Friday, April 24, 2009

Dazed and Confused

Reading my old articles can be a stressful experience. Scrolling through, paragraph by paragraph, I feel like I’m watching the horrifying “hobbling” scene from the movie Misery – my head cocked to one side, my face cringing, fearing what I’m going to see next. How bad is the writing? What was I thinking? Did I really say that?

So I was a little uneasy when I pulled up a piece I wrote a year ago that outlined the attributes of my potential “dream girl.” While the writing wasn’t as bad as I anticipated (it was still a bit sketchy), and the overall message was true, I ended up getting pimp-slapped by a sledgehammer-to-the-ankles realization I never saw coming:

I’m the stupidest guy on earth.

Having just broken up with someone who possessed every characteristic I had so eloquently articulated, how else could one explain my actions?

That’s a question I’ve been wrestling with since I decided to end the perfectly good relationship with my sweet, warm-hearted, vertically challenged (in a good way) girlfriend.

The elaborate, expanded answer is complicated enough to be its own article – or book, for that matter – but the simple explanation is that she was the collateral damage of emotional issues I’ve been fighting since well before I met her.

An innocent bystander to my inner-turmoil, she did nothing wrong, and she didn’t deserve to get hurt, making this an extremely difficult decision. Lord knows it would’ve been easier had she been some crazy, obsessive psycho who saved my discarded hair in a shoebox.

Simply getting the words out was a challenge, my voice wavering more than a politician’s principles. After we both said what we needed to say, we just sat there for a minute, the silence a deafening contrast to the laughter that had typically filled the room.

(Although I’m sure she was screaming inside, “Get the hell out of here, you %*$&#@^!”)

I’ve been in a haze ever since, sorting through a sordid cocktail of sadness, disappointment, regret and pretty much any other negative emotion out there. It’s all that I can think about. Did I do the right thing? Did I make a colossal mistake?

If it weren’t for Tylenol PM, I would probably resemble the backup dancers in the “Thriller” video by now.

It’s during times like these, as I’m tossing and turning, and the memories are racing through my head at 100 MPH, when I question if the chance at love is worth all the pain.

Despite the persistent temptation to reach out to her, we have not talked. While I miss laughing with her and joking with her, I know that taking space is the only way for the healing process to begin. I owe her at least that.

It hasn’t been easy, though, because I’m reminded of her at every turn. No matter what I see, no matter what I hear, I somehow tie it back to her – my own, cruel version of “6 Degrees to Kevin Bacon.” I wonder what she’s doing. I wonder if she’s hurting, just like me.

Look, I’m the one who did this, and I take full responsibility for what happened. But that doesn’t mean it’s not agonizing, and it doesn’t mean I don’t care about her.

I was just trying to not repeat my past relationship-related mistakes. I recognized early on how special she was, and I wanted to treat her the right way. Terrified of hurting her too deeply, I chose to err on the side of caution.

But in my attempt to be fair to her, was I fair to our relationship?

I just don’t know.

Considering all of my emotional baggage, I sometimes think I should do everyone a favor and go live by myself in the mountains, with only myself to torture. That way, no one would have to worry about engaging in the excruciating experience of caring for me.

I’ll keep trying to work through this mess, but what scars me the deepest is that my personal issues ended up hurting someone else. Yes, there is an inherent risk of getting burned that you accept upon entering a relationship, but still…she deserved better.

To her credit, while she might be cursing the day she gave me her number, she has handled everything with grace and class, not that I expected anything different…

She might only be 5’1”, but she’s a much bigger person than me.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Young at Heart

Thomas Boswell’s Strokes of Genius was my first “favorite” book. I was about 12 when I found it lying around the house, and having just started to play golf, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. My dad’s passion for the game was in my DNA, and reading about the great players, famous courses and prestigious tournaments only drew me in deeper.

While I probably re-read the whole book 100 times, the chapter that was the most special to me was the one about Augusta National Golf Club and The Masters Tournament. Titled “Cathedral in the Pines,” it painted the scene of a mythical, magical setting carved out of the Georgia woods, with rolling hills and emerald green grass; a timeless place where the soul of the game was at its purest.

Even at such a young age, I was fascinated with this spiritual element of the sport, and getting to The Masters became my holy grail. Simply hearing Augusta-related terms like “Magnolia Lane” and “Amen Corner” would send tingles down my spine. I’d sit in class and draw pictures of the famous 12th hole. Every putt I hit on the practice green was to win an imaginary Green Jacket.

As I’ve gotten older, this dream has remained in my heart, though my inner demons have tried their best to pry it out, throwing me off track, diverting me down life paths that have made me question at times who I really am and what I really want.

But every year, when the first full week of April – the tournament’s traditional date – rolls around, and I see the azaleas blooming and hear “Augusta on My Mind” playing (yes, The Masters has its own theme music), everything becomes clear again, because I’m reunited with the most authentic version of myself:

My inner-child.

The unreserved, uninhibited spirit in all of us, the inner-child is our foundation, the most innocent, genuine aspect of our being. And no matter how mature we get or how much money we make or how powerful we become, it’s always there, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.

As a kid, your relationship with the world is simple. An unwritten book, you are unconcerned with society’s rules and expectations, seeing everything through unprejudiced eyes. Keeping up appearances is the last thing on your mind, because you don’t even know you’re supposed to care about what other people think. All you want to do is play and have fun and be yourself.

But as you grow up and go to college and get a job, you have to slowly bury this part of you, lest you project anything but a cool and buttoned-up demeanor. There’s no place for this child-like wonder in, say, Corporate America, where the powers-that-be have determined that enforcing a dress code and a “professional atmosphere” is the recipe to get the best out of people.

What they seem to forget, though, is that the inner-child is where the imagination tends to reside. Just look at how creative kids can be. My childhood was spent dressing up in homemade costumes and playing out make-believe Super Bowls on the living room carpet. With the freedom to imagine, the realm of possibility was limitless. And no matter what happened that day at school, I always had the energy when I got home to visit my dreamland again.

Unfortunately, that’s too seldom the case anymore.

Being an adult is exhausting. If you’re not working your life away (who came up with the lopsided 5-to-2 workweek – weekend distribution anyway?), chances are you’re probably stressing about money, love or lack thereof.

That’s why it’s essential to make the time to act like a kid. Un-tuck that dress shirt and go shoot baskets. Dance freely to the song only you can hear in your head. Drop trou’ and shoot the “moon” out of your car’s back window. You might be surprised at how something so silly can take the edge off and soften your perspective on things.

More importantly, though, losing touch with your inner-child is to lose touch with who you really are.

So if you’re feeling lost or are in a rut and can’t figure out what to do with your life, do as my mom-the-therapist suggests: think back to what you loved to do as a child. Because even though you might not have known that two-plus-two equaled four, you did know what made you happy.

For me, that was always playing golf; learning, growing, challenging myself every chance I got, racing the sun to the 18th green. The Masters is my yearly reminder of what’s still possible, that my dreams are still out there.

I just have to let my guard down long enough to let the little boy inside me lead the way.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Impossible is Nothing

We all have our go-to web sites. Whether it’s, Facebook or some other random address on the internet, logging onto them is part of our daily routine, a non-negotiable requirement that must be met before we can do…you know…actual work.

As a lifelong University of Texas fan, is at the top of my list, a one-stop-shop for everything Longhorn athletics. Game analysis, practice reports, recruiting updates – it’s the perfect fix for the I-care-way-too-much UT sports addict.

Recently, I was scrolling through the message boards when I came across a thread titled “Cool Video.” Typically, the videos posted aren’t anything remarkable (unless you’re like me and get excited over highlight tapes of high school football players), but this one was different…

Nick Vujicic was born without any limbs. Doctors have never been able to give him a medical explanation why.

Seeing him, my first reaction was, “How do I have any problems?” This guy was dealt one of the worst possible hands in the deck – no arms, no legs, no reason – and here I am, blessed with an embarrassment of good fortune. My day-to-day existence has to be as challenging as a first-grade spelling test compared to his.

But then I quickly stopped myself. While this was a great reminder to be appreciative, I’ve never believed in living by the motto of "It could be worse." Not only is it an attitude that tends to make light of people’s pain (regardless of outside opinion, whatever you’re struggling with is very real and very hurtful for you), it can be a crutch on complacency.

There was a time not long ago when my life appeared just fine on the surface. I had a job, I had friends and I could afford to go to Chik-Fil-A on Saturday night.

But in reality, I was in a rut, paralyzed by fear and anxiety, wondering if I’d ever find a way out. I felt just like Mr. Vujicic looked.

Emotionally, I didn’t have any limbs.

With my cheery face and fake laugh, though, I’d be surprised if anyone knew I was hurting. How could they? I wasn’t even being honest with myself, hiding behind these society-celebrated comforts, rationalizing that things weren’t so bad.

But no matter how many times I forced a Joker smile – and suffered from the sore jaw that developed afterwards – it didn’t change the fact that, deep down, I knew my life was not going as I hoped.

As a kid, I had always dreamed of living outside the lines, believing that I really could do anything I set my mind to. But as an adult, I couldn’t get out of my own way, fearing the uncertainty of it all. What if I failed? What if I – gasp! – succeeded? What if I embarrassed myself? What would happen then?

These questions loomed, taunting me every time I tried to get in the game. So I kept bailing out, scurrying to the security of the sidelines whenever the anxiety would kick in.

All the while my life dripped away, moment after wasted moment.

Finally, I realized I had a simple choice to make: continue to live a lie and go through the status-quo motions, or stand in there and fight for my dreams.

Because the truth is that there’s ALWAYS a reason why you can’t do something. That’s too hard…it’s not realistic…I have a mortgage…We’ve got a nice little Saturday planned at Home Depot and Bed, Bath & Beyond…there’s no shortage of excuses to justify the standard operating procedure.

Yes, all of these hurdles are real, and yes, they are intimidating. But when you transform them from peripheral molehills into Class 5 Mountains, they end up being the only things you can see.

At the end of the day, though, they are nothing more than details, and details should never stand in the way of happiness. Instead, if you can focus on what you truly want and immerse yourself in the process of making it happen, the positive energy that’s generated will help you get through the inevitable challenges you’ll face.

There may be times when your mind hurts and your heart aches and your inner demons are doing the “wave” in your stomach. It’ll be tempting to give up and crawl back to your safe, comfortable existence.

And that’s when you need to remember Nick Vujicic.

The man was given every conceivable reason to never get out of bed, yet he spends his life traveling the world, spreading hope and inspiring others. Because he knows – he personifies – that it doesn’t matter how impossible the odds are, or how many times you’ve failed, or how hard you’ve fallen…

All that matters is that you keep getting back up.

About Me

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"It's not a lie, if you believe it." Those were the words of one of my generation's great sages, George Costanza, and the more of life I experience, the truer they ring. And while I still haven't found what I'm looking for, the search for my own personal "truths" is never-ending. Care to come along for the ride?