Me, Too

I told them this tonight, because this is what the situation required.

Thirteen boys, and one girl, on the verge of being men, on the verge of being a woman.

“Hold your emotions inside, keep them to yourself.”

Because, remember: this is what the situation required.

It really did.

The umpire was terrible.

They were losing all night.

The strike zone inconsistent. Terribly small.

Every call nearly an atrocity.

The boys and girl threw strikes, inning after inning.

Pitch after pitch, no matter where it landed, the ump called it a ball.

“He’s human,” I told some of them in the dugout. “If you lash out, start screaming, complain,” I added. “It’ll only get worse.”

We eeked out the go-ahead run in the equivalent of the top of the ninth.

Carried a one run lead into the bottom of the inning.

We brought in our reliever.

He threw consistently in a zone where the batters could hit it.

Most were called balls; a few were called strikes.

As time neared the end (Little League games have a time limit), Beckett picked off the runner at third.

We walked off with a 9-8 win, stranding the bases loaded.

After the game, I told them, “Had you screamed at the umpire, told him what you really thought, we would’ve lost that game.”

But they didn’t.

And so we won.

And winning is what matters.


* * *

But what of this lesson? Keep silent in the face of atrocity?

It’s meant to promote sportsmanship. The umpire is always right. Accept the consequences; understand that your ability to get on base – or to get the batter out – is your responsibility.

Somehow, it takes on a new meaning in the wake of Harvey Weinstein and the #MeToo phenomenon.

In the most stressful situations – sports, with outcomes on the line – we are teaching our children to be silent. We’re reinforcing that this is virtue; the ability to hold it in and move on in the face of adversity.

Magnify this over years of reinforcement.

Some people question why those wronged remain silent.

I don’t.

We’re shaped by things like this; our kids are shaped by things like this.

And the lines of where to remain silent; and where to speak out are insanely, outrageously blurred.

Respect the umpire in blue; but instantly report the person in charge?

Easier said than done.

How can you, when keeping silent means winning?

* * *

If you’re anything like me, the proliferation of #MeToo posts across social media has been a sort of cosmic blow to the chest.

You know that harassment, assault – or just general shitty behavior towards women is prevalent – but the fact that it pretty much appears to be every woman causes something akin to shell shock.

Because if you believe in math, probability, statistics, you have to start to wonder if you, too, are part of the problem.

And if you think about every thing you’ve ever said, and every thing you’ve ever done – in your best states – and in your worst – you have to start to wonder (accept) if (acknowledge) you’ve been a part of the problem.

Let me digress for a second.

We are woefully incapable of understanding how our actions and words affect those around us.

I recently told the story to a friend at lunch about how a family member I’d never really had contact with struggled with the fact that we didn’t have a relationship.

As she lie on her death bed, another family member encouraged me to visit. I didn’t want to go. I barely knew this person.

But I went. Held her hand in her final hours.

It was only then I came to understand that how she saw me – and our relationship – was very different than how I saw her.

Truth is, I’d never thought about things from her perspective. Never saw how my myopic, self-centered view ignored her reality.

It was an eye-opener; a reminder of how, regardless of our best intentions, what we think we’re doing isn’t often how it’s perceived by those affected by our actions.

My being there and holding her hand, my being exposed to my own incorrect perceptions changed the course of the history of not just this dying person, but those who loved her.

Only with knowledge I didn’t have, could I change the course of our collective history.

* * *

I can’t reconcile this mess.

Not with ease, anyway.

I’m certain I’m guilty.

Can start identifying instances; can see them in my head.

In some cases, I’ve already issued apologies – weeks ago, years ago. In some, I don’t know where to begin.

I’ve got a daughter, a wife, a mother. Countless women I hold in high regard.

The mainstream man in me wants to say, “What is the appropriate line, between flirtation and violation? Between a joke and a mistake?”

Maybe I’ve done it right; maybe I’ve done it all wrong.

I do know this, though.

I like that there’s dialogue. Admission. Confrontation.

A couple days ago, when the president issued his statement that, “We’ll say Merry Christmas again,” I responded to a family member who suggested this was a political lurch forward the following:

“I always liked saying Happy Holidays because I had no freakin’ clue what the background was of the customers at my family’s hardware store and it conveyed the idea that I genuinely, warmly wanted them to enjoy the holiday season and the spirit of it. I never got hung up one a single word. It wasn’t some PC thing. I was trying to be polite so they came back and shopped there again. I just thought it was a smart business decision.”

That was the thought process of the innocent, unjaded 10-year-old me.

Even then, I knew: our behavior should always take the feelings of the person we’re interacting with into account.

Rather than be callous in our righteousness, we should be aware of how all the things we say and do affect those we say and do them to.

And when – and if – we’ve done wrong, we should work to correct that problem.

But politics, experience, age and learned behaviors get in the way.

I’ve no doubt that some (most) of the stories my female friends think of when they post #MeToo are horrific in nature, perpetuated by men with no regard for their well-being.

But I bet a good many of them are perpetuated by men who think themselves progressive, well-intentioned individuals. (And perhaps a few by women, thinking the same thing, throwing these same things at men.)

So where do we go from here?

* * *

Lately, I’ve been able to step outside myself.

The early part of recovery seems to be focused on merely expressing one’s observations; on extracting the self-doubt by admitting the helplessness you feel.

The next phase is a sort of awakening.

Of suddenly seeing from the outside. Of suddenly realizing that your self-proclaimed unique misery/horror/sadness/fill-in-the-blank isn’t that unique at all.

The next step is accepting the recovery – the path to acceptance, and ultimately happiness – starts with you.

By changing behaviors. By committing to those changes. And then living them.

It’s a rocky road to be sure; marked by lurches forward and minor regressions.

But you know when you’re on the right path.

It feels different. If only because getting up is a little bit easier; your soul a little bit lighter.

* * *

I come back to these lessons we teach our kids.

How in our effort to be right, we can – so remarkably – be wrong.

Respect the man in blue? Respect the authority figure?

Black and white? Right and wrong?

Those things rarely exist. Except when they do.

There are nuances. And there are lines.

Some lines you don’t cross.

Like challenging the ump. Like belittling a woman. Like asserting your sexuality as if that’s your right.

We’ve got a long road ahead, though.

Marked by communication and self-reflection.

It starts with us who are ready.

To see that even the awoken are amazingly asleep.

Awareness spreads like a virus; perpetuated by those strong enough to cut through the ignorance.


Bacon and Candy: Fall Ball

I like fall mornings – the light soft, not blinding like summer. And even here, in Phoenix, there’s a touch of cool to the air.

On the best days, I’m out the door as the sun rises. Or at least drinking my coffee by then.

This doesn’t happen enough. It’s a small life goal; to see that it happens more.

Today, though, we were out the door early. Heidi, myself, Beckett, Brody and Bob, Heidi’s father who is visiting from South Carolina.

We played disc golf in the park, met my mom, niece and nephew later and ate lunch near Tempe Town Lake, then all spent the afternoon at Feed My Starving Children – creating meal packages of protein, vegetables, soy and rice to be shipped to those in need in the Philippines.

Soon, I’ll pack Beckett up in the car and we’ll head 9 miles south for his baseball game tonight.

With any luck, I’ll be in bed by 9:30. Awake by 6 the next morning and walking shortly after; maybe up “A” Mountain, maybe through South Mountain Park.

It really doesn’t matter where; as long as I’m walking.

Being in the moment.

I like it there.

* * *

Tomorrow, too, we’re having lunch with my friend Carly. Carly, as you may or not recall, was someone we were introduced through from a friend of friend.

She got Guillain-Barre earlier this year, spent over 100 days in the hospital – where she coded, endured feeding tubes, countless secondary viruses – and then faced a long-road to recovery.

Beckett, Brody, Heidi and I would go visit her in the hospital. It was an eye-opening moment for Beckett, to experience the condition he had from the other side of the bed.

The first time Beckett met Carly in the hospital, he proclaimed, “You’re going to walk out of here.”

Tomorrow, she’s going to drive over here, to our house.

It’s pretty amazing.

Her recovery has been inspiring to watch. Even without a serious nerve-degenerating condition, regaining your movement after being more or less bedridden for three months would be a considerable challenge.

She says we were part of her healing process; but I’ve come to realize she’s also been a significant part of mine.

Recently she gave a speech that she later shared on Facebook. In that speech, she recalled to the group the idea that if you had everybody in a room write down their problems, laid them all out the table and asked people to choose, most people would probably choose to take back their own.

It’s funny that how works; but she chalks it up to a quote she encountered during her hospital stay. It centers on the idea that we get the challenges we get for a reason.

“You have been assigned this mountain to show others it can be moved.”

For me, that’s meant taking responsibility for the things in my life I don’t like.

The solution is mostly an internal one. It’s my job to show others; not someone else.

It seems so simple, like that’s something we should know.

And I have known it at times; and then forgotten it.

But now I know it again.

* * *

I have to run, get Beckett in the car and get on the road. But I don’t want to leave my seat – the TV’s playing softly in the background as Heidi and Brody nap on the couch, dishes are clinking as Beckett scarfs down whatever he can before we leave for his game, and I’m sitting in solitude as the afternoon light shifts across my office.

It’s calming. Nice.

But the baseball diamond calls.

It’s That Stupid

“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone. And she’s always gone too long; anytime she goes away.”

–         Bill Withers, “Ain’t No Sunshine” (1971)

The last few weeks have been blissful, I swear.

You see me at function X and you worry. You say these things; and I assure you: everything is okay.

It isn’t lip service.

It is okay.

The navigation is a process.

Getting from “sick kid” to “sleeping well” is a journey.

I lay in bed and instantly drift to sleep.

Under the influence or not.

It doesn’t matter.

My heart is at rest.

* * *

I walk now.

A lot.

Miles a day. Red rocks and dust at my feet.

The desert sun burns my head.

I like it like that.

Reminds me of the place I’ve decided to call home.

Step by step, I process.

Step by step, I move on.

* * *

Tonight, I ask my wife, Heidi: “Why do you put up with this?”

Her answer is aloof, lost, confused.

“Why wouldn’t I?”

That’s not what she said, but I’m too dumb to capture it.

She loves me because she loves me.

I’ve gotta’ figure out why; or at least make sense of why.

I don’t deserve this.

But a friend says my kids love me, and I have a home, and I pay my bills, and I have a job, so I must be doing something right.

So there’s that.

It’s nice to hold onto that.

Especially when I want to slip away.

It’s also not true that Heidi’s answer is aloof.

Truth is: it’s firm.

She loves me.


I have to reconcile that.

Make sense of it.

Understand my place.

React accordingly.

Be the person I’m supposed to be.

Damn, if that ain’t a challenge.

(I wanted to use the F word, but my dad says I swear too much.)

* * *

So, I swim.

At least right now.

It’s allegorical. I’m not swimming, per se, I’m treading water, wondering where I go next.

I see the exit sign; run towards it.

And almost push the handle.

But what next?

What next?

* * *

Can I be completely honest for a second?

I don’t know what I’m doing here.

I’m just spilling it all into a keyboard, alone, late at night, hoping something resonates.

I’m trying to figure out what I’m all about – utility, nonprofit man – looking for a sign.

What do I stand for?

Why do I do what I do?

And, quite frankly, how did I get here?

It’s that ridiculous. It’s that lost.

Sometimes, I swear … what’s inside is an endless dialogue of searching like that.

There is no definitive answer.

It’s all vacant and empty and nothing makes sense.

* * *

Except, sometimes it does.

That’s what you want me to say.

Sometimes it does make sense.

Sometimes, there’s something you can glean from the unease.

But, no.

Sometimes you go to bed empty.

Knowing enough to let you sleep peacefully.

Knowing nothing of where you want to go.