I will change the names in this article to protect the innocent…or just the reputations of three of my favorite men.
My oldest brother, whom we’ll call Jamie for his safety, was a trophy winning wrestler in high school. Often, us siblings and even our own mother were practice dummies for him to hone his wrestling skills at home. We’d be minding our own business, making lunch in the kitchen standing along the counter and suddenly you’d find yourself in a headlock left kicking and yanking attempting to defend yourself from the hold.
I can’t recall my age, or the details, but somehow we were gifted wrestling mats when we were kids. The gift was most likely a Christmas or Easter miracle providing hours of entertainment, especially during the freezing winters of Chicago. These mats could have been called, gymnastic mats, or tumbling mats, but in the, let’s call them the Cats, in the Cats’ home, they were called wrestling mats.
The wrestling mats were placed in our basement. Half of the basement in our Chicago home was finished by the hands of our father. Being my father’s favorite daughter, I helped in all the re-modeling efforts. I remember the carpet installation as I had never seen such a sight before. The giant spool of carpet was rolled over the thin flat multi-colored pad which lay to cover the concrete foundation. Although there was capet, it was not plush. The wrestling mats were a welcome addition as the previous situation was not conducive to injury free wrestling frenzies.
Often, basement wrestling was sporadic and without rules or organization. This particular day, we actually attempted to follow the formal wrestling rules despite our age and ability differences and we took turns just like a one-on-one match. This particular match was Jamie versus me. As my memory recalls, we were set up to begin the match, me on my knees in the starting position and Jamie ready to knock my arms out from under me. I recall prior to the whistle for match to start, I thought I’d out-play him by planning to fling my upper body toward the ceiling overpowering my older brother in attempts to evade a pin. And so I did. As “Christoph” blew the whistle to begin, I forcefully flung my torso upwards.
Little sisters always think they can match the strength of their older siblings. Always. But, in reality, often, little sister’s will-power is stronger than their actual power. And so as I flung myself upwards, Jamie’s force came down and my face was heading straight down towards the mat nose first. Without the strength to stop or even slow this feat of muscle and gravity, I couldn’t do anything to slow my nose from the inevitable. Unfortunately, instead of smashing nose first into the mat though, I missed the mat, and went forcefully nose first into the lightly carpeted basement floor.
As we’ve never intentionally wanted to hurt one another, I was immediately freed to find blood rushing from my nose. I stood to run into the unfinished work area of the basement grabbing the entire roll of paper towels off my dad’s workbench. My eyes poured with tears and I squealed with pain. I am sure I said little sister things we say. The collective retort from my brothers is all too familiar to you little sisters, “Cry. Go tell mom you baby and cry.” Well, I wasn’t going to cry. And I wasn’t going to be a baby and tell mom. So, I sat on the bottom of the stairs covered in bloody paper towels while my brothers carried on with the match.
I’m fine. Just a broken nose, deviated septum, and lifelong issues like snoring, but I’m fine. No harm done. My face was only altered slightly with the addition of a permanent bump as a life-long reminder. But, it’s fine. Don’t be mad at my siblings. I am not. I am not mad at all. I am sure it wasn’t long before I threw out the bloody mess of paper towels and with laughter re-joined my brothers.
But this story epitomizes the tough guy mentality. The tough guy mentality has many benefits. I have stood up to coaches and bosses for whom I’ve held ethical differences because I have the courage to do so with my tough guy mentality. I have given birth three times and have handled medical procedures like a champ when honing this ability to be the tough guy. I can even manage a grueling crossfit workout or hold a stressful job as school principal when digging into my tough guy mentality.
But now, we are undergoing a pandemic. We are experiencing a change to our normal way of life we have only seen in the movies. The overwhelming statistics of death and illness are at times so awful it make a person debilitated with sadness. During a time like this, cry. Cry and, if possible, call your mommy. And if not possible, pray to her. It isn’t time to teach anyone about toughness. It might be the right time to teach compassion and emotion. Crying might be your body telling you to let it go, let go of the pent up fear rising which each new day watching the death toll grow.
Another powerful emotion is positivity. Deep Survival, a book written by Laurence Gonzalez, also shares the science of the brain associated with laughter and smiling. He highlights that sometimes absurd and disastrous situations are best handled by those who can laugh through them. Smiling alone causes the brain to exit the areas responsible for fear, anxiety and negativity. And laughter does this even more powerfully throwing us closer to positivity and farther from fear. A jaw dropping outcome of laughter is motivation. When we laugh, we become more motivated! If I am ill, I hope to have the motivation to overcome! And in that I hope someone makes me laugh even though the scene may be dismal and grey and scary.
A meditation teacher Susan Piver also claims that a person cannot be kind and anxious at the same time. What a statement. It seems like the brain cannot be in two places at once in these regards. I am sure we all had the “attitudes are contagious” poster on our walls as kids. What attitude are people catching from you?
So, men, women, brothers and sisters, especially you little sisters…
- Cry. It’s not only OK, but sometimes a giant release of all the pent up anxiety you may be carrying during this scary and crazy time.
- Call. Go tell mom. Go tell dad. Call your friends. Call your family.
- Laugh. However absurd it may seem to laugh in the midst of fear, laughter might be the best cure for sadness as well as illness. What attitude do you hope others catch? What attitude will help in a time like this?
I hope my brothers do not read this. But if they do, I hope they remember and laugh.