
But then I woke up around midnight and remembered I didn’t do my pushups. You see, a friend invited me to do the 22 Day Pushup Challenge to raise money and awareness for Veteran Suicide Prevention, mental health, and homelessness. So even though I was in my robe and slippers, I filmed my required pushups for social media and didn’t give a damn that I looked goofy doing it.
I think this Pushup Challenge is a great metaphor for life in so many ways. Because even if you’re not in the mood, even if you’re dealing with personal stuff, even if it’s the “wrong time” and “wrong place” and you’re wearing the “wrong clothes” (such as slippers that accentuate one’s ludicrous duck feet), you can still lean into your goals and achieve whatever you set your mind to in life; you just get it done. And maybe that’s part of the lesson of the Blues overall — there is no “right place” or “right time” or “right mood” or “prepared” or “not prepared.”
Life happens in the NOW, whether we like it or not; and we will likely have a better time (and an easier one) by simply leaning into the now, giving up illusions of control, and embracing the absurdity and fear and thrills of the amusement park ride. The more annoyingly idiotic coworkers and committees are just the shitting and puking children sitting in front of you – try to close your mouth and protect your eyes from the worst of the spray, and you’ll get through it.
(And, yes, we will have every opportunity to leave our comments for management at the end, along with a quite stinging Yelp review. All in good time.)
So, yes, if Arthur Dent could face the end of the Universe in his bathrobe and armed only with a trusty bath towel, then I know I can pursue more consistency and do the allotted pushups. It’s the least I can do.
And with Arthur in mind, I’m going to push through this week and the old, familiar battles with depression and grief. I’m going to remember all the times I faced down and survived larger, darker, scarier ones armed with even less. I’m going to ignore the ridiculous people who, in every hellscape, make themselves feel better by making fun of others. I’m going to embrace how unutterably ridiculous I look fighting invisible monsters in my bathrobe, thinking of how Eddie earned Roland’s respect on the journey to the Dark Tower when he fought bravely and manfully in an impossible battle while unarmed and naked.
And I’m going to remember, in my heart of hearts, that there is nothing more badass than the secret brotherhood and sisterhood of those who pull off a semi-stable “regular” life, friendships, and creative goals whilst regularly arm wrestling the devil. Whether it’s spiritual darkness or mental health battles, whether it’s loss or systemic abuse by the Machine, every single person who pushes through another 24 hours in this purgatory, you’re a goddamn hero in my book. Sometimes we survive so that we can then THRIVE.
Remember that we’re not alone. This isn’t our home, it’s our training ground. And by god, we’re each of us doing so much better than we think.
Image (c) 123RF, used under license.