Keeping Up

By TBF Ambassador: Andrew Davie

My ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage happened about five and a half years ago. In that time, I’ve experienced every emotion on the spectrum including having uncontrollable crying episodes, being depressed, and a smattering of existential angst. At my worst, I would often think of this quotation from the book and film Mother Night about an undercover American agent who poses as a Nazi sympathizer during World War Two. Though he’s able to help the United States, the government disavows him, so he’s forced to live the rest of his life as a pariah. At one point, he says the following: 

“I took several steps down the sidewalk when something happened. It was not guilt that froze me; I had taught myself never to feel guilt. It wasn’t the fear of death; I had taught myself to think of death as a friend. It was not the thought of being unloved that froze me; I had taught myself to do without love. What froze me was the fact that I had absolutely no reason to move in any direction.” 

Things have drastically changed for me, and through Somatic Experience Therapy, support, and time, I have been able to feel more at ease with my circumstances. Of course, within the last six months, I’ve moved back in with my parents to become a caregiver for my mother who has been diagnosed with ALS, and I’m attending graduate school virtually. It’s been a whirlwind trying to balance everything; not to mention finding time for myself. I think of the lyrics to the song “Out of Step,” by Minor Threat. The chorus: “I can’t keep up, I can’t keep up, I’m out of step with the world.” While at times it can be difficult to spin plates, I also know life tends to follow a Hegelian dialectic. Progress occurs through the synthesis of opposing ideas that create a new idea. This process is often difficult to endure.

An example that resonates with me is of the former light welterweight champion, Kostya Tszyu, who had been a phenomenal amateur boxer, turned professional, won a title early in his career, and began to favor power over technique. He was stopped in his 20th bout, by Vince Phillips, which had been a tremendous upset. Rather than retire or wallow, Tszyu used the loss as an opportunity to rededicate himself to what brought him to that champtionship level previously. He would become a dominant unified champion again and will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The combination of conflicting ideas necessitated a change; Tzyu capitalized on the change as an opportunity. Similarly, I have tried to make the most out of my situation, be it a ruptured brain aneurysm, COVID-19, or my mother’s recent diagnosis. I bet you never thought you’d read a post that referenced Nick Nolte, Minor Threat, professional boxing, and G.F. Hegel? 

Being able to look at obstacles as opportunities is a great perspective to have. I’d also like to offer that expectations should be held onto loosely, and the more you can be curious about the future, the easier it will be. I don’t know what tomorrow will look like, but I’ll be ready for it. It took about three years to get to that point, but I could have easily died if any of the conditions from my aneurysm were different. Therefore, my existence is a gift, and I’m grateful to be able to see it that way. It hadn’t always been the case. Fortunately, I’m mindful of the immortal words of Ferris Bueller: 

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”