The Strike Out

“With the moonlight to guide you; feel the joy of being alive;

The day that you stop running, is the day that you arrive;

And the night that got you locked in was the time to decide;

Stop chasing shadows, just enjoy the ride.”

“Enjoy the Ride,” Morcheeba (2008)


Today, in a preparation practice for the regular fall-ball season, my son struck me out.

First pitch, letter-high, outside corner of the plate. Velocity faster than I could track.

Strike one.

Second pitch. Same location. Same velocity.

Strike two.

The kids on his team are buzzing. Teammates are watching. Beck’s confidence brimming with the count – it’s our first equipment on, head-to-head battle ever where he’s throwing full speed.

His old man’s haplessness at the first two pitches is clear.

He steps back to the mound, smiles in at me, adjusts his cap. Winds and delivers.

I can hit this one, I think.

I commit to swing.

An off-speed breaking ball, dropping hard to the outside.

I wave the bat frantically.

Strike three.

The kid made mincemeat of me.

* * *

You often hear: age gracefully.

But age doesn’t come gracefully.

Oh, the father in me can take great pride in this kid’s recovery.

Last baseball season – this spring, just six weeks after he was out of the hospital from stint number two with Guillain-Barre, was a lesson in patience; watching his muscles and nerves try to recover from the damage.

His determination to plow through 30-minute innings, loaded with catcher’s gear behind the plate, in 100-degree temps. The constant failure to make contact with the baseball when he was at the plate. The sluggish running – from a kid that was once one of the fastest on his team – those few times he did get on base.

Six months later, it’s all guns blazing again. His commitment to recovery. His fierce determination to be one of the best on his team paying off.

It’s a combination of grit, of a child’s ability to recover, his own unique blend of mind over matter, of a maturing body pulling all the pieces together to achieve a desired status.

Beckett loves baseball.

And he’s getting damn good at it.

Makes me proud.

But not being able to hit my kid’s fastball? Getting tricked by a breaking ball in the dirt?

That’s on me? Isn’t it?

My eyes don’t pick up the ball good in the artificial practice lights; my mind is a second slower in reacting.

It’s an allegory for all the things yet to come.

Slowing down, not ramping up.

Time slipping. Chances fading.

In career, in achievement, in life.

Opportunity is a finite thing.

* * *

Recently, the Cincinnati Enquirer ran one of the most compelling pieces of journalism I’ve encountered in a long time.

They sent 30 reporters and videographers across the city and its suburbs to document the devastating effects of heroin and opiate addiction.

Vignette by vignette, they shared the people, the family members, the first responders, the caring souls on the front lines touched by this epidemic.

I read the whole thing, in one swoop, lying on the couch, with my family laying nearby – swiping on their phones, carelessly watching some sitcom on the television.

As I read it, I couldn’t help but be brought back to my own friends, my family members, racked by addiction. Couldn’t help but thinking: how do I keep my own children away from this?

I wanted to pull them in: 12 and 10 years old and say, “Read this now.” And I may still do that.

But instead, I replied on Facebook to the friend who shared it with the world – how I found out about it – and said, “Thank you for sharing this. It made me cry.”

The next morning, a very close friend wrote me about his wife; and some medical things they’re going through. Scary things. Maybe serious; though hopefully not.

I contrasted this against my own age. The people I love. The things that I so frequently worry about.

There’s so much to take in; so much unknown.

It’s no wonder fear – for so many of us – rules our lives.

And when it’s not fear, not the unknown that racks us, it’s all the ways we could do better.

It’s the rehashing.

If only I had done X instead of Y.

In a life made of days and seconds, there are so many X’s; so many what if’s.

It’s a miracle some of us find a way to move forward at all.

* * *

Though I’ve learned to control stress, I’ve not learned to contain fear.

Fear that I’m failing to reach my potential; fear that my actions are dragging me backwards; fear that I’m constantly at risk of ruining the things that matter most – my friendships, my family, my health.

And I’m so fatigued by it.

Of the fear that something is always waiting around the corner – some new disease or complication for one of my children, or one of my family members, or for myself.

Early last week, sitting at the airport bar, waiting for a flight to Denver, my coworker asked me: “Do you like camping?”

I hesitated.

“I do,” I said. Then added, “I’ve taken my son once.”

I paused.

“Once … geez he’s almost 13.”

And from there began a real-life discussion of fear. Of a need for cell signals, and a close hospital.

I don’t know if these thoughts are even rational, but they’re indicative of the way fear alters you.

* * *

My last blog post, which some of you expressed trepidation about, was mostly about fear. Though, I was trying to get at something a little tougher to discuss in public, too.

The nature of attraction, of desire not just for others, but for a whole host of temptations.

I look around me and I see so many people who are either a) so grounded or b) able to shut those parts of their minds down that would lead them into temptation … and I’m amazed.

My entire day seems like a war between my impulses and my logical mind. From the second I wake up, until the second I close my eyes, it rages.

You’re too fat. You’re no good. You don’t deserve your life (have a drink). Everyone will figure you out. You lie. You make things up (have a drink). You’re a terrible father. You should be a better husband. You’re lazy (Have a drink.)

These things aren’t (always) apparent on the outside because, well, they’re not apparent on the outside of most of us who are able to function. It’s my sense that many of us wage these battles; and so I try to write about them openly, to let others know: you ain’t the only one going through this.

But we’re not use to such raw honesty.

My problem is: I have no interest in anything but it.

How can we get better if we don’t talk about what’s really there?

* * *

That includes being attracted to other people. Having complex feelings where friendship and attraction merge.

My whole point was: these things happen. It is a part of being human.

And don’t get the wrong idea here. I feel like I betray my daughter when I spend too much time with my son; that I betray my wife when I spend too much time with my computer; that I betray my family when I run off to travel or tackle some new opportunity that on the surface seems more exciting than a day at home.

I love the people in my life. Deeply love them. I feed off of their attention. The way my actions – for better or worse impact them – deeply affect my own moods.

There are many people in our lives – many amazing, interesting people, for those of us who are fortunate. How can you not help but feel the laws of attraction at play?

That’s human nature. I fight with it every day. I know others do, too. Some take it too far. Others walk the line. Some bottle it up inside.

I simply struggle with it – sometimes opening windows, other times preparing for a hurricane. Batten down the hatches and all.

But there was a deeper theme in that last post, too.

I kept referencing logic.

The beauty of the human brain is that you can feel all these things, know all these things and share them with others.

And then act upon them the right way.

That’s the place I’m fighting for: the center. Doing the right thing. Respecting all those in my realm.

Breaking free of the selfish impulse.

It’s not about the fact that the kid struck me out.

It’s about the fact that the kid struck me out.

There’s a subtle, critical difference in how you think it. How you say it.

To yourself.

To those you care about.

To those around you.

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