Monday, June 8, 2020

Stan' up and Fight.

One of the great—perhaps the only—positive about being old in our business, or any business, I suppose, is that your pulse begins to modulate.

Let me explain what I mean.

By the time you’re forty years into working, or forty years into a marriage, or three decades into being a parent, you’ve seen a lot. You’ve gone through losses of giant accounts, asshole bosses, unreasonable demands, false accusations, and mean-spirited rebukes.

You’ve endured innuendo, politics, meanness, lies, back-stabbing, front-stabbing and side-stabbing. You’ve been hit upside the head, had your ass handed to you and been knocked down more times than Mike Tyson’s sparring partner.

You’ve suffered broken bones, scraped knees, black eyes and a black soul. Your soul, to badly mangle one of America’s greatest poets, Langston Hughes, has grown deep like the river. You bleed the torrents of the ages. You bear scars, visible and invisible.

And you have survived.

As the old saying goes, you’ve been down so long, it looks like up to you. You’ve reached the point where you don’t mind being kicked in the kishkas simply because it feels so good when they stop.

And you have survived.

That’s it, really. When I look at someone in their early 40s who has a big title and a good reel and an arrogance to go with it, I don’t say anything. I listen to him talk (it’s usually a him) and talk and talk. I listen to them like young Portuguese might have listened to Columbus five centuries ago as he stood before a crinkly map of terra incognito as if he knew the route of every wave and the position and populace of every land and island.

I listen to him talk and talk and talk, full of the full flush of arrogance, like an unbeaten boxer before he’s ever kissed the canvas. He thinks he has all the answers. He thinks he’ll dodge all the haymakers, uppercuts, jabs and hooks. As well as the short piston of a Marciano-right launched to full-velocity in the space of just six inches or eight and could bazooka through a wall of reinforced concrete like my mother’s scowl.

I listen and I laugh to myself and I shake my head, without ever moving it.

Wait, my friend. Wait.

There are few people in any field in any profession in any family situation who don’t suffer their comeuppance. Willie Mays started his major league career going 0 for 21. He asked wise old Leo to send him back to the Minneapolis Millers where he had batted .477.

There are few people anywhere who don’t get knocked down, debilitated, bruised. Who, while lying on the pavement and looking bleary at the stars don’t say to themselves, one time or another, ‘What for am I doing this? Why don’t I just stay down.’

And frankly, by the time you’re my age—and my level of pain-in-the-assness—you’ve had to pick yourself up five times or ten or even twenty. You’ve amassed a track record of getting up again, and even then, you’re never quite sure about knock down twenty-one.

But especially that first time. The first time you crash into a wall or face the portcullis of indifference or the crafty grin of cruelty. That first time it happens, and then that second time, and then that third, how you act then, how you behave and perform, how you get to your feet then, well, guess what?

You don’t know, you don’t ever know how you’ll deal with the inevitable until it happens to you.

And it will.

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