Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I hope everyone is having a great day and that everyone has a great evening as well! I, myself, will be celebrating my second birthday today!
Wait… second birthday?
I refuse to go too far into detail (GRACE@ARMS has entire albums ready to record about growing up), but I’ll offer a brief (or as brief as it can get) explanation of what I mean.
Fight Club was right!
Three movie quotations which I always thought were obtuse, over-generalized, poorly worded, or just plain wrong (but later learned that they were EXACTLY right) are as follows:
There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
– Morpheus, The Matrix
This always felt half obvious and half wrong. Doing and talking are obviously not the same, but isn’t the difference just a matter of decision? As it turns out, it’s a lot bigger than that. Not only do we learn through doing, but we feel and experience our decision and its consequences. As anyone who’s ever stepped outside of their comfort zone will tell you, “it’s not how you think it is.”
If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything.
– Count Rugen, The Princess Bride
I ripped a hamstring in a soccer game and stopped two of my opponents before going off the field. I used to look forward to getting strep throat so I could spend a day on the couch. Pain? I’ll just play through.
Enter: two back surgeries. As it turns out, you SHOULD listen to your body (specifically your back, neck, brain, and nervous system). If you lose your mobility or even limit it, you are dead until it heals. Don’t learn this the hard way. Protect yourself.
It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.
– Tyler Durden, Fight Club
I used to think that this was obtuse. I thought that the writers were trying to find a way to sum up the whole mentality of the movie into a single sentence and that they trimmed it just a little too much.
…and then, shortly after completing law school and becoming an attorney, just as I was purchasing my first home and preparing not to settle down, but to begin a post-school life of doing the things I want to do, rather than doing the things that would build a good future, my reason for doing it all–my whole heart–disappeared.
Again, I’m not going to get into details since they’ll be outlined in song, which I find less whiny and more relatable, but suffice it to say that I found myself standing in a big empty castle, the construction of which I had devoted my whole life to, perfectly designed for a life I was no longer able to live.
You either get busy livin’ or get busy dyin’.
– Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption
(Don’t worry–I always knew this quote was good.)
I found myself lost, confused, and caught for the first time in my life in a daily struggle against thoughts of suicide. Fortunately, almost immediately after deciding to stick around a few more years, I realized just how true that Fight Club quote was.
“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything” doesn’t mean that if you make stupid choices, you’ll feel better. Nor does it mean that throwing all your belongings away will lead to a happier life.
It means, at least to me, that if you lose your means to live but not your reason, that you are free to choose any means that will support that reason. If you lose your reason to live, but not your means, you are free to create any reason your means will support. If you lose both, then you are free to create a new life.
Motivation > Decisions
When there’s no road forward, no road backward, and you refuse to fall to the side, I see no choice but to climb straight up. “Perfect” was gone in my mind so I had no option but to create something better.
As I surveyed my obliterated heart, I expected to find rot and scars. What I found instead was love and ambition pouring out of me. Pure hope, like I hadn’t felt since I was an ignorant little child was gushing out of my gaping chest.
I thought back on everything I’d ever wanted to change about myself but had never had the strength to fix. Finally, I had the motivation to do it. Finally, I had lost everything except the ferocity with which I was going to fight.
Designing a New Life
I made a list of everything I was never strong enough to change and demon that had haunted me since I was little. I had great ideas but I was too lazy to follow through on them. I had struggled and fought against pornography addiction since I was in fifth grade. I had deep-seeded rage that never seemed to escape. I had written dozens of songs–more so, I had a dream–that I had never made real. I had dozens of problems, big and small.
Rather than tying my pain and frustration to the past, to that which couldn’t be fixed, I instead tied it to the present. I didn’t lie to myself or pat myself on the back. I simply looked at what I was and what I wanted to be, and made them the same. I taught myself how to think, how to feel, how to self-motivate, and how to conquer. Every time I became upset and every time I relaxed, I felt that pain and I fought improve. Every time I felt like fighting and every time I was too tired and broken to stand, I felt that pain and I fought to improve. Every time I felt proud and every time I lost faith in myself, I felt that pain and I fought to improve.
Within six months (by my next birthday), I had lost thirty-five pounds, kicked addictions that had plagued me for years, developed a social confidence I had lacked my entire life, redeveloped my faith system, re-established myself as a bastion of hope and inspiration, wrote almost two dozen new songs (each of which were better than any I’d written previously), stopped the suicidal urges, started finalizing the recording of Chrysalis, replaced my crippling laziness with an unrelenting work ethic, improved my performance at my job drastically, shed fears and scars that I had carried since youth, and even released the rage that had shaken me for as long as I can remember.
When my birthday rolled around in 2010, I was a new life. My smile, my interests, and my sense of humor didn’t change, but everything else had become what I had always wanted it to be. I declared March 17, 2010 my re-birth day. Within my first year as whom I am, I achieved what I never could have before; I completed and released the Chrysalis of Grace at Arms.
The present and the future.
I’m not yet happy with where I am, but this year, I’ve finally been happy with whom I am. My ancient, ignorant hope has been replaced with two years of ferocious, defiant hope. My pre-natal rage has been replaced with two years of unyielding ambition. My old willingness to agree with all of the fools who believe in the “impossible” has been replaced with two years of exceeded expectations, conquered odds, and, for the first time in my life, success on my own terms.
This coming year is filled with difficult choices and ugly ultimatums in my career, my life, and my band. If this were my 12th, 18th, 22nd, 30th, or 50th birthday, I wouldn’t be ready to face them. If I were a victim of consequence or a product of real life, I would be too fearful to commit this to writing, let alone publish it to the world. Today, though, on my second birthday, I am as I have designed myself; able, willing, ready, strong, hopeful, graceful, and of course, always at arms.
If you’re unfamiliar with GRACE@ARMS, you can find us on iTunes, Facebook, YouTube, and at our homepage, graceatarms.com (you can also find us just about everywhere else–just search for Grace@Arms or BastionAtArms). You can also keep up to date with my blog, my art projects, my music, and my madness at my Facebook, Twitter, and my original blog at graceatarms.com/bastion.
Thanks and thanks again. Keep rocking with all that you’ve got.
– Bastion, of Grace at Arms