The fight is not always outside. It is not always muscle against muscle, the metallic taste of blood, the sound of flesh being bruised and beaten, or the smell of war.
No, often, the struggle is within. It is a hard fight to stay the course. To be steady in your thoughts. To learn to absorb the pain and stress and keep it from those you love. To know that you will accept the pain and let it dwell within you until you find a place to unleash it. A proper place where no one will be hurt. Where, afterward, the only dweller in the pain cave is yourself, and it has manifested into the physical pain of true intensity and effort to make your mind and body more armored.
This fight is real, my friends. It happens within many of us without anyone ever hearing a word about it. The only sounds of this battle turn out to be gasps for breath, crashes of metal, the grunt of pain. One man finding a way to unleash this creature in a struggle with the iron. A place to leave all of the pain, the anger, the fear, the loss, the grief, and exchange it for mental toughness and physical improvements that ends each time with a wave of pain as the warrior lies on the ground and lets it wash over them. Cleansing. Fierce and burning. Curling the body into positions of safety.
A dip into the cleansing fire, a warrior emerging feeling victorious and battle hardened. Not so much over the iron or the demon that dared try to drag him away. But over himself. His own rapt fear and insecurity. His own pain and anger and longing.
He lies there, feeling the waves of pain washing over him after the intensity of the job let him stay just ahead of its breakwaters for just long enough to finish. But now, plunged into the cave with the tides coming to take their due, he basks in the pain. The pain lets him know he is still alive. Still ready and able to do battle. To kill the him that was there when he arrived. To exit reborn, a bit stronger and better.
You walk by and see a man looking at himself, sweating, drinking water and gulping air. Wondering why…why anyone would put themselves through that. Why they enjoy that pain so damn much. Why their palms rip and body aches, bloodied and flush. Unable to talk and maybe still lying there, trying to be able to move again. Perhaps one day you finally ask them…
“Why? Why do you do this to yourself? Why would you destroy yourself over and over every day? What are you trying to do? Kill yourself?”
He would look at you. Stare and try to discern why it is you cannot understand. Why you would ask such a ridiculous question. Maybe he would have his breath to answer. Maybe only his soul could whisper. Maybe it is written in the stare through pained eyes, the blood on his hands or shins, the tattoos on his skin, and the sweat rolling from his body.
“Yes. I am trying to kill myself.”
“I am trying to kill the part of me that came in with the pain from missing my children and my love.
The part of me that misses my family, those by blood and by choice.
The part of me that came in with the pain of the brothers and sisters lost in a far-off land.
The part of me that lost my best friend just weeks ago.
The part of me that came in with the pain of feeling isolated and alone.
The part of me that came in with the pain of feeling helpless to help someone far away.
The part of me that came in with the pain of feeling I lost myself somewhere.
The part of me that came in with the pain of being weak, fat, out of shape, an embarrassment to myself.
The part of me that came in with the pain of never wanting to leave my children far too early, as my parents did me.
The part of me that fights through sadness every day of my life.
The part of me that hates who I have become because I know who I once was.
The part of me that wants you to know that I have your back, even when you could care less about mine.
The part of me that thinks being called average is an insult, not a compliment.
Yes, I am trying to kill myself. Because a better man rises from that. A man that demands more of himself. A man that strives to become the best version of himself he can be.
The fight is not always out there. The fight much more often is in here.
I know my enemy’s weaknesses as he knows mine.
We will continue this fight.
The fight is not always out there.
The fight is within me. A beast. A beast I love and that I hate.
I am winning, for now.
And I will never stop fighting.”