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April 21, 2022

Pick your Battles Carefully—8 Words that taught me Not Every Fight Matters.

 

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I am, unashamedly, a huge Paul McCartney fan.

Yes, even “We All Stand Together.” C’mon, frogs singing—what’s not to love? I am well aware that such an admission makes me appear incredibly uncool, but as I am in no way cool and have never been, I’m completely okay with that.

One of the reasons I am such a devotee of both Paul and the beat combo he was part of (The Beatles…you might have heard of them) is not just because the music is great, but because, at various stages of my existence, one of McCartney’s songs has leapt out and acted as the perfect soundtrack. It’s as if that track had been written for me and for that specific second, minute, day, month, or year.

I know that Paul didn’t consciously write any of these songs for me as, sadly, we’re not that close. Granted, I did meet him once, but the entire exchange involved me shaking his hand, nervously telling him my name, and then staring at him—dumbstruck—for about 60 seconds.

He might have said something Earth-shatteringly brilliant, but my brain was too busy repeating, “That’s Paul McCartney…That’s Paul McCartney…That’s Paul McCartney…” to remember. Thus, I doubt I made much of an impression on him. Certainly not enough for him to write a series of songs to accompany my life.

However, that doesn’t stop me from feeling as if those songs had been created for me—as if they are speaking directly to me.

And, over the past year, one has sung very loudly to me indeed.

It’s not one of Macca’s most famous tunes. It’s called “Queenie Eye” and was released in 2013. Not only does it clearly show that Paul can still craft a damn fine tune, but it’s also got one line that has screamed at me for quite a while now:

“Never pick a fight you’re going to lose.”

From the moment I heard it, it stayed in my head. Why?

For a start, it’s a good lyric in a good song, and, as such, it’s an earworm. McCartney’s a dab hand at creating these; he’s been doing it since the early 1960s and is a bit of an expert. No surprise there.

However, that’s not the whole story. The main reason it lodged in my brain was something else: I vehemently disagreed with it. Completely.

As a sentiment, I thought it was completely and utterly wrong. You don’t avoid a fight because you’re going to lose—that’s cowardice. If the cause is worthy, or the issue is important, then you fight because that’s the right thing to do, always.

The result is immaterial; what matters is that you fought, that you stood up. Who cares if you end up on the floor? You took a stand. That’s the part that counts, not the outcome.

Except, over the past year, my stance has dramatically softened. In fact, one of the biggest reasons for my improved emotional well-being is due to my desire to not pick those fights. At least, not all of them.

I still believe that you have to fight if the cause matters, even if defeat is a real possibility.

Whether that’s opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or just being in the trenches next to someone you care about when they’re struggling, the fact that you’re going to take a battering doesn’t matter—you fought. That’s the key part. And you, and others, won’t forget that.

But not every situation requires us to take up arms. Our mental health might need us to walk away.

It might still be a just cause. We might even be the one in the right. But it’s just not a battle worth joining, especially when defeat is re-ordained. Some wars are worth losing; others aren’t.

For a long time, I railed against people who invalidated my mental health. Whether it was dismissing my diagnosis, or the manner in which they had claimed to support me, every idiotic and untruthful proclamation stung.

I’d like to say the lies hurt most of all, but they didn’t; it was the stupidity that really got under my skin. It’s a weird day when you realize that someone you admired for being smart turns out to be an utter doofus. You’ll never see them in the same light again.

And it riled me. Screw “fight or flight,” I was in constant fight mode. Every accusation, every ridiculous act of hypocrisy, every time someone rewrote events or projected blame onto me, I leapt into combat.

Until…

One day I didn’t.

Not only had it become exhausting, not only had it become a convenient shield to stop me from exploring my own mistakes, but it also dawned on me that I was never going to win.

And I no longer felt the need to.

One of things about being insecure is that you care too much what everyone thinks about you; as I’ve grown more confident, I started to realize what “everyone” thinks doesn’t matter. Only certain people count. The rest? Nah, don’t care. Think what you like. Honestly, they will anyway so what’s the point of me arguing?

I could have kept on fighting but f*ck ’em—I had better things to do now. I no longer had the inclination to keep fighting a fight I was never going to win. Some people will go to the ends of the Earth to avoid admitting they screwed up, and I don’t have the desire to keep chasing them there.

I was 48 years old and only had a finite number of f*cks left to give. So, I decided I’d waste some of them on important causes, and convincing people that I had struggled with my mental health didn’t qualify. Especially when such a fight was the equivalent of me screaming into the void. It’s no coincidence that my well-being grew stronger the less time I wasted in unnecessary battles and the more I invested that energy in me.

I still think of those people sometimes. They were once really important to me, and we don’t let go wholesale, in one big movement. Some days, they hang around a lot longer than we’d like. Some days, their faces float to the surface, and so do their words.

But then I put “Queenie Eye” on. Loud.

“Never pick a fight you’re going to lose.”

That line galvanizes me. It reminds me that I’m not choosing to avoid conflict because I’m a coward. I just can’t be bothered expending valuable energy losing certain wars. I don’t fully agree with Paul though; I’ll still pick fights I know I’m going lose but I’ll do that because it matters to fight.

The other times? No thanks. You win—I’m not playing. Think whatever you like of me; if you need to make up stuff about me to fulfil some need within you, do it. I don’t care anymore. My emotional well-being matters more and I’m not fighting.

Instead, you’ll find me sitting under a tree in the park listening to Paul McCartney.

Yes, even “We All Stand Together.”

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