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Fight or Flight?

Fight or flight is a real thing. When it comes down to it, I like to think that when it matters, I stay and I fight. I fight for my family, I fight for friends, I fight in situations when I have to be level headed, I fight to get things done.

However, I would be lying if I didn’t say that sometimes I choose flight. Mostly I choose flight when it comes to things that seemingly only concern and affect me. It must be the same for many, if not all of us, as members of this imperfect human race. I can’t help but think as I consider upcoming days and events that I’m already feeling the anxiety, the panic and wonder if this time I will lean towards flight.

I feel as though sometimes life is like a speedway. I remember the first race I went to. An hour drive out of state, a chilly night spent sitting on cold seats with the chill seeping through my clothes, and so much noise! You could barely hear yourself think let alone speak, and it was absolutely exhilarating! Fast cars, dust, and a boisterous crowd all focused on the speed and continuously steering to the left. It sounds funny now that I think about it but I could definitely see why people liked to come and feed off the energy and just have a good time. The only change now is that I’m thinking of those races differently. I’m picturing myself starring in this nightmare of a scene, pulled from the benches and forced into a car and told to just go. No training, no warning that this was going to happen, no nothing. And boom. There I am in the driver’s seat forced to make the drive, bearing left and left and left and left… at stomach-churning high speeds. Trying to control myself, trying to not hit others, trying to get out of this alive.

Certainly a lot of things in life are consequences – good and bad – of our actions, and we know some outcomes as we go into the decisions. Other things are thrown at us and we’ve had to wing it and just fight to survive the speed. The crowd on the side can watch and cheer or call for our downfall, but regardless of the spectators, this is something you have to experience firsthand. And while sitting on the sidelines has a certain kind of rush, it’s nothing compared to the combined fear and euphoria of our own personal races on the track. Nothing will compare to your feelings as you sit in that driver’s seat fighting and wondering how to best survive the situation. Wondering when will the race end, what had you done to deserve this, when will you be safe, where was the “opt out” button, hoping that you won’t spin out, and hoping that the occasional jaws-of-life scenes you saw as a spectator wouldn’t apply to you.

Sitting here, chewing my nails, worrying about certain things in my future, I start to the feel the flight urge. Sometimes, you’re forced into the driver’s seat with no warning. Other times, you will inexplicably know it’s coming, especially if it’s happened to you before. So I sit here and contemplate whether to tap into my bank account and book a flight somewhere I’ve never been. No ties, no associations; a nameless stranger on unfamiliar paths. I’ll be choosing my own consequences, I think to myself. I’ll spare myself this part of the anxiety. I get the chance to walk away. “Unscathed” is the word I think of, but I know whatever I decide, there are always consequences. I can’t sit here and write that in this case, I’ve chosen one of the other. I can’t piously allude to not choosing flight. But I also can’t rule out my chances for the fight. In some ways I guess that’s what the phrase means anyway. When it comes down to the moment, will it be fight or will it be flight?

As for this idea that I mostly fight when it concerns the welfare of others, maybe I should start fighting for myself too.

Photo by John Westrock

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