Just last week a friend of mine reminded me of a funny story from high school. I’m pretty sure that I have written about it before, but how arrogant of me to assume that anyone actually keeps up. I have a real problem with not being able to remember what I have or have not actually written about, and what has actually just swirled around my brain. Anywhoo, my friend reminded me of a time when I was being punished for running from the sideline and onto the football after a fight broke out during a high school football game. I was ejected from the game, but it was of little consequence. The real problem was to be the next week, when every day after football practice I was to receive my punishment. Now it was all I could do to survive the full length of a varsity football practice to begin with, so to throw extra punishment on top of it was terrible. The punishment was this, one of the coaches lined up about 40 yards away from me, holding a padded dummy. Coach Netherland would blow the whistle and yell, “fight” in the thickest and quickest country accent you have ever heard. My punishment was to sprint as hard as I could the 40 yard distance, and tackle the dummy, jog back, and wait for the whistle and the word, “FIGHT”. Over and over and over and over. The parents who were there to pick up their kids were there, the coaches were there, my teammates were there, and worst of all, my dad was there. To add insult to injury, they all thought it was funny as hell. “Fight”-sprint-“Fight”-sprint-“Fight”-sprint “Fight”-sprint. 5 days of this torture. Monday through Friday, this was going to be the case. I had no idea when it would end. After every practice, I would grab the 2 biggest guys I could find, pull them together, crouch down, and try to sneak off the field, camouflaged by a wall made of Baker and Burger. The coaches had bigger things on their minds than staying after practice to torture somebody like me. Certainly they would forget to run me today. I’m almost there…I’m almost to the locker room where I will be shielded by the concrete blocks, and given an option of 3 different escape routes. The locker room is home base, and I am almost there; the old man had forgot! [Whistle Blows] “Buddha! get your turkey ass back out here. You have a lesson still to learn”. Dammit.

I don’t remember which days I vomited and which days I cramped, but I do know that every day sucked and I wanted out. I’m not sure if I had ever regretted anything so bad as I did running out on that field. On the 5th day of torture I was right in the thick of my sprints when I was approached by one of my coaches. My coach Skippy Brewer, who I also considered a friend and still admire him GREATLY, approached me and gave me the best advice that I have heard to date. He said, “Hey Buddha, why don’t you surrender? Quit fighting. Throw your hands in the air, and tell him you don’t wanna fight anymore.” It seemed logical, and I trusted Coach Brewer, so that’s what I did. When Coach Netherland blew the whistle and yelled “Fight”, I didn’t budge. I just stood there with my hands in the air, unwilling to participate in the rest of the exercise. He blew the whistle a handful more times, and handful of times I remained still.  Coach Netherland, as he often did, jingled the keys in his pocket and silently walked off the football field, acknowledging that my lesson had been learned and my punishment was over.

I like this story for a number of reasons, but primarily because it mirrors life so perfectly. Every day is a new day in which I wake up with a finite amount of energy. It is gonna be exhausting, daunting, and unpredictable. There are gonna be the good, the bads, and the in-betweens, and it’s gonna be difficult enough to survive a normal day that is business as usual, that I need not make it any harder than it is going to be on its own. What I have to watch out for is the times that life blows it’s whistle, I hear “Fight”, and have a decision to make. Do I want to get involved in every problem that comes into my life? Do I want to get involved in ANY problem that comes into my life? Do I want to sprint onto the field and tackle the dummy, or would it be easier to throw my hands in the air and surrender. I have to make a decision as to just how much of my life I want to spend angrily and aggressively pursuing various dummies, or how often I wanted to sit on the sidelines and let them play their own game. The reason I was ejected from that game was not because of what I did on the field, the reason was because I ran onto the field where I did not belong. Essentially, I was getting into something that wasn’t my business, but I chose to make it my business and there was a price to pay. I gained nothing from sticking my nose where it didn’t belong, but chose to do it anyway. I have to be careful about what I perceive to be the whistle blowing, and what is merely a skirmish between two people that needs to be worked out among themselves. I think that this particular scenario hits so close to home because it combines so many emotions and different characters in my life, who were all so important. I was scared, exhausted, anxious, and afraid, but I had friends around (even if they were laughing at me). I had family there to support me, but were also willing to laugh as I worked through my problem. My dad did not glare at me with some sort of disapproving scowl, the coaches did not give me the stink-eye and act act as if they would never speak to me. They simply laughed. They laughed because mistakes happen. Mistakes happen and sometimes people jump a little too aggressively at something that maybe could be handled differently. Sure, there may have been some disappointment, but anyone in my life that can’t handle being disappointed will not be in my life for long, because I will let you down. It’s what humans do.

Being about 20 years older, I’d like to think a touch wiser, and definitely more tired, I wake up each day with the intentions of ignoring that whistle. I want to live in as close to a state of surrender as possible. I want to stay off of other people’s fields and take care of what is going on in mine. Sure there are times when the whistle blows, and the appropriate thing to do is fight, and when that time comes I want to give it hell, but generally speaking, there are not a lot of issues that require my assistance. I need to utilize the friends, family, and coaches in my life before running blindly onto someone’s field and creating chaos. I need to look around and see if I’m the only one fighting, when everyone else is laughing and having a good time. I want to make better decisions, so that maybe the whistle doesn’t even blow, or doesn’t blow as often. Have a good day and laugh at something stupid.

Peace, Love, and all things Beef related,