The title is a lyric from the newest Jamestown Revival record, San Isabel. The song is, “This Too Shall Pass.”
For those of you interested – and some of you are – here’s some music I’m listening to at the moment…in addition to this new Jamestown Revival record.
The Hunts – Darlin’ Oh Darlin’ (2018)
The Hollering Pines – Long Nights, Short Lives and Spilled Chances (2013)
The Bones of J.R. Jones – The Bones of J.R. Jones (2019) – he is Jonathon Robert Linaberry but performs as The Bones of J.R. Jones (he’s a solo artist)
Rickie Lee Jones – Kicks (2019)
American Aquarium – Wolves (2015)
Kylie Rae Harris – Kylie Rae Harris EP (2019)
And of course, I’m listening to the usual suspects as well. Mandolin Orange is still aways a big player. Anderson East, Jade Bird, James Morrison and Josh Ritter. There’s so much good music.
Music and solitude go hand in hand for me. And writing. Sometimes drawing, which more closely resembles doodling these days.
All this listening to music violates the true meaning of solitude – which is defined by psychology in a way not quite to my liking.
Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely.
The authors of a book, Lead Yourself First, give a more detailed definition that I rather like.
Solitude is a state of mind, a space where you can focus on your own thoughts without distraction, with a power to bring mind and soul together in clear-eyed conviction.
Simply put, it’s freedom from distraction. Technically listening to music violates the definition I suppose. But I count it anyway. Lyrics and melodies provoke thoughts, but I consider that a positive distraction. It feeds my solitude. It’s part of rest, restoration and rejuvenation.
A Coat Of Armor
We all have one. Because we all need one. Every now and again.
Truthfully, I think we need one more often than not. Sorta like being fully clothed. We spend most of our time being fully clothed. Okay, I won’t get into a modesty debate just here, but you know what I mean. 😉
Not many people see me running around in my boxers and a t-shirt. It’s a select few.
So it is with exposing ourselves sans armor. It’s just not safe most of the time.
Armor is protection. You’re likely thinking of the armor worn by knights in medieval days. Or maybe you’re thinking of the body armor worn by today’s soldiers or law enforcement officers. Here in Texas, you could even be thinking of armadillos.
We need armor to protect against attacks. From people intending to harm us.
Armor can also signify resilience, our ability to protect ourselves against adversity. Circumstances. Events. People. Situations.
It’s not bad. It’s necessary. And part of how we all must live our lives.
Introversion Versus Extroversion
Of all the personality traits these seem the most talked about. They’re the biggest elephants in the room often used to describe ourselves or others.
I can only speak to my own introversion, which is part of my armor. Just like an extrovert deploys that quality as part of her armor.
My introversion appears quite frequently like extroversion. Somebody smarter than me will have to explain it. My way of looking at it is based on my internal energy. When my armor is weakened, I retreat. It’s one way I can refuel and attempt to fortify myself. Attempt being the operative word. 😉
I suspect extroverts do the opposite. When their armor is weakened, they likely seek the company of others in their effort to recharge and renew strength.
Such is the individual nature of our armor – whatever characteristics and qualities make up our armor are largely individual to us. While it’s true that we’re much more alike than not, it’s the subtle nuances of our personalities that make us US.
In medieval days a big part of the armor was the shield. You could judge a knight by his shield. It was a primary identifier. For whom is this knight fighting? Who and what does he represent?
Our armor, including whatever we use as a shield, does the same for us. Who we are and whom (or what) we serve is shown by the armor we bear.
Protecting Us From What?
I make no argument against our need to protect ourselves. Of course we need to. The question is, “From what?”
Hurt. Pain. Suffering. Embarrassment. Shame.
Love. Intimacy. Commitment.
Fears, both universal and individual, impact us unlike anything else. From paralysis to going off the deep end. Our fears propel us toward foolishness and delusion and they put our feet in cement simultaneously.
Wrangling fear is hard work. Worthwhile, but hard.
When we’re able to harness appropriate fear it can catapult us toward wisdom. When we don’t – or can’t – it shoves us down the whitewater rapids of foolishness.
But there’s all that inappropriate or inaccurate fear. Our false fears. Our false assumptions. Our beliefs or disbelief. Mostly about ourselves and what’s possible.
Anxiety, too. It’s often as formidable a foe as fear. For some, more so.
a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome
Anxiety is a glory hog. Loves to get all the press. Anxiety is the Kardashian of human emotions.
Protecting vital organs with body armor and one’s skull with a helmet is easier – and more effective – than whatever armor we can deploy to protect our minds (and synonymously, our hearts).
During the 1960s, the United States failed to engage in a “Hearts and Minds” campaign in Vietnam. In 1974 a famous documentary of that war bore the same title, “Hearts And Minds.” The notion is that it’s more effective to win over an opponent with intellectual and emotional appeal than to try to merely subdue them with physical or military strength. That didn’t happen in Vietnam. Brute force didn’t work and the war was a catastrophic failure.
What about your heart and mind? How might you protect them from your own devices or the devices of others?
And when your armor gets tired and is wearing thin, can you fortify it? Or does it just fail never to be returned to a more effective protective state?
Here’s the thing about heart and mind protection. The question is the answer.
Our best – in fact, our only – armor or protection is our heart and mind. There is simply no other protection available. What we think and what we feel are everything!
Spiritually and morally I was always encouraged to “guard your heart.” I knew it meant to lean on my Faith and the Truth of God’s Word to protect myself from the various temptations and behaviors that might rob my faith.
Phil. 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”
Chael Sonnen is an MMA commentator who tells the story of how boxing and mixed martial artist bouts began to use the pre-fight instruction, “Protect yourself at all times.”
Our coat of armor is dependant on us. Period. We’re responsible to protect ourselves at all times. It doesn’t matter if we hear a bell or not. It doesn’t matter if the opponent stops swinging at us, or if the opponent is momentarily out of sight. Protect yourself at all times.
Because if you don’t – you’re liable to get knocked out.
A coat of armor can become fatigued resulting in…well, less protection. It makes us susceptible to blows even if we are trying to protect ourselves at all times. And forget about trying harder. What does that even mean? How do you do it?
A wiser strategy is to shore up the armor’s weak spots. Or maybe better yet…to ditch the old armor and to get new.
Let’s talk a bit about armor. What does our protection look like? What exactly is it? Until we know that, how can we know how to shore it up or replace it?
There’s lots of empty advice out there. Things like, “Don’t allow someone to affect your moods, thoughts, preferences, opinions, or plans.” That’s an actual quote from a respected psychology site. Great advice…if you know how to do it. Empty advice for the millions of us who have no idea.
Before you think I’m here to offer some wisdom previously unknown…hold your horses. I’m not that smart, wise or creative. I am thoughtful, mindful and compassionate though. This is insanely difficult work and therapists worldwide have calendars filled with people seeking professional help to figure it out for themselves.
Nothing is more complex than our mind.
Nothing is more powerful to help us than our own mind.
Nothing is more powerful to destroy us than our own mind.
Nothing is more difficult to manage or control than our mind.
So should we just throw up our hands (and our breakfast) and start waving the white flag of surrender? Hardly.
We should assume the aggressive, yet protective stance of a ninja warrior. Or whatever comic book hero you most admire, if that’s your thing. I’ll envision myself as one of the knights of the roundtable in King Arthur’s court. Not the dark knight of Monty Python’s Quest For the Holy Grail…although you must admire his tenacity in the face of brutal defeat!
Perhaps that depiction is too aggressive. Is it too offensive and not defensive enough to suit you? Maybe. But perhaps there’s some truth that can help us.
We think of armor or protection as defensive. And it is. But for what end?
Do we protect ourselves to simply survive or so we can fight back successfully? Are we trying to win or merely withstand the attack?
That depends on who you are and how you choose to live. Some are willing to endure and withstand. They feel victorious by weathering the storm. Forget counter-punching. Like a turtle going inside the shell, they just want to hide until the attack is over.
That’d be an effective strategy if we just had to endure one attack. Or one attack every now and again. But life isn’t quite so kind. Attacks continue. Mostly they’re ongoing.
We must fight back. Or be killed. Metaphorically, of course. Or perhaps actually – realistically. Some attacks can kill us. Illness, injury, abuse. It’s the ugly, deadly side of attacks and attackers. They come from EVERYWHERE.
Physical. Mental. Emotional.
Back to our armor and its purpose.
I think of it in three stages, even though it’s really a two-step process where step one becomes step 3. Think of it as a two-step cycle.
The podcast title is Leaning TOWARD Wisdom so it implies forward progress toward wisdom. That means if we don’t advance, then we’re not progressing.
Step One: Endurance / Survival
You’ve got to live long enough. It’s the first priority.
You don’t know when you’ll be attacked. Not always. Nor do you always know what or who will attack. Which means you have to always be prepared. But for what?
To sustain an attack. Of any kind. For any endurance. Of any intensity.
Doesn’t mean you’ll survive, but you can prepare to give yourself improved odds. When I was coaching some hockey I intently focused teams on making sure we accomplished one thing: be tough to play against. Translation: make it really hard on the opponent. That’s what we must do to guard ourselves against all adversity.
Too often we wilt under light pressure. That gives us no chance to thrive. Nature illustrates it. Seeds endure a form of death before they sprout bigger and grander creations. Creatures large and small struggle to be born so life can begin a long journey of resistance against threats on life.
Logically we all understand the value of overcoming adversity. The magic isn’t the adversity. The magic is our growth as we figure out how to endure it and overcome it. From our struggles emerges our strength. A strength we could never build or increase without the pressure of challenge. The attacks of life make us strong enough to move forward and become more than we would have otherwise.
Part of the game – this whole living game – is to stay alive long enough to figure it out. Long enough to become stronger.
Tired doesn’t mean weak. Weariness isn’t equal to defeat.
Gyms all over the world are filled with strong, fit people striving to get more so. And filled with folks who are not so fit and not so strong striving to improve. The process isn’t laugh-out-loud fun. It’s often dreary and dreaded. People do it to get the results: firmer bodies, stronger muscles, lower body fat. In a word, fit. To become more fit.
Fit for what? Well, that depends.
Fit for clothes. Fit for a love connection. Fit for health improvements. All of the above. People have their reasons. Just like we all have our reasons for wanting to endure and survive. We don’t want to live to fight another day. We want to live to fight today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.
When the bullets start flying we want to avoid being hurt. Walking away tired, exhausted, but unhurt is ideal. When my kids were teens I’d constantly encourage them to be safe. Repeatedly I told them I knew they’d make mistakes. I just didn’t want them to make a mistake from which they couldn’t recover. So it goes with our self-protection. If our adversity wrecks us completely – killing us – then the game is over. Happens all the time to millions of people who can’t figure out how to endure the challenges of the day. So they quit. Give up. Resign that success will never happen for them. It’s why failure is so prominent.
We want our adversity to be…well, not so adverse. Our preference would be to walk away unscathed. Not even winded.
But that’s not profitable. We learn nothing from it. Our mental, emotional and psychological muscles grow no stronger.
We need adversity. We just need to handle it so we’re not permanent injured or killed by it. And we need to endure it long enough so we can rest and recover.
Not all fights are the same. Some are fast and over with in a hurry. Others linger on…and on…and on. Some feel like we’re battling thousands and others feel like we’re up against a lone sniper. Some are up close like a knife fight. Others are more long-distance like a drone attack. None of them are comfortable. All of them are threatening.
Be tough to compete against. Just refuse to stop. Don’t quit. I’m not sure much else matters. All those fighting details. Tactics. Strategies. Do they matter? Well, of course. It’d be dishonest to say they don’t matter at all. The question I have is, “Do they make a difference between winning and losing?”
I’m not sure they do. Truly. I’m not.
Rather, I think a person’s hardheadedness (resolve) is the real power of endurance. Navy Seal training involves a very simple device. Ten percent of the training candidates (there are 200 at the beginning) graduate. The rest accept an invitation available to all 200 from the beginning. The invitation to just walk over to a bell and ring it. Ringing the bell signifies quitting. Equivalent to tapping out. Saying, “I’m done.”
The men who would be Seals aren’t men who quit. That’s precisely the point of the training. To find out who refuses to quit. Every candidate is already a talented sailor likely capable of learning whatever needs to be learned. What the Navy doesn’t know is how resilient and hardheaded the sailors are. Which is why the training is critical. Who among the 200 refuses to ring the bell no matter what? The training provides the answer.
Adversity in life does the same thing except we have no bell to ring to tell life, “Okay, stop. I’ve had enough.” Life just keeps on whether you quit or not.
Wait a minute, what?
You heard me. Life keeps on beating you no matter what.
So permit some logic. Why quit? It won’t spare you anything. It won’t make the beatings stop. It just means you’ll stop fighting…getting weaker and weaker…and more injured along the way.
So what does this mean?
It means that adversity’s impact is limited or limitless. You get to decide.
Yes, people die. Sometimes it can’t be stopped. I know countless folks announce they’ve been diagnosed with some awful disease. Then just as quickly they announce how they’ll fight it. And beat it. And then they don’t. Brave speech is easy. Unreasonable brave speech even more so. Your physical life can be taken by some adversity. Maybe the best we can hope for under such dire circumstances is to manage as best we can how we exit. But that’s not even always possible. So we endure just as long as we can.
Thankfully, most adversity won’t eat us. It’ll just try to gum us to death.
Pain tolerance. Discomfort tolerance. It really boils down to not letting discomfort or pain discourage us. Our ability to live with it until we can find time to rest, recuperate and restore our energy.
Step Two: Advance / Push Forward
We need energy to succeed. The only way we get it is by enduring the adversity that makes our armor thin. That’s how we thicken the armor. Armor that shows the tiredness of being in battle has proven its ability to do the job. Human armor has an ability unavailable to a knight’s. It improves and is strengthened.
Armor that shows thinness and tiredness just means one thing. The armor needs rest, restoration and rejuvenation. It doesn’t mean the fight is over. Or that the armor is finished.
There’s the buried lead that I’m so known for in this podcast. When you’re feeling most discouraged, least resilient, unwilling or unable to fight any longer — it’s just a signal. A signal you should not – must not – ignore!
These are individual pursuits. And these are precisely the activities most successful people excel. And I’m not talking about wealthy…I’m talking about people who achieve what they most want to achieve. The achievers in life figure out how to best rest, restore, recuperate and rejuvenate so they can advance past the adversity.
Figuring out how to rest, restore, recuperate and rejuvenate is only half the battle. The other half is doing it.
I’ll pick on myself as an example.
Physical rest isn’t easy for me. My entire life has consisted of cat-napping. My circadian rhythm has been weirdly abnormal my entire life. I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t. When I was young I struggled to fall asleep. And to stay asleep. Now I don’t struggle to fall asleep, but staying asleep still evades me. You can almost set a stopwatch to 90 minutes. I’ll fall asleep and within 90 minutes, almost to the minute (regularly), I’m awake. Some nights, that’s it. Other nights, I get up for a few hours and repeat that 90-minute cycle.
Stress and adversity disrupt that even further. And I know – with absolute certainty – that I need to rest. I know when my armor is wearing thin. I notice it long before others do.
My goal is to find restoration before it shows. I don’t always do that and I don’t work nearly as diligently to mask it as I once did. These days I’ll confide in some people, “I’m struggling.” But knowing these things about myself isn’t tantamount to doing much about it.
Of course, it depends on the adversity, too. I joked with a friend the other day that my life decided to wait until I was older and already tired before deep adversity hit me the hardest. So it goes with many of us.
Growing older isn’t for the faint of heart. Old hearts get broken every bit as easily as young ones. Maybe more so. Sadly, there’s not nearly as much time to mend. Which makes our ability to rest and recover more urgent.
I’m back to solitude – that thing I mentioned at the top of the show. For me that’s critical. Remember, I’m introverted. Socializing drains me. Not intimate conversation with close friends. Not helping a person or a couple in a very private way. Those give me energy. But putting on a “hi, how are you?” face at some gathering is the biggest beating I can endure – often far worse than the adversity itself. For me, historically, the challenge has been managing the expectation, especially of judgmental people.
To better manage that I made up my mind a few years ago to not care. I never did care much, but I cared enough that I’d do what was expected – mostly because it was important to mask the thinness of my armor. Over time I figured it just didn’t matter. It certainly didn’t matter to mask it more than it did to shore it up. I mean, logically it made no sense to me. Mask the thinness of your armor and grind it down even further doing something that drains what little energy I’ve got left…OR…forget masking it and get on with rejuvenating it so you can recover. I opted mostly (not always) for the latter.
I still find myself surrendering to impositions that I’d rather avoid. Playing nice. Which is quite easy because neglecting my armor is very easy. Stupid. Foolish. And wrong. But easy.
I’m much more prone to help you with yours. All the while telling you that mine is fine, even though it’s not. These are proofs how our strengths become our weaknesses. My energy levels go higher helping people with their armor. My energy levels go down imposing on others to help me with my own.
It’s hypocrisy of sorts I know. But it is what it is.
Know yourself. It’s the first chore of the rest and recovery step.
Act on it. Post haste. That’s the next chore. The toughest one for me personally. But I’m working on it. Mostly, I do what’s easy. I retreat. Solitude is easy and comfortable for me. Music, writing – these are the two common tools that have been part of my solitude my entire life. Until the Internet was born the writing was only in journals to myself. Well, the only other exception was about 3 years of daily letter writing to Rhonda when we were dating and living 11 hours (by car) apart.
My father has always remarked how he could sit and think of NOTHING. I envy that skill. I don’t have it. So I have to focus on channeling what I’m thinking about. Solitude helps.
And Benadryl. 😉
The point? Do what you have to do to get your armor back into good, battle-ready condition. It’s too important to neglect. Self-preservation is not selfishness.
Step Three: Endurance / Survival
Now, it’s time to fight again because trouble jumped out from behind that tree and blind-sided you like Kato.
And the process begins all anew. But this time there’s a difference.
You’ve seen this move by adversity before. You experienced the pain and chokehold of this in the past. And you learned what you did poorly the last time. Not this time. This time you’re going to try a new maneuver. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe not.
Doesn’t matter really. You’ll figure it out.
The name of the game is to stay alive long enough to do that – figure it out. Then you’ll be able to rest once more.
You just have to be tenacious. Difficult to fight against. You want to be among the winners.
In simple terms, they’re the 10% who refuse to ring the bell. No matter what.
They just don’t give up.
It’s hard to beat a person that never gives up. -Babe Ruth
Truth is, you can’t beat a person that never gives up. And now you can think about that black knight in the Holy Grail. No matter that he couldn’t protect the bridge any longer. No matter that his legs were chopped off. And his arms. He was able to heckle King Arthur as he rode off to the sound of banging two coconuts together. 😀
Even in what seemed like sure defeat the black knight had the last laugh.
You will, too.
So when you’re feeling down and out jump and shout, “Hey, hey!”
None of us are gettin’ out of here alive anyway. Let’s make it count. And have some fun at adversity’s expense.