The Hammer and Chisel . . .
Every plumber has a hammer and chisel in their tool box. They may not always need them, but every plumber, steam fitter, or even carpenters and other trade workers have these simple tools in their collection.
The mechanics of these tools are simple; place the chisel on the spot, hold it tight, aim for its head, and then swing the hammer as hard as you can. But try not to miss. There is no difficult science to this; however, there is definitely a talent to using a hammer and chiself
Back when I worked for my father as a kid, I remember watching The Old Man chiseling out a piece of pipe from an old fitting. He tried to turn the pipe with a wrench first, but the pipe would not move.
He tried to heat the pipe joint with a torch to expand the fitting, but still, the pipe would not budge.
With beads of sweat dripping from The Old Man’s forehead, he wiped his brow on the sleeve of his buttoned–down flannel shirt and said, “We’re gonna have to chisel the pipe out.”
I never saw this done before—but The Old Man did it all the time. First, he cut the pipe, allowing a little tab of steel to stick out before the fitting. Then he angled the chisel between the face of the pipe fitting and the pipe itself.
Swinging once, then twice, the steel pipe began to cave in. The Old Man moved the chisel. Then he swung once, twice, and three times again.
He moved the chisel, and this time, The Old Man swung hard. He swung once, twice, three times, and as he swung onward, I noticed he missed the head of the chisel and the hammer banged the top of his wrist and thumb.
But he didn’t stop.
He just kept swinging the hammer. I saw blood coming from his thumb, but The Old Man continued to cave the steel pipe inside the fitting, and he would not stop until the fitting was clear.
I asked, “Are you okay?”
“I gave my hand some shot,” claimed The Old Man.
“Why didn’t you stop,” I asked.
“Because that’s when the pain starts,” he said. “And if you stop to feel the pain, it makes it harder to start back up again.”
He told me, “If you stop, then every time you swing the hammer, you’re scared you’ll hit yourself again.”
“You get rattled,” said The Old Man. “And if you’re rattled, then you can’t focus on the task at hand.”
The Old Man said, “Kid, sometimes you just have to work through the pain.”
I have used a hammer and chisel several times throughout the years. I have also smashed my thumb on several occasions. I’ve drawn blood a few times and I nearly broke my wrist once. But I learned to keep swinging and work through the pain.
However, I also use this lesson as a metaphor, and not just in the literal sense.
I used to be afraid—and because I was so afraid, I would try to run away from myself.
I used to run, and by run, I mean run away from my own discomforts.
I would run away from my fears; I ran from my anger and I ran from my insecure secrets. I ran from my problems and I tried my best to hide from my consequences—but I could never run fast enough to get away from any of them.
And I couldn’t stop, even if I wanted to.
In fact, I wouldn’t stop running . . . because that’s when the pain starts, and that is what I was most afraid of: the pain.
I was afraid if I stopped running I would be faced with my awkwardness. I was afraid to face my doubt, which is where my demons hid best.
My demons hid in my worry. They hid inside my fears because this is where there was the most room. This is where my demons took over and they were free to speak louder than voices of my better judgment.
My demons filtered through my insecurities, and because I was too afraid to stop running, I fed them my energy.
And while my demons grew fat, I grew weak, and eventually weaker.
I kept swinging, and swinging.
But I wouldn’t stop . . . . . I couldn’t, because that’s when the pain starts.
I couldn’t even think about stopping, because in many cases, the expectation of pain is often worse than pain itself.
So I kept going.
I tried my best to sterilize the pressures around me and ease my thoughts.
But I couldn’t, which is why I firmly believe the devil’s loudest scream comes in the form of a gentle whisper.
This is how addiction grows . . .
It grows perfectly and dims reality into beautiful versions of acceptable lies.
And while yes, the lies are deadly, at least the euphoria softens the edges of their horrible truths.
There is another side to this metaphor.
When I began this journey of mine, I was told, “Don’t expect too much from it.”
But the fact this is this journey has changed my life.
When I made a commitment to write on a daily basis, I was told, “The only way you’ll ever be published is if you pay someone to publish your book, and even then, that’s not really being published.”
That was wrong too
There is no insult that resonates more than the words, “You’re stupid.”
I know this because I have heard these words directed at me on more than one occasion.
There is nothing more damaging than being called, “A loser.”
I’ve been called this too.
I was told, at best, I would drive a truck.
At best, I might work at a gas station, or dig ditches somewhere.
I was told, at best, I would live a short life.
I was told I would suffer one of three outcomes, which are Jails, institutions, or death.
But I’m still here.
I’m alive and well
and I’m still swinging a hammer to cave the steel away from my dreams.