Roadkill is not usually something memorable. In fact it is usually something that we want to forget as soon as possible. Flattened skunks or broadsided deer do not create fond memories but rather revulsion and disgusting smells. On my latest run, I encountered this unfortunate fellow who seems to have been hit by a car at full stride while crossing the street. I happened upon him only because I was feeling particularly winded and slowed down to walk for a moment. After stopping just long enough to take the picture, I got back into my run with renewed vigor. My furry little friend had reminded me of something in that instant and I knew that I had to press on. The intriguing thing was not the cause of death but the cause of the stride.
In the very last moment of his squirrel life, he was bounding fully and it was most likely due to fear. He had made a bad mistake to cross the road at the wrong time and paid the ultimate price for poor judgment. For some reason in my ten seconds of looking at him, I thought of a better possibility. What if his stride had nothing to do with the car? What if he was racing home to a squirrel wife whom he loved desperately? What if he had just found a new tree for his family to live in and was bounding to share the new? What if he had found an open can of peanuts forgotten by some stupid human? While none of these is probably accurate, they are a reminder that I needed at that moment.
We are all roadkill. The only thing that we were guaranteed at our birth was our death. That’s just the truth. When I meet my end, I want to be at full stride as well but not out of fear. I want to be so filled with life that I do not see my unfortunate birthright coming. I do not get to choose the how, when, why or any other detail of the end. However I do get to choose so many of those attributes right now. I can decide to stride now rather than waiting for circumstance to force me to move. Life should be lived with inspiration and perspiration rather than desperation and resignation. The car is out there somewhere, what will you do before it gets here?
We are in essence prehistoric animals. The core components of our brains are basically the same as that of a lizard. Although we have the capacity for higher level thinking and reasoning, when faced with certain threats, the reasoning part of our brain gets short-circuited or overridden by our reptilian brain. The response of fight or flight is an instinct. In the modern world, we do our best to act as if we are civilized and rational. The problem is that when push comes to shove, we literally forget logic and go to our most primal reaction.
The only way to avoid this devolution is to train against it. This is possible because we are basically never in true peril. Letting our brains go on “fight or flight auto-pilot” is useful when under attack by an animal but how often are we in a life and death situation? Most likely the “peril” is only perceived. Only a metaphorical death is on the line. However we make it so real that we react with our lower self. The answer is action, not reaction. Reaction is usually the ugly head of the lizard.
The key to keeping the lizard at bay is to be prepared and take total responsibility. Most of our fight or flight responses are due to our interactions with other lizards. If you know in advance that you are going to be dealing with someone’s lizard brain, it’s easier to keep yours from reacting in kind. Also take total responsibility FOR YOURSELF. Break down that word, RESPONSE – ABILITY. Be completely able to respond to the situation, the actual situation and not some overblown version that was created mainly in your head. You most likely will not die from this situation. So why put yourself into the life or death mode? A better life is a result of better actions. Be better than the lizard today!
This concept came up during my recent interview with Laura G. on her radio show “Thoughts, Tools and Tough Love”. Click here to listen.
As anyone who has ever read my blog knows, the reason that I start writing anything is to help myself through a struggle. I publish them in the hopes that it may help someone else. I’ve not written in a long time. The main reason being is that I’ve been lost for a while. So many different things have happened or not happened in the past few months that I’ve lost my sense of direction. This has helped me create many feelings that are uncomfortable to wear on a daily basis: uncertainty, confusion, timidity but more than anything fear. The odd thing about this mental situation is that I don’t have the same reaction to physically being lost. In fact, I believe that it is almost impossible for me to be lost in the physical world.
Last year on my annual Appalachian Trail hike, my brother and I got physically lost in the woods. We figured out where we took the wrong turn during this year’s hike. However at the time we were lost, we never got fearful or confused because being lost was nothing to fear. We simply had to get our bearings and hike that much harder in order to get back on the path. The lack of fear came from my belief. I believe that I can basically never be lost if I’m surrounded by a triangle of three things that I know. If I have that, I’ll eventually find my way. That belief made getting out of the woods nothing more than a matter of time and effort.
After considering my belief about the act of being physically lost, I’m finding that I’m less fearful of my present situation of being mentally lost. In the mental space, I create the terrain. Since it is all up to me, I can always choose to be surrounded by a triangle of three things that I know: my family, my friends and my perseverance. At no point can I be lost if I have encased myself in those three things. So now it is time to get back on the path or create a new one. Regardless of which I choose, fear is not going to be my compass. I’m excited by the prospects of where I can go. Just because I don’t know the path, does not mean that I need to fear the path. Hiking harder or possibly farther does not scare me but the thought of being immobilized does. One foot in front of the other may not be the sexiest concept ever invented but it will get me going.