Preface: After writing, Tang Soo Do Karate and Toughen-Up for Chuck Norris I began writing short stories that reflected actual experiences in my life. But, before publishing them I changed many of the details within the stories so I wouldn’t be seen in such a personal way.
The details that were changed resulted in the stories having little to do with my life and my perception of what happened in my life and so I put it all aside and began working on other projects. For instance, I wrote and published I Stand Convicted and after that I wrote and published Go Ahead. And then I helped Academy Award actress Terry Moore with her book, How Do I Stay So Young. I buried myself in one project after another to avoid completing the work on the book of my personal experiences I had titled With Each Breath.
One day I woke up and realized I was not only running out of anyone else to help write or to help get published; I was running out of time, period. I decided I had better quit stalling and I pulled my stories together in their original form and publish them in the way they actually happened, or at least, how they sometime appeared to me as having happened.
Some of the stories sound more imagined than real but it’s difficult for me to say that any of them are not real. After all, I did stand in my bathroom one day and get starred down by a cockroach; I do from time to time talk with flowers; I did save a caterpillar who later came back to visit me as a butterfly; and not only have I literally walked, talked and argued with God on several occasions, he did appear once as my third base coach in a little league baseball game. I believe in feelings, and I believe what we feel can be as real as anything else we call real. We just have to let it be real in our heart; because, I believe reality is not only what we can see, or reach out and touch. I believe it’s more accurate to say that reality is what we see reaching out and touching us.
Our senses can place a veil between what is real and what isn’t. Its purpose is to help us distinguish one from the other; but, sometimes, the veil wears so thin there doesn’t seem to be any difference between what is real and what we imagine to be real. Believing this veil exists is an aid that moves us more gently into accepting the thought that there is no difference between what we know and what we imagine we know because “nothing real can be threatened and nothing unreal exists”.
I stood on a golf course less than twenty yards from a deer as he stopped munching on the big green leaf he had in his mouth. He raised his head as if wanting to know what I was looking at and he stood in one spot looking at me. I stood still and looked back at him just as hard; and in that way, I imagined we “connected”. And, because of this connection with him, I felt a connection to everything else in the universe.
In short order, though, the deer nonchalantly turned his head away from me and casually walked across the tee box. Of course, I have no idea what he was thinking; but for that moment, I imagined this deer’s thinking was something similar to mine. I even thought for a moment that he was intentionally moving out of my way so that I could tee up my ball.
I knew it was a silly thought while I was thinking it. But, when he stepped aside, I teed up and drove my ball down the middle of the fairway, and there was something in the look he gave me that said he was pleased with the drive I just made.
And then I was on another golf course and a tiny sparrow took his little hops towards me across the putting green and when he reached to within six inches of my foot he stayed there. And as though he was in the safety of a doting “parent” he went to work pecking at different spots on the ground. In some unexplainable way I was familiar to him and immediately I felt that he was my buddy and we were hanging out together. I began walking across the green and the little sparrow hopped right behind me. When I stood still again, he stood next to me just an inch or two from my foot and then he began his pecking on the ground again. When I knelt down he moved but he didn’t fly away. I have a camera in my cell phone and I took pictures of him while he posed. After several pictures I gently reached my hand in his direction. I guess I crossed the line this time because that’s when he flew away. Actually; I was relieved when he left; after all, I really didn’t know where this relationship was heading.
These experiences happen to me quite often and I’m thankful they do. I enjoy life more deeply by being allowed to see this closeness with all that I imagine. I don’t care how silly it sounds because I really do believe life is seeking something more from me than what I have given it, so far. Therefore, I stay open to anything that allows me to feel connected to life.
Frankly, I don’t really know what else there is to search for, anyway, but, maybe what we think we’re trying to find is not as important as the search itself. The feeling of being connected allows me to know I’m an integral part of existence. I have a place in all of this. I’m on the team, I’m accepted and I get to play in this game of life, too.
This “search” is what gives my life a feeling of importance but it still doesn’t matter much what I find. It’s the search that makes life excitingly fresh and alive and it’s by searching that I’m allowed to see through the veil and see that what once was only imagined is now readily accepted as real. And, the most exciting of these times have been during those experiences when I had no idea on which side of the veil I was really standing.
Fear is something a ‘man’ doesn’t like to admit having. Being afraid is not considered to be very ‘manly’ and so, we carry ourselves in such a manner to show the world we’re not afraid and we’ll fight anyone who says we are; because, nobody is going to call us ‘chicken’.
But, if the truth were known, the biggest fear we have is that anyone might think we have a fear. Teddy Roosevelt told us “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” So we write all over our cars, ball caps, and T-shirts; “No Fear”, just to say “You don’t scare me” even if we are secretly shaking in our boots.
No matter what we say or write on our clothes we’re all going to experience fear in one fashion or another, and it won’t mean we’re less of a man if we do. So, it isn’t whether or not we experience fear that defines our character, it’s what we let our lives become as a result of it.
I don’t like bugs or cockroaches and I don’t know why.
I don’t think they’re going to bite me or hurt me but I’m afraid of them and I’ll jump if they come near me. I hate stepping on a cockroach or crushing a bug and I can’t stand to hear them squash. When I take a tissue and pick up one that I think is dead and it wriggles I jump and drop it on the floor. I don’t like to feel it move.
Today I saw a cockroach climbing up the wall in my bathroom. I got a wad of toilet paper and started to crush it and it started to run as if it knew exactly what I intended to do.
I tapped on the wall in front of it and it turned and ran in the other direction and so I tapped in front of it again and it stopped and turned and went hurrying off in yet a new direction. When I poised my wad of toilet paper in the air in a perfect position to strike he stopped where he was and sat still. It was as if he was readying himself to take the best shot I had to offer.
It was in this next moment that a strange thought came to me and with that thought tears actually began to well up in my eyes. Why should a life, any life, even a life this small, stop living? And who was I to make that happen?
He must have sensed that I stopped my thoughts of killing him because he just sat as I stood, and we didn’t take our eyes off each other. As the seconds ticked away this bizarre stare-down made me wonder why this bug wasn’t as scared as I was. But then I realized I wasn’t thinking about the fear of the bug touching me or of me feeling it squash. I wasn’t thinking of anything that was happening right then, the feeling I was having was an extension of my fearful thoughts about how my life was going. I was afraid of how I was going to start up my business again and how scared I was that I wouldn’t be able to get back on my feet.
Here at a time in my life when I needed confidence more than ever, I was sensing fear.
After watching this cockroach crawl up my wall and run from certain death I got the impression that he feels the same fear I feel when I’m running up the walls I’m expected to crawl. I even watched him huddle underneath the medicine cabinet as he waited for the fate he felt was his, and I knew exactly how he felt. Because, I too, huddle beneath what I try to use to hide my faults and failures and I’ve felt, many times, just as this little cockroach must feel right now. I’m no different than he, because I too face each day under the threat of being crushed as I meekly hope for the success I once had.
And so there we were, both of us, huddling with our own fears and revealing them to each other, and in this way, we connected; this bug and I, and I’m still not sure which one of us got squashed.
You see … a stare-down between opponents is a mental thing.
Oh yes, if he and I connected physically I’d clearly see him to be the one to lose. But this thing we did today this stare down; this is a mental thing. Mental strength is rarer than bravery in battle, or physical power and size. We both knew this, the bug and I, and so neither of us budged as we waited and stood ready to lay it on the line.
I stood frozen in one spot with my right hand holding a wad of toilet paper, raised in the air and ready to strike. He twitched one of his antennas and then became absolutely still as if to say he would no longer run from me. As I watched his bravado, I thought: It’s not his fault he lives and walks here on my wall. He didn’t ask to be alive. He just lives, and so now why am I getting ready to squash him for being what he is?
I saw that very question in his eyes, “Why squash me“?
We stared at each other and thought our-not-so secret thoughts and the whole world seemed to stop as a shift was made in both our minds, and before I knew it, I was standing in his “shoes”. Suddenly, it all came clear to me. How wonderful it would be for him to go on and live a little longer. I don’t have to squash him now. Why make him feel the pain of life’s crushing force and put an end to a few more trips around this wall? I saw so much of my life passing before this bug’s eyes that I wasn’t able to bring this disaster down on him. Was it then, that I was the loser in that mental game I played today with the bug on the bathroom wall?”
No, you see, by giving him more time to live I gave myself more time as well. More time for what, I’m not sure. But, I hoped that the time I was given would be used for something more meaningful than running life’s walls and jumping at every sound or motion falling close to me. I refuse to spend my life hiding beneath some perilous ledge of life staring out at what fear has made of me how degrading that would be!
Well, by now I guess you know.
I’ve just let you in on how I lost in combat to this bug that slowly turned and triumphantly walked away. I’m admitting that I became afraid to come down on him just because I imagined by my not squashing him I kept some crushing force from coming down on me.
I guess I’ll never wear that ball cap that proudly says, “No Fear”.
But, neither will I have to come down on others and destroy something, or someone, just because I can; and maybe in time, I may lose the fear I have of something always about to come down on me.
Courage is to act in the face of fear and if there is no fear there can be no courage. This bug and I learned something valuable today. We both learned that life is too short to waste on the illusion of fear, “Fear knocked at my door and when I opened it, no one was there.”
The way to conquer fear is to open yourself up to what you think you fear and face it. To “face” a fear means to be extremely honest with your self. Examine your fearful thoughts very close and learn the truth about yourself. It takes courage to enter into your deepest fears armed only with the faith that you can find your way out again. Psalms 46 tells us, “God is my refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear”.
E.E. Cummings wasn’t afraid of sensing his fears nor was he afraid of expressing it like this:
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
scuffling across the floors of silent seas
I measure out my life in coffee spoons
when I’m pinned and wriggling on the wall
Should I, after cakes and teas and ices
have the strength to force that moment to it’s crisis?
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker
and watched the eternal footman hold my coat and snicker.
And in short…I was afraid.
Once we realize that fear is just an illusion we’re able to see that the only power fear has is the power we give it. The presence of fear is everywhere; but thank God, I’m not afraid.
Description of the Book With Each Breath
In each story, the matter of life is being played out in ways that’s rarely noticed outright. But, what I see is a thread that connects all living things in the struggle to find where they belong and to discover what they are to do. Not in the sense of career or school, family or friends but in what they themselves will do with life as it faces them.
Will they catch the yellow jacket and take it outside or will they smash it with a rolled up newspaper? In the hall way or the yard, in their joy or their tears, millions of minute decisions are being made that molds the inner structure of who that person is.
I wished that I could have been every bit of what I thought I was, I wished that I loved as strongly as I had hoped to love, and gave as freely as I meant to give.
My wish: Oh, but to be a kind and gentle man.
With Each Breath on the Martial Arts Schools and Businesses Directory visit this website.
R.L. “Duke” Tirschel is a Hall of Fame Martial Artist, an Ex-Marine, and a former Defensive Tactics Instructor for the Georgia Police Academy. He is at-home within the violent nature of man and as an Ordained Minister, Duke remains “in the water; but not, of the water” as he helps men find the man God intended them to be. His other books include: Chuck Norris Karate System, followed by Toughen-Up; the Chuck Norris Fitness System, and then his best seller, I Stand Convicted. Recently released is, Go Ahead and now, With Each Breath.