He was still too young to understand what had happened.
One day he was tracking squirrels in the yard with grandpa, and the next, he was all dressed up sitting in a funny smelling building, watching as people walked through, stopped by a big box up front, then stopped by his mom and give her a hug. Then they would leave as quietly as they had come in.
“Lots of whispers”, he thought.
Then, there was a little flurry of activity, and the tall serious man, in the black suit, asked everyone to take their seats.
His mom walked over and took his hand, she squeezed it just a little too tight, and that made him stand up straight, and look at her. Her eyes were all red, and she was holding a very white handkerchief, even then he thought it was odd that he noticed that white “nose-blower”, that’s what grandpa called them, but his mom was still squeezing his hand and she took a ragged breath and said, “It’s time honey, we have to go up front.”
“Funny how all these years later, that that does white tail makes me think of that handkerchief at grandpas funeral.”
It wasn’t easy after his grandpa passed away.
He was naturally a little shy as a boy. He wasn’t rude, but it did take him a long time to warm up to people. It kept people at bay a little bit, and he grew up a little lonely.
After his grandpa passed away he and his dad didn’t talk too much. As he thought about it, he realized it was because of his grandpa that he did anything at all, because his dad was too busy with his own stuff to spend much, if any time, with his own son.
The boy, being a boy at the time, only had an inkling, a passing feeling that his dad wasn’t interested in spending time with him.
Grandpa made up for it though. Taking him fishing on Sunday afternoons. Running his little trap line in the winter, “Gotta keep the rust knocked off of a few things around here,” he’d say as they would prepare the trapping bucket for his week long vacation.
He only did that twice with him… but he could draw you a detailed picture of his grandpa’s trapping bucket, and the traps and tools he stored in it.
“Ope, just a Fox Squirrel, I wonder whatever happened to grandpas old trapping bucket,” he thought, as a five pound Fox Squirrel scurried through the dry oak leaves.
Without his grandpa around, and his dad disinterested, the boy had to grow up going fishing, and getting out into the woods… when he could.
His grandpa had given him some good Basic 101 huntin’ and fishin’ skills, but that was when he was real little, and his work schedule as he got older, didn’t allow him to get know anybody who was a real hunter who could finish off his training.
So he went when he could, and learned what he could, with his limited experience opportunities out on the water and in the woods.
“Here he comes, NO WAY this is gonna work, I don’t believe it! He’s coming right in!”
He had sat with grandpa those few years before he died, in grandpas deer stand, but he only saw deer during one of those years. He wasn’t old enough yet to hunt with a gun. Grandpa did drop that doe right in her tracks though. It was exciting, but it all happened so fast.
The only thing he remembered grandpa saying was, “When they are coming in like that… let em’ come.”
“Crap!” His thoughts are racing now. His deer of his lifetime is standing right there, he can count the eye lashes, he can see his breath, and feel it! when he stomps his foot!
All while standing in the one place he can’t shoot!
“Man, I wish I had my gun right now”, he’s having a hard time getting his breathing under control, while the buck is covered by trees and brush he tries to calm down, and then the buck moves… “No, not that way!” his brain is on overload!
There is a small window, a small opportunity, the experience of a lifetime, “But he has to turn.”
As that cagey old buck decides discretion is the better part of valor and starts to just… back up.
“It’s now or never.”
The draw had been rehearsed; the arrow straight and sharp; accuracy is down to three arrows inside of a fifty-cent piece at ten, and twenty yards, consistently; the wind is right; the set up worked… now… fade to black.
“No man is more unhappy than he who never faces adversity. For he is not permitted to prove himself.” ~ Seneca
What happens to that man?
What happens to the man who never had dad, or grandpa, whispering in his ear at the age of twelve, when he draws down on his first deer?
What happens to that boy, who because of experiencing trauma at an early age, develops the skill, a super power really, to avoid any kind of adversity throughout his day? Not realizing that by avoiding any interaction he is placing himself into an atrophy state of being. Never growing physically, mentally or emotionally… because it’s through adversity, working through a stressful situation that allows us to become stronger, healthier, happier?
But, as it happens, way to often in our day actually, that young boy didn’t face an adversity, didn’t have a dad around, and lost the one person who made him feel like he wasn’t invisible.
And so at his moment of truth… he missed.
And now, as a man, how does he handle that failure?
How do you handle failure?
Like a person going through the stages of grief, I now have a process I go through “when I miss”.
At first, I feel bad. That’s natural.
Two, I get mad at myself for “not knowing that”, whatever “that” was that contributed to my failure.
Three, I then ask myself, “What was my reaction, or action, leading up to the failure?”
Four, I then ask myself, “Is there something that I really needed to know?”
Five, I say, “Ok then, learn what you need to learn. Change what needs to be changed. Apply the new knowledge and then… Once More Unto the Breech!” Yes. I actually say that out loud.
In my personal “miss” during the archery season, as I reviewed it, it led me to adjust my practice sessions, changing my point of aim, changing my draw angle, and ascertaining that the miss was caused, not by the equipment, but by the old prefrontal cortex getting overwhelmed… due to a lack of proper “effective habit learning”, or in grandpas lingo, “You got buck fever, cuz’ you never were that close to a buck before, you weren’t prepared for that!”
I don’t think we face true adversity as adults.
We’ve learned to navigate away from confrontation with others… and sadly, with ourselves.
But how do we find that thing that can show us our true self, at that moment in time, when it’s our moment of truth, and hopefully in a non-life threatening manner?
How do we “train” for life when our days lull us to sleep with their mind numbing mundane sameness?
You don’t have to take up big game hunting. I recommend it. But it is only one avenue.
What I have found is this… you can just trick your brain… make it think there is a real lion after you.
Do something, ANYTHING, that is new to you… that you have NO experience in!
Take a cooking class. I’m not joking.
Learn to do the Cha-Cha-Cha, with a real dance instructor!
For you ladies, take a real self-defense class, learn to become the attacker if and when attacked, understand what “effective habit learning” is, and how we default to it in a truly “fight, flight, or freeze” situation.
Placing yourself into the lions den, figuratively. Placing yourself in a position to look foolish, is akin to facing down that lion, it gets the juices flowing.
And when you miss… don’t forget to ENCOURAGE, EQUIP & ENGAGE to move yourself forward!