Defiance and Defeat

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I’m just finishing The Thief by J.R. Ward. Yes, I know, I read as slowly as my mother-in-law eats. Coupled with my lack of Kindle time, let’s just say I will not set any land speed records. I don’t care; the minutes I spend with my books are precious: I’ll take what I can get. Luckily, one Ward book is always good for several blog posts. 

Today’s thoughts from The Thief concern life and death, literally. According to Marisol, “Defiance was life; defeat was death.” As I read this line the lightbulb went off in my head: I should have this tattooed on the inside of my forearm to remind me of the motto that animates my every move. If I were into tattoos. Which I’m not.  And if I didn’t want to change. Which I do.

I’m all about defiance. I do not back down. I’m willful to the core. I have my mother to thank for this particular character trait, like so many others. The woman was so controlling that the only option was to fight, even though, like the Borg, resistance was futile.  But I didn’t care. I resisted with every cell in my childish body.  It was my will to fight that kept me from being sucked into the vortex of her narcissism. I learned that defeat was death, just like Sola says. 

And that was all well and good. When I was young. But now she’s gone.  And I’m still fighting. Everything. Well, maybe not everything, just too many things. So, how am I – along with the rest of us – to learn to let go of elements of our personalities that no longer serve us? Can we at least learn to control them so they can be resurrected at appropriate moments and not control us all of the time? I have no idea. Yet. 

Defiance is a good trait. It enables us to say, ‘hell to the no’ when life throws us the unacceptable. Too many of us don’t say ‘no’ often enough. You know who you are. I know who I am. We are defiant. We hold our heads high and refuse to stay quiet when shit is just fucking wrong. We refuse bullshit and call out asshats. Defiance fights for those who can’t fight for themselves. Defiance defends as if in a constant protective crouch, ready to battle evil or even just insipid. Because who wants to tolerate that?  Defiance is a lack of tolerance for the morally repugnant or questionable. Defiance is ever vigilant against the venal and on guard for the unscrupulous. Defiance is exhausting. 

But it has served me well. So, I don’t want to lose it completely. But like so much in life, it’s not just black and white out there. Sometimes, it’s okay not to fight and lower the sword of defiance. Doing so doesn’t necessarily mean defeat. It’s that whole pesky notion of discernment that complicates the endeavor. It’s hard to tell the difference when reality only comes into focus as we look back at it after the moment has passed.

Defiance means never choosing my battles. There is no word in my defiant lexicon that means “Let this one go.”  I have no choice but to fight each and every battle—with my spouse, my kids, my colleagues, my friends and acquaintances. And it’s exhausting.  I’m combative. I’m confrontational. And if I stifle my conflict-loving nature at work, for example (which I do, I do… to some extent. And yet, I’m still considered a ball-busting bitch). But then it’s double trouble at home.  I challenge my 18-year old sons on everything that comes out of their mouths and snipe at my husband for no particular reason. 

I do want to change. But, it’s hard to let go when it my sympathies lie with Sola; defeat does equal death. I can’t just give someone a pass. If I must, then it feels like a mortal blow, one where I turn that hostility inward. If I can’t fight someone else, I fight myself. If I have to fight, and if it’s not socially or professionally acceptable to do so, I turn all that anger on myself. That’s fucked up.  

So, how to turn my swords into plowshares and let it go? I’d like to give it a rest, but there’s an overwhelming part of me that fears that once I let go of my defiance there will no way to get it back. Who am I if I’m not defying something?  Am I back to being the hole in the donut? 

Old fighters most definitely die; and eventually, we’re all defeated. If defeat is death, then I’m terminal and looking for a miracle cure. I have to figure this out.

Maybe I’ve got it wrong and so does Sola: maybe defiance is dumb and defeat is destiny. Only one way to find out. I need to finish the book.