"Don't go down without a fight."
That's been my life mantra for as long as I've been alive. Don't be passive. Fight. Stand your ground.
But what happens when the ground breaks down right under you and takes you into the water? The torrent sweeps you under and you're whisked away in the rapids? What do you do when life simply won't let you fight?
Fighting will wear you out; you will run out of breath and you WILL go down. When you have no ground to stand on, it's impossible to fight.
So stop fighting it.
It took me many years to finally learn this lesson, and I continually forget it. It goes against my natural instincts and all of the things I thought I knew about life. But when things get out of control, it's no longer a fight that can be won. In fact, it's not even a fight anymore. It's like driving your car into a river; steering and hitting the brakes won't help.
Sometimes, you have to surrender to survive. It's a horrible fact of life for those of us who never want to surrender. Surrender sounds like weakness. It's not. It's acceptance -- and acceptance is sometimes the most courageous act we could ever perform, because it goes against everything we know and everything we are.
Now, standing and fighting is about self respect. Never lose that. Never let anyone push you around. But when life dumps you in the river, you're not facing a someone anymore. When life itself begins tossing you back and forth and forces beyond your control take hold, shaking your fist and cursing its name feels brave, but you have to realize: the river is the river. It's not that it's mightier or stronger than you; it's a force of nature. It doesn't care. It doesn't think. It's not there to beat you. It's just there. It's going to keep flowing whether you fight it or not.
Ride it out. Find the calm spot. Use the energy you saved to swim to shore. Get back on track. Rebuild. Keep on living.
That's the victory. Not drowning. Not being broken. Surviving to fight another day.
Going against your own instincts is scary, and courage is strength in times of fear. Accepting that you cannot control what's going on around you and accepting that you have to stop trying to swim against the river, turn with the tide, point your feet (not your face) forward and go with the flow is scary. It's also the only way to keep from slamming your head against the rocks in your path and surviving.
It's important to know that sometimes, giving up the struggle is actually the only way not to give up on life. And while you may want to fight it, sometimes the only strategy that makes any sense is to ride it out. In the immortal words of Paul McCartney, "Let it Be."
And when in doubt just remember to breathe.