Stubborn is a Survival Trait
Until it isn't
When you fall off the horse, you get back on it.
I started learning to ride when I was five or six, I don’t remember just when. I learned that mantra about then, too. When you come off the horse - and you will - and you’re that small, it’s a frightening experience. Even on a pony, the ground is hard and the horse is laughing at you.
So you firm up the chin wobbles, blink away the tears, and you climb back up there somehow (not easy when the horse put you off for a reason and you’re too small to jump far). Because if you don’t, your mind will magnify the fear all out of proportion and there can come a point when you can’t make yourself get up there and try it again.
Life is like that. We fall down, sometimes tripping over our own clumsy feet, and sometimes at the end of someone’s fist. We can lie down there, or we can stubbornly refuse to admit defeat and try it one more time. You keep trying, and learning, and eventually you’ll succeed at the thing, or something you learned from trying to do the thing. Stubbornness, fueled by spite, can get you farther in life than you might think when you’re six and just trying to ride your mustang pony.
There’s something likeable about a person, man or woman, who just won’t give up when life is kicking them in the teeth. They persist, against all odds, and we admire that, or most of us do. That kind of grit is what most of us want in a life partner, not someone we’re going to have to constantly support and nurture while they wilt away at the smallest setbacks.
That stubbornness is the spirit that opened up new horizons on the world when the map was marked ‘here bye draconis’ and the men who singly or in teams refused to hear the words ‘It can’t be done.’ They did it. They staked their claims, and what’s more, they proved them, against the odds of those who weren’t stubborn enough to stand up and try it themselves.
So go on, be stubborn. You can do this, whatever it is. Just remember this… You can’t do it solely on spite and pure cussedness.
When it’s got you down, not the first time or even the third, remember that you can ask for help. Extreme independence is a trauma response. We learn, early and often, that no one will help us if we ask, so we square up our shoulders and figure we’ll just do it ourselves, and we do. Problem is, that cuts you off from help when you most need it. It denies the ones who love you the intimate ability to reach out and take your hand and walk with you through the pain and the fear. To cup their hands for your boot, and give you a little toss back up into that saddle. To stand, shading their eyes, feeling that swell of pride in their heart as you ride off into the sunset.
You can stubborn yourself right into the grave. If you won’t slow down, listen to the people who know more than you do, and hear them telling you that if you keep pushing your body past it’s limits like you’re a young man with bounce in his bones, you’ll fall and won’t be able to get up again. You may have spent most of your life too stubborn to know you’re dead, but the Reaper comes for us all, and denying it won’t make it so.
Stubborn needs some give. A little tenderness underneath that hide, a heart beating fueled by love as much as bitter anger at a world that didn’t want you to be you. You don’t have to be a delicate fucking flower.
You do need to know that you are wanted. Even if you are a stubborn old coot who won’t take care of himself.