So, Life in the Mess

There are days.

There are days when I am feeling good, things are going good, and even when I hit a road bump, I slow and go over it. You know those days, you look in the mirror and go, “dude, you look good” (say this with attitude). The days when you just are happy and perky and friendly to others, let people in line in front of you, relaxed, easy going. Those days. Lets call them Type A days.

I love those days.

Other days, nothing is really wrong or right, just a day, you go along and you may let people in, you may not, whatever. You look in the mirror and accept that it is you. You feel okay, not really great, but not bad either. lets call these Type B days.

Those are most days.

Then there are the other days.

On those other days, you look and say, that can’t be me, I don’t look like that, I sure don’t feel like I look like that. When did I get so… (you fill in the blank). Days when even if things felt okay, slowly life convinces you that it is a lot of things, but okay isn’t one of them. You forget things, you drop things, you feel grumpy or annoyed, you are struggling. Struggling to get through, to get past, to get around. The days when road bumps seem like mountains, and you have energy to maybe stay the course, but for sure not enough energy to climb. Lets call these Type C days.

Now if you have depression, your capacity to climb is less even on good days. I’m not particularly talking about that, though the experience is the same, depressive people just have less of Type A, and more Type B, and way too many Type C days.

Today is a Type C day. It didn’t feel that way this morning, but I have learned that these Type C days are sneaky, they pose as B’s or A’s, but they aren’t. They are Type C, and they want to sap you, they want to steal the day from you, they want to suck your energy. They want to win, and as important they want you to lose. Every time you lose it is like a victory that they can celebrate and remind you of on other days, on better days. If you don’t fight for the A’s and B’s, then C’s will steal the day from you.

Today, I am fighting, to get back my Type A day, or at least a Type B day. Type C cannot win today. Today is too important, today is too valuable. There is only one today, if I let C win, I will not get it back, it will be a reminder of my failure, a reminder of my loss.

Every day is today, every day is important. Every day I need to engage and fight for the A’s and B’s. Every day I need to resist the C.

Life is a mess, I live in the mess, cause where else, but I can be better than I have been, I can fight more, I can win more…can’t I?

Or is that a trap, is that another way C can win, by making me fight more and using that against me when I don’t have the energy anymore? I don’t know. I do know that if I don’t try, life will be all C’s with a few B’s, so fight I must and fight I will.

Yes, life is a mess and I am messy, but messy does not mean unworthy and C has told me that too many days, so today I fight.

Bring on the A.

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So, Life is like a bicycle?

My friend and I have been sharing bike metaphors over the past little while and a few days ago he sent me a text that said “I think my tires are flat” I knew what he was talking about, I knew that exact feeling. My heart broke hearing it from someone else. I imagine we have all been in that place at one time or another. That place where you can’t get any traction, you can’t even begin to move, you can’t start to do anything, you are just stuck, with no idea how to begin to get going.

Flat tires on a bike need repair before it can be used for what it was made for. If you are like me, I guess I would try to figure out if the tire is shot or can be repaired. Then I would go and find a place to get a patch kit (assuming fixing is even possible). I guess then, after figuring out where the patch needs to be, I would apply said patch and re-inflate the tire and give it a go. I would always be expecting it to:

a. not work in the first place, or

b. Work for a bit, then fail, or

c. work long enough for me to be so far from home that it would totally suck to get back, then break again, or

d. have some other essential part on the bike break shortly thereafter

Perhaps this is a bad way to look at life, check that. This is a bad way to look at life. If his metaphorical tires are flat, he is stuck, he needs help, but if he is like me, he won’t ask, maybe won’t even accept help. It is sometimes harder in real life to figure out if the situation is repairable, or just broken and needs replacing altogether. It is also harder to find good help. I mean if we were talking about a bike, I would definitely not ask me for help. I am not good at that.

But we aren’t talking about a real bike, we are talking about life, and my friend’s tires are flat. He hasn’t asked for help, I long to help, but I truly don’t know how to, so I guess I am not good at that either. I can share the pain, a bit, well not really because I’m not in the same pain he is. I can be with him to let him talk about his pain, but guys don’t really like that too much.

My friend and I once watched an entire NFL game without saying more than 20 words to each other. It was a great afternoon, we both enjoyed it a lot. Talking about our tires isn’t something we are likely to do. If we did, I would want him to hear this. I too have been in that place. I have had flat tires, I have felt spent and lost, and broken, and as the man in my house, felt like I had let everyone down. I should be able to make this bike work, but I didn’t, I can’t and now it is broken. I know the pain of that. I know the frustration of that. I know the heartache of that.

Guys aren’t supposed to have flat tires, if we do, we are supposed to know how to fix them, we are supposed to have all the tools nearby to fix them. Guys are supposed to have solid rubber tires that never go flat or something. We don’t though, or at least me and my friend don’t. We are left going through this world with tires that go flat. This world hurts. Stuff sucks sometimes.

My tires aren’t flat right now, but I bet it won’t be long, cause I fixed them myself. I made do with the tools I had, I patched it myself and because I’m not really equipped for that, it will blow sooner or later. Life is just like that.

So your tires are flat? I hear you my friend. I am with you, you can borrow my tools anytime. I’ll even give what little help I can, because you know what? Life only makes sense when we live it together in community.

Got flat tires?

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So, March Madness

I just watched yet another video talking about how terrible it is that the players in the NCAA are not paid and the tournament makes $1 Billion dollars every year. I have heard this every year for so many years it grows tiresome, the latest was by John Oliver. I am not linking it, but I am sure you can find it if you want. I’ll save you the trouble though. Here it is in a brief nutshell…NCAA bad, Players treated terrible. There is money and the players should be paid, since the money only exists because of them.

Here is my problem with this, aside from John Oliver and cheap humor shots that he takes on everything, it shows a distinct and disturbing view on money in our culture. This is what all of these people are saying – if there is money made then it must be fairly divided. Well now that doesn’t seem so bad does it? Student athletes are barely students at most schools and though tuition room and board is covered now, that is not really that great a deal if the education portion is smoke and mirrors. But, here is the thing, and it is a big thing, life does not and never has, worked that way. These student athletes are given an opportunity that many would otherwise not have, they take it or leave it as they choose. I understand the pressure and the lure of playing in the NBA or NFL, but the fact remains. A full scholarship to university where you can, if you choose, earn a degree. After school, whether you become a professional athlete or not, that degree can change you life and the outcome of that life.

Yes millions of dollars are made, yes that money does not go to the athletes, but something precious does, an opportunity. Opportunities to totally transform your circumstances are not that common. Many are missed, many are ignored, but many are not. So many student athletes in so many different sports earn college degrees and through those scholarships and that education change their own lives. Yes they are trading a commodity (their physical ability) for that opportunity. Yes a lot of money is made and none of it by the students at the NCAA level, however without those millions of dollars, the opportunity in so many other sports is more limited. And for me, it is not just that, it also that in our lives, we often work for companies who make money based on our talents. That is the trade off. I give you my time, and ability, you pay me a salary.

I don’t get rich, but the company I work for might. In our day and age, we think that isn’t fair, I should get more money. Sometimes, I agree. When Walmart makes billions but doesn’t pay a living wage to it’s employees, I think that is wrong. But if they paid those employees to go to college and earn a degree so they can advance their own careers, well I actually think that becomes a trade off I can live with. Student Athletes have a golden opportunity if they can take it, to better themselves. To do something, to trade something of theirs for something that the schools have. Yes, the school will make money, yes the advertisers will make money, yes the tv people will make money, but I can be better at the end. I would make that trade if it were offered to me.

The NCAA is not perfect, far from it, they are flawed and slow to change and the change is almost never to benefit the students, but I would not be one who thinks that student athletes should be paid to play. We have leagues for that. Let the student athletes be paid in an education. I would like to see the NCAA guarantee that education to any student athlete who receives a scholarship, you can attend that school on that scholarship to a degree, if you choose.

So, I will be watching the tournament, I will enjoy it, I will root for my favorite team, and I will feel fine about it.

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So, Ray Rice and Domestic Abuse

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. A few things happening in the world have sort of catalyzed this in my head.I have found myself arguing for things I don’t really like very much. What I am saying is logical perhaps, but still wrong. I will give you an example…

Ray Rice is/was and NFL player who in February punched his pregnant, then fiance, now wife in an elevator, knocking her unconscious. There is a video. The NFL at first did nothing and now he is indefinitely suspended and the team he played for (The Baltimore Ravens) have terminated his contract. These are the brief and rough facts. Here is what I have been saying about that. The NFL is sort of stuck, either they are a business run for the profit of their shareholders, or they are not. If they are, then they should take care to put the best product forward, and that would include Ray Rice. If they are somehow more than just a business, should they not, keep Ray Rice around, suspend him from playing for sure, but get him help. Get him into treatment, anger management and counselling. You see on one side, they have no obligation, on the other they do. I have further argued that the NFL, wants to appear to be option number 2, while really being only option number 1.

This is all true in so far as it goes. My problem is this, we have a problem in our society. Men have created it, the media have encouraged it, and all of us have allowed it. The problem is we treat women and their bodies like commodities. They don’t belong to the women who inhabit them, they are ours to look at, to touch, to take when we want. It is crap, it is insipid and insidious and it needs to stop. Ray Rice is not the problem, but he has shown us clearly that the problem exists.

The media portray men as stupid, but worse they portray women as objects. We live in a culture where rape jokes are laughed at, where there is an epidemic of date rape and ignoring the issue of treating women in this way. It has to stop. I don’t know how to stop it, it is so prevalent that I am not sure where to even begin, but the situation is bad. I used to think it would improve over time, but I don’t think that anymore.

Thinking like mine, was and is, part of the problem. I didn’t defend Ray Rice, but somehow was mitigating his actions, actually, I was simply ignoring his actions. I doubt Ray is a bad man, but he needs help. Vilifying him doesn’t help, but neither does pushing him off the shelf and turning to the next player, who has his own issues that we just aren’t aware of.

None of us, not one, is flawless, we all have stuff, we all have areas we aren’t proud of, are in fact ashamed of. I don’t want mine on the front cover of everything, any more than Ray Rice did. The media built him up and now eagerly tear him down. The media doesn’t actually care about Ray, or his wife, or any other women who are molested, abused, murdered, or objectified. They only care about selling their website, or tv show, or magazine (does anyone still buy those?). They only care about making money and since this has captured attention, they are totally in.

We need to change our culture. We need men to stand alongside women and say, ok this is enough now. Oh I get that there will be some glass house people throwing things, but we have to start somewhere. Women need to be seen as equals, all the way. We need to say, they can act how they want, dress how they want, do what they want and none of it gives men permission for anything. We are not entitled to anything, we are not owed anything.

The time has come, are you with me? I hope so.

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So, Joy and the Mind Cave

Today is the day. It is finally here. After months of talking about it, months of sharing thoughts about it, months of anticipation and a longing for this day…it is finally here. The NFL regular season starts today!

Okay, I get that that is not exciting to many people, and really, I want to discuss this broken part of myself, not the NFL.

You see, I have been anticipating this day, I do love to watch the NFL, but I am a half person. When facing something that I have been excited for for a while, vacation, guitar lessons, NFL, whatever it is. I go through that excitement, I make plans, I am all ready, but on the day, as it is happening, I shut down. I slide into myself and don’t allow the experience.

I don’t know why I do this. I do know that it takes a conscious effort to pull myself back out of the comfy little mind cave and rejoin the world.

Is it fear that causes this withdrawal? Is it the depression? Is it too overwhelming, like when there is too much light on a summer morning when the curtain is thrown open and your eyes cannot deal with it? Is that why I withdraw? Is there a way to stop this from happening? Do I want to stop this from happening?

I think I do. I appreciate that my mind cave has been a place of safety. I can’t be hurt there, because I don’t value anything there. It is a place of detachment, a security that I don’t care what happens because I don’t care.

I go to a movie and I am moved by the characters and their experiences, their pain, their joy, and yet in my own life, I mute those feelings. it is like if I feel them, it will be too much for this poor tortured soul to deal with and so I withdraw.

Oh,, to meet me, you might not know this, you might see me going through the same expressions, the same actions as everyone else, but I am not like everyone else, or at least I feel like I am not like everyone else. It occurs to me, perhaps everyone does this to different extents. Do you all, hide from experiencing life? Do we all do this?

That thought makes me feel like less of an alien and more like a fellow traveler on this road to see what life can do to us.

I remember as a younger man, driving down the main street in the town I grew up in and seeing a guy on the center median, listening to music on an ancient device called a walkman, he was dancing. This guy was oblivious to everything going on around him. He danced, badly, but with joy, to the soundtrack in his ears and in his mind. For roughly 30 years, I have longed to be him. To dance because I wanted to, because I could not contain myself. To take joy, anywhere joy was. To really live this life.

For 30 years, since I saw that man, I have continued to live life peering out from my mind cave, coming part way out, but always ready to retreat back into it at the least sign that I might lose control and show people the real me.

Is this simply who I am, or is this a habit I can change? Can I learn this, can I build a new habit, of joyfully…fearfully but joyfully, experience all that life has? Can all of us learn this, can we become people who don’t hide away, but rather people who dance and sing, who laugh when someone near us looks at us askance as if to say, “you shouldn’t act like that”. After all, we only get one go around here. I don’t want to just be a person who thinks only of himself, but I do think that if allow more expression of myself, I might…just might, become a better man, husband, father, son, brother, nephew, uncle, cousin, friend, citizen, Christian.

What if, just as a trial, we all decide to give it a go, really give life a go. Help each other, hurt with each other, laugh with each other, dance with each other, care with and for each other. What would this world be like then?

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So, The Tide

I love the ocean. I love the smell if it, the sound of it, I love gazing into it, I live swimming in it, wading in it, running shrieking from it because it is too cold.

I remember visiting the coast in a childhood visit to England. I was fascinated by the tide. I couldn’t see it creeping up, I couldn’t see that each wave rose higher than the one before. Over time I could see it though, pick a spot and over time it would be approached and then occasionally licked and then wet every wave and then never not wet and finally under water. I would then pick a new spot and watch the same thing happen.

This us how my depression happens. I don’t even notice the tide turning, but all of a sudden I see that the water is higher than before. So I pick my spot and try mentally to turn back the tide, done times I can, sometimes I win. Lots, though, lots I don’t. I see my spot consumed, and I look for a new spot.

My first spot is my snapping at foolish things, over reacting to minor grievances. The second is the dull unrelenting headache, the third is treating my wife badly.

I fight against it, but it us hard to push back the tide, there is no handle to grab, no wall to build. I long to return to normal, fearful always that I will not go all the way back.

Depression is an enemy that makes skirmishes into my mind, it attacks and retreats seeking my weaknesses, hoping I won’t notice until I am underwater.

Today I have no headache, I have not snapped at the otherwise unnoticeable, I am ok. I am however always mindful that the tide will return, it has no choice. Drawn by unseen forces it will battle for ground.

Maybe I don’t like the ocean as much as I thought I did.

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So, Golf and the media

I watch golf on TV. I just wanted to get that out there at the start of this. I like golf, and I enjoy watching it. I started watching it about the time Tiger Woods started playing professional golf, that is not a coincidence. Tiger’s success was intriguing to watch, I love watching an athlete in their prime play well, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, Brett Favre. I get if you don’t like them, but to me guys who elevate their sports are fascinating and almost mesmerizing to watch. I have never needed them to be great people (which is good, they mostly aren’t) I like them because they are great athletes that transcend their game, or lift it to a new level.

Now, here’s the thing. The media have been on the warpath for Tiger Woods for a long time. They hate how he treats them with disdain and so they love to show his failings. I have watched with interest as Dustin Johnson has been suspended for his third Cocaine infraction, and for allegedly having several affairs with other golfers’ wives causing at least one marriage to dissolve. What have the golf writers done in response to this, how about the general public? Not much, most stories seem to be at least somewhat sympathetic to him. There is no outcry, no constant harassment. Ok, he was never at the level of Tiger, but still, Tiger only broke up his own marriage, and as far as I know never did illegal drugs.

I dislike how Tiger Woods is treated. The media that vilify him, the other players that revel in his poor play, they should all, every single one of them, should be paying Tiger a percentage of what they make. Before Tiger there were only a few Million dollar events, golf was not on tv every weekend, the columnists had to cover other sports. Very few, if any, of those reporters would have full time employment covering golf if not for tiger Woods. Did he have disdain for the media, yep. But look at it from his perspective, he is the athlete, he is achieving all of this, he wins tournaments, what do those guys do, write about, talk about it, evaluate his every step and/or misstep. Of course he had disdain. Tiger isn’t friendly to the other players? So what, his job isn’t to be a buddy, his job and his passion is to win tournaments, so what if he finds that easier if he isn’t buddy buddy with Sergio Garcia.

Tiger Woods created modern golf. He created the industry that exists now around golf. Tiger Woods should be thanked daily for his contributions to this game. We should all be hoping and praying that he returns to health and to his winning ways, because who else is there? On a bad year, a year Tiger and the media and the other players called a bad year, he won 5 tournaments, closest other guy won 3. I miss him, I miss the fist pump, I miss the red shirt stalking the green, I miss the impossible shots, I still watch, but it is rarely as fun.

Tiger Woods is the golf equivalent of Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky, the game is forever changed because of him. there are young guys doing well, playing aggressively, making improbable shots, but we should be all thanking Tiger for what he has already achieved and stop talking about what he hasn’t yet done.

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