Why true tenacity involves more than just yourself.
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Take the D train back a decade and change, to one of the universally grandiose homes in Franklin, Tennessee (circa both 2005 and today), and you’ll find me arising on an unsuspecting Sunday morning — much like today.
The sun beamed through my bedroom window and gently warmed my face as I slowly re-entered reality, leaving my slumber all too far behind. It was the final day of my weekend — typically reserved for video games, basketball, dodging contact with family members and seeking out other generally pleasant activities that drew as little attention to me as possible.
Except today wasn't just another Sunday, and I couldn’t peg as to why.
As the morning progressed, the air felt different — heavier, even. Tension was lurking nearby — one of my quintessential enemies back then — but its purpose evaded. It wasn't until around lunchtime did I comprehend the magnitude of my screw-up: it was Mother’s Day. And I clearly had forgotten all about it.
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The backlash resulted in the most visceral, deep-seated emotional discomfort I had experienced life-to-date. I scrambled at the last minute to try and score a touchdown as I was getting blown out by 40 in the 4th quarter, but it was too little, too late. The damage was processed and the impact was made. Impeccable timing on my behalf, as well, as the stability of my parents’ union was sleuthing its way out the back door.
This wasn't the first or the last time I would let my mother down in paramount fashion. From opening Christmas presents early (at an age that one is far too old to be doing so), my incessant, unbreakable habit of compulsive lying, to trading in a car I didn’t own in exchange for an additional $20k in debt, my mother’s allegiance to me was continually barricaded against the ropes.
This peaked throughout my 20’s — particularly once I started drinking — and culminated in a multi-year absence from visitation. Phone calls were reserved solely for when I needed something. The general thesis of my exchanges were to search, locate and leverage any rational narrative that would explain why my life was such a shit show. My goal was to achieve sympathy and attain a clear conscience as I charged further toward desires I had no business pursuing, repeatedly choosing a restful, narcissistic night’s sleep rooted in denial over any shred of concern for how she may be feeling — towards me, towards herself, towards life.
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Like any house of cards, this couldn’t go on forever. Some of you have read the Spark Notes version — I eventually got my act together (and am still very much in the process of fine-tuning — it’s still a shit show at times). And while it’s great for me that I have access to what I didn’t before, my mother is the true example here.
Many can take circumstantial hits themselves and continue to get back up — there’s a clear, vivid imagery of benefits transposed at the end of the blind alley. We know what we’re going to receive if we keep going — the goal we’re striving to achieve. The likelihood of realization hinges upon our own willpower, our own commitment, our own sweat equity.
But to continue to take hits on behalf of someone else? Well, this is something else entirely.
We’re talking authentic, emotional sacrifice in its purest form.
Should we continue to recognize those that attack life with the same degree of enthusiasm despite the jabs, uppercuts, and paralyzing left-hooks? Yes. However, irrespective of this group of gritty crusaders, I feel there’s a zenith that goes unrecognized — a prestigious faction separate from the Rockys, the Colonel Sanders, and the J.K. Rowlings. And as biased as this may seem, I think it’s people like my mother that transcend this virtuous connotation.
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With all the resources available these days, the tendency to give up on people is sharper than ever. If things aren’t working out with your initial choices of friends or designations of mentorship, you can always find something better. The same example can be said with the people we love, as sometimes it’s just easier to cut your losses and pack it in than continue to risk your heart’s exposure to shattering into another exponent.
Which is why people that tie a rope to a stake and fuse the other end onto their soul are so inspiring. Regardless of the fact she’s my parent, I did notmake it easy on my mother. She could’ve supplanted emotional distance on top of the physical distance I created and kept herself free from disappointment, pain and helplessness. Despite what your life rules may say about how a parent is supposed to treat their child, I was well into adulthood at the apex of my selfishness and she never once took her foot off the gas. Her love never surrendered to fear. This, my friends, is real resilience.
The other side of the coin, of course, is what if the person never comes around? What if the resilient love is for nothing? I’d like to turn the mic over to Dr. Viktor Frankl to explain:
"For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth — that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: the salvation of man is through love and in love."
Channeling Dr. Frankl once more,
“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it.”
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My mother didn’t care about her own feelings. The fact that I wasn’t acting the way her son should. Her reasons, justifications, and considerations — all conspicuously absent. The only thing present was love, and an unrelenting commitment to said love. And this is where the line blurs into grey for people: do we venture down the rabbit hole of treating any other relationship between humans as sacred as parent/child? I don’t have an answer for that, but it’s certainly something to take a look at.
In the interim, let us honor those who never give up — not only on themselves, but on others. Those whose belief, whose faith, whose commitment is so strong that it wills the potentialities of another being into actualization.
I cannot describe it, but I have seen the light of this powerful exclamation of resilience and I can only hope my love will cause the same impact on another that hers has had on me.
Unwavering, unrelenting, tireless love. This is what resilience has meant to me.
Thank you for showing me, Mom — I love you to the moon and back.
Unlimited trips included.
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