Emotional Bodybuilding.

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May 21, 2015 by jeliwobble

I listen to NPR quite a lot. I have it on in the background a lot of the time. Mostly, it’s company, and I am rather fond of classical music. So I get to hear the news and listen to articles about people I’ve often not heard about before, being as this isn’t my home country.

Just so, I was listening to an interview with an elderly chap by the name of Jules Feiffer the other day. He was talking about his childhood in the Bronx and being dragged from store front to store front by his fashion sketch artist mother while she copied the newest styles carefully so she could sell them on to budget fashion houses. He spoke about life on the knife-edge of being able to afford rent and food. He presented his thoughts about going through school then his apprenticeship as a series of struggles. The interviewer mentioned that he’d had more second chances at a career than most. Feiffer chuckled and said something that was exceptionally interesting to me; he has seen those who had succeeded at school, those who had found it easy to arrive at their destination wherever that was, fall at the first hard times and go ‘back to their father’s business’. But he hadn’t, because he had always found everything difficult so when he was knocked down, he just had to get up again. The more times he was knocked down, the easier he found it to get back up.

It’s easy to roll over at the first knock down. It’s easy to hide and say ‘I can’t do this’. Resilience, though, only comes from getting back up again. It comes from understanding that there is no one else but you who can do this. Even in the depths of despair, knowing that you are responsible for your next step forward, that it’s down to you to find your way out of this, this is how we build the fortitude to get up again. Of course, there’s always an element of personality in these things, and that sometimes the psychological equivalent of Jillian Michaels is precisely not what is going push one to the next emotional shred level.

But Jules Feiffer was telling an essential truth. It is emotional muscles that flex and bunch and push you through to the next experience. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You need strength, endurance, stamina, and a tiny little bit of pigheadedness to get through it, and you only get that from getting back up again.

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