...In the clearing stands a boxerI was born fighting. I don't remember my birth of course, but knowing the surrounding circumstances I can say with complete confidence that I came out fighting. For a time, it was probably a good thing, since that very energy protected me from harm during my childhood. I was able to defend myself.
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains...
(The Boxer, by Simon and Garfunkel)
I was also able to defend others. I was unafraid to take on bullies and actually felt like it was my duty to do so. We moved a lot, and soon after starting 5th grade in a new school, I found myself protecting a 6th grader from playground bullies. Her last name resembled the Spanish word "feo" which means "ugly." She looked different from most kids-- very pale, dark glasses-- so you can imagine how they taunted her. I listened to it for about five minutes and realized she had no idea how to defend herself. I jumped in with a verbal assault that laid those kids low. I have no memory of what I said. I remember their mouths hung open like dead bass, so it must have been quite cutting.
There were many times like that where I felt the fighter in me did some good. But looking over the past 45 years, I see how it's made life difficult for me, too. The thing is, I never knew how to stop fighting.
When I got diagnosed with Wegener's, I did the only thing I knew to do-- I fought it. "The tests are wrong," I told my doctor. Okay, so the fact that I was laying there half-dead with hemorrhaging lungs helped convince me he was right, but I still fought it down deep. I fought that it was happening to me. I fought every new drug they put me on, every procedure, every complication. I always had good reasons-- a new drug was not necessary, a procedure was redundant, the doctors really did mess up, etc....
I couldn't see what was really going on : A fighter must always have a fight.
Having a serious illness means I get to meet a lot of fellow fighters. People with cancer often refer to their cancer as "The Beast" and use fighting words to talk about it. Some people with illnesses talk about beating their disease into submission, triumphing over it, slicing it out of their bodies, etc.... They describe dying from a disease as "losing the fight." It's a logical reaction. Fear makes us feel weak, and anger makes us feel strong. I have certainly done it myself.
And yet, it's so... violent. We are turning on our bodies at their most fragile time, assaulting them with aggressive images and harsh demands. We are propping them up for battle when they're trying to recuperate from disease and drugs and stress. It takes enormous energy to fight, and few of us have any to spare.
Little by little, Wegener's is taking the fight out of me-- not out of resignation, but out of surrender. It's showing me how I've engaged endlessly in this cycle, and how that will only lead to more of the same. Some days I can put down my boxing gloves altogether, and other days I put them down only to pick them right back up. It's slow going. that's for sure. But eventually the new habit will outweigh the old, and I will turn in these worn-out gloves for good.