Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Round Here — May 30, 2023

Round Here

The site prompt today is asking if I remember life before the internet. Yes, I do. For some reason, I’m often very nostalgic lately, so at those times that life B.I. seems preferable. Whether the time actually was more simple, or I was, doesn’t really matter in my head.

I like to put together jigsaw puzzles. Don’t ask me if I do that on an app – you already know the answer. I still read physical books, still turn pages. Now that I think of it, it’s mostly for the same reason. When life gets noisy and heavy, finding pieces that fit perfectly (or opening a book and turning pages) turns that volume down. These small acts reduce the complexity of everything that surrounds me. It’s a little like that aphorism: a journey of a million miles begins with a single step. We can’t finish a puzzle now, we can only give our time and focus to finding the next piece.

The puzzle on the dining room table is one called Rock ‘n’ Roll, and is made up of artists, album covers, ticket stubs, and instruments. It’s pretty good puzzle artwork, the overwhelming sadness in Kurt Cobain’s eyes is obvious and as heartbreaking on my table as it was in real life. There is Ray Charles, The Beatles & The Stones, Joan Jett, and Kiss to name only a few. There is also the album cover from the 2nd best album ever recorded: August & Everything After, by Counting Crows. (The best is, of course, The Queen Is Dead.)

So now I’m listening to the live version of August & Everything After. It’s the whole thing, in order, and it’s unusual in that Counting Crows live versions are mostly unrecognizable from the studio album tracks. You have to know the lyrics to know Mr. Jones at a concert to realize it’s Mr. Jones, but you still can’t sing along. This particular release, though, sounds like the original, but…extra. They’re a terrific band, even as they sort of under-achieved, never building on the perfection of this debut. But how could they, honestly? I am sometimes angry at the Goo Goo Dolls. I want them to make an entire great full-length album, and they don’t, they won’t. It’s like an act of rebellion. But Counting Crows made this 100% A+ masterpiece, and they deserve a pass forever.

Round Here is the first track and makes me cry every time I hear it (with both hands, it’s so sad and so beautiful. Like the great philosopher Rob Base once said, “joy and pain.”)

My wedding Anniversary was Saturday, and my son graduates high school on Friday. Those are the bookends to a week marked with the challenge of holding 2 life-changing events carefully and joyfully. I married the Angel 22 years ago, and the term soul mate is casually tossed around but rarely appropriate. She is easily mine and I hope I’ve risen to even 3% of what she deserves. My son is 18 and steps into an adult life that I get to watch from a front row seat, the best one in the world. He is everything I dreamed he’d be and more.

This week will have baseball games and work and blog posts about music puzzles and phone calls and workouts, but the majority of the week in my heart will be a staggering gratitude. I began this by talking about nostalgia, and I sort of miss Swatch watches and Atari 2600’s and getting up to change between 3 TV channels, but preferable? Baby, I wouldn’t change one thing about this amazing, messy, wonderful life that I have been given, and I wouldn’t miss these people and this week for anything.

Under Pressure — May 23, 2023

Under Pressure

The site prompt today is, “How do you feel about cold weather?” Probably just like everyone else. And I’m titling this post Under Pressure a little because it fits with what I’ll be talking about (which is NOT cold weather) and mostly because the Queen/Bowie song is just the best.

I write about youth sports a lot as a doorway. What happens between end lines is a perfect microcosm of the things we all experience everywhere else and a terrific conversation starter.

Last night the high school baseball team had their first playoff team, against a much better team. We won roughly as many as we lost, they didn’t, they won almost all of their games. In fact, they beat us 3 times by a combined 30-3 margin. They are a Catholic school and behaved, as I have found, as is sadly common to religious schools. They’re extraordinarily arrogant and without a shred of sportsmanship. (I know this is usually what teams say when they’ve lost by a combined 30-3, but that doesn’t make it false.)

Our local school, a massive underdog, won the playoff game, the Catholic school’s season is over and we play on. That’s great, but not the point. The boys on the other side acted like babies, pouted, and cried afterwards, reminding us that they are still boys, no matter how big they are or how hard they throw. That isn’t even the point. Kids are pretty much the same wherever you go, emotional, irrational, and generally obnoxious. If we like them, their immaturity is endearing. If we don’t, it’s an indictment.

The Catholic school coaches are very, very good, their team is always sound. And when they win, they’ve been composed and well-mannered. But last night, they sulked, cursed loudly at the umpires (who, curiously, chose to shrink rather than enforce conduct regulations), continuously broke dugout/bench rules for players and coaches, and thoroughly embarrassed themselves.

It says, in Proverbs 24:10, “If you fail under pressure, your strength is not very great.” They say times of trial reveal character, and I’ve always been secretly afraid of the implications of that. I don’t really want the trial, but I do want to see my character as it truly is. It’s so easy to show class when the roads are smooth and all of the lights are green. What about in traffic on Pennsylvania highways? What about when things start to tighten up?

These coaches failed miserably yesterday. I don’t know them at all, and maybe this was a snapshot of their worst moments. Maybe they’re great dads and husbands. Maybe they’re usually community leaders and wonderful examples for their players. Maybe this is the exception. But on a big stage, in front of a lot of people, they tripped and fell.

That’s the thing about character, a lifetime of behavior can be dismantled in one regrettable moment or playoff ballgame. Of course that’s not fair, but it is reality. The storms are coming, the question is how will we navigate them? I guess we prepare, we train, we read, pray, grow, develop, we lift weights, not for today, but for the times we’ll have to use those muscles. We’ll find out how we’ll navigate them, we’ll discover what’s underneath; the hope is that who we are then is who we have been all along.

One Step Forward — May 17, 2023

One Step Forward

The site prompt today was to list my top 5 favorite fruits, and mine is pretty much like everyone’s. The taste of mangoes would make them number 1 by a mile, but as they’re such a chore to eat, it allows blueberries and pineapples to sometimes usurp the top spot. Whatever, like what you like, as long as it’s not red delicious apples.

Now, in an answer to the question “What would you tell other parents about raising a child with autism?” Angie Harrington says, “Parents need to know it’s very normal to feel overwhelmed, to feel like you lack the ability to handle this. All you can do is your best and take one step forward.”

Angie Harrington is a woman who was on The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City. I have sort of made a point of never having seen 1 minute of any Real Housewives edition. So, the last place I’d expect to find some real, useful wisdom is from one of the cast members. That’s what I know.

One of the things I’m learning is that truth and wisdom can be found any- and everywhere, if we only have eyes to see and ears to hear. Like fruit, we all feel pretty much the same about reality show participants. That’s a generalization, a stereotype, and ideas become generalizations because they are ‘generally’ accurate. But not always. And part of my becoming a wrinkly old man has been opening to the exceptions. That there are exceptions means that judgment is (or should be) nearly impossible. If there’s just 1, but we don’t know which 1, then we have to be open to every one. It’s a great way to live, and keeps me curious and interested, even about Real Housewives.

Angie Harrington said what she did about raising a child with autism, but it applies to parents of children without autism, non-parents, men, women, right and left handed people, of all colors, Dallas Cowboys and NY Giants fans. It applies to anyone who’s ever been overwhelmed by circumstances, which is everyone.

Maybe that’s not entirely correct, but I might (and probably would) suggest if we’ve never been overwhelmed, maybe our lives are too small. Maybe we’ve never risked anything. Maybe we’ve never run faster than we thought we could. Maybe we’re playing small.

Maybe we should be overwhelmed. Maybe we should question if we can handle this. Maybe we should be afraid, unsure, and take the step anyway.

It’s that one step that defines us, not the overwhelm, and not the uncertainty, or the avalanche of doubts. It’s not the fear, it’s the immeasurable courage of moving anyway. We all have an IF, and we all have the big choice of what to do with it. Will those ifs become the block walls that hold us or from which we leap? It may feel like just one tiny step forward but it’s actually the first letter on the blank page where we write our lives.

I hope I never stop being excited about what we’ll write today.

The Shar Pei — May 10, 2023

The Shar Pei

Over the last few days, I’ve gained an impossible amount of weight. For you to truly gain 1 pound of weight in a day, you would have to eat 3,500 MORE calories than your targeted intake. So in my case, I would have had to consume 5,700 calories yesterday to be 1 pound heavier. For the last 4 consecutive days, I’ve been 1 pound heavier each day. This is physically impossible, and I’m certain that it’ll ebb to a more reasonable number soon, but still… I wonder why. Did I have too much sodium or carbonation, am I the victim of a voodoo situation, a curse, it could be anything.

For a man who has struggled with weight and what we’d probably call body dysmorphia, this phenomenon is jarring, no matter if it’s impossible or not. I’m pretty sure I’m the only human exception to science.

I’m growing at such an alarming rate. I told the Angel this morning it’s a matter of time until she no longer fits in our queen bed.

My beard has been annexed by gray hairs, instead of the cool (or at least what I tell myself is the cool) dark stubble I usually wear. There are so many wrinkles on my face, I appear to be more shar pei than man. I can’t sleep through the night without getting up to pee, and then when I do get up, everything creaks and cracks. I wear readers and don’t even try to read the ridiculous restaurant menus anymore, I simply guess and hope they offer what I want. 2 people in this house have iPhones with fonts sized so small, it’s as if they’re both taunting me. This is 47.

Oh, and I have a son who will graduate next month. Last night was his high school baseball senior night, and the Angel and I cried on the field as they took our pictures. He turned 18 last week. I have this peculiar adult that has taken the place of my baby boy.

What else I want to tell you about 47 is that every word of this post is true, and that I don’t mind any of it. Not even a little. (Maybe the number on the scale a tiny bit, but that’ll come down. I guess aging can bring a gentle, kind level of perspective, where there is more than only right now and maybe overreacting hasn’t served me well before and wouldn’t now. I don’t have to skip breakfast.) If the Angel doesn’t fit in our queen, we’ll get a king. I have the greatest woman who still wants to sleep like spoons with me, and not much can be better than that.

My gray beard is awesome, I’m thinking of really letting it grow out. The creaks and cracks are from years and years of competition and it was totally worth it. There are still books worth reading, I don’t care what’s on their phones, and I have always asked the servers what I should be ordering anyway (who else knows better than them?).

As for that peculiar adult. I am the dad of one of the finest people I’ve ever met. With each year, he shows more and more – we’re all lucky he’s in the world. And as heartbreaking as it is that he doesn’t sleep on my chest on my sofa in my home anymore, now he can change your lives by being in them instead of just ours. To reference a very famous quotation, “This is my son, whom I love. In him I am well pleased.” I get to look him in the eyes as a man, and that is nothing to be overlooked or undervalued.

Yes, I look like a shar pei, but each of those wrinkles have stories. Every one of the crow’s feet on my eyes were etched with a billion smiles, laughs, and tears. I said tons of Hello’s and Goodbye’s. I suppose I could eliminate the lines with several hundred injections, but why would I want to? This is my life, and it’s wonderful. I did my best to be fully present and aware, to not miss a moment. I am one who has been blessed beyond reason or anything I could ever deserve.

I am a very grateful shar pei.

Something I’ll Never Understand — May 4, 2023

Something I’ll Never Understand

We all know several things about me, if you’ve ever read anything in this space. 1a. I live with the idea that we are all loved & accepted, and deserve to feel that way. 1b. Today is not simply an extension of yesterday, it isn’t just “what it is,” we aren’t just “who we are,” and our relationships aren’t just “the way they are.” And given 1a and 1b, We can do better starting right now. 2. The Angel is my special lady, and I’m very much in love with her and the still shocking idea that I get to be married to her. 3. I can’t seem to get enough of documentaries, the People’s Court, and Catfish. And 4. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out is my favorite song.

Because I hold all of those things closely to my heart, it pierces my heart to see people hurting and in pain, living lives as if we aren’t the treasures we so clearly are, making decisions that dismantle us, always settling for less.

The way this is manifesting in me right now is in regards to the way we relate to supposed catfishes. Sometimes, the Catfished discover they have not been lied to, that the person is exactly the name and face of who they thought it was. The “Catfish” just can’t meet, video chat, or commit, they have hidden separate profiles, collected money, acted as if they are single, and in some extreme cases, had fiancés or spouses. And the Catfished has a decision to make, a decision I absolutely cannot fathom.

I think of it in much the same way as I do affairs with married people. A person carries on with someone who is married, with what in mind? That they’ll leave their husband/wife and they can be together? But whyyyyyyy?

The personal ad/dating profile would read: Looking for an emotionally unavailable, selfish, manipulative, sickeningly passive, disrespectful, dishonest boy/girl who will treat me like a prostitute.

Why would anybody want someone like that? Why would we consider the opportunity to wait for someone with such little regard for their marriage, spouse, family, and us as a lucky one? Why would we so easily forget that Fernando is a boy who stood us up MORE THAN 20 TIMES, then did it on tv, after taking upwards of $4,000 from us, and hopefully give him another ‘second’ chance that we will live happily ever after?? If I would treat the Angel like nothing more than something I stepped in, what makes either of us dream that you would be different?

[I understand mistakes. I understand we all do things we don’t want to define us. And you know I understand transformation. But I also understand the difference between mistakes and patterns, between falling in a hole and living there. I’m talking about an affair, not an accident. 7 years of deceit, not the quick knee-jerk lie of a 6 year-old to avoid punishment.]

Would this even be a thing if we all really knew how much we are worth, how valuable we are? Would we allow ourselves to be fed table scraps? Would we feed table scraps to a queen? Would we lie so much if we believed we were enough and not as inadequate as we do? Would we buy those lies if we weren’t so insecure and afraid?

The thing is, in relationships like this, no one is operating under a framework of abundance, beauty and love. We have believed people are things to be used to prove ourselves. We all need a major perspective shift, and that begins here, now, with you and me. I don’t care who we were or what we’ve done yesterday or one hour ago, I care about what we do today and tomorrow. What could we build if we stopped seeing each other as lowest common denominator, if we stop settling for so much less? I bet it would be amazing.

Site Prompt — April 26, 2023

Site Prompt

The site prompt for today is: “Write about a time when you didn’t take action but wish you had. What would you have done differently?” This is easy, I remember the exact moment and can draw a straight line from my sickening passivity to this table, today.

In college, some friends and I were at a dance club. Maybe that’s a strange thing to type or to read. It seems like a lifetime ago, which, I suppose, it was. So, we’re at this dance club in Harrisburg, PA, the night is winding down, and I’m standing outside the bathroom waiting for these friends, staring through the lobby windows (this club was attached to a chain hotel.) A drunk woman and her equally drunk boy were just outside on the sidewalk. He was standing over her, screaming. She was crying. Just a really awful scene. Sadly, this sort of scene wasn’t/isn’t as rare as it should be.

I knew there was only one thing for me to do, yet I stood glued to the ugly lobby carpet, dearly wishing I was not there. Then he hit her with the bottle and dumped the rest over her head as she slumped to the curb with her head in her hands. My head and heart exploded into a fiery mess, I’m feverish even now as I write. Yet I stood stock still.

Then my friends came out, I told them what I had seen, and we ran out as the boy ran away. We checked on her, offered to call an ambulance (which she declined – as a matter of fact, she would later find a ride at the end of the night WITH HIM!!!!) and talked like we were big time Protectors of the Realm. We threatened him to each other, and detailed all of the ways we’d have thrashed him, if only we were there. But I was, there was no hypothetical “if only” for me to hide behind.

I was weak and afraid. That night, she was much less important than small, selfish me. Of course she went home with him, how could she possibly know her value, as long as there were guys like watching her be treated like this? She obviously thought she deserved this trash, and apparently, so did I. What a terrible thing to write. These prompts are supposed to be light and superficial, aren’t they? I guess I am misunderstanding the assignment.

I wallowed in shame for years, horrified by my disgusting behavior, until I began the long process of re-programming me from a soft, pathetic pleaser into something else. I can’t say it even mattered what the something else was, at the time, just that who I was simply wouldn’t do anymore. It wasn’t good enough for her, for my sister, mom, friends, for my future wife and sons. I didn’t believe in God then, but it certainly wouldn’t be good enough for Him. And it wasn’t good enough for me.

I badly want to go back to show & tell that girl that she was beautiful and worth everything, that she deserved much much more than table scraps, that she was loved. I’d like to show him that, too. Because to let him think that he was worth nothing more that to be that guy, overwhelmed by his own insecurity and inadequacy, is equally unacceptable.

So now, that’s what I do. Every moment of my life is given to sharing that message. (And I lift a lot of weights, not so I could break him in half, but so that that kid would think I might. And that any other time he – or anyone else – thinks about mistreating a woman, he would think there might be someone like me who also might.) I no longer carry the crushing shame, it’s now passion and purpose.

It’s a cliché that we wouldn’t change anything because then, we wouldn’t be the people we are now. And that’s totally true. But I still wish I would’ve gone outside 2 minutes earlier.

FIFA, Jimmy Johnson, and High School Sports — April 21, 2023

FIFA, Jimmy Johnson, and High School Sports

There is a Netflix documentary called FIFA Uncovered, that details the massive corruption scandal in the world’s largest soccer organization. It’s fascinating and disgusting. As power and greed grows, so does the brazenness of those at the top of the pyramid. What is always remarkable is how easy it is to see. Unfortunately, that vision is ignored until it isn’t, and then we’re all so very shocked. It’s like the the steroid era (as if it ended) in baseball; the players and statistics grew like balloons, we liked it a lot, and now they’re “cheaters” (which they were/are) and we pretend to be horrified (which we aren’t).

The coaches of most high school sports teams hold parents meetings where they spout good-sounding platitudes linking grades, showing up and effort to playing time. They threaten to remove players from the team for any and all infractions. I imagine that they do this with fingers crossed that they’ll never have to follow through on these ridiculous threats. Of course, every season they’re exposed.

What’s so offensive about those 2 stories is that, hidden in their obvious deception, is the belief that we are too stupid to recognize the scoops of excrement being shoveled onto our feet. The executive committee of FIFA, passing favors and business contracts on the eve of major elections, barely stifle their laughter while they reason mere coincidence. The baseball coach talks about character and integrity, passing drivel like “if you’re ineligible for 2 weeks, you’re off the team” with an expression that stops just short of winking at his assistants.

I say to my sons, “Do I look like your dumb little buddies? Do you think I’m the kind of person who will believe what you’re saying?” But they’re children, just testing the boundaries to see if, maybe, people are indeed that dumb. What they’ll find is that even their little buddies aren’t that dumb. That elementary discovery melts away as their proud arrogance grows and grows until they begin to think they are on a different level, better than you, and we are witless rocks lining the path to their thrones.

Of course, superficially, lies are designed to avoid responsibility. These lies are disrespectful because the deception is explicit evidence that their wants/needs/whatever are more important than yours. Just beneath that, barely concealed, is the blatant admission that Sepp Blatter, head of FIFA, or ex-boyfriend, or co-worker, or son’s coach, thinks you’ll believe it.

Most of us can deal with any truth, we’re very forgiving. Some of the people in the doc admitted wrongdoing, saying some version of, “I got caught,” and “it’s impossible to eliminate corruption.” Like Jose Canseco, cartoon-ish home run hitter, who said, “yes, everybody was doing it, I did too.” Now, we can talk about corruption or steroids. Now that we can see the problem, it can be addressed.

Jimmy Johnson was the coach of the Dallas Cowboys in the greatest years of the NFL, the early 90’s, when the Cowboys were winning 3 Super Bowls in 4 years. Once, the story goes, a marginal player fell asleep in a team meeting and was immediately cut from the team, in the meeting in front of the team. After explaining the importance of discipline and setting tones, Johnson was asked, “What if the player was Troy Aikman?” referring to their Hall Of Fame quarterback. He replied, “I’d go ask him to please wake up.”

Maybe it’s the disrespect that we can’t abide. Maybe that’s where all the division comes from. Maybe we can’t talk politics because we squish the other side, categorizing them as dumb, un-educated, ignorant, as less than us. That’s a pretty tough place to begin a conversation. I understand Jimmy Johnson’s perspective, it makes sense to me, I might even agree with it’s unfairness. But if you don’t even give me a chance, if you just assume I sit at the kids table, I can’t understand. The issue gets shelved until the lie gets revealed, our humanity suffers and trust dies.

FIFA Uncovered was fine, but I ended up feeling like I do after parents meetings: like I need a shower from being in the slime for too long.

Dreams — April 18, 2023


I just finished reading My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman. This isn’t my first time reading it and I cried just like I did each of the others. It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s inspiring and hopeful, and reminds us all why we don’t just give up when the news gets so bad and the searing pain of engagement gets so intense.

I turn down corners of pages that contain words, sentences, and/or passages that move me. When I re-read books, I look forward to those pages and sometimes I read the page several times and have no idea why I turned down that particular corner. Others, I know immediately. One of those turned down corners held this peach: “Because not all monsters were monsters in the beginning. Some are monsters born of sorrow.”

I’m thinking about the things we like and why we like the things we like. Maybe we choose the books/songs/movies, for whatever reasons (we like the cover art or it’s cheap or our friend gives us a gift). Or maybe those books/songs/films choose us (and we’d find them in our path somehow, over and over, until we finally pick it up when we’re exactly ready and explode). Do we like those things because we’re a certain way, or are we a certain way because we like them? Or a wonderful dance between the two? Maybe we are predisposed, open to the impact of a book about an 8 year-old girl, her grandmother, wurses, and monsters born of sorrow, and when we find each other, we join this dance.

On another page: “And probably a lot of people think Maud and Lennart shouldn’t do that, and that types of people like Sam shoudln’t even be allowed to live, let alone eat cookies. And those people are probably right. And they’re probably wrong too. But Maud says she’s firstly a grandmother and secondly a mother-in-law and thirdly a mother, and this is what grandmothers and mothers-in-law and mothers do. They fight for the good. And Lennart drinks coffee and agrees. And Maud bakes cookies, because when the darkness is too heavy to bear and too many things have been broken in too many ways to ever be fixed again, Maud doesn’t know what weapon to use if one can’t use dreams.”

I hope we’re all fighting for the good. In fact, I believe we’re all fighting for the good, in the way we fight for the good. (Well, mostly all – some people are selfish psychos who want to cause damage, but there are so few of them… Well, it’s like this. Bad pizza exists, but pizza is so rarely bad that it’s hardly worth ordering our lives around. Most bad pizzas aren’t psychos, they’re bad pizzas born of sorrow and loneliness and despair, and that sort of pizza doesn’t want to be awful at all.) So we’re fighting for the good, trying to find what weapons are ours to use.

Dreams are a Swedish cookie, that’s what Backman and Maud and Lennart are referring to. But when the darkness is too heavy to bear and too many things have been frozen in too many ways, maybe the other kind of dream is necessary, as well. (Actually, Maud and Lennart are the only ones referring to the cookie. Backman is obviously referring to both.) We get our imaginations drummed out of us very early, until we believe this is simply “how it is,” that people are untrustworthy, and all pizza is inherently bad. Reclaiming the truth requires, first, a dream. A dream that things can be better than they are, that we are worth fighting for, and that holding hands is still the best way to remember that all isn’t lost, that we are alive and that we are together.

Maybe amazing art like this is what made me so naive and awesome. Or maybe these books affirm my naïveté. It’s fun to think about but, in the end, who really cares? We have dreams to bake, people to love, and fighting to do.

Am I The Villain? — April 12, 2023

Am I The Villain?

I ripped this title from a song called Beach Zombies by Skye, with the lyric, “ooh, I’m tryna be a f***ing villain.” The Beautiful South is a great band who writes songs that are sometimes very, very dark but always sound like angels (Woman In The Wall, for example.) Beach Zombies sounds like a sweet love song, except for the lyrics. I’m not tryna be a villain, but I’ve at least got to consider the possibility that I am. Do villains usually know they’re the villains, or is good and bad a matter of the perspective of the one with the pen (or keyboard or Twitter or TikTok account)?

As you already know, I have a complicated relationship with youth sports. There are 2 ways to look at a successful coach. A wrong way, measured solely in wins and losses. And a right way, where the athletes are mentored in a sport by well-meaning people with character and integrity. They are taught sport and competition, but they are also shown the connection between this specific sport and a beautiful life off the field/court/pitch/etc. We have not had awesome luck with either. And I drift in and out of that dad in the stands, complaining and pointing out the obvious deficiencies.

I also coach baseball and I do not win games too often, but I bet you’d like to trust me with your kids for an overwhelming amount of time in season. And once, last year, a previous coach walked up and down the line of parents/fans loudly detailing my every flaw (through his eyes). It was disappointing and embarrassing, until he spent a whole inning informing MY WIFE, the Angel, of my ‘mistakes,’ at which point it became hilarious. A, it’s my wife and that seems like some kind of societal code violation. And B, if you want to talk about my flaws and mistakes, the Angel is already very well aware.

Am I that guy, embarrassing myself as I loudly expose my insecurities???? Am I the villain in this story??

Yes, of course these coaches aren’t doing any mentoring (well, not any particularly good mentoring – they are certainly showing a kind of example), and aren’t winning. They are obviously, publicly, having a very rough time navigating the tremendous responsibility and wonderful honor of the position.

Do you know what the main feeling I had for that guy, walking up the sidelines trashing me? Yes, of course, I felt anger, indignation, embarrassment, shame, and the need to fight in relatively small amounts, but the biggest portion by a long shot was sadness. I wanted him to be ok with himself, to not have his inadequacy the keys to his behavior. I was sad that he looked so foolish. I wanted to hug him and tell him he was enough, and that I liked him.

Why don’t I feel sad for these coaches? I know it’s because the sideline guy was attacking me, these guys are hurting my son.

But as much as we can learn from a positive sports experience, we can learn an equal amount from the inverse. How do we respond to adversity, to unfairness, to frustration, rage, and broken hearts? Can we still relate with class and dignity in our pain? How do we lose well?

We’ve been discussing these questions and ideas in my house, I’m trying to guide him on this treacherous path. But then I am sitting in the stands with my big mouth and open wounds. I think I probably am a villain, but I think we probably are all villains at some points, in some spaces.

Today is a new day. There’s a game in a few hours and it’ll drive me crazy, but it is a new opportunity to answer for myself the same questions my boy is facing. How will I respond? It’s only youth sports, but it’s an awful lot more. It’s always, always, a variation of “Who am I?” Sure, sometimes we forget, but the truth remains, and every circumstance is another chance to affirm the beauty of that answer,

Dissonance — April 4, 2023


The prompt today was: What are your morning rituals? What does the first hour of your morning look like? I wake up fast and get out of bed before I can begin to think about staying in my cozy warm bed. Then, I feed 2 guinea pigs and a rabbit, maybe eat something, and am at the gym in an hour. I don’t believe in motivation. In fact, I can’t exactly say if I want to do any of this anymore, these decisions were made years ago, now it’s simply who I am & what I do.

Now. Today, we’ll talk about Michael Jackson. Sort of. Do Michael Jackson songs sound different since we know how he conducted his personal life? Does the Cosby Show have the same appeal? Jonathan Majors, the actor who is playing big bad Kang the Conqueror in the MCU, was recently accused of domestic violence – I think the charges have been unfounded and dropped, but if he had been convicted, would we still line up and take the same pleasure in the upcoming movies?

We live in a culture that knows more behind-the-scenes personal information than ever before. When it’s negative personal information, does it matter? Does it factor in our enjoyment of the art? Is Thriller somehow tainted by gross legal charges? If so, why? Should it be that way?

I pastor a faith community, giving sermons every Sunday morning. Does the content suffer if my character is an issue? Is my commentary on the Bible somehow less relevant if my behavior is, um, problematic the rest of the week?

We have all been in situations where works of art have been made by reprehensible people (or people who’ve done reprehensible things). Now what? How do we reconcile that? Do we have to? Does it make a difference if the artist in an NFL player or a politician, if it’s in an arena or a church?

I seek out content in many places, and sometimes the transcript is solid and inspiring, but is much more complex when that same material is given by a flesh and blood human being. If a message about the importance of honesty comes from a wildly disingenuous mouth, well… And if that mouth is mine, you’d have to discern that I clearly don’t believe what I’m saying, and if I don’t believe it, can anyone? Should anyone?

Or maybe that’s too high a bar. Am I expecting perfection from artists? Or am I simply expecting authenticity? Is the problem when Bill Cosby is committing rapes in private AND publicly moralizing? And do the mega church pastors bother us because they’re hypocritically hiding their faults and missteps behind masks of self-righteousness and purity? Maybe our bar is actually embarrassingly low: don’t lie and don’t pretend.

I’ve been asking you all of these questions because I often ask me the same ones, but the truth is none of them matter. Maybe it’s not ok, maybe we shouldn’t, but we do. Maybe our expectations are too high,but they’re there. Maybe the art and artist should be taken separately, but they’re not. Whether we want to or not, whether it’s conscious or not, what we know creates a dissonance. The external context can unintentionally build walls and obstacles. The message is harder to hear from among the deafening noise the artist brings in the baggage of his/her life.

I said none of these questions matter, but that’s not entirely true. They need to be asked. As communicators, we have to acknowledge the potential pitfalls and hidden traps for the receiver. And as an audience, our biases and preconceived notions are things we need to confront. The more attention we pay to destroying any and all inauthenticity will lead to less and less connection interruption. Our images are the biggest, thickest dividers between us and the second the scales fall from our eyes and we see them, we can finally start to knock them down and finally start to really love each other.