Castles in the Sand

When the waters rise, will our castles remain?

I think you can tell a lot about a person by how he/she reacts and copes to difficult circumstances. I know that’s a familiar mantra, but I’m not actually referring to the person’s direct response to the struggle. Instead I’m talking about what we would probably call coping mechanisms.

Last month I had about a one-week stretch of great frustration, and I found myself going for extended walks almost every day. That’s not really something I’d done in the past, but it seemed as if each day I had this great urge just to walk around downtown Ashland and listen to whatever random song came up on my iPod.

One of my friends responds to tough circumstances by surrounding herself with people close to her. She’ll hang out with people and watch movies and pretty much do anything that will preoccupy her from the tough situation. Another one of my friends will head to the gym and play basketball, possibly for hours. After growing up playing the sport, it has become a calming aspect of her life. When everything else is going wrong, she can just step on the court and find peace for a time.

We all respond to difficult circumstances in different ways. Some of us will buckle down and face the issue head on, refusing to think about anything else until the struggle is resolved in some way. Others will do the complete opposite. But the ways we respond and the people/things we turn to for comfort can offer a glimpse into who we are.

Surrounding yourself with friends is a means of seeking external comfort. It shows that you rely deeply on the people around you and trust that they will be a steadying force through tumultuous times.

Sports can work both ways. In the case of basketball, heading to a gym on your own to shoot around shows a sense of independence and self-reliance. There’s a level of control when you have the ball in your hands. You have the power to take whatever shot you want, and it is up to you whether or not the ball goes in the hoop. It’s also a sport where hard work and long nights shooting around will lead to personal improvement. While basketball is one of the greatest team sports, there is a tremendous level of individual responsibility involved (perhaps this is why NBA players are so often seen as selfish me-first players).

Apparently my coping mechanism is walking. Although that wouldn’t be my first choice. In college – and even sometimes in high school – I would go for a drive. I love driving, and just hitting the open road for a couple hours to go someplace you haven’t been is a great exercise in relaxation. At least it is for me.

Unfortunately that is not nearly as good of an option anymore. Gas is much more expensive than it used to be, and while my current car is much more fun to drive than my previous car, it also uses a lot more gas. Also, I now live in a place with great roads for adventure, but civilization is so much more spread out down here that it’s a much bigger commitment to drive somewhere than it was for me in high school and college.

Perhaps my original coping mechanism was drumming. This really hit me while I was walking around Ashland. My shuffle mode on the iPod brought up a performance from my sophomore year of high school. Our field show was themed around the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight, and I listened to the full nine-minute show while I walked.

A few songs later I heard the “First Circle” winter percussion show I was part of during that same sophomore year. I definitely can’t remember every beat of those shows, but I was shocked at how much I do remember. And it really made me miss marching band.

I actually checked online to find that I could actually purchase a marching snare for about $400 (sans harness), but I’m not sure where I’d ever be able to play it. Those things are ear-piercingly loud, like get-kicked-out-of-your-neighborhood loud.

Perhaps I’ll have to split the difference and “march” around Ashland instead of doing my typical walks. I’m sure it will look a bit weird for me to crab down the street while pretending to drum to whatever tune from my marching band past I’m listening to on my iPod. But then again, who am I kidding? This is Ashland – I would probably be at best the 10th weirdest person wandering the street at any given time. And I mean that in the most complimentary way possible – I absolutely love it here.

Yup, that sounds about right. You can tell a lot about a person by how they cope with adversity. And I’m sure people seeing me crabbing while air drumming through downtown Ashland will have a pretty accurate idea of my personality.

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