One of the things you learn when you find yourself lying flat on your back with metaphorical blood running out of your mouth is that the ceiling always looks different from that perspective. You see the cracks in the plaster, the peeling paint, and the old stains that were never properly sealed. It’s a lesson in point of view, as well as a reminder that you can adopt different points of view voluntarily, instead of waiting for life to knock you on your ass.
As anyone who has spent time on the web knows, internet time is a literal warping of the time-space continuum. My previous post here was a little less than two weeks ago, but it feels like ten years. In the interim I’ve watched the sun move across the walls each day, and felt the warmth as it slid across the floor and washed over me. I’ve had time to think and to rest, and with the tail of my shirt I’ve been able to stanch the flow of blood.
I know what I have to do now. But in order to do it I have to get back up, and I don’t want to get back up. I’ve been knocked on my ass a lot in life — more than I would wish on anyone — and I know how hard it is to keep getting back up. I know it’s important, but I also know there are no guarantees. And therein lies the flaw in one of life’s great quotes:
Inside of a ring or out, ain’t nothing wrong with
going down. It’s staying down that’s wrong.
~ Muhammad Ali
The problem, of course — as everyone learns at some point — is that there is a fine line (or perhaps no line) between courage and stupidity. If it’s heroic to get back up again, it’s also the act that will inevitably lead to again getting knocked on your ass.
So when you’re down there’s a tendency to want to stay down. Lying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, it’s natural to remember the immediate cause of your current condition, and to want to avoid that experience if at all possible. In my better moments I try to remember that, and to not fault people (including myself) for not wanting to get back up. I know the dread. And I know the one thing worse than getting run over by life is feeling like you were at the wheel.
But I’ve also lived long enough to know that staying down is no guarantee of safety and security. Even if you protect yourself as much as you can, you’re always exposed because being alive is the very definition of being vulnerable. So if the choice is between getting back up and being knocked down again, or staying down and waiting to be kicked, I’m getting back up.
Over the past two weeks I’ve been taking stock, as one does in such situations, and I think I have a better perspective on what I need to be doing now, and what I need to be working toward in the future. There are no guarantees, of course, but at least I feel like I know how to minimize some of the risks and regain my balance, and that’s not a bad return on the time invested.
I don’t know how much I’ll be able to post, or how much time I’ll be able to devote to writing, but I do know that writing matters to me. I also believe that writing is inherently a choice between lying and telling the truth, and I’ve never been willing or able to lie. I know there’s more money in it, but I can’t do it.
— Mark Barrett