Originally Written October 2017
What does making someone fitter actually do for them? For most it takes little effort to survive the day. In our environment, where laziness carries little risk, can we train in a way that has consequence, or is it simply vanity “all the way down”? My personal philosophy of General Physical Preparedness has always focused on the mundane rather than the extreme. Of course, in survival or self defense scenarios, being fitter makes you “harder to kill”, and “training for life” dominates the market. Yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of our existence lies below that surface of low probability. Our day to day lives challenge us in a much more tedious way. I want my training to teach me to cope with that slow drip of daily challenges. I work to undo the constant temptation to trade awareness and depth of experience for entertainment and watching the day go by. When I can, I trade willpower for stoicism, knowing full well that if shit ever hits the fan, neither saves us from free-falling to the level of habit. That’s why being in a car accident this past Monday was so eye opening for me.
Leaving the gym for the afternoon, after some pretty hard work. Hungry. I pulled into the intersection at the top of the hill to turn left and was hit driver-side-door by someone who didn’t see their red light. I saw it coming in peripheral vision, but rather than any kind of automatic action, there was just a realization of what would happen in the next instant. Despite a hard, direct hit, both of us were fine. Looking my car, we must’ve gotten lucky, because it definitely hurt.
The other driver was immediately apologetic and distraught. She had made a mistake, blinded by the sun, and this was her husband’s car. I was shaking- as you do- but otherwise calmer than I expected. I had every reason to be upset, or at least annoyed. Nobody would blame me for huffing and puffing, this situation was obviously not even my fault. I was also about to find out just how long-lasting of an inconvenience being in an accident like this can be. I have to believe that practicing being calm in a variety of difficult situations developed enough of a habit to be useful in this one. I was able to create emotional distance from my situation and find the energy to comfort someone who needed it. Really needed it. I gave her a hug. I asked her about her life, asked her to remind herself over and over again that it’s just a car, and that here husband wouldn’t be angry, just glad she’s not hurt. Eventually I got her to smile.
I recognize how small of a feat this is. Yet as the hours passed, my reaction weighed much heavier in my mind than the details of the crash, the headache of navigating an insurance claim, or the fear that any moment some part of my body might start to ache in the absence of adrenaline. My memory isn’t of something that happened to me, but rather how I dealt with it. I’m proud of how I handled the accident because it supports our thesis that character is just habit. In a difficult situation, my immediate, subconscious behavior aligned with how I would’ve wanted to act. Call it a personal record. Now, just like any PR, the trick is not dwell on it but to let it add a small amount of wind to your sails and move on to what’s next.
Circumstance crashes into us eventually. The way we’ll react is the way we practice.
The stakes are high.