A feeling like your voice doesn’t matter.
Anyone feeling that way today?
Frankly, I’ve been feeling that way for the better part of a year now. It’s why while I’ve been busy as Dad and Coach and certainly have some stories to tell, SHYB has been in a virtual shutter.
I’ve started dozens and dozens of posts. On the need to rethink the way we teach kids baseball. On how I reacted when a young player said to me—“You’re weird!” On the demise of the Super Hero genre even as it rises. On the exchange between my 15-year-old son and my mother when he linked his own experiences being bullied for his stutter to the actions of our President-elect. Those and many more gathering dust on the virtual shelf.
I cannot finish them. Any of them. And I’m struggling to keep going even at this moment. I’ve reached a point where I simply don’t like the sound of my own voice. In the constant drone of social media, the endless chimes of incoming email, the explosion of availability of news both true and “truthy,” my words feel redundant and trite. My voice does not feel special, or even valuable.
And last night didn’t help.
Or did it?
I started Stop Hitting Your Brother to take a look at parenting and pop-culture from a conflict-resolution standpoint. And, in this moment when we face four years of an almost literal “Bully Pulpit” I have heard those like Van Jones say, “What do we tell our kids in the morning?”
I know this is hyperbolic, but the feeling I have today has a strange taste of 9/11. I remember in the days after the attacks, I started looking online at potential jobs in smaller towns in the Midwest. With DC as one of the ground zero locations, I worried for my infant child and thought perhaps it might be better to head elsewhere to better protect his future. Given Canada’s immigration site crashed last night, I’m guessing others are dealing with a similar emotional déjà vu.
It was that fear of the unknown—the horrific prospects the Id of my imagination happily filled—that made me feel unable to ground myself in the reality of that moment. I knew the world was profoundly changed, and in a way that dashed my dreams of a post-Cold War world where, while we still struggled with the complexities of ethnic hatred and economic disenfranchisement, was a world that was better than the one that we had left when the Berlin wall fell.
Ironically, we woke up today on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall with a President-elect who used the building of one as his signature. And that 9/11 feeling of a diminished, depressing future – of a country not struggling to overcome its past demons, but one who would prefer to ignore them (and some even celebrate them) in favor of the illusion of past greatness sears my soul with a disturbingly similar dread.
Now, I’ve seen folks like me posting and writing inspiring and consoling lines from Anne Frank and MLK. Believe in the good in people. The arc of history bends toward justice. This Huffington Post piece that tells us we should tell our kids that we will protect them from the big, bad, Trump first and foremost. And with those yawps into the perceived darkness come the unsure retorts of those seized by it – we are simply not sure anymore: of the light in people; of the arc of justice; that we can or should tell our kids that everything will be all right.
I don’t buy it. My belief in this country is profoundly shaken. But this moment — at least for me — is saying something different.
For me, it brings to mind another profound philosopher, Ms. Rachel Dawes. Don’t know who that is? Well, of course, she’s the assistant DA and long-time friend of Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (hey, it’s SHYB — of course there’s going to be a pop-culture reference). As she said to an apparently vapid billionaire playboy:
“It’s not what you are underneath. It’s what you do that defines you.”
To be honest, I’m not sure people in general have a “nature.” And I’m not sure it matters. The idea of recompense for good deeds is alluring, but it presupposes some kind of emotional payment that may never come. Instead of proffering a better vision of a future I am entirely unsure about, what I feel like I can do is figure out what I think I can do today that will make our world a little more loving, a little more tolerant, and a little more understanding of others.
Obama told us to hope. But maybe it’s better to just act hopefully instead, and let the chips fall where they may.
An election is a competition, and we get very caught up in the “winning.” It’s understandable, given everything that is on the line. But, as a coach, I get the fact that no matter how hard you work, no matter how well you do things, someone out there just might do it better. Or someone might take a great pitch you made and flair it just over the infield for a game winning blooper (my best analogy at the moment for a candidate who won more votes but lost the election). The result, however devastating, should not…cannot… invalidate the effort.
I am fearful today, I will fully admit. I have less hope than I had 24 hours ago.
But I think I have found the power to act hopefully.
To show my children through my actions what I think the world should be whether it ever ends up that way. That tolerance, inclusion, and love is how we should both live and give no matter what comes back to us in return. That the value is in the effort, and that failure is part of the learning experience, and helps make us better people and our future actions more effective.
My first step in this process is right here, right now. I will reclaim my words and my voice on this blog, and in my books. I may still very much doubt who I am underneath, and what I do may define me in a way I don’t like.
But it is what I do.
I encourage all of you who feel like I do to go and do, too.
Well, what do you know, I finally finished one.