Saturday, November 26, 2022


Over the years, I've written and destroyed this a thousand times.  I may tear this down and try another day.  "A gentleman doesn't complain about these things."  I thought.  "YOUR story isn't what matters here.  Think of how much pain they were in."  I still think.  I cannot tell their story fairly because it's their story, not mine.  Since I cannot tell their story, I cannot fairly tell my part in it.  A few people know what happened to me; not many.  

I encountered people in pain, and I was durable, and that's all that matters.  That's the only story to tell.  My only regret is the times when I complained or asked mercy from people who weren't in a position to give it.  I bear some guilt for even thinking about this.  There have been enough blessings in my life to more than compensate for any dark spots.

In relationships, I always believed it was my obligation to keep track of and constantly evaluate my own devotion, commitment, motivation, and, most importantly, progress on getting done whatever it was that needed doing, but never applied the same evaluation to my partner because that would be quid pro quo, and a gentleman doesn't ever ask that.  Everyone comes with things that need getting done.  Some are more of a challenge than others.

As a result, I often found myself in way over my head before I realized the water was rising and ended up with a lot more people who could say, "I'm so glad you could help me beyond this problem," and hardly any who would say, "I'm so much happier when you're near."  My purpose in their lives was temporary and not meant for my benefit.

It's tricky because a gentleman should never expect quid pro quo, but then you end up in a situation where you do things not expecting anything in return, but then you don't get anything in return, and then you're out on a limb, and you can't go back, so your only choices are to hold on and pretend like what you get in return doesn't matter, or close your eyes and let go and hope for a soft landing or at least one you can survive.  Ultimately, I was asked to help, not to grow attached, although getting attached was often inevitable, considering the time and effort required to help.

"Hello, you're interesting and attractive.  Tell me about yourself."  It's the "tell me" part that forms the trap.  Once you know someone's in trouble, what is there to do?  Saying, "I'm so sorry." Seems like a cop-out.  I always assumed that fate put these people in my path and gave me the tools to make some sort of repair on their wounds for a reason.  It was the path I was designed to take, not one intended to improve me.

I've been lucky; there have only been very few times when anyone intentionally used this dilemma against me.  Most of the time, women in my life have been gentle and recognized the dichotomy of this situation, and kept me out of trouble themselves.  There have been times, though--a few, when I ran across somebody who was in such a crisis that they didn't notice I was in over my head until it was too late because they very much needed whatever it was I was doing.  

Those are the worst.  Usually, I'll try to find a way to hold on until their crisis is passed and then find a way to drift away unnoticed.  That usually works pretty well, but it leaves deep marks that nobody ever really knows about.  When it's over, we both walk quietly away, hiding both shame and regret.  Shame for getting so attached when I knew from the beginning this wasn't a story meant for my benefit.

In the end, it might be easier to just pass a note that says, "I like you.  Do you like me?  Check Yes or No."  This "at your service" business can be the ruin of a man, but I can't even feel bad about that because a the end of the day, it's still easier to be a man than to be a woman, and it's probably our fault that these dichotomies exist in the first place and whatever unpleasant event I faced was still kinder than what they went through.  

The rules are confusing and not really fair to anyone.  It's much easier just to say, "don't come to the aid of anyone," but we live in a world filled with people in crisis, and turning away when you can help seems cruel and something you wouldn't want done to you in return.  I did what I was asked to do, and I knew there was no reward for me in the end.  It was a yes or no question, and I always assumed "yes" was the kinder choice, every other aspect or outcome I leave to the gods and the ravens.

Friday, November 25, 2022

What Name Shall We Call Her

When planning our wedding, my fiance gave two dates, between which we had to pick a day to get married.  At first, I thought she picked these dates to be near my birthday.  Instead, she told me those were the last dates for us to marry in time for her to complete and file the name change paperwork and begin the new school year with her pupils calling her Mrs. Campbell, not her previous husband's name.

I asked if she wanted to go back to using her father's name.  I knew him before I knew her and loved him dearly.  I wasn't her first husband, and she'd already had a pretty remarkable life with her father's name.  It would have been a fine choice by me.  She said I was being an asshole, and I didn't understand.  She was probably right on both points.  Sometimes I can try very hard to understand and still miss the point.

Before that, when my sister was to marry, many of us, cousins, uncles, and peers all wondered what name she would choose.  For her part, my mother swore that she wouldn't say anything to influence her decision either way.  My father never made any comment.  By her early twenties, my baby sister already had one of the most remarkable careers of our generation.  I hesitate to say that our father's name was considerably well-known.  It kind of makes me sound like a conceited asshole, but I think it's true.  Dad was at the peak of his career in those days.  It'd take him being dead for twenty years for his name to lose its potency.  

Would she keep her name, hyphenate it, or choose tradition and take her husband's name?  My sister's wedding was slightly more organized than Patton's conquest of Africa.  Patton never had the advantage of spreadsheets.  I never commented either way, but I was very curious about what she would choose.  It took her a while to announce a decision, but ultimately, she chose tradition and sentimentality and took Jay's name.  So far, her marriage has lasted longer than any of the others in this generation of our extended family; maybe tradition and sentimentality were a winning factor. 

In planning my wedding, my fiance and her daughters were already on my cellphone plan, and I put them on my internet plan and a few other things.  I changed my will and bought a new suit, but I never had to worry about what people would call me.  What my identity would be.  There wasn't any thought of that at all.  It doesn't seem quite fair.

Forgive me for indulging in a bit of wokism, but this bit about how one has to change their name when they marry because the patriarchy sees you as the property of either your husband or your father would probably bother the crap out of me if I were a woman.  I loved my father-in-law dearly, but would I have been comfortable taking his name?  

I'm more traditional than most folks.  (I still wear a tie).  I'm also dangerously sentimental unless I consciously work around it. Still, I'm also very well-read and a lifelong observer of our world from as many different perspectives as I could imagine.  I've never had to change my name on Facebook, or my driver's license, checking account, or credit cards.  I know women who have done it as many as five times.  I can hardly criticize anyone for making marriages that didn't last.  Mine didn't either.  Is this fair?  We're making these women choose a path and complete tasks no one ever asks of men.  Your name is a big part of your identity.  How would I respond if someone wanted me to change mine?

We didn't create this tradition.  I don't think the modern world would.  We were born into it.  Most of the women I know chose the traditional naming conventions without much difficulty or consequence, or any I could see.  There are women I love, though, who have yet to choose a life companion and make their own way in the world.  I monitor what sort of world we're leaving them very closely.

Today, in the ancient land of Persia, women are being murdered for violating the tradition of covering their faces and hair.  It's a tradition, just like the tradition of what name a woman takes when she marries.  I don't know if they'll read this, but four women on my list are of Persian ancestry or extraction.  The crisis is that close to my life.  I'll call it Iran when the men who run the country choose to cut the noose around their people's necks.  Until then, I'll use the more ancient name to remind them of their more noble past.

I once swore, on pain of death, to live by the motto "Dieu et Les Dames" where does that leave me here?  Clearly, our traditions aren't always in the best interest of women, and God commands that I put the needs of compassion and justice above my own life.  My vow demands I consider and contemplate these issues closely.  They matter.

There's nothing I can do to change or influence any woman's decision about the name she chooses. Still, I believe it's my obligation to be aware of what these choices mean and acknowledge the sacrifice they are making in their life that I was never asked to do.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Lunch At Primos

I had lunch at the Madison Primos today.  I ordered the shrimp remoulade and the gumbo.  Dishes I've had maybe five hundred times before.  As I understand it, the Primos family sold their interest in the business, although Kenneth sat just a few tables over from me.  The purpose of the trip was to see how well I could get around using Uber.  That part of the trip was flawless.

Before they died, both my grandmothers used a meal at Primos as a lure or reward for some task they had for me.  Primos #2 across from the baptist hospital for smaller tasks and Primos Northgate for heavy lifting or longer trips.  This continued from the beginning of my memory until their deaths, with a few trips to Morrison's Cafeteria and Shony's thrown in.  

Both the recipe and the presentation of the dishes I ordered had changed considerably from those days.  It was a bit unsettling.  The shrimp remoulade remained exactly the same most of my life, but today it was different, both the preparation and the dressing.  What I remembered was probably a recipe that Pop came up with in the thirties or forties, and that was what I was expecting, but I got something else.

What they brought me was good, but I couldn't help feeling the shifting of something lost.  There was a time when most of the restaurants in Jackson were run by Greek immigrants, and they had a certain style and a very recognizable taste, and I'm worried that flavor is edging over the night's horizon.  I tried to order a gingerbread man too, but they didn't have any.  They had plenty of fudge squares, but that wasn't the memory I was trying to defrost.  

Jackson peaked in the eighties.  The poverty and racism that plagued us since Lefleur started trading furs on the banks of the Pearl River were at an all-time low.  New construction was vigorous.  Deposit Guarantee and Trustmark were so strong that out-of-state banks struggled to find a toe hold in our market; most didn't bother.  It was the time of moderate democrat governors like Bill Winter and Ray Mabus and moderate mayors like Dale Danks.  

Maybe we flew too close to the sun.  The spell would soon break, and we began our decline that gained remarkable momentum as it headed groundward.  The simple answer is that black families had a slightly higher birth rate than white families, and in the nineties, the balance of race electoral votes shifted along racial lines, causing something of a white panic to get out of town. 

If you drive through Eastover or Woodland Hills today, there are actually more houses and more expensive houses than there were in the eighties.  The Bible says that the poor will always be with us.  It seems the wealthy are just as indelible.  The upper middle class seems to have grown at a fairly steady pace.  It's the middle class and the working class that fled.  There was a dramatic rise in gun violence after Katrina that started an alarm bell warning everyone who could to get out of Jackson as soon as possible, leaving South and North Jackson with property values dropping so quickly that some people had to start all over from scratch in Madison or Rankin county.  

In a sense, people panicked because people they knew also panicked, and nobody wanted to be the last one out.  There was no Moses for this exodus, but there were property developers snatching up every bit of bottomland they could find, as long as it wasn't in Hinds county.  There's this story that it was just the White middle and working class that fled, but that's not true, as many black middle and working-class people left as did white, leaving Jackson a city with very wealthy people on one end and very poor people everywhere else.  That situation isn't sustainable, as evidenced by the crime crisis and the infrastructure crisis we're going through.  

The mayor, I worry, has more allegiance to the pipe dream of the new Africa movement than he does to the idea of building a successful middle-class people where race isn't the only bonding factor.  I understand the impetus that began the New Africa movement, and I even sympathize with it. I understand his father's work in it and why he did it and had I been in his shoes, I might have done the same thing, but that was sixty years ago.  It wasn't a workable idea then, and it's even less workable now.  People died for that movement and nothing was gained.  

What does work now is finding a way to bond together the two broken halves of Jackson that can support and sustain a smaller population of poor and indigent.  We always had a blended culture.  It's time to recognize that, and embrace it, and recognize that it's our strength, not our weakness.  

The best times for Jackson were when moderate democrats who did their best to be colorblind on all issues were in charge.  Maybe it didn't last very long, but it did exist.  I'm not sure how we get back to that, but I'd like to.  I can't think of anything that's more bold or more new than a racially hybrid city, with a devoted focus not on the rich or the poor but on the working and middle class.  I can live with somebody changing my favorite shrimp salad or second favorite gumbo, but my home needs some loving care.  I intend to do my best.  Hopefully, I'll find some fellow travelers along the way. 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

A Season of Loss

This isn't a very pleasant story.  I'm sorry.  Please stop now if you're sensitive.

Sixteen years old.  I was working out five times a week and had just begun experimenting with anabolic steroids.  I also began experimenting with women and took on my first girlfriend, who was more than just "do you want to go steady?"

I enjoyed the experiment so far.  I had someone to talk to, someone to focus all these crazy teenage emotions on.  Someone I could hold up as proof that I wasn't alone, even though I still felt very alone.  

School let us out on Wednesday for Thanksgiving, in case we had to travel, and Friday off, too, so we could drive home.  The dentist for my shiny new girlfriend wanted her to have her wisdom teeth taken out on Wednesday so, by Monday, she could go back to school.  

With her wisdom teeth out, she wouldn't be able to partake of much of the Thanksgiving feast.  She mostly took painkillers and remained in bed.  I was allowed to visit after my family finished their dinner, as long as we kept the door open.  My girlfriend wore the prettiest nightgown and robe she could find, but the sides of her face were swollen like I'd punched her.  

This was my first real test as a boyfriend.  I had to be compassionate and responsible but also respectful and gentlemanly and still somehow romantic, which I had no real experience in.  It was a challenge.

I sat and talked on the foot of her bed, with her family a few steps away in the living room.  We held hands and talked about passions we didn't understand.  A body passed by quietly in the hall.  "Hey, Daddy."  She said but got no reply.  The door to his bedroom closed, then locked.  We didn't talk for fear he'd hear us trying to be romantic.


I'd heard that sound before.  My brother accidentally discharged his .22 once in his room while getting ready to clean it.  I recognized the smell.  

A mother's cry.  She called his name over and over and banged her fists on the locked door that wouldn't budge.  In an immediate crisis, the wheels in my mind spin, but find no purchase.  Another consciousness takes over my body that somehow has a plan of how to respond.

"Let me," I said and guided her to the side.  I shook the doorknob and pushed with no effect.  Although still drugged and very confused, my girlfriend stood at the door to her bedroom.

"Get back," I said and pushed the door again.  "Stay back," I said to both of them, with fear but mostly panic in their eyes.  My body had a plan.

I planted my feet shoulder-width apart and drew my open hands back, level with my shoulders.  After spinning up as much resolve as I could, I focused my eyes on a spot on the door and slammed my open hands there as hard as I could.  The privacy lock in the door handle snapped, and the door burst open.  Nobody moved.

Inside, I could see his legs sticking out of the bathroom door inside the bedroom.

"Stay there,"  I said.  Her mother froze, but my girlfriend made a step to see inside herself.  "STAY THERE!"  I said.  And she did.

I'd met this man maybe three times.  We shared maybe fifty words together.  A puddle of black-red grew on the bathroom floor.  An expanding circle of life and death.  One arm was twisted back in a strange way holding a pistol.  I won't tell you the rest of what I saw.  For years, I had no visual memory of some of it.  My brain was merciful to my mind, I suppose.  Eventually, it all came back to me, though.   A horrible image saved for a day when I could handle it, I suppose.

The police left around midnight.  I drove home to get a change of clothes, as I'd promised to spend the night on the sofa in my girlfriend's living room.  My mother and father were still up in the den waiting for me.  "Will you call my friends and tell them what happened?  I don't really know how to do this."  I asked.

"Of course."  Mother said.  After that, nobody really said anything.  I expected them to have something brilliant to say that would help me navigate these strange and treacherous waters, but all they could do was be there, which is what I was about to do.  I was going to my girlfriend's house to sit in her living room and say I was going to sleep, but not sleep, and just sort of be there as if my body would somehow fill the hole in their lives long enough to arrange a more permanent patch.  It took a while, but they did arrange a more permanent patch, and I could extricate myself from this trial without causing any further damage.

My mother insisted that I see a psychologist.  She'd done this before.  He was a pretty good guy; by then, we'd become pretty good friends.  He was instrumental in helping me resolve recurring panic attacks in my twenties, but beyond that, I don't think he was ever really able to heal me.  That I did myself.  Sometimes well.  Sometimes poorly.  

For the next twenty-five years, my mother would ask at thanksgiving if I was ok.  I was ok, generally.  I felt no pain or panic or regret.  All I felt was cold and empty, but that's better than pain.  Eventually, as other deaths passed and other losses were sustained, that coldness spread to Christmas and Halloween, and eventually, I quit celebrating the holidays altogether.  It was a season of loss, and I chose to endure rather than celebrate.

This week will be the first thanksgiving I've celebrated since before some of you were born.  I'm at peace with the past and look forward to the celebration.  I am, in time and in deed, thankful.  


Thursday, November 10, 2022

The Great War

From childhood, I've been reading, in the bible, in comic books, in novels, in songs, in video games, in movies, and television, that I should prepare for and fight in a great war between good and evil.  To be honest, the idea thrilled me.  I prepared and waited, ready to spring.

But, I never encountered anyone or anything that was evil.  Everything and every one had another side to whatever they were doing.  The great war between good and evil, turned out to be a war between what is good and what is evil.  Everyone thinks they're on the side of good, and anyone who opposes them is evil.

There actually are works that tried to prepare me for this.  Books like The Watchmen, V For Vendetta, and sometimes Punisher, but those came fairly late in my comic book reading cycle.  The Greeks sometimes addressed these issues.  Stories like the moral dilemma of Electra or Philoctetes fascinated me, even though I never really faced those issues.  

I depend on the bible a lot; it's my cultural mythology, but between the first word and the last word is a span of as many as a thousand years, so the bible often has conflicting and contradictory points of view on issues.   I have issues with the first parts of the Bible, written by Levite priests but attributed in antiquity to Moses, even though I'm convinced Moses never wrote a word himself, and it's unlikely Aaron did for him.  The commandments, I'm convinced, were an entirely oral tradition for hundreds of years before anyone wrote them down; that's why there are sometimes differences in their order and wording.  

Instead, I focus on the words of Jesus.  Not the words of Paul, or the words of Jerry Fallwell, or the words of Pat Robertson, but the words Jesus himself said.  While Jesus himself never spoke to some of the issues, we have today, like abortion or gay rights, or gun control, the words he did say were general and wise enough to guide me in forming a position.  That's the problem, though; they guide ME, and someone else may read the same words and come to a completely different position.

There is a great battle coming, and it is over good and evil, but the greatest trick Satan ever did was making both sides believe they stand for good.  You never had that problem with Orcs or Sentinals.  In the end, this great mind full of words cannot guide me.  I have to go with heart, and that's a gift from the women of my childhood.  

We may meet.  We may cross swords in battle, a battle of good and evil.  I will still love you, but I fight for the good of the world and the oppressed and the wounded and the ostracized as Jesus taught me to, as Jesus did himself.   I'm in the battle to win.  Not for me; I'm old and have no real needs.  I'm in it for them because they have my heart, and they deserve a life of light and days without pain.

Sunday, November 6, 2022

seeds in the dark

A child in my crib

I saw my brother move around the world freely

creating dreams and monsters and missions from paper and clay and the space between his eyes

I wanted only to be like him

in time, bad luck, bad drugs, bad choices, bad timing, bad stars, stubborn thinking, all the shit that happened in his life scared me away from monsters and missions and making things from paper and clay.

Finance! I thought, marketing, administration. That's for me.  I'll sit on boards and chase debutants.  I'll play golf.  I'll join the country club.  I'll do anything except be an artist.  

a world not made for me, and I not for it

that world was a desert around me.  oceans and oceans of sand, without a leaf of life to be found

Then the day he died, I thought: "where are we now, brother?  Where are we now?  

You're dead; I'm broken.  Neither of us are creating anything.  Where are we now?"

a failed experiment.  I thought.  and I closed my eyes on the world.

The world doesn't work that way, though.  

Seeds sprout in the dark.  They push. They strain.   Their tendrils break through anything to find the light.  

A tree grew in me.  Its boughs and branches broke down every wall I built around them.  

a life tree.  a world tree.  Stronger than I ever imagined.

A tree, from a seed, given me by my brother, when I was a baby in the crib

The Gates

 When I again opened the gates of my heart

I found waiting outside:

my family, my friends, my home

my art, my strength, my love

I found

the wounded, the broken

the dying, the abandoned

the fearful, the tearful

the hopeless, the hopeful

I found

allies, brothers, companions, sisters

warriors, engineers, artists, architects,

poets, singers, painters, acrobats

I found 

doctors, healers, pastors, shepherds

I knew that they were there all along

but I was afraid

to live among them.

now that I'm here, 

all I want is to give away all that was hidden inside me

and hope that it is enough.


I'm older than the gnarled trees around me My body is broken from bad choices and bad experiences I remember when these trees were planted Songs of change Songs of protest songs of regret call to me... we did our best didn't we? didn't I? I'm tired. I want to rest call to me there are new voices new bodies call to me it's their future now. not mine call to me my sword call to me my sword is BROKEN call to me I don't even know where the pieces are call to me if I do this call to me IF I DO THIS, will you leave me alone call to me will I find peace? call to me Love? love never left you. If I do this, will we win, will it last? there are no promises you're not calling from outside of me, are you? come to me you're within me, aren't you? come to me that's why I could never escape this you never could my hands are already there come to me let this be the hour. let us fight together. for the future we will never see.

Saturday, November 5, 2022

The Worst Thing I Ever Did At Millsaps

Occasionally, younger people will ask about my career at Millsaps.  Apparently, some of the stories have been exaggerated over time, so I had probably better set the record straight.

Once, sometimes twice a year, I'd be caught after hours in Sanders Dormitory, but never in Franklin or Bacot.  I preferred women who were a bit more seasoned.  Still do.  As I recall, the punishment for this was you couldn't go back for like a month, which was probably a good idea.

You might have heard tales of the things I did with Doug Mann.  Many of those are true.  Doug and I were sometimes able to break into and always on top of every building on campus.  We excluded the Physical Activities Center because we considered its rounded roof too dangerous to climb without more equipment than we were willing to commit to the endeavor.  I kind of regret that now.  We were occasionally accompanied by a raven-haired vixen, who is now a respected community leader and a mother, so I'll leave her name out of it.  There was also a slightly younger gentleman from Chile who sometimes accompanied us.  He was good at climbing but complained that we'd get caught far too much, even though we never did, somehow.  I have to count on @janet.h.mann or @sydney Mann to read this to Doug because, in his wisdom, he refuses to subscribe to social media.  He'd probably still be willing to climb something if I asked him, though.  Maybe something with stairs this time.

There were more than a few nights, drunken beyond reason, on the back porch of CS's trying to convince Elizabeth Dean we belonged together, or on the front porch of the KA house at four AM plotting to take over the world, or at least find more tequila, but I don't know if those count.  It wasn't even me who put so much powder in the cannon at midnight that it broke out the windows to the TV room and set the curtains on fire.  But I was there.

Because they were reasonable people, there were times when the KAs would tire of me, and the Pikes would tire of Bonehead, so we would logically do things together instead.  There came a night when the Lamba Chi Alphas wanted to have a barbeque and keg party at their house.  The Chops suffered under us far too often for reason, but they did it without much resentment.  

I can't remember if it was Bonehead's idea or mine, but at some point, it was decided that we should have a barbeque party of our own, so he stole the Webber grill full of chickens, and I stole the keg of beer, and we walked over to the steps of Ezelle dorm with the chickens and beers and commenced to eating and drinking.  For their part, the Chops never really confronted us or complained.  I think they were possibly in profound shock that we would do such a thing.

There was probably something like thirty chicken pieces on that grill, and they had another grill still at the Lambda Chi house.  We had the intention, and the capacity, to eat them all.  Into our third piece of chicken each, a wisened member of the security team arrived on his golf cart.

"You gotta take 'em back, boys."

So we did.  We very politely took the keg of beer and the barbeque full of chickens back to the Lambda Chi house, picked up whatever garbage was in the yard to make up for the eaten pieces, and went on our way while the Chops continued their party as they had originally intended.

The amazing thing about that story is that we probably should have gotten in trouble, but, to their credit, the Lambda Chi's never reported us.  They didn't even make a security report.  I don't think Dean Good even knew it ever happened.  They got their chickens back (we continued to turn them on the grill) and made some friends, and that was that.  

I don't know what student life is like these days at Millsaps, but according to some blogs I read last night, they're holding up the traditions fairly well.  The cannon was eventually filled with concrete and made inoperable.  We weren't able to insure it if we didn't.  Probably a reasonable outcome.  The climbing upon of buildings ended one night when another gentleman decided to take a dive off the Christian Center bell tower the night before he was to be wed.  I don't think he meant to, but getting married can be pretty intimidating.  If he'd gone with Doug and me, he wouldn't have fallen.  We got all our guests home safely.  

As far as fraternities and chickens and intermural shenanigans are concerned.  I feel like not much is changed.  I can look in some of these boys' eyes and know they're just like me, maybe not as ambitious, and they can't possibly have a friend as epic as Bonehead, but the traditions continue.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

My Hands On The Rope

When I was young, I played football, but I loved strength sports.  I loved them for their simplicity.  With the possible exception of running, strength sports are the simplest of all.  You move a piece of metal from here to there, and that's it.  Whoever moves the heaviest piece of metal wins.  Sometimes there's no competitor.  It's just you and the metal.  Can I move four hundred pounds from here to there, or no?  There is no other person.  If I do it, I win.  If I don't, I curse and try another day.  The possibility of failure makes it a sport and not an exercise.  Exercise is doing things you know you can do.  Sport is doing things you may never be able to do if you don't commit yourself.  

Nearly all strength sports are solitary affairs, which suited the younger version of me because socialization was often difficult and usually only possible with those I trusted the most.  There was a communal or team strength sport, though: tug-of-war.  Tug-of-war is deliciously simple.  Two teams grab hold of a rope, and whoever pulls the most rope to their side of the field wins.  That's that.

Nearly everyone grips the rope with their hands in tug-of-war, and if things go badly, everyone can just let go except one.  The anchor had the rope tied around his waist.  If his team lost, he would be dragged bodily through the mud pit or pool or whatever lay between the two teams.  He would be singled out as the loser.  That job, more often than not, was mine.

Tug-of-war works because, while I may be the only one tied to the rope, my friends have their hands on it too, and they pull as hard as they can and commit as much as they can to try and prevent the team from losing and me from going into the mud.  While there were a few times when I went into the pit, more often than not, we won.  We won because my friends wouldn't give up and kept their hands on the rope despite the challenge.

I like applying metaphors from strength sports to life's challenges because life is complex, but strength sports are simple, and simple metaphors can make the most difficult challenge less threatening and more surmountable.  Right now, many of the things I care about the most are struggling.  My country, my state, my city, my school.  In some ways, they struggle more now than ever before.

Long ago now, I was hurt, and tired, and frustrated, and felt very alone, so I untied myself from the tug-of-war rope and hid in a place of solitude and stillness for a very long time.  "My friends can win without me," I thought.  Whatever strength I had was spent long ago, I thought.  If they don't win, I don't want to be dragged through the mud, I knew.  I feared.

One day a voice said to me, "you can no longer stay in the in-between place.  You must choose.  If you die, you will be quiet and still forever, or you can return to the world that's been calling for you since you left, but you must fight."  I opened my eyes and saw that the tug-of-war continued.  New men were in the anchor loop, but the war continued, and it wasn't looking good for my team.  

I'm old now...and broken.  I'm no good for the anchor loop anymore, but I have hands.  I've been in this war before.  I can pull.  I can pull harder than you would ever imagine.  I can commit, and I don't care if I go into the mud, and the strength I lost is coming back more every day.  I'm back on the team.  Now, all I need to know is where to put my hands on the rope.

Official Ted Lasso