04 February 2012

Our Lady of Peace Journal, 7-9 October 2011

For obvious reasons, I was unable to blog whilst hospitalized recently but me being me, I sat down with a notepad and a partially-sharpened golf pencil and jotted down my thought process the old fashioned way. I composed a few paragraphs at a time and did not edit anything, so it's pretty rough and there are a lot of haphazard thoughts, and more repetition than I would have liked. I can tell you that the part of my right hand between my thumb and pointer finger is still sore from where the golf pencil pressed into it. Here is a transcription of what I wrote.

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It's never easy to admit defeat; not in games, sports or anything else. I suppose it's easier when the context is something objective where someone has kept score and it's clear someone else has won. It still leaves one with a lot to process--were there mistakes made along the way, or whether the opponent was just better.

As a baseball fan, I've always felt our national pastime is the best metaphor for life. At the end of the season, you get a sense of who did what wrong and who did things right. Sometimes it comes down to who got lucky, of course. The best teams and players prepare early, make adjustments and keep their focus. Time and again in interviews they utter cliches about baseball being a marathon, not a sprint; taking the season one game at a time; and tipping their hat to their opponents who outplay them. Reporters and fans tease about how unoriginal these things are, but they're really the most honest and helpful mental anchors that a player can sustain. Maybe showboating is helpful for a sport like football but baseball is a measured, more thoughtful sport.

I try to remember these lessons, but like everything else in life it's not always easy to execute as it is to plan. For the last year, I've thought of myself as a losing team, like the 80s Braves, 90s Rays or the 00s Royals. You go out and play the games, one at a time, because you have to--but you look back and see a string of losing games and it becomes discouraging. You have to still go play, but it reaches a point where you start expecting to lose. You just go through the motions, really not even playing with a goal in mind, outside of showing up and doing your job.

Eventually, the players on such teams are either traded (the good ones before their contracts expire; the rest in package deals for someone better) or they quit playing.

There is, of course, no analog for being traded, though I suppose for some people changing jobs, moving or leaving a romantic relationship would be the equivalent of a trade. Trading work isn't practical for me at present--though I'm beginning to think about trying to earn money by writing. Moving hasn't happened and seems unlikely. And I'm certainly not going to leave my wife--our marriage is the only part of my life I truly love.

So, lately, I've thought about retirement. I just haven't wanted to play anymore. There is, of course, only one way to retire from life...and it's rather permanent. It's only reached the "thinking about it" stage. When you find yourself here, it can be upsetting, not just for you but for those around you.

I've been a bad teammate. I've played my position--not always well, but I've gone "Carlos Zambrano" and become poisonous in the dugout. My teammates deserve better--especially my wife.

It has become apparent that I can't keep being this way. Even on a losing day, I need to fall back on the cliches that the players regurgitate daily. People may make fun of Derek Jeter for his interviews, but he's a terrific player and by every account I've heard, he's a great teammate. He leads by example. He earns credibility to call out teammates who don't play to their potential.

Most of us aren't Derek Jeters. If we were, then guys like him would not be so special. It's okay to not be Jeter, though I think it's an admirable objective. We do need a Jeter on our team, though. Someone who plays every game, makes the team his priority. I've seen Jeter lay down a sac bunt because it was the right thing to do for the team, when other star players would think it beneath them. He does it, though.

I think Jeter would improve any team he'd play for. You can argue he's benefited from being a Yankee, surrounded by the highest payroll in the sport, but with his approach, he'd be a success anywhere.

What I need to do is be more like Jeter, in the preparation. I need to work on setting myself up for success. That may be just as simple as getting through a day without feeling despair, but it's a way to improve not only my game but to help the team. It's a bunt, sure, but it helps the team.

I don't need to be the star player. I just need to contribute, and part of that is to stop being a drain on the team. I need to be more positive. It's okay to admit having lost a game or made an error, but it is not healthy to dwell on it, or to expect to do it again. I can have a winning game today no matter what happened yesterday. I can make the routine plays - they don't have be Web Gems. That means I have to get better at the routine of making those plays. That means saying and thinking more encouraging things.

I've had some positive experiences with my blog recently. My post on depression generated a lot of feedback. I'm learning that I have the power to write things that other people want--and maybe even need--to read. I can help make a difference. That's an admirable and honorable accomplishment.

I forget that I'm better gifted at writing than a lot of other people. I have a talent and skill, and I have held myself back from believing this because of my inferiority complex and impostor syndrome.

But, to those much is given, much is expected and I need to be honest with myself. I have been given much talent for writing. It may seem more a hobby than a meaningful skill but it can be powerful. I've seen this already and I believe in its power. I need to start believing in my own power to use my talents. And who knows? I might even find a way to earn some money from it.

I want to write more posts on my blog that provoke the kind of feedback that my "On Depression" post has elicited. I want to write--and submit--a short story per month. I can do this. I want to participate in NaWrNoMo (or whatever the abbreviation is) in November. I can do that. It may suck, but I can do it.

One of the things that has held me back is the disbelief that I could ever have any commercial success. Maybe I won't, but I need to make editors and publishers tell me this instead of telling it to myself. I can do this.

My headaches and dizziness are now attributed to my depression. As I overcome the depression, I will overcome my head woes. I can do this.

I was born to write, and through writing, help reach people. I've always wanted to think this, but have not allowed myself to indulge. I felt arrogant thinking this, and that it was an unrealistic fantasy. I am qualified to do this and it is realistic. I won't be a household name, but I can earn achievements along the way--even if they're nothing more than a favorable review.

Another lesson I'm learning is that it's not arrogance to accept my talents, or to acknowledge they are not shared by everyone else. It does not mean I think I'm better than anyone else. It means I can do something that maybe they can't. There are plenty of things I can't do; it does not mean I am inferior to the people who can do those things. A plumber would not apologize for his skills, nor would a chef be a better person than anyone else. They are merely people who have developed skills they possess. I can develop the skill of writing without feeling awkward for doing it. People need their plumbing repaired, they appreciate a well-made meal and they also value well-written works. I may not write the Great American Novel, but I can write stuff people will want to read.

I have been published twenty times by Flickchart. I was asked to contribute to IFC.com. I should not downplay the significance of this. People have seen a value to my work. Other people may as well--and it's okay to believe they will. I won't win over everyone, and there will be detractors who dislike my work. That's okay. It does not mean there is no value to what I do (or will do).

"The time has come to talk of many things." Like the Walrus in Wonderland, I must now spin a yarn. Then, another. And another, until I've built a body of work worthy of consideration. That is all I can do--I must then leave it in the hands of editors, publishers and readers to decide its value. And I need to remember that my value is not tied to the perceived value of my work. The plumber goes home after fixing pipes and does not feel himself worthless if he botched a job during the day. He may be dissatisfied with his job performance, but he does not think himself a useless person or even a bad plumber. He had a bad experience but goes to work the next day to have more opportunities to ply his trade. Derek Jeter may go hitless and not make a play he--or the fans and media--think he should have made. But he doesn't let that translate into evidence he's worthless or useless. Neither should I.

One thing I forget about myself is that I am someone who enjoys being helpful to others. I think sometimes I forget that not everyone shares this value, that it's my nature but not necessarily someone else's nature. As someone who values compassion and generosity, I should allow myself to feel good about this.

Beyond this, I should build on this. I've had pleasure from being helpful to others, even as recently as within the last hour. I have a way with words that resonates with people--I can use this to be helpful. And, I know things that others may not know, but need to know. I just chatted with a guy less than two weeks removed from being diagnosed with Crohn's disease. He seems to be almost entirely uninformed about the nature of the disease or treatment options.

I tried to explain, but he has an obvious attention problem and I didn't get very far before he became interested instead by Danny DeVito as a stripper on "Friends." Given more time, I think I can give him a better understanding. Even if I don't get that chance, I hope someone reaches him. He needs it.

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