Random Messes

The Boxer

“That which you resist, persists”
-Carl Jung

Have you ever thrown everything you’ve got at an obstacle, only to find out you’ve only succeeded in making it bigger? Have you ever been so focused on the problem that you can’t see your way to a solution? Or what about that nagging issue… you know the one… that monkey you can’t seem to get off your back – has it become so ingrained in your persona that is has become who you are?

I’ve been thinking recently about life’s little struggles, and how we go about dealing with them. In this culture we seem to have a fetish for the quick fix: the Supernanny, the Master Cleanse crash diet, the Minute Clinic. These faux solutions typically don’t stick around for too long and we’re always left back a square one. I think it’s because when we actually take the time to zero in on the problem at hand, we are unable to manage anything else. We fight, and fix, and poke, and work, and rework to get the damned world to act the way we want it to act only to discover that we’ve dug an even bigger hole then what we started with. When I find myself banging my head against the wall and all I am getting is a headache, then I know there has to be an easier way.

The word surrender has come up a lot in my life, and especially over the past few months. Now ask any sports coach or personal trainer and they’ll tell you that surrender is synonymous with failure; that you’ve given up and you’ll be a quitter for the rest of your life.

I disagree.

Surrender may in fact be a yielding to the right course of action (or inaction, as it were) and allowing the Universe to do what it is supposed to be doing. After all, if you believe in a great underlying circuitry to things, then these problems are actually opportunities, right? It sure doesn’t feel that way when your opportunities are keeping you up at night.

My young daughter has been having behavioral problems in school and if you know me you know that I have beaten this thing to death. I talk about it to anyone who will listen (and some people who don’t), I talk to her teacher, I brainstorm with her dad, I read books, employ therapists – the works. I finally hit a breaking point the other night when my daughter looked up at me in her Hello Kitty pajamas and said, “Mommy, I don’t want to be angry at myself anymore.”


After I put her down to sleep and subsequently bawled my eyes out I realized that the pressure she was feeling was from me. I wanted her fixed, and I wanted it now. It never occurred to me that this struggle at school might be an opportunity to communicate with her a little more. To look at my parenting style honestly and see if I need to make some changes (spoiler: I did). I then decided that I wasn’t going to seek a drive-thru window solution to my daughter’s dilemma. We were simply going to take the next right action, a day at a time, and allow the Universe to work it out the way it should be. I am loathe to use the “blessing in disguise” cliche, but I think that keeping a diligent eye on things without head-butting them in the face every day has been the change we needed to keep our family on the right track. And all because she struggles to raise her hand during circle time.

One of  my favorite songs is The Boxer, written by Paul Simon. One verse in particular tells the brief story of said boxer:

In the clearing stands a boxer 
And a fighter by his trade 
And he carries the reminders 
Of ev’ry glove that layed him down 
Or cut him till he cried out 
In his anger and his shame 
“I am leaving, I am leaving” 
But the fighter still remains 

I envision the boxer to be that resister in us – the one who can’t let go of a problem until it’s beaten to a bloody pulp. But Paul also describes him as a fighter. Why the redundancy? Isn’t a boxer a fighter, and vice versa? Not if we are talking in terms of perseverance. The boxer becomes frustrated and angry and shameful of his repeated defeats, but it’s not until he lays down his gloves and bolts that the fighter is revealed.

This verse speaks to me as an analogy for the inevitable surrender (but not submission) required to overcome life’s battles and why surrender is not weakness. You see, in each of us lies a boxer. The headstrong fixer, fueled by emotion or past disappointments, that defiantly pounds the living hell out of his problems to little or no avail.

But also in each of us is the fighter. The quiet voice that tells us not to give up, but to yield to something bigger than us. To surrender the struggle and be willing to walk through the problem instead of kicking down its doors. To ask for help when we can’t do it alone. Herein lies true strength. It is here that blessings are revealed.

So when you find yourself backed against yet another wall, ask yourself this:

Am I a Boxer or a Fighter?

Regardless of where you fall, you always have a choice.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *