noun, verb, -led, -ling.
a clasp consisting of a rectangular or curved rim with one or more movable tongues, fixed to one end of a belt or strap, used for fastening to the other end of the same strap or to another strap.
–verb (used without object)
to yield, surrender, or give way to another (often followed by under )
At some point in my adult life I decided the ultimate fashion accessory was the belt buckle. I’ve collected many over the years all with a unique history and design. My favorites always being ones with a story to tell. For example, I had a Marlboro belt buckle given to me by a former acquaintance, that belonged to his late father. It was a large brass piece with the older style Marlboro steer head with a large star behind it. It pained him to let it go, as it was one of the few remaining sentiments he had of his greatest idol, but in the end he realized he would never wear it, and would rather it go to someone who would display it proudly and be able to share the legacy of his father whenever asked. Living in Texas at the time, where everything’s bigger, having a bullet catcher sized buckle above your crotch was still considered to be a symbol of awesomeness, and to some degree I’m sure fertility.
So the questions came, “Wow, is that brass?” “Where did you find that? Marlboro hasn’t made buckles like that in over twenty years.” My personal favorite from an old leathery cowboy, “planning on jumping in front of a bullet? That ain’t a buckle for the weak.” I held up my end of the deal, proudly. I would tell the story of Joseph McCoy whenever the buckle was questioned. I would look my opponent dead pan in the eye and let them know the story of a man who died attempting to make a life for his family, only to be stabbed in the back by his wife at the time and leave his only son in a cruel world. It wasn’t truly my story to tell, but I did so unrelenting, with pride, and never buckled.
It’s funny to me how in the grand scheme of things, this really is an odd way to begin this post. Thinking about it, I realize that this story is simply yet another way in which I have displayed my uncanny ability to dive head first into the deep end of a pool that lacks water. I am the most obstinate person I know. I’ve been told on countless occasions that I know no fear, and that I am ruthless, and unrelenting in my quest to be. To be right, to be alive, to be me. I honestly know no other way to be. I will admit this hasn’t always been a mentality that has won over a lot of friends. That I imagine is simply an inevitable side effect of such an existence.
One night several months ago alone in a hotel on a 5 week long business trip, I started thinking. There really wasn’t much else to do. All the shops and movie theaters were closed. I had beer in my hotel fridge so there was no need to pay bar prices to sit and people watch and make up stories to go along with all the strange faces and voices in the crowd. So I sat there and thought. I realized that my steadfast nature has become a massive source of contention for those around me. I realized that in my inability to clearly articulate emotions and thoughts to others, and in my fear of appearing weak, I would instead nearly start a war of epic proportions simply to get to a place of what I had perceived as understanding. I thought that in anger I could understand. Anger being the primary emotion shown throughout my childhood and adolescence, by myself and others, it became my safe zone. An odd shelter. Up until that point I didn’t realize that it had left me more vulnerable than protected. Vulnerable to a life destined to be lived alone. Not necessarily physically. But alone none the less. I decided that night to take the Fight Club approach to life, to “let that which does not matter truly slide.”
So I came home, newly found power animal and all. At first my new found Zen seemed to work. It seemed as though I had found that magical switch, and every time something that would normally upset me would arise, I would simply let it slide. I would put in a neat little yellow bucket and decide how to parse it out later.
Later never came. The bucket began to overflow. As the load got bigger the bucket started to crack and buckle. It eventually shattered into a million tiny pieces and I couldn’t find them all to put it back together. The rocks, stones, and grains of sand that I had filled my bucket with spilled out everywhere and it became too much to find them all, gather them up and sort them out again.
The aftermath of the loss of my bucket left me in zombie-like shock. I couldn’t eat, sleep, or prevent my Tornadoes from touching down. My wife instantly knew something was wrong. She did her best to be patient and supportive, but I couldn’t begin to explain what had happened. She had noticed that I hadn’t been getting angry anymore, and that I was unnaturally calm about everything. So when the bucket shattered, let’s just say that was quite evident too.
I’ve since stopped searching for all the pieces of the bucket. However I’ve found something new along the way. I’ve discovered that my biggest fear in life is for someone to be able to look at me and say that I lack the courage of my convictions. That I buckle. I had stopped at nothing and for no one to guarantee that success. I was so hell bent for so long on subconsciously making sure that would never happen that I honestly have no idea how the two people that matter most to me in this world have stuck around this long. I have put them through some of the most egregious mental and emotional Vulcan Mind Probes that no suspecting or consenting person in their right mind would agree to.
I still haven’t found a way in which I can can deal with the seemingly big or little crisis that rear their ugly heads. Not a healthy way at least. I have however discovered some rather tasty new dark beers and that I don’t despise wine as much as I once did. I have found that when things come up, I at least recognize that they don’t agree with me. I may not know immediately how to deal with them, but I do allow myself to at least admit that they are real, to not push them away.
The hardest things to deal with are the ones with any sort of “negative” emotional attachment, anything that exhibits the slightest hint of failure, disappointment, or uncertainty. I still don’t know how to articulate why they affect me so or what I would like to see done to prevent them from happening again. I think the biggest reason I can’t bring myself to say the things that matter is that I refuse to be someone that in my mind isn’t strong and therefor viewed as “can’t be relied on.” I refuse to intentionally add to another’s uncertainty and anguish. I really don’t like knowing that I may think about something a certain way and be convinced that it isn’t so, that my perception of reality isn’t real or right, and then change my mind and buckle.
I guess that’s the thing about life, it’s supposed to be open to new interpretations and the sharing of ideas. You’re supposed to allow the good in with the bad. It’s fluid. It changes with the moon and tides, and the seasons will come and go. That sounds so serene and almost too good to be true. Too easy. How do I let it be known that something is wrong, or painful and not be weak? How do I not simply suck it up, adapt and overcome and not be flippant? How do I ask for help when drowning in a sea of distress and not be a failure? I hope these questions come to answers one day in the near future, because for now the only thing I know is that now more than ever I must be strong for the ones I love. For them I refuse to buckle.