Stripping For the Journey

There is a lot of press given to football injuries these days, Rightly so, it is a dangerous sport and kids, especially youngsters whose bodies have not completely developed, are vulnerable to suffer concussions.

My admittedly cockeyed theory is that the cause of many football injuries lies in the very armor players wear to protect themselves. Concussions come about almost exclusively from getting a helmet or a cleat to the head. So, if everyone stripped down to shorts and t-shirts and played barefoot, there would not be nearly as many injuries.

The thought occurred to me that even if the NFL turns down my suggestion, maybe in the larger world beyond football, in the way we live our lives, the idea has some merit. Know what I’m saying? We are so afraid to get hurt that we don the armor of pretense and fake it through life. The guy puts on his stud mask and the women portrays herself as Ms Perfect.

I have been reading a book by Glennon Doyle Melton who has written on this subject. In  “Carry On Warrior, Thoughts on Life Unarmed” she says “Maybe the battles of life are best fought without armor and without weapons.” What she is saying is suppose we shuck off our emotional defenses and were “real” to one another?

Sounds like a “chick book.” Maybe it is. But listen up guys. We wear even more equipment than women. We are so damn competitive with one another that we don’t dare let down our guard.  “Big boys don’t cry” is our mantra, a stupid mantra but we let ourselves be hobbled by the armor we wear.

Someone said “The more together we look, the more needy we really are.”  Remember the poem Richard Cory? The man who seemingly had everything, mesmerized people by the way he strode down the street, handsome and smooth and oh so cool. Then, one day, this cool man put a bullet through his head. On shit! How could that be? We thought we knew him.

We kid ourselves and (sometimes) we fool others by the way we handle things. No fuss. We are in command. “Hey, I’m good.” We say. But we are not good; not all the time. By pretending we are in control we not only hurt ourselves (because we know better, deep down) but we deprive others of the gift of our own weakness and vulnerability.

People think that we are in command. We stride through life unafraid. But no one does that, not really. We are all afraid that we don’t belong or that we are not the moms or dads or bosses that we would like to be.

It’s okay. We all share the same human condition. Maybe it’s time for all of us to doff that heavy protective gear; put on the shorts and t-shirts of our vulnerability and just be who we are.

 

 

 

 

What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew

There is a sleeper of a movie out now with the unlikely title of “What Maisie Knew.” Based on a Henry James’s short novel, it tells the story of the breakup of a marriage seen entirely through the eyes of a sad and wise little girl named Maisie.

Maisie, with her child’s eyes, says very little as she finds herself the pawn in a struggle between her mom, an aging rock star clawing desperately to salvage a career and her equally self-centered dad, an art dealer who loves the good life. She hears their bitter shouting matches; listens as they cut one another down. The little girl is a silent observer to scenes worthy of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf.”

Maisie is nothing more than an inconvenience to the careers of both parents. She is mostly a bother. Neither spouse wants to have to take care of her, yet both are unwilling to let her go lest they be the one accused of child abandonment. For spite, each parent takes up with a younger person. Overnight, Maisie finds herself with two moms and two dads.

Pardon me if I state the obvious; this is not an untirely unknown scenario in real life. Trust me; I have worked with far too many foster kids who know exactly what Maisie is experiencing. Their parents, tired of taking care of their kids, want the freedom of living the good life without the burden of being responsible for their offspring.

In the movie, neither parent is seen as a complete villain. They didn’t set out in life to damage their child. They are “sorry” that their little girl has to suffer but, after all, they have their needs. They want a life for themselves.  The bottom line is painfully evident; neither is willing to be an adult.

The media is full these days of stories of adults who want their “rights.” Whether gay or straight or some combination thereof, we all insist on our civil rights. We want our tax credits and our civil rights and off with the head of any politician who doesn’t hear us pay attention.

Then I think of Maisie and all the little kids who can’t speak for themselves but who are not getting what is coming to them, a safe home life, loving adult parents, a quality education.

Instead, they are getting broken homes, self-centered adults who love them too little and keep them as only as long as it is convenient to do do so. Like Maisie, all they can do is sit on the sidelines while we adults squabble over our rights.

 

Go see the movie. It’s painful but we need to see it.