“I fight every day, and I won’t tap out”

It’s been one of those days. One of those weeks. One of those months. Maybe a whole year.
I’m in the ring with my own self, slugging it out until one of us throws in the towel.
I may fall. I may hit the matt so hard everything goes black for a second.
But I will not be carried out on a stretcher.
I get back up. I keep fighting. Even if I’m just standing there. I’ll take the hits. I’ll feel the blows.
And I’ll punch back.

Round 1
“You’re wasting your time! No one cares about anything you’re doing!”
I care. That’s why I do it.
“You’re looking for validation. That’s the only reason you do it. And no one’s paying attention.”
I might care what people think of me, but this makes me feel better. They don’t matter in the end.
“They all think you’re a fraud. You’re trying to be someone you’re not.”
I’ve never tried to be anyone but me. If they can’t see that, it’s their problem. Not mine.
“You’ll never be famous. What’s the point?”
Being famous isn’t the point. Being happy with what I’ve done at the end of the day is.
“You’re not even that good.”
I’m improving. Always improving. I never stop learning.
“You’re throwing your resources into a black hole. It’ll never come back.”
It trickles in. That’s how it works when you get started.
“You’re letting everything fall to pieces, giving your life to something so meaningless.”
It has meaning for me. Dishes and laundry can wait a day if it means I’m taking care of myself.
“All your relationships are failing because of this. Quit before it’s too late!”
If they can’t support me, they don’t need to be in my life.
“Your family and friends think you can’t reach your dreams, so why bother trying?”
They’re proud of me. And if they’re not, it doesn’t matter. I’ll reach my dreams without them.

The bell rings and I’m hurting. My guts are twisted. My mind is reeling. But I’m still breathing. Still standing.

Round 2
“You try too hard to be someone’s friend. They don’t even like you.”
I reciprocate what I receive. If they don’t like me and keep pretending that they do, at least I’m being genuine.
“You’re not interesting. You’re just plain weird and out of touch with the world.”
If I’m weird, then I’ll attract weird and that’s who needs to be in my circle.
“You’re awkward and say the wrong things all the time.”
I say what I mean. My filter might not work sometimes, but then they see the real me. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as I’m not hurting someone.
“You’ve never been able to socialize. You’re inept. You can’t do small talk. They all know you’re just a scared little child who wants to run home.”
No, I can’t do small talk. I never have. And yes, I want to go home, but I stay and work to improve myself.
“They only invite you out because they feel sorry for you. They feel obligated to include you.”
But at least they thought of me.
“You never know when to leave. They wanted you to go hours ago.”
I’m working on my social cues.
“Don’t bother anyone. Don’t reach out. They don’t care about anything you have to say. You’re just annoying and clingy. No one wants to hear you mope and complain.”
If I want to talk to them, I will. If I need to reach out for help, I will. If I see something that made me think of them, I’ll share it. They should know that they matter to someone, even if it’s something that doesn’t matter to them.

This round is over. My nose is broken. I can taste the dribbling blood on my lips. My head is aching and I need to vomit. But this fight isn’t over.

Round 3
“He doesn’t love you.”
He married me. He loves me. He shows it every day.
“You loved him first and that’s the only reason he even considered you.”
He said he liked me long before I confessed anything.
“It’s all a big joke. He doesn’t really want you.”
If it’s a joke, it’s lasted 11 years and that’s far too long to wait for the punchline.
“When you do things without him, you’re becoming too independent. He’ll think you don’t love him.”
Independence can be a turn-on. He knows I need my alone time just as much as he does.
“You have nothing in common.”
If we had too much in common, this would be boring.
“He thinks you’re crazy and emotional. He feels sorry for you.”
He’s just as crazy as I am and he’s patient with me, more than anyone else ever was.
“He works late. He must be off with someone else.”
He doesn’t come home smelling like perfume and he works hard to support me.
“He goes to the game shop to get away from you.”
I don’t blame him if that’s the reason. I want to get away from myself too.
“He only wants you for sex and you even stink at that.”
At least he wants me, even though I’m bad at it.
“He regrets marrying you every day.”
If he did, then he’d ask for a divorce and he hasn’t.

I can barely hear the bell over the constant ringing in my ears. I’m on the matt. My chest is like a vice. Tears stream down my face. I hear the referee screaming the countdown next to me and I know I have to get up. Just a little longer. I can do this. I won’t check out. I push myself to my feet. The world is spinning. The audience watching this show in silence see nothing. Not the tears, the blood, or the bruises. They only see me, as if I weren’t trying at all. But I am. I’m trying so hard not to let these blows get to me.

Round 4
“You’re stuck. You’re never going to leave this small town.”
One day. I will.
“There’s nothing here for you. Nothing to make it worth staying.”
I have the security of a home, a good job, and family. That’s enough.
“You don’t really like your job. It doesn’t fulfill you.”
That’s a lie! I love it! And I’m good at it. That’s what matters.
“You hate the house you’re in. Break free now before you’re trapped there forever.”
It serves its purpose and we’ll make it into our home one way or another. There’s no reason to leave it.
“If you don’t leave now, you never will.”
One day… Maybe not in the next few years, but one day, we will.
(I’m on the matt again. Darkness closing in.)
“You’re just going to end up in a situation that makes you miserable. If you didn’t have a husband… If you didn’t care about what people think of you… If you were braver… You could do what you wanted and not be so afraid.”
(Rage boils in me. I forget the pain. I push aside the temptation to let it all crush me. I stand up, a broken and bleeding mess of a human being.)
I. AM. BRAVE. I live with a battlefield inside my head and choose every day to get up, get dressed, and press on anyway. I do my best. I don’t give in. I do what I can, when I can, to make my life a little brighter. Fuck everyone who thinks I’m a waste of space, that I’m awkward or annoying or stupid. They don’t matter. They never have and they never will. I will burn bridges and turn my back on the flames. I make mistakes and I adjust. I know my flaws and I don’t pretend to be perfect. But no one can ever say that I’m a coward. I fight every damn day and I haven’t tapped out. I never will.

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About Sheritta Bitikofer

Sheritta Bitikofer is an author of eclectic tastes. When she's not writing her next historical fiction or urban fantasy novel, she can be found volunteering at her local animal shelter, shooting archery at a medieval reenactment event, trekking across a battlefield, watching a historical documentary, or having coffee with her husband at their favorite café. A wife and fur-mama to two rescue dogs, she makes time to write engaging and moving stories about shifters, vampires, and magic that enthrall readers from cover to cover.
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