Friday, August 28, 2009

Who's With Me?

I always picture the guy in the movies...the guy pushed into leadership. Sometimes, he's an unlikely hero. Sometimes he is reluctant. Sometimes, he was born for this kind of thing, but in the movies, it is always the same--he's been put down or held down, and he's watched as the people he cares about are put down or held down. Finally, toward the end of the movie, he gives an inspirational speech decrying the wrong of it all, and declares that he's going to fight.

Then he says, "Who's with me?" and the whole place erupts in a loud battle cry. Everyone is with him.

After all, if they have each other and are united for a cause, there is nothing that can stop them. In fact, they don't really need to go into battle at all--truly they are free, at the very moment they decided it was worth fighting for. The momentum, and the energy is there, and, it carries them through the worst "the enemy" can throw at them.

Don't you just love the movies?

In real life, too, we rise or fall based on who, if anybody, is with us. Nobody wants to go it alone. You don't want to tell your boss you think they're insane, even if it is the widely held opinion around the office. If you ask "who's with me?" at the moment you decide to stand up and say something, even if you give an inspirational speech first, chances are, no one will raise a pinky, much less a battle cry...because you might get fired. Most people resign themselves to the "it isn't so awful" days at the office--more so these days, when there are hundreds of people standing around, waiting for you to screw up so they can have your job.

But what about those times when you have nothing to lose? What does it take to get you to do something, or say something? Do you keep waiting for the leader to emerge? Or do you know that the leader will be you?

Also, and this might be the deciding do you define "nothing to lose"?

I find that I am usually the first one to get pissed off enough to act. And yes, sometimes, I end up going it alone, which sucks.

OK, most of the time, I end up going it alone, and sometimes, it sucks. Honestly, at this stage, I'm so used to going it alone that I usually skip the formality of asking "who's with me?" and just assume that it's no one.

There are certain rewards that come with being that kind of person. When you have an effect, and create a positive change, you get to feel damn good about yourself, or at least I do. Also, if other people know that you were the one responsible for the positive change, they might say nice things to/about you....after the fact, that is...when they've got nothing to lose by agreeing with you.

Of course, there are also some risks, but I find that the risks involved with staying true to your convictions, in all but the most extreme cases, are no worse than the risks involved with, say...bungee jumping. Very slight chance of injury or death. 100% chance of exhilaration.

Which brings us back around to how you define "nothing to lose". Let me tell you a story--true story, and no, it isn't about me. A friend of mine is a relationship that I don't understand, at all. She doesn't get beat up or anything, but her mate is just mean. So mean to her that, well, if anybody ever said those things to me, even once, they could kiss my ass goodbye, forever--they might possibly even kiss their own ass goodbye, depending on my mood that day.

Many years ago, I told my friend that I thought she needed to leave--I told her that in my opinion, she was being abused and she should get the hell out of there.

She didn't.

Also, she didn't speak to me for about two years after that. I don't know if she wasn't "allowed" to speak to me or what, but, my guess is that the mate considered me a threat, which...I'm not sure how to take, but OK, fine. I'm a threat. A threat to your bullshit.

Fast forward over ten years. My friend is still with the mean one. She is a great person and gets her fair share of positive attention from lots of nice people who would love to go out with her, but...she's stuck on the "what have you got to lose" part of the equation. She is convinced that she couldn't make it on her own, or maybe that she's such an awful person that nobody but this meanie could ever love her.

But then, one day, the man arrived.

Enter one very cute, very smart, sweet and kind gentleman who, as it would happen, is CRAZY about my friend. He thinks she is awesome.

He's "with" her. He's soooo "with" her. And you know what? It's incredibly empowering. Finally, after 15 years, someone out there is making my friend feel like she could be happy. Really happy. Finally, she is examining the possibilities. Finally, she is accepting the fact that she is worth it.

The very cute, very smart, sweet and kind gentleman did not roll into town on on his fine steed and sweep her up and away from danger. They are not "together" as a couple, and they likely never will be--it doesn't appear to be his role. What is his role? His very presence has planted the seed of the idea, and is making my friend stand up for herself, even though she never had the courage to before.

She still has a long journey ahead of her, but the simple fact that she has started walking, is huge. That makes this goof-ball boy a very big deal--Divine Intervention--and way more of a threat to the status quo than I could ever be, no matter how much time I spend postulating on whether or not my friend is in a "good" relationship.

When I talk about inspiration on this blog, that is the kind of thing that I mean. Not just "oh, I saw that painting and it inspired me to decorate my whole apartment around it." I'm talking about, "I had an interaction with that person and then my whole damn life changed." There are people just walking among us who's role it is to force us to be that reluctant hero in our own lives--to bring us to question why things are the way they are, and, give us the courage to change if change is needed, by letting us know they are there--they are "with" us.

Sometimes, they do this in a subtle way--they might be the person at the office who is always nice to you, and you always feel good after talking to them.

Sometimes, they'll knock you flat on your ass with no subtlety whatsoever, usually at the exact moment the universe tells you, "Oh, by the way? Change of plans. Person X has now been introduced into the story line...." and just like that, you are shocked into wakefulness, with not a damn thing you can do about it.

This exact scenario has played for my friend, and for me, because this is the thing that happened to us both--she with her cute, smart man, and me with someone else. Picture being pushed off a cliff (don't worry, you have your bungee chords) into incredible exhilaration and excitement and googly-eye silliness and Happy To Be Alive-ness, peppered with heaping gobs of, "This is so fucking scary!" because they pushed you into believing you were worth it, and you do hate it sometimes and wish they would have just let you remain unconscious--it was so much simpler to accept things as they were and remain asleep.

It requires less action of you to pretend that everything is fine than to contemplate that maybe you deserve something better, whatever that "something" may be--especially if that "something" is...really nothing more than an absence of the bad thing.

One day after 3 years of influence from that particular muse, I woke and recognized that I had become the reluctant hero in my life. What had I done since seeing him, and speaking to him? Everything. I had changed my entire life--not necessarily because of the warm interactions we had, but because knowing he existed somehow made me think, "I can do better," so, I did better. He had no idea. He didn't know I kept a little picture of him that I took, where he was smiling at me, just to remind me to do better. I'm sure he still doesn't know, and I have no plans to ever tell him.

I put the picture away when I realized that I feel pretty damn good about myself. I had successfully saved myself from heartache that would slowly kill. Finally, I was at ease--better and stronger now than I was, and not content to sleepwalk through life, ever again. I survived having cried more tears than I thought my body could ever handle, as old perspectives, fairy tales and conventional "happy endings" were revealed to be untrue.

Amazing, days lie ahead. Who's with me?

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