Posted on May 30, 2019
by Steve Janowick

It was the same early morning sucker punch.

“Here we go again,” I mumbled to myself as I readied and braced for the ensuing blows.

The intruder was unannounced and unprovoked.  Just as I opened my eyes to consciousness, he hit me square and flush, knocking me back into the bed.  I grabbed my pillow and rolled over with a whimper. This was no slouch I was dealing with. He stood 6 feet 2 and weighed about 200 pounds-just like me. The man was tough as nails and possessed a kind of power, a skill set, that I never seemed to be able to successfully combat.  It was swift and stealthy and raw and pure. In my day I had been in plenty of scraps with plenty of brawlers, but this son-of-bitch was tougher than all of them combined. He was rabid dog mean. He was ruthless and relentless.

And he had it out for me.

Everyone had already left, and I was all alone in the house on this particular morning.  Sometimes he’d hit when I was surrounded by family and friends-he didn’t care. He was indiscriminate that way.  But today, the man attacked me when I was most vulnerable: by myself, in the morning and under a gray, sunless sky outside.

After he physically submitted me, he stood over as I lay in a fetal ball under the covers.  Just his mere presence made my heart race and pound so hard it felt like it was going to explode right out of my chest. His grip on me was tight.  I couldn’t catch my breathe. I felt weak and powerless. I struggled to get up but the man easily pushed me back down, and for the next hour I laid there, weeping, begging for mercy, while he hovered over me, mocking me, reveling in my pain and in his knowledge that he was the cause of it.  

“Just know this,” he menacingly said. “That organ nestled under those layers of hair, scalp and skull-I own it.  It belongs to me! My name is Depression and Anxiety and Fear, and I own your brain. I control it. That little pill you take every day to stop me is useless, because I can’t be stopped.  You, and all the other millions I wreak havoc on, may slow me down, suppress me for a time being with your science and your therapy, but once I get my hand firmly tightened around your throat, you’re mine for life.  Hell, I’ve brought kings and peasants, and every man in between, to their knees. And that’s what I’m going to do to you. I own your mind, Pal, and don’t you forget it.”

I begged him to leave me alone, pleaded for some sympathy, but that only seemed to provoke him more.  He made me listen as he started to belittle me. I cupped my ears with my hands, but it was no use, I could still hear him-his vile verbal barrage.  He took sinister pleasure in reminding me about my past. About all my failures and my mistakes. He spoke of so many bad decisions and the resulting debt and disappointment, the guilt and shame.  He reminded me of the pain and anger I probably caused my loved ones. He taunted me with the prospect of a sad, desperate, dead-end future and he seemed to grin with satisfaction when I told him I couldn’t get any air.  That the weight of his words was suffocating me. That my shoulders were giving in and my chest stinging.

But he didn’t care about my well-being or the hurt I was feeling.  He didn’t care about any of it. He was only interested in defeating me.  After all, if he could conquer me in this battle today, maybe he’d be one step closer to reaching his ultimate objective-to cover me in a blanket of hopelessness and despair so thick that I’d have no choice but to turn to the belt or the bottle of pills or the exhaust hose to get it off me.  He wanted to end me.

He wanted to win the war.

But the intruder wasn’t winning any wars today or tomorrow…or ever.  Because he underestimated my will to fight.  He misunderstood my resolve.  He was swinging lefts and rights and body blows at me as I finally struggled out from his grip to make my way to the kitchen.  I sipped from a cup of hot coffee and turned on some uplifting music. I paced. I took in some deep breaths. I forced myself to think positive thoughts.  I am a good man and people love me, I told myself.  I have a lot to be thankful for and am truly blessed, I repeated.

It was all working.  I was starting to feel a little lighter.  A little better.

I made my way to the bathroom.  I stood over the sink, cupped my palms and splashed some cold water on my face and wiped away the tears.  I then straightened my back in front of the mirror and looked the man staring back at me square in the eyes.  I looked behind those eyes, into the dark part of his soul. “Yea, you may be tough,” I said to him, “but today I’m tougher, and I know you’re going to win your share of battles, but know this much, you’ll never win the war!”    

And from behind those thick morning clouds a beam of brilliant, yellow sun broke through, lighting my path as I walked to my car to take on the rest of the day.

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