Ninja Nascence

The Backstory

Specifically every October 25th, but in reality daily I remark on my remarkable and life-altering induction into the Ninja Network. In the months since that moment I’ve leaned on and learned from my Ninjas, and loved my life way more because of them. In short, they are the folks I call for a high five and a victory dance, a shoulder to cry on, a slap upside the head, or, in the middle of the night, to say “bring a shovel, come quick.” I adore and respect and am awestruck by my Ninjas, a shifting list of people willing to be enlisted in the real game of life, playing full on and unreservedly. I am grateful for my Ninjas and encourage you to get busy getting your own list together.


In the Beginning…

I changed my theme song two days ago. It cost me $2.49 and 45 frustrating minutes to figure out how to get the thing installed as the new ringtone on my cell phone. But it was worth every penny and every minute. Because I’m entirely weary of being a “Brick House.”

It isn’t that I don’t still adore The Commodores, and I’ll certainly remain inclined to express my own peculiar funky shake-it-down-shake-it-down-now dance moves when I’m in the privacy of my living room, but “Brick House” just isn’t doing it for me these days.

Back a few years, when I was on the edge of 40 and feeling the need to make some stalwart statement about my intention to hold firm to what I might of the “mighty mighty,” I chose “Brick House.” Preventative medicine against losing my groove, I guess. And it worked. Much of the time, at least early on, when a friend would call and the opening salvo of “Brick House” would issue from my cell phone, I’d do my best to remember to let it all hang out. Or at least to relax and laugh at myself a little bit. You’d laugh too, if you could see me dance.

Bricked Myself In

Over time I became accustomed to the tune, eventually resisted listening to the merry message of the music, and instead persisted in focusing on the immovable durability of the title. “Brick House.” Somewhere between 40 and 43 I became the Brick House, painstakingly constructing an impervious defense of solid logical stoicism. Architecting a concrete consciousness that convinced me, and everyone around me, that I had it all under control. Not even the Big Bad Wolf, with all that huffing and puffing, could blow my brick house down. Nope. I was rock-solid and resolute.

And two days ago, when “Brick House” jingled and buzzed from the dusky recesses of my briefcase, my cell phone lost somewhere among unanswered messages, the tax planner, a stack of bills, and the refinance worksheet, I heard the tune as harbinger of an irrefutable truth. Overwhelmed and under-resourced, I’d let my ego get the best of me. In building my battlements, I’d bricked myself in.

Bust Down the Barricade

Without a doubt, a woman in need. A damsel in distress. I need someone stealthy to scale the ramparts of my isolation and shake me back into society. I need a team of experts in the art of defusing detachment. A lineup of loved ones willing to bust down the barricade of my bravado and remind me of the beauty in being helped. Ninjas. I need Ninjas. Heck, I need a whole Ninja Network.

Enthused by the prospect of building such an army, I flipped open my computer and foraged around on my mostly neglected social networking page, finding half a dozen Facebook friends and drafting them by posting on their page “YOU are my ninja.” Perplexed, they pressed for details of the duties surrounding their enlistment. Zhac specifically wondered if her assignment could please include sneaking. Hoping to be more distinct, I first Googled, then Wikipediaed the word ninja, looking in vain for a suitable definition, one not too erudite or warlike. Unsatisfied, I chucked all the scholarly references right out the window, interpreted my own contemporary etymology, and sent all my Ninjas a note:

If you are my Ninja…

nin⋅ja /ˈnɪndʒə/ Pronunciation [nin-juh] –noun, plural -ja, -jas. (often initial capital letter)An enduring friend and member of a loyal inner-circle society highly trained in camaraderie and enthusiasm, which collaborates for shared purposes ranging from mindful and uplifting conversation to good clean fun.

If you are my Ninja it’s because I can count on you to fight at my side, have my back, slap some sense into me, sing me a silly song, send me a comforting note, or remind me of the life I deserve. I’m totally lucky to have you.

Better Together

Then I began to call them all; to reconnect the dots and resurrect our relationships, to fill them in and hear them out, to offer and to ask, to simply say hello, I like you. To a one, they were happy to hear from me. To my surprise, they already knew they were my Ninjas. To my relief and satisfaction, they were proud of it.

I didn’t come up with the idea of a Ninja Network on my own. Like many favorite inspirations, it was pilfered with permission. To my knowledge, the first Ninja Network was born some months back out of desperation and immediacy, over a pizza. The brainchild of a former narcotics addict who understood his recovery would never be realized until he removed the numbers of his drug dealers from the speed dial slots on his cell phone. A super-charged spring-cleaning of sorts, out with the bad and in with the good. For every dealer dumped, he inserted someone he considered a Ninja, a person he could count on for encouragement or camaraderie or a cup of coffee.

I sat with him today, chatting over a cup of coffee. We nodded at each other and smiled at how much better it feels to not be alone. We talked about the sine wave of life and enumerated our joy and our gratitude when our Ninjas show up precisely at the moment we need them. And although we never said it out loud, we know we are Ninja for each other.

We talked about how, if we never fall, never fail, never miss our mark, we lack the occasion to look down, to see the point from where we have come, to measure the trajectory of our success to this moment. And, as we recover our balance and stretch and brush ourselves off and turn our face upward, as we move to stand and right ourselves and renew our journey, we see not only that place, that level to which we have thus far climbed, but further, to the highest apex of our possibility.

Simply put, (and I must admit, stolen word-for-word from his lips) if we never come crashing down, we never have the chance to look upward toward where we can go.

It’s been a rollercoaster, these last few years. The high points have been spectacular and wonderful. The low points crashing blows. I tried to ride it out alone. But the going was rough and the solitude suffocating. Now it’s a new spring, a new attitude, and a new theme song. Today, when my phone rings, I hear “Love Rollercoaster.” And I dance. Badly, and happily. And with my friends.

Build Your Ninja Network

  1. Make a list of five or ten or a hundred things you want to invite into your life. A healthier body. A more pleasant commute. A fun plan for the weekend. A balanced budget. A tidy sock drawer.
  2. Select from your social network of coworkers, friends, and family five or ten or a hundred Ninja. Put their numbers in your speed dial. Call each one.
  3. Inform them that they have been hand-selected as Ninja to collaborate with you on a wonderful life. Advise them that you are likewise at their service. Ask them what they would put on their list.
  4. Lather, rinse, repeat.