Long ago during College 2 one of my now-exes told me that he used to be depressed, but then he decided to be awesome instead.
At the time I didn’t get it.
It took me a long while to understand that ‘be awesome’ was a state-shift that I could undertake at will. During the Lost Decade it definitely didn’t feel like something I could choose to do. It’s only been this year that I really Got It.
I’m talking about it now because I was helping Nat put a bunk bed together at the REACH and I got a finger slammed between a couple of pieces, hard enough to draw a blood blister. I then also had a piece break underfoot and drop me to the floor, bruising my ankle as I went. I continued to smile and cracked a joke about it, and Nat commented how much they loved my attitude.
I think it’s a choice anyone can make, although I understand full well not thinking that it’s a mental motion available to you. Certainly when you’re in the depths of despair, it doesn’t feel like a move you can make. It’s not something I really know how to serialize but I’ll try.
There have been times, semi-recently, when I looked at the work that I think is necessary for me to do, and part of me wanted to be terrified and feel inadequate. When I felt that starting to happen, instead of just letting it, I refused. I called on the power of my name, and remembered that there is a “place” in my mind I can “stand” against anything.
I’m not sure if I built it, or recognized something that already existed, but I don’t think my cognition is unique enough that this is something special to me. I think most people can do this, but also most people don’t, because they don’t think it’s an action they can take.
In any case, here’s what the mental move “looks” like for me:
“I’m Ratheka Stormbjorne, and this is not going to be the thing that breaks me. Not even close.”
I invoke this for difficult things, things it doesn’t seem to me like I can do. I learned from David Goggins that we have within us a governor, whose purpose it is to preserve resources. To keep us from spending resources that we don’t have to. It makes sense as an evolutionary adaptation – if we spent all of our energy and effort all the time in the ancestral environment, we’d come up short fairly quickly. That said, in the modern era we’re not resource poor, and we can usually manage time to recover.
Still, the governor keeps us weak in meaningful ways. We become “exhausted”, and think we have to stop. We think we can’t win, and we give up without really giving it our best. We don’t have to be like that in extremis, and it’s a lesson that carries over to the less extreme times too.
So I felt some pain from squishing my finger. So I dinged up my ankle falling. So what? It’s not enough to stop me, not even enough to slow me down. I’m Ratheka Stormbjorne, and the universe thinks that’s enough to stop me from improving the world?
Sh’yeah, as if!
So I make a joke, I smile, and we move on. It seems surprising if you don’t know you can make that move but really, it’s not all that much.
Also, it makes everything easier. Assembling those beds wouldn’t have been easier if I got mad, or stopped to feel bad about the pain. It just would have been harder on my friend, even if I didn’t do anything else to help. It would have been easy to fume off in a huff, but I would have felt bad and less would have got done.
I’d rather be awesome. It’s more fun for me, and for the people around me, and I get to have more of an effect on the world.