Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Some of you may be familiar with Aesop’s fables. For those of you who aren’t, Aesop is believed to have been a slave and story teller from ancient Greece. His fables all have two things in common. The first is that they are fictional, with the main characters often being animals. The second is that they all contain some sort of a lesson that is meant to teach the reader about living an honest and moral life. One of Aesop’s best known fables is titled: The Tortoise and The Hare.

The Tortoise and The Hare

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There once was a speedy hare who bragged about how fast he could run. Tired of hearing him boast, Slow and Steady, the tortoise, challenged him to a race. All the animals in the forest gathered to watch.

Hare ran down the road for a while and then and paused to rest. He looked back at Slow and Steady and cried out, “How do you expect to win this race when you are walking along at your slow, slow pace?”

Hare stretched himself out alongside the road and fell asleep, thinking, “There is plenty of time to relax.”

Slow and Steady walked and walked. He never, ever stopped until he came to the finish line.

The animals who were watching cheered so loudly for Tortoise, they woke up Hare.

Hare stretched and yawned and began to run again, but it was too late. Tortoise was over the line.

After that, Hare always reminded himself, “Don’t brag about your lightning pace, for Slow and Steady won the race!”

Credit: https://www.storyarts.org/library/aesops/stories/tortoise.htm

“Slow and stead wins the race”, has become one of my personal mantras. Before I go into why, I want to talk about walking trees. No, not Ents. Walking trees. Growing deep within the jungles of Ecuador is an amazing species of palm tree. These trees rest several feet to meters off the surface of the jungle, standing on stalk-like roots that grow into the ground. As the soil in the jungle erodes, it is rumored that the roots lift out of the soil over time and grow back into solid ground. This can result in the trees to move up to 20m in a year. There is debate in the scientific community around whether or not this phenomenon actually exists or if it is simply the jungle floor shifting from massive amounts of rain and soil corrosion but “walking trees” is still a fun concept! I wonder if Tree Beard’s latin-american cousin speaks a Spanish dialect of Entish?

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If you look around you, so many people are preoccupied with where they want to be instead of focusing on where they are. This often results in them cutting corners, taking shortcuts, or trying to fast track themselves to where they want to be. Sadly, this often ends with a short-lived enjoyment of success before falling back down to where they started. You all know someone who has experienced this or maybe this describes you but why does it happen? It’s because those people did a shoddy job at building what I like to call their “personal pyramid”. What is the most stable structure in the natural or man-made world? A pyramid. Why are they so stable? It’s due to several factors. The first is that, no matter where in the world you find them, they are built out of high quality and structurally stable material that is very resistant to change: stone. The other factor is that each successive layer is build upon a previous layer that is already stable and can appropriately support the next layer. Most of you probably think of the pyramids of Giza (below) when you think of pyramids. These structures have been standing for well over 4,000 years. Pyramids are stable. Enough said.

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Whether you are building a physical structure or simply trying to accomplish a goal, keeping a pyramid in mind and the principles that make one so sturdy is useful. Most people, thinking that they will get to where they want to be faster, build towers instead of pyramids but towers aren’t NEARLY as stable. Building a pyramid sucks. It’s hard work, it’s painstaking, and it takes time. But once it is built it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon unless you drop a bomb on the thing. In terms of our own lives, making them as steadfast as a pyramid is often difficult because to do so involves healing. Most of you will agree, the greatest obstacle between us and our goals is often lurking in our own minds and egos. In an attempt to deny or ignore our personal wounds, shortcomings and character defects many of us hastily try to get to where we want to be without much thought of how we are going to stay there once we arrive. The drive to rush things is often born out of comparison. We see Suzy, who we graduated with and seems to be doing so much better than us, has a great job, nice things, and has her sh*t together. Then we ask ourselves, “Why can’t I be like Suzy?” or “Why don’t I have what Suzy has?” and we proceed to concoct a plan to achieve a life that is comparable to Suzy’s as quickly as possible. More often than not, our plans don’t pan out how we had envisioned.

We spend so much time thinking about where we want to be that we lose track of where we are. How can we construct a stable foundation for the next level in our pyramid if our minds are all the way at a peak that doesn’t even exist yet? The fact is, and I have seen this time and time again in my own life, we are where we are for a reason. It is because there is something we need to learn about ourselves that will help us grow into better, stronger people. Many never realize this, they want what they want and they want it now. If you just focus on where you, instead of where you want to be, you will ensure that you will take every moment needed to heal, learn, and grow so you can build a firm foundation for the next level of your life. Once you reach it, having put in the necessary work to make it as stable as possible, you don’t have to go back. If you are like the walking trees of Ecuador, with branches reaching towards the light and roots towards ever more solid ground and keep telling yourself “slow and steady wins the race” then one day you will look back on the life you have constructed and you will see that you have built a pyramid instead of a tower.

 

The Choice to Heal

Most of my teenage and adult life has been spent struggling with mental illness and substance abuse and, without it ever being my intention to hurt those around me, I significantly damaged or destroyed virtually every relationship I tried to engage in. Needless to say, genuine intimacy was not one of my strong suits, though, it was something I sincerely longed for. After years of ineffective therapy and medication regimens, I was finally diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) at the age of 22.

BPD is a mental illness that affects a person’s sense of self, interpersonal skills, emotional regulation, and most importantly, their ability to have meaningful and healthy relationships. Being with someone with BPD is often described as psychologically, emotionally, physically, and spiritually draining. After destroying multiple attempts at long-term relationships, I developed an addiction to crystal methamphetamine. The meth addiction only added fuel to the fire of my already problematic sex addiction. Most of my relationships were characterized by constant lying to cover up my rampant infidelity. I didn’t value myself, my partners and, though I desired to be in a healthy relationship, I had lost all hope of ever achieving real intimacy. I was caught in a swift downward spiral. Then, I met someone very special. I now know that this encounter was the catalyst that saved my life.

I knew something was markedly different about him but it took me time before I could put words to it. I eventually came to understand that this individual represented the first miracle I had ever witnessed. Over time, I learned and realized that he had been through more suffering throughout his life than anyone I had ever met. He had endured and survived truly horrible things, many of which can only be described as torture. Despite all the pain that was dealt to him, against all odds, he preserved the ability to love and, for some reason unknown to me at the time, he began to give that love to me. I was not good to him at first. I lied; I cheated; and I was selfish just as I had been in every other relationship. But through his willingness to try to understand me and see the underlying good despite all he had been through himself, I fell deeply in love with him. I knew that if I did not change, I would lose him completely. I had to heal.

I now believe that healing is a choice, a choice that has to be made repeatedly, whenever needed, with purpose, energy, and conviction. It was witnessing the raw power of the human heart to endure and to love, embodied in my partner, that finally gave me the courage to make that choice. Along the way, I have come to my own understanding of the term ‘soulmate’. Many people see a soulmate as someone who you connect with on a deep level, who understands you, and loves you unconditionally. I can’t argue with any of that but I’d like to offer an expansion to the typical definition. To me, a soulmate is someone who comes into your life and lovingly rips you to pieces. It is a painful process and after it is over the real work begins. You can either refuse to take a hard look at the person you have allowed yourself to be or you can realize that you could become so much more than what you were. Then begins the slow, deliberate process of resurrection.

To this day, I often wonder if it was yet another miracle that he staid by my side. It was a long and frustrating struggle before I began to remotely resemble the person I wanted to be or the partner he deserved. I like to think that he saw something in me that he believed in. Today, I no longer qualify for the diagnosis that plagued me for so long and I have been drug free for nearly a year. I have my own apartment, a job I love, great friends, and have reconnected with my family. Best of all, I still have him. Our relationship may never be easy but I am so very grateful for the small yet profound intimacies he and I share that many people take for granted. I feel incredibly fortunate to be loved by someone who has all the reason in the world to not love and yet found it in himself to love me. In the end, it wasn’t worried friends, a loving family, or a dedicated therapist that taught me the value of intimacy; it was an extraordinary individual whose life has been largely devoid of genuine unconditional love and affection. I thank the universe every single day that I met him and I now know that the human heart has no bottom. Let our story be a message to others: light can be found in even the darkest of places. As long as you follow a path of love, healing is always possible.

About

Welcome. My purpose here isn’t so much to tell my story as it is to share with others what I have learned from living that story. In the last year, I’ve finally emerged from a struggle that has defined much of my time spent on this earth. I have recovered from the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder as well as a long history of substance abuse. Ultimately, what saved my life and my soul was not therapy, medication, or rehab but instead…love.

Superficially, the title of my blog is meant to be a play on the phrase “a fragile heart” but it has a more profound meaning as well. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a fractal is defined as:

a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation.

Perhaps the most important lesson that I have learned along the journey out of my own personal wounds is that what we allow ourselves to nurture in our hearts and our minds will be reflected in the world around us. The human condition begins deep within us and projects through all the layers of our psyche endlessly into our environment, much like the infinite iterations in a fractal. If we choose to see ourselves as victims, we will be victims. If we let ourselves believe that the world is a terrifying and horrible place, it will appear to be just that. If we believe people to be inherently malicious and hurtful, that is the way we will perceive them. Our experience of reality will be defined by what we actively cultivate inside of ourselves. Thus, the conclusion is that we were born with all the power we ever needed to change ourselves, change our communities, and change the world. That power is contained in the essence of the human spirit and it is available to anyone who has the will to tap into it.

It is my sincerest wish that anyone who reads this blog find some level of comfort, hope, wisdom, or guidance in what I have to say. Everything written here is merely my own opinion developed from what I have experienced in my own life. Please, don’t take anything that I say at face value. Look for the truth behind my words in your own life; all of our journeys are different but I like to think that we are headed in the same general direction: towards unity. If you learn nothing else from this blog, I hope that you at least come to understand, as I have, that there is nothing on this earth more powerful than love.