Life By Our Boot Straps

Mark J. Janssen
3 min readSep 15, 2022

Whatever might be said in other places and other times, I spent a very long time hearing others say that I had to pull myself up by my boot straps. Suck it up. Get on with life.

Maybe that works by the time we’re in our teens. But as a preschooler and even in the first years of grammar school, those words meant nothing. During those first years I knew I could hardly wait to go to school like big kids. The idea of being around other children my own age scarcely excited me. Quite the opposite. Children were strange creatures. They yelled and screamed and played games.

Games? Who wanted to play games when there were books to read? All around were adults whose brains were open fonts pouring out knowledge of the ages. I was in love with learning and teachers and school.

What did boot straps have to do with school? With the angels I saw inhabiting the hallways and classrooms?

The only use for boot straps was to keep on winter boots. At that age I had absolutely no clue what that meant. That being told to pull myself up by my boot straps was somehow meant to harden me up. Make me tough.

I was supposed to become emotionally hardened to life. To take whatever might be thrown at me. From minor unpleasantries to outright horrors. From a scrape on the knee to losing a beloved friend or relative. That sucking it up meant to keep a stiff upper lip. Also, no quivering lower lips. To show no emotion.

To be hardened against the slings and arrows of unwanted emotions.

If that was how I was supposed to live, how was I ever to develop? To grow into a fully mature man?

Beats me. The entire concept failed me. My oldest friends, Michael the Archangel and all of the angels, had warned me about this strangely stunted view of reality. They had told me it would be foisted upon me, as it was all boys at that time. Any time God dropped in for a visit, It never told me I was expected to live by that code.

Whatever spiritual intelligence may have been granted me at birth, the gratitude I came to feel for the Spirit has deepened it.

The drum beat of social convention was hammered into my head. And then, by grace, a door inside of my soul opened. We are constantly being told we have to suck it up. The world I came from engulfed us with the idea that anybody worth anything sucks it up. The crème de la crème show nothing. Feel nothing.

The internal revolution begins the moment we go back to the original fact about footwear. Boot straps are for keeping on our boots. We can walk down city streets or tramp through muddy woods. It makes no difference.

Boot straps are for feet. Not for hearts or brains.

Boot straps are definitely not to bind our souls.

The soul closest to the Creator is the unbound soul. The soul that is free to roam through the unknown vast realms of being and timelessness.

This moment in history is a very exciting time to give our souls permission to run free. Another attempt to reach the moon is about to be made. How do we tie ourselves up when humanity is stretching out to attain yet greater goals?

Our prospects for becoming ever more the persons, the species, we were conceived to be increase exponentially with our willingness to free ourselves. With one miracle we are living our way towards the next. Whether that miracle is a smile or shot to the moon. The very idea of reaching beyond the place where we were born takes gumption. The idea of reaching out to another person is a miracle.

I had to learn from some other women and men about spiritual anarchy. From all outward appearances, they were incredibly normal. You might even call them pedestrian. Getting to know them meant being present as they taught me to scratch off the surface of my soul. To remove the veneer of the world. Allowing myself to see the reality of who I am.

Some days it’s easier to reach for the old ideas. To tie myself up with somebody else’s idea of who I am supposed to be. Of pulling up everybody else by their boot straps. That might be good for about five minutes. After that I feel suffocated.

The spiritual freedom I was taught is what I now crave.

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Mark J. Janssen

Mark Janssen is a Catholic Druid, mystic visionary and author who writes a weekly blog. His memoir “Reach for the Stars” is available online.