“Every breath is a choice. Every minute is a choice. To be or not to be. Every time you don't throw yourself down the stairs, that's a choice. Every time you don't crash your car, you re-enlist.” — Chuck Palahniuk
As I write this, I'm coming off a three-day flu bug. The thing about the flu is that all of a sudden you realize how terribly fragile the human body is and that it only takes one breach in the wall to completely obliterate your resolve to be a force... for anything. Your body feels like it is far older than it is, your mind goes into a fog, and all you really want is sleep and drugs to dull the ache.
During my three days of misery, I spent most of my time wearing slippers to keep my freezing feet warm, in warm pajamas, bundled up in my apartment on the couch with my iPad on my lap. I slept away most of the time but too much sleep makes the joints ache so I had to be semi-active, so I read a lot on the magnificent and horrifying Id of humanity—the internet. I also played a video game called This War of Mine that has you play at surviving in a war-torn dystopia. It's incredibly depressing and filled with choices to starve or steal, kill or be killed, die with dignity or live as a villain.
The mental swimming I did through the fetid swamp of both my mental state and the onslaught of over reactions, brilliant art and film, monstrous developments on the World Stage and memes caused me to keep coming back to the above quote. It's a quote I hold dear. In fact, I love that concept so much, I had it tattooed on my left bicep last year.
Yes. The Literate Ape hears you. It's sort of douchey to tattoo quotes on your body. I've done so to have reminders of the things that I feel I'll need to come back to when things go off course in life. It turns out, things got a little off course in the second half of 2016 and lying on my tired, flu-infested ass forced me to reflect on exactly one of those reminders.
Every breath is a choice.
The first choice we really make in life is to either be a victim or not. Humans are creatures of conquest and competition and expansion. We want what we want and we will justify all manner of horrors to get it. Bullies don't just spring forth from the head of Zeus, fully-formed and ready to categorize, beat down and subjugate. Bullies learn how to bully from society. The choice isn't to be a bully or not, however. The choice, in those earliest of cognitive days is to be a victim or not.
Some choose to not be a victim and instead join the path of the bully. Choice one is a positive choice followed by choice two being a shitty choice. Every breath. Some choose to be a victim and in that stance, use that status to elevate themselves to a place where they can then choose to be a bully. Two bad choices. Perhaps a sort of brilliance, turning weakness into strength and all that but it still plays along with a set of rules one chose to play. It's only a dog-eat-dog world if we choose to participate in that paradigm.
One of the true deleterious effects of choosing victimhood is that it begets an entire series of Choose Your Own Adventure sort of choices that begin to calcify who you are in the world. Anger, bitterness, outrage and a sense that someone owes you something more, something better, grows out of the choice to accept victim status.
In my flu-world, I had a moment when I understood that I had chosen to be a victim in the past six months or so. In spite of fighting myself against the anger of injustice, the bitterness at losing unimportant fights (on the internet and otherwise) and the almost pathological desire for some sort of comeuppance, my choice to see myself as a victim in certain situations made these other choices for me.
In my flu-mind, I saw the election of Donald Trump as an inevitability in a country so populated with victims. I read the cries of "Do Not Normalize This Situation!" and see clearly the irony that, of course, this is normal in a country of the Global One Percent pissing and moaning about how hard we all have it.
The opposite of victim is perpetrator but that's not the only choice.
I can't guarantee to anyone (myself included) that I will make better choices moving forward into this potentially hazardous political climate nor that I will make better choices in my day to day walk but I can try. And being aware that everything I do is based on a choice I've made rather than the easy to blame maelstrom of life or circumstance is a pretty solid start.
Who says the flu is all bad? Kind of like doing peyote in the desert but with the comforts of a couch.
I wrote this a week ago and the conscious choice to no longer accept feeling like a victim and a choice to fully appreciate my opportunities and I'm feeling pretty damn great. Nothing better than taking one's own advice and being right.