You read that right, I am referring to the eternal underdog; the Italian Stallion, Rocky Balboa! Even if you never liked these now long-gone award-winning movies, I assure you there is something as a military spouse you can take away from them. Apparently, I was the only one oblivious to the moral and ethical foresight gained from observing the fighter who fights more with sheer grit and heart than anything else. I was old enough to remember the movies but too unfamiliar with them to realize the value of this folkloric golden boy saga. That didn’t come as much of a surprise to me, as I am typically not the one to remember the epic one-liners; the ones that my husband, every other adult, and my young teens can quote flawlessly. I was blown away by these life-truths hidden within Rocky quotes! Not blown away like a quick upper cut to my gentle jaw… but more like a southpaw crashing into my pink blushed cheek.
I’m sure everyone out there can agree that one lazy weekend (which is quite rare), paired with any decent History channel, A&E, TNT, or TLC marathon can have you glued to the TV… for hours. One early Saturday morning, before any one was awake as I enjoyed my coffee, I saw “Rocky Marathon” flash on the screen and quickly set the DVR so I could watch later with my toddler. A month ago I was trying to find Rocky on Netflix… lo and behold it was not available. If I’ve learned anything since my husband’s last deployment it is that Netflix truly does not have everything. Besides that Netflix truth, I also found out my toddler is quite fond of sports, all of them really. In boxing he has had the stance and dance down since just before turning two. My son was presently captivated by boxing and even received these amusingly huge boxing gloves that make funny sounds when he swings. As much as I love seeing Hugh Jackman, over, and over, and over again in the robot boxing movie Real Steel, I was done with that movie. DONE. The idea of replacing Hugh (yes I’m referring to him by first name because I obviously know him) with a glossed over Sylvester Stallone from years past had already been supplanted in my head months ago.
As I ran around the house on this lazy day (breakfast, laundry, bill-paying type of lazy) I would hear the muffled, slow speech of Rocky… soft, tender voice of Adrian… wimpy and whiny Paulie… or rasp, quick-tongue of Mickey. Between the montage moments, accompanying music, and thrown blows to the head, I was pleasantly surprised to find these small morsels of wisdom and insight. Let me let you in on the not-so-secret life-truths of a Rocky movie marathon.
1. Rocky III: Rocky- “How did you get so tough?” Adrian- “I live with a fighter.”
Yes, yes! If you are a military spouse make no mistake, you live with a fighter. I know they all have their jobs in the military; lawyers, doctors, pilots, clerks, drivers, translators, cooks, infantry men. Whatever their “job” you can be sure the first thing they learned in the military was the fighter stuff… basic soldier, marine, navy, airmen, and coastie skills. Marching, running, exercising, weapons qualification… is all at the heart of what they do. My husband is Army and you can bet they will admit you are a soldier always, and your “job” when you need to be. They cannot go on to do their job without their basic fighting skills. You have to be a fighter before you move on to learning your job.
So yes, we live with fighters. Maybe not every single day, but we 100% claim these fighters as our own and therefore our relationships beseech us be tough. Know you live with a fighter and know you are tough!
2. Rocky I: Rocky to Adrian about what his dad said to him- “You weren’t born much of a brain. You better start using your body. So I became a fighter.” Adrian to Rocky of what her mom said to her- “You weren’t born much of a body so you better develop your brain.”
Alright, first off I can agree that these two lines from “parents” would be something deemed most inappropriate by any child psychologist or most of you readers. However, there is something to it. My takeaway from this would be… know YOU! Know who you are, your capabilities, your extraordinary traits and your shortcomings, faults, or pet peeves. Know who you are and develop that.
Rocky is actually not very big according to boxer standards, but what he lacked in size he made up for with grit and heart. It didn’t matter if he was the smaller fighter… he would just fight harder. Adrian may have not been a looker at first glance, but there was more to her… behind her glasses and under her hats she was beautiful to Rocky. She was clearly smart and dare I say the brain in the pair. As adults we know there’s more than what you see on the outside of a person, and we are more than just brutes or brains. Know YOUR assets and use them to the best of YOUR ability.
3. Rocky III: Rocky to Paulie- “Nobody owes nobody nothin. You owe yourself!” Paulie- “You’re wrong! Friends owe!” Rocky– “Friends don’t owe! They do because they wanna do!”
Ah Paulie, gotta love the guy. In this scene, a very well dressed (and much better versed) Rocky is bailing Paulie out of jail. The thing I love about this is how true it is. It is evident in the movie series that Paulie is trying to ride the coattails or feels he is owed something by Rocky, Adrian and really just from life, so he does very little for himself. The life-truth here… the harsh, cold reality of it all… is that nobody owes us anything. Living our lives around the military means many of us have learned this lesson already.
We may like to think that because of a recent deployment, we should be left alone for the next six months. Or because we are never near family they owe us their undivided attention when we are. We may think that just because we are good people bad things won’t happen to us. Or because we all live on base, we expect everyone to behave in a certain way.
The fact of the matter is you can only control YOUR actions and do YOUR part in your life. No one else should be expected to make your life fullfilling. What everyone else is going to do, that will or will not directly affect you, is up to them. Let’s be honest too. We do not want family, friends or spouses doing things for us because they feel obligated to. We want them to do for us because they want to do for us. There will be a lot less disappointment in life if we acknowledge what are reasonable or unreasonable expectations. Because life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. (Yes I know that’s Forrest… that would be a whole new list!)
4. Rocky I: Rocky to Paulie about Adrian- “She’s got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.”
Here’s Paulie again, this time trying to see the connection between Rocky and Adrian. I definitely did not realize this when I was younger but this odd couple compliments each other quite well. This may have been touched on a little in #2 but let’s expand on it. If you have already found and committed to someone I bet you can see each other’s “gaps” and have respective filler’s for each other’s gaps. (Minds out of the gutter for this one people)
I am a true introvert and my husband a complete extrovert. Opposite yes, but filler as well? This isn’t just about opposites attract. Its more about having that one thing that you can help fill in or supplement for your partner. If I’m an introvert a night out with a crowd of people could very well end up with me sitting in one spot all night, conversing very little. As an extrovert he would probably end up running around all night striking up conversations with anyone about anything. As a “gap filler” my husband’s trait could guide me into joining in on conversation and making the rounds to everyone. To be fair, my enjoying a party is more up to me than my husband’s responsibility… and some nights I do just want to sit in one place with one group of people and he wants to make the rounds. Know each other’s gaps and know how to fill them. (Again, minds out of the gutter…or maybe not, know that too)
5. Rocky I and Rocky II: Mickey to Rocky while training to fight Apollo Creed- “You gonna eat lightning and crap thunder.”
Well, this doesn’t need much explaining. Don’t go out trying to get struck by lightning or anything. As a military spouse I would just take this to mean be tough, be uncompromising, and just badass (for lack of a better term). In this life we often bite off more than we can chew but if you do give it all you have. I think the majority of military spouses do this already!
6. Rocky I: Rocky to Adrian the night before his first fight with Apollo- “All I want to do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed. If that bell rings and I’m still standing…”
There’s more to that quote but I just need the important part. The first thing that comes to mind for me is deployments. Across all branches they happen at different lengths and are different for all our fighters, and spouses. But for both spouse and fighter I think this applies. We all just want to go the distance. We all just want to be their standing when that bell rings. We all just want to know we made it. Not just for deployments, but at the end of a military career, at the beginning of retirement, at the end of it all… we just want to know we went the distance fighting the good fight.
7. Rocky II: Rocky to Adrian- “I don’t know how to say this. I just gotta be around it”
Oh yeah, heard this one before. Rocky is of course talking about boxing and needing to fight. There are similar quotes throughout the movie series, where Rocky states things like he’s supposed to be a fighter, it’s all he knows, and even for her not to ask him to stop being a man… him apparently equating not fighting with not being a man. As spouses to fighters we need to get this! If being a soldier, marine, airman, seaman or coastie is our fighters calling we have to let them fight. As hard as this can be and as many times as we just want to throw in the towel. Most of the aforementioned relates to our ability to do this.
Do we know our capabilities, limitations and expectations? Can we fill each other’s gaps, go the distance, be tough, and if needed eat lightning and crap thunder!?! If you are in love with a fighter, accept your fighter and all the less than desirable variables that come with that love. Not to say things will never be easy, or to diregards all of your needs for the fighter you love. Just know the negotiable in life and know your truths.
Thank you, Rocky.