Keeping Away the Bears

It’s a common belief among children that bears are out there and will not hesitate to come into their yard and snatch them right off the swing set. Many of us have had safeguards in place to protect against those incidents, such as fences, daddies, and suburban decimation of forests. My dad would come out back while I swung and roar, just to be sure. I felt good about it and, in fact, no bears ever showed up.

As I’ve traveled further into adulthood, however, my fears have become much more formidable and much harder to scare away. They’ve become wise to tricks. They know my dad is all the way in Houston and my ulcer-induced tea-drinking habits in lieu of coffee mean I have a slight hint of honey.

Most bears are just little teddies going on picnics, maybe making a snide remark about my picnic quality or swiping at me in an attempt to steal my picnic goods. Frequently, though, I encounter more malicious bears; the ones that aren’t adorable, but are bony with patchy hair and the festering smell of garlic-roasted puppy on their breath; the feral bears that we need to keep away, but tend to deal with as though we are naked in Alaska, waving around bleeding limbs with lead feet and nowhere to escape. Repeated attacks of that nature can leave us in a situation where the best we hope for is a palliative solution; something to soothe the burn and calm the nerves.

Often times, these wounds are self-inflicted and deeply habitual. I have a history of being less-than-severely self-destructive towards myself, but certainly not docile. I am the protagonist and antagonist in my own story. Most interactions between the two are in the nature of road rage: short spurts of uncalled-for expletives and derogatory remarks. But some are more like calculated massacres with no mercy and no survivors. Unless you’re Donald Trump or Bill O’Reilly, I’m sure this is something you identify with. You are self-aware and, thus, self-critical. We all menacingly snarl our wiggly lips at ourselves while tearing holes in our jugular and arterial something-or-others, pinning down any attempt at escape with such a heaviness that it only confirms our winter weight has become a legit reserve for hibernation. Since we all have our own methods of self-consumption, let’s focus less on the particulars of that part and more on what might be done about it.

We all need a little reminder from time to time that we are made of exactly the same material as Beyonce. What really has set her apart, aside from her astoundingly exquisite genetics that most of us must consciously choose not to focus on, is her drive. The way she focuses on being the best she can, I have no doubt she couldn’t have been a rocket scientist. What sets her apart? What sets anyone apart? Drive.

Go for a run in the evening and notice all the TVs on in the houses as you run by. Most people are in those houses, mesmerized by the familiar, blue reverie of routine. As I mentioned in the Stockholm Syndrome post (see post for grim depiction of your future unless you change your ways, Ebenezer), humans are entranced by comfort. Days may feel impossibly full, but you will never see what you’re really capable of (if that’s even your goal) if you limit your days to work, food, TV, and maybe the gratifying tidbit of exercise. What more can you expect to gain from a routine like that? Do you feel the subconscious hysteria I’m talking about? What seems to set the seemingly few fulfilled and successful apart is they take that free time and hone skills, learn new ones, and, good lord, they stay away from Dexter seasons 1–4.

When I say “successful”, what I mean is alive. I mean happy people who are in control and making it count. Doesn’t that sound nice? I still watch or wish to watch tons of TV, but now I’m often so tired from working on whatever it is I have found to tire me out, that I don’t last for more than an episode of Frasier.

The only way you can hope to independently foster a stronger sense of self-worth is by taking the initiative. No one is going to save you from yourself and no one can make you change. You aren’t going to stop tearing yourself to shreds until you see some value in the whole. Eventually, you will lose the taste for blood and realize strength is replacing the weakness.

How do you get there? Give yourself reasons to feel proud and reminded that it doesn’t matter if you’re undervalued at work. Everyone has to work. Start learning a new language, cook dinner with a friend, watch YouTube tutorials and learn new skills, join meet-up groups in your area or, better yet, start one for people just like you who are seeking betterment and supportive surroundings. Inspiration is eye-catching and you can dazzle.

You are the ringmaster and choreographer in your own circus. It’s all up to you to orchestrate and execute the performance. If one of the hungry bears tries to attack you, don’t run. Capture it, enslave it in your circus, and use it to make your performance better. Every asshole move it makes will be met with an equally harsh jerk of the choke-chain. If, over time, that doesn’t work, infect it with rabies and kill it dead. (Attention: Self-improvement-related circus abuse metaphors are really the only aspect of circuses that should ever be condoned.) (Hey, here is a good piece of related news: Elephants will soon be taken out of Barnum & Bailey Circuses!!! I once wrote a letter to them, detailing my sadness. THIS is pleasant.)

It’s taken me a while to learn that salvation from my unfulfilling routine and subsequent confidence is to learn more about anything and everything I can. That’s where my self-esteem grows, in that vast expanse I’d left untended for so long but which is now slowly being cultivated by indentured bears. My homeland has suffered some damage in the years of infestation gone unnoticed, but I keep the bears away these days by being too busy to even remember they’re there. And you know why that works? Because they’re all in my head.

“I have an everyday religion that works for me:
 love yourself first and everything else
 falls into place.
 You really have to love yourself
 to get anything done in this world…
 One of the things I learned the hard way
 was that it doesn’t pay to get discouraged.
 Keeping busy and making optimism
 a way of life
 can restore your faith in yourself.”
 — Lucille Ball