I am twenty-two years old. Okay, I am not really twenty-two years old, but I tell anyone who asks just this. It has gotten so bad that my son has done a report about me at school and actually listed that as my age. There will come a day when my kids began wondering why I never add years to my birthday, but for today, they simply go with it. That is one of the most beautiful things about children; their own negativity doesn’t get in the way of the impossible.
To be truthful, I don’t want to go back to twenty-two. For the most part my late teens and early twenties were a mess of hormonal and angst ridden nightmares. I was learning about this disease, I was learning about myself, and I so easily pushed myself beyond that which was real. I had no idea the difference between fighting for one’s own soul and fighting for one’s own heart. I didn’t know that there were battles you walked away from, and I couldn’t fathom that my path, my goals in life, were anything but just and honorable. There was no choosing, everything was on the plate as reality, and even more importantly everything on the plate was mine.
I didn’t know when I was twenty-two that sometimes fighting is not the answer. I didn’t know when I was twenty-two that sometimes concentrating only on what you can control, concentrating only on those that are most innocent would be more important than the beliefs I would once stand up and die for. And I didn’t know that heartbreak was a much greater wound than a gun-shot could ever be.
I didn’t know about silent killers or quiet, insidious diseases that are immune to the antibiotic and to one’s own will. I didn’t know that there are things out there that could destroy me; and I didn’t know I would have to smile while they did just that. At twenty-two things were black or white, right or wrong. Today there are so many shades of gray as to make it impossible to see the beauty in a sunset. There are so many small, perfectly formed dots within my sight that I can’t see the reason; and therefore, I can’t see the need.
I still fight battles, even in my advanced old age. I still go to war against injustices that are simply unacceptable to me, and I will still do all I can to help those who cannot fight. I have learned that this is a part of me, this need to help, as much as my arms and legs are a part of me. Even if you cut them off, there will always be a part of me that feels that need. And selfishly, I need that fight; because when I can’t fight the Samsons, I can’t fight at all.
Ultimately, while there are battles I will fight and on a daily basis, there are so many that I must simply walk away from. Not from fear, or even the knowledge that my walking away will lead to heartbreak that I won’t be able to recover from, but because somewhere along the way I have learned that I too have to survive.
That is a vicious lesson; that I too have to survive. It means that there are battles that I have to walk away from; there are lessons I have to not learn, simply so that I can live. This is a selfish concept and I work very hard to never be completely selfish (don’t get me wrong, this is a battle I sometimes lose). But it bothers me that I don’t fight every battle, like I would have dreamed of doing when I was younger. It bothers me that I allow some things to self-destruct, because my energy, my heart demands nothing less. It bothers me that I choose fights that will best serve me, rather than those around me. It bothers me that my self-preservation kicked in somewhere along the way, and I have become this person. It bothers me that I don’t consider every fight to be worthy. And I have learned of the battles I choose to fight, that I too must sometimes lose. That sometimes like great warriors everywhere, I have to bow my head in defeat; often before the contest even begins.
As most of us can attest, from our own experiences, battles aren’t always worthy. Battles aren’t always necessary to fight and win. Sometimes, the war, the life, is the greatest battle of all; and the only way to survive – without weapons, without troops – is with the will to walk away. Often walking away means that you hurt those you love; and it often means that those who survive will never look at you the same way again. When you decide to bow your head in defeat before the battle begins you change something integral to the relationship on both sides. When you decide that your will to fight is denying you the very strength you need to fight, oftentimes, you are not the only one who loses. You are not the only one who will go down in the pages of history as a loser; because the one thing true of every battle is there are always two sides.
The concept that there is always a winner is something that our second grade gym teacher taught us. There isn’t always a winner in a fight; sometimes there is just blood, guts and gore. And sometimes, but only on rare occasions, your decision to not fight leads to a new conqueror; someone who will pick up the gantlet and throw it to win. Someone who never had to fight, finally learns to do just that. And maybe this will surprise you, and maybe this will comfort you; or maybe, just maybe you will be horrified to learn others are not heeding your actions. Others are not listening to the lessons you have already learned.
Choosing to fight is a God-given right. When He gave us the right to think, to dream, to believe; when He gave us faith, hope and love, he also gave us the darker sides. He allowed us to see the light and then bask in the darkness. He allowed us to learn what a fight truly means, and how loss permeates the very soul that keeps us alive. He gave us the tools to determine for ourselves what is worthy and what is simply wrong. And while, for the most part, we each make mistakes in our choices, the truth is the choice is ours.
There are battles today that I am not going to fight. There are wars that I don’t have the energy to fight over and over. There are Samsons and Grendels, Cyclops and Mr. Hydes everywhere; they are part of our nightmares and part of our living sins. And while I will always fight in the name of my children; in the name of my own heart, I might just pass this one up.