Monday, February 6, 2017

Comebacks Are Real

Tonight's Super Bowl taught me something.

Tom Brady and the Patriots were down and it was looking grim for them.  It was the 3rd Quarter and they were down 28-3 with very little hope.

And then they fought back.  They got themselves together and they kept working.  Brady completed some more passes.  The Patriots defense made key stops.  They tackled well and didn't let the Falcons take the ball away anymore.  No more turnovers.

My neighbor was watching the game with me.  I was happy for the company, too.  I spend way too much time alone as it is these days.  He's a huge Patriots fan.

I told him, when things looked the darkest, "If any team can come back, it's this one."

And I was right.

They came back.  The Patriots didn't give up and they didn't stop trying.

I'm a Cubs fan.  They won the World Series this year.  They, too, never gave up.

We've always turned to sports as a metaphor for life.  Rocky, Major League, The Greatest Game, Hoosiers.  The list goes on and on.

We humans strive to be more than what we are and we work through adversity to achieve what we feel is important to us.

This month has been rough for me.  But this month is just a single paragraph in a very long story.  And I'm getting ready to write a fresh, new chapter.  A new book, even, in the Story of Ted.  In this book, our hero gets up off the canvas.  He crawls out of the dungeon.  He removes the chains and shackles.  He cleans off the dry, crusted blood.

He stands up, looks up at the sky, and roars.

He roars up at the heavens.  He roars at the demons down below.  He roars at his enemies.  He roars so his friends know he's free of the enslavement he once endured.

Our hero is awake.  Our hero is aware.  Our hero is focused.

I've had a shitty past.  A hard past.  I've endured things I wish upon no man.  Shit so ugly I can't post it on this blog.  And for most of my life I've felt broken.  I've felt like damaged goods.

I have felt unworthy, unloveable, and simply less-than the rest of the world around me.  It's a terrible thing to feel broken and unworthy.  The guilt and shame, the pain and depression.

But something happened.  I got into an online relationship with a woman.  Because I have such low self-esteem and a negative self-image, I fucked it all up.  I shit-canned something that made me happy because all of the negative crap in my head turned me into a kamikaze pilot.  I self-destructed and made a real mess of things.

But I learned something.  In the following weeks, as I became a meaningless nobody to her, and I tried again and again to get her attention, I realized that the past cannot define me.

Here's the thing--I feel like I wear my past on me.  I feel like it's written on my face.  I feel like I have labels stuck all over me that say all of the terrible things I've been through and seen.  I feel like I'm carrying a large Las Vegas-style sign with a list of the things I've missed out on and all of that which has been taken from me.

It's bad enough I feel broken.  I feel like everybody else can see it.  I feel like everybody knows it.  And I feel like everybody's somehow been able to live their lives but me.  I'm somehow rooted in the past because chains loop through my scars and lock me down to my own history.

Her indifference towards me hurt.  It was incredibly painful.  But I understood it because I'm broken and I have an ugly history.  I'm damaged goods and if I had a second chance I'd just pull another kamikaze stunt.  Of course she distanced herself from me.  I would, too, if I could.  I'm broken and I don't work right.  I'm dysfunctional.  Of course I'm nobody to her.  I'm nobody to most women.  Of course she stopped giving a shit about me.   Broken people like me just drain you and burn you up.  Of course she ignored me--I'm different.

But something happened.

As I've said before, I really wish I could see myself the way so many others see me.  I have friends who support me.  I have great friends who tell me how awesome I am.  They tell me I'm worthy of love and of good things.  They tell me I'm not the broken piece of shit I think I am.

So there's been this war inside of my head.  This weekend, that war boiled over into a bloody, nasty affair.  I was full of rage at the world and then the bottom fell out and I would be in the pits of despair, certain that it was time to go and be done with it all.  It felt like there was a scream stuck in my throat and I couldn't get it out.

I isolated.  Then, I reached out to friends I knew I could trust.  I meditated often.  Eventually, I was able to settle down enough, and keep it together enough, to be around other people without losing my shit.

And then I watched Tom Brady and the Patriots turn around the Super Bowl and win.  They were going to lose--it was a certainty.  They were down 28-3 in the 3rd Quarter and most folks had no hope.  My buddy's step-dad went to bed because it was a lost cause.

Tom Brady and the Patriots pulled it out.

This is my 3rd Quarter.  I'm 45 years old and I'm down by a lot.  I've lost over and over again.  The first half was me just getting my ass handed to me.  Over and over again.  There were a few good plays, though.  I'm not scoreless.  I'm not nobody.  I did some things right.  A few good passes, a few good moves.

And in my mind there's something I keep going back to.  About a year ago, my best friend and his girlfriend had a baby.  She was born early and just a tiny little peanut.  After a while, we met up for lunch at a restaurant and they brought her.  I held her and she didn't fuss at all the whole time.  She let me hold her.

Babies don't readily accept people they don't know.  And they don't accept just anybody.  This baby was perfectly content in my arms.  She looked around and just relaxed.  She was comfortable with me and it meant everything.

I keep going back to that day, to that moment, and how she was totally at ease with me.  It was important.  She didn't see some broken asshole covered in scars and bite marks from demons.  She saw somebody who was kind and gentle.  She accepted me.  Me, of all people.

I'm coming to grips with who I am.  I'm learning to accept that I am a kind, gentle sort.  I'm emotional, sure, but loving and empathetic.  I am worth the effort.

I realize now that I'm not healing and I'm not rebuilding.  I have all the answers I need.  I have all the tools I need.  Everything I need to move forward is already within me.  And I am far more capable than I ever dreamed.

I am no longer afraid of love.  I'm no longer afraid of being whole.  I feel more normal now than ever before.  I am not broken.  I am not worthless.

So this is Our Hero.  He's walking into the sunlight.  His eyes hurt because it's been so long since he's seen the sun.  He's not nearly as bruised and battered as he seems.  He's good.  He's ready to move forward.  He's ready to take charge.

It's the 3rd Quarter and he's got the ball.  Hang on to your seats, folks--this is gonna be one hell of a show!  2017 took the opening shots but Our Hero is up and ready to go.

Cue the dramatic showdown music.  

When the Story of Ted is told, this is the point where Our Hero gets up, looks over at those who knocked him down, and smiles.  This is the turning point.  Our Hero survived the Trials of the Gods and defied Fate, who had him scheduled to be destroyed.

No, Our Hero is still alive and he's starting to move forward.  The days of lamenting loss are over.  The days of wishing are gone.

A grave has been dug for Our Hero but he's not ready to fill it--not just yet.  The first chapter of The Story of Ted:  Book Two has just begun.


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