Front Porch Confessional
I’m secretly one of those dad’s.
Sitting in the sun Saturday, I watched my son labor for about 2 hours in his first singles tennis match of the fall season. Tennis is a long lost love of mine. My son is learning to like it. Unlike other sports, my son is learning that tennis provides a constant opportunity for the testing of self-control and the experience of humility. It doesn’t come as easy as some of the other sports for him. Therefore, watching him play tennis doesn’t come as easy for this dad as does watching him play other sports.
You see, I have made a conscious effort not to be that dad at events who is explicitly living out his own inadequacies through his child’s athletic exploits. So, to the casual observer, I’ve won that battle. However, deep down, it’s a struggle.
Tennis has a rule that you can’t coach from the sidelines. In 2 hours, I’m pretty sure I restrained myself about 241 times. I gave an occasional thumbs up and “golf clap,” which I guess could be called a “tennis clap”–it’s the same thing.
Watching your kid, on his own, compete 1:1 with another kid is fun. And, for me, it’s excruciating. I’m awfully glad each point isn’t as painful for him as it is for me. I want him to do so well. And, I want him to learn how to battle adversity and never give up. Actually, I know this is important for him to learn, so I know he needs it, but I don’t really want it. So, he got a lot of practice at dealing with frustration and failure Saturday. Secondarily, he won.
Due to all the quiet time I spent in those 2 hours, I was struck at how much watching your kid perform at whatever is simply a microcosm of life with a child in general. You can parent, practice, plan, teach, coach, pray, prepare, rehearse, pray more, etc., but eventually you just gotta let your child be. Live. Love. Succeed. Fail. Learn. Live some more.
And, frankly, if I was free to yap away at my son for those 2 hours, correcting his every stroke or strategy that did not work, I’m quite sure it would not have helped. It would only have alleviated my own anxiety. And, I’m pretty sure he would have eventually told me to shut up. And, I wouldn’t have blamed him.
Well, the confessional got my wandering mind thinking. It didn’t help actually do anything constructive; instead, just to create another distraction. To be fair to myself, maybe I have found a little hobby that has really been with me for most of my adult life.
What do you get when you combine an often cantankerous soul, frustrated with life, with a very natural hunger pang? You get me. You get Peckish.
If you want to follow along on the latest (surely not the last) venture off the front porch, come along.
We’re already in progress…
A first in a series of posts that just have to happen. Think Augustine’s Confessions, but with a banjo and a spittoon. Maybe someone else can relate and pontificate with me. If not, well, it’s a nice night anyway.
Front Porch Confessional
Occasionally, I am fascinated by the amount of denial at work in my life. I’m assuming I am not the only one who finds a way to rationalize away how one looks in a picture on FB or in real life for that matter. It only takes one 3 year old in the line at the grocery store, giving a public proclamation as to why he thinks I really like a lot of potato chips, to shake me back into vivid reality. That Don Juan in the mirror earlier this morning? He’s a mirage.
Public proclamations of healthier living are everywhere. Social networking has just given a more instant platform to what has already been a huge trend in our society. Billions of dollars have been spent by people with great intentions to improve their well-being/appearance/condition for decades now. It doesn’t even begin to slow down when talking about things not physical in nature. More billions tossed at books/videos/retreats/conferences, etc. to better one’s emotional well-being in whatever facet one wants. Despite all the money spent in all things “self-help,” it seems like the same answer resounds when people are asked what helped them finally take a step in a different direction from the rut in which they’ve been entrenched.
“Sobering Reality” is a phrase that was coined to demonstrate how we are capable of stumbling around in a drunken state of fantasy until something snaps us to attention, forcing us to evaluate something for what it truly is. Plans, methods, gurus, are dandy. But it seems like the bottom line for many making a significant change is doing the same thing has finally become more painful than the risk of fearfully engaging something that is different. I am a pro at rationalizing lousy circumstances into what’s comfortable and “not really that bad.”
I learned one thing in science growing up. Creatures like what’s known. Ultimately they become very invested in keeping to things that are known. Also, fear is an innate instinct given to all creatures to avoid pain and danger. However, I (and hoping I’m not alone here) as a creature of earth, will do, say, believe, convince, prove, contort, falsify, validate, create, and replicate ANYTHING to get “safely” back into predictable patterns of what is familiar–No matter how lousy it may be.
So, in sum, denial is a 1/5th of whiskey with magical powers to make that which is truly lousy or even destructive, seem perfectly known and normal. Denial: adding a whole new meaning to ‘belly up to the bar’.
I’m not fun to be around in the summer. I’m a grumbler. Once I have the first day of summer north of 75 degrees, I fantasize about living in places with low-hanging fog and cloud cover that can blanket out the sky. Vitamin D is for wimps. And on and on I go…
Growing up a redhead in the ’80s, I used my share of zinc oxide and t-shirts in the pool. And, not the cool “swim-shirts” they have for kids these days that are all sleek and lightweight, reminiscent of a surfer’s attire. Uh-uh. I usually put on some kind of cotton blend that, when wet hung down past my knees and typically served as some kind of swimming hazard for myself and any other kind within a couple feet of me.
One time, among many others, I remember getting a classic sunburn that basically left me in some kind of prone position on the floor for what seemed like weeks. I spent days flat on my stomach arms spread out like I was being patted down by a police officer. Of course, as a kid, this was the worst thing that could have happened. And, I’m really not even talking about the burn. The fact that I couldn’t go to the pool or go to the vacant lot to play some whiffle ball, or whatever…..that’s what killed me.
Fast-forward 20 some years and I find myself longing for the sunburn–the kind that puts me out of commission for a week. Actually, I guess I could just find a way to take some time off. It would be less painful, anyway. The theme that carries this blog is that of the front porch. Confession: I don’t have one. Actually, I do, but I couldn’t put a chair on it and have anyone be able to walk through the front door. It’s more of a metaphor for me. A chance to sit. Maybe, it’s a chance to talk to someone about anything going on in the neighborhood or in the world. But, mostly it’s about a pace, not a place. It’s a pace that most of us simply never keep. It’s amazing how much guilt exists in our culture over “doing” nothing. Well, here’s to a revolution of a generation that’s not afraid to do nothing. And, anyway, by definition, doing nothing is doing something…..
So, inspired by the multitude of sunburns that reminded me I was stupid and frolicked around for too long, in obvious denial about my own condition, I’m challenging myself, and anybody else who wants to play along, to take advantage of this holiday weekend. Let’s try our best to stop. Just stop. I wonder what would happen if I just stopped?
this post starts with a confession: I basically follow all sports, including cardinal baseball, via beat writers on Twitter. Real time updates and commentary. Oh, and I read some box scores. Hard-hitting stuff, I know. Now for some deep analysis;)
The Cardinals made a huge buzz in the off-season on two fronts. One: they were able to keep possibly the biggest hitting, off-season free agent in town in the person of Matt Holliday. Two: they inked, or should I say, injected, Mark McGwire into the dugout as team hitting coach. Realistically, it was the latter move that received the most national headlines. It is rare a hitting coach gets such attention. Mark McGwire is a rare breed in history, to say the least.
Speaking of the least, the Cardinals are treading water with the upstart Cincinnati Reds atop the division. All things considered, they could be in a much worse place. The problem is, most expected this team to be up 10 games or so and to be mentioned in the same breath as the Yankees and Phillies. Instead, they are “fine”, but questions persist. Namely, is anyone in the batting lineup actually ready to report to the start of the 2010 season? I know, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I know, Pujols and Holliday are automatics over the coarse of the season and their average numbers will be there by year’s end. I’ve never been an alarmist. And, in fact, I rarely even watch this team play. Moreover, I’ve probably seen 15 innings on television this year. So what gives me the right to have any kind of opinion on what’s not going on with this team? Nothing. Nada. Cero. Nil. And, so on. I can read box scores, however. I won’t bore you with stats. Mainly because I’m bored with them. But, I’ll say this. 1/4 of the way through the season can give you a pretty telling taste of how things go. There are always streaky exceptions. I live in a town where the Rockies have been recently notorious for stinking it up for 3/4 of the season and catch fire late to sneak into the postseason. There are other examples. Mostly, though. “You are, who we thought you were”, to plagiarize a football coach’s phrase whom most of you who hate sports would never be able to identify in a police lineup, so I won’t credit him;)
So, that’s a lot of rambling to get to an observation I made a month ago on facebook. At what point do we look at the coach’s hitting approach he is instilling in his club and hold him accountable for their performance? I don’t know. Not yet, I wouldn’t think. I hope he’s grilling his own approach. I know many of the Cards lesser hitters have been training with him in the off-season in SoCal long before he had the official title. They raved about him. These are pros, not 10 year olds. I’m surely not trying to bail them out for their lousy start and putting it on Big Mac. However, the apples aren’t falling far from the Redwood over in the corner of the dugout.
This brings me to things of Spiritual and Parental significance. If farmer Joe plants a bunch of seed of a given fruit/vegetable variety; then, farmer Joe should not be surprised when that specific fruit/vegetable comes to fruition. Similarly, if a parent continues to exhibit certain habits throughout their day; then, said parent should not be surprised that the little one toddling around will eventually begin to bear that fruit from the seed that had been planted and nurtured (actively or passively) over the course of time. No, humans are not as determined in that sense as a green bean, for instance. There are many other variables that can influence one’s flavor in life. However, humans are naturally and obviously influenced by those in direct authority above them. This is good to remember both as the “influencee” and the “influencer” in life.
Back in his day, Big Lack was not exactly known as a tremendous hitter. You know, the pin point control of a bat like he’s got a magic wand….or, the ability to hit virtually any pitch in any location in any given situation in order to benefit the team. Nope. The redheaded beast was known for taking your junk about waist high and over the plate and depositing it into the stratosphere about 1 out of every 7-10 at-bats depending on the year. I’m not even going to “talk about the past,” as McGwire put it in front of the supreme court on the infamous day. Instead, just take a gander down memory lane and remember him as a hitter. All or nothing. I’m not talking about the last few years amidst all the controversy. I’m talking about the early 90s when he was fighting injuries and such before he and Jose Canseco became much “closer.” McGwire was a tremendous power hitter and not much else. That’s not to say he can’t communicate hitting technique and approach. I bet he can. But something is getting lost in the message. Or, the message stinks. I don’t know. I don’t even watch the games.
It’s unfair to lay everything at the feet of Big Mac; at least, for now it is. But, one has to wonder how the other 6 position players are going to figure this out this year. I’m not saying anything; I’m just sayin’….. a stroll by Big Mac’s locker may not be such a bad idea. You never know what you may find hidden in there for that much-needed boost.
Oh, and GoCards.
In light of a recent post about taking risks, I am magnetically pulled to think about what I holding on to.
we’ve got a jumper
I heard about a friend who is leaping right now as we speak. Really leaping. The scary reality is, he doesn’t know where he’s landing. He’s following what he knows is right, but, in my estimation, there is still some doubt. Maybe its deep in the recesses of his mind, but it’s there. If there isn’t you’re probably not human. Or, you’re crazy. Not like a fox, either. Inevitably, for one person to leap from something to something else, she has to let go of said something to free herself up for the leap.
everybody needs a woogie
Security blankets, whether literal or metaphorical, are awesome. We all need them. However, there comes a time when they become a hindrance. For instance, I could take my favorite childhood blanket with me on my visits to potential customers, but I would probably have a hard time turning their attention away from it in order to focus on the reason for my visit. On the other hand, if I was selling nap-time music to preschool day-cares, then it might be a handy prop to help me seal the deal. But I digress.
who says you can’t lick an icy flag pole?
Real life decisions that push our own envelope are nerve-racking for most of us. For the most part, that’s a good thing. We should check our gut impulses against Truths we know. Sometimes, we confuse Truth with conventional wisdom. Furthermore, I would argue some of the most influencing folks in history were a bit “unconventionally” wise.
My questions for myself today are these. What am I holding onto? Why am I holding onto it? Is it hindering me or helping me? Can I let it go? Why not? Do I have to let it go forever, or for just a spell? Does anyone have any needle and thread? The edges are fraying a bit.
The other day my son asked me why “we even have those mirrors on the side of the car.” I told him about how they obviously enhance our chances of not ramming our car into someone/something that may otherwise be in our way when we switch lanes or make a turn. We drove some more.
“Now, why aren’t you using the mirror if it helps so much?,” said my all too inquisitive 10 year old. Evidently, I did the traditional peak-over-the-shoulder glance before switching lanes. Having dreadful flashbacks to being 15 years old in Driver’s Ed class with Coach Sanders’ right foot hovering over the chicken brake, I mumbled some sarcastic remark which firmly entrenched myself into a war of words with my son. I know, I’m very mature.
After we settled that discord, I told my son the mirror provides most views that I need to safely navigate from side to side and such. However, I need to still look because there is that little window of ‘nowheresville’ where anything could be lurking; just waiting to gift my insurance agent with a claim.
Me: “It’s called a blind-spot, son.”
Son: “What’s a blind-spot?”
Me: “I just told you.”
Son: “That doesn’t make any sense.”
Me: “Go read my blog.”
Blindspots. We all have them. Sometimes, therein lies something that just spooks us a bit. Something that sneaks up on us. Startles us. Sometimes, that dead space holds danger that is devastating and destructive. Bottom line? We all need a little help. A side mirror will only do so much. Sometimes our own due diligence to double check ourselves will only help so much. Sometimes we need a backseat driver. We all hate ’em, I know, but sometimes they are absolutely necessary.
This isn’t a call to be paralyzed by fear. Hardly. It’s a reminder for me and, maybe you, to make sure we have people in our life that can help us see what we can’t. Trustworthy people that are looking out for your good. And, plus, they’re probably selfishly motivated too; because, if you ignore your blind-spot and plow on, you increase the odds that you might hurt them in the wreckage. They don’t want that.
Who doesn’t like being safe? When you’re playing tag as a kid, it’s always seemed best to to beat it to the home base and and proclaim thyself “SAFE!”
But not for Matt. He was always one who would dare to stay out there. Darting. Dodging. Maybe even taunting. He was quick enough to dare to dare. He was cocky, to be sure. But he owned it. He trusted his ability. Maybe occasionally he got caught. But I don’t remember it. I just remember him going for it and stretching out the game just for the sake of the competition. All the while most of us watched–“safe” at home base.
Adulthood, and especially parenthood, often lends itself to safe living. Not all bad, of course, but I’m wondering….Why not a risk here or there. I’m not talking about betting the house in Vegas. I’m talking about trusting our guts and our abilities that we have been given and/or crafted for decades now. Trust it. Go for it. Play a little. Feel the competition. Stay in the game. We can play it safe tomorrow.
I wanted to make a quick entry here as a strong nod in the direction of Kansas City to a man, his family and his community that are about the things that are meaningful to me, but that I seem to have lost connection with over time. Thank you Ethan for slowing us down; allowing us to take notice; to pay attention to needs; to celebrate passions; to honor humanity and our God.