“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” ~ Lewis Carroll

White Wing Blue Water (Pixdaus, photographer unknown)

                     

“What is the meaning of life? That was all—a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.” ~ Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse 

Zen Blue by Gordon McBryde (Pixdaus)

Monday evening. Bitterly cold

Shall I share something with you? I have been pondering whether or not I should put this out for public consumption. Oh. Nothing like that. I mean, I haven’t won the lottery or suddenly become famous. Totally not where I was going with this.

This is the secret that dwells within, the truth that perhaps gives meaning to my existence: I hate my life.

Hmmm . . .

Perhaps I should be a bit more precise: I don’t hate myself. I don’t hate the people in my life. I don’t hate life. I hate my life, the one that I’m living at this moment.

You see, yesterday was my birthday, and yes, every year I go on and on about how much I detest my birthday, and yes, every year I manage to work myself into some kind of snit over the acknowledgement of (or lack thereof) my birthday, so you would probably not be completely misguided in thinking that perhaps my declaration has something to do with my birthday because, well, it does.

“What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across
the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” ~ Crowfoot, Blackfoot Warrior

Last Blue by Bade Babayigit (Pixdaus)

I mean, how did I get to be this old without accomplishing even half of the things that I thought I would have done by now? How does that happen? How does it happen that your body betrays you much too soon and you find yourself spending days at a time in bed? How does it happen that you turn a corner and find a wall instead of a door?

You may be sitting there thinking to yourself ‘How in the hell can she claim to hate her life? What kind of statement is that?’

I won’t argue with you. I won’t even try to persuade you of the validity of my claim. I only know that a few days ago I was sitting in bed holding my head in my hands in an attempt to squeeze the pain away when I suddenly thought, “This sucks. This really, really sucks. I thought that I was getting better . . . I hate my life.”

So you see, that’s how I can make that claim. Am I being melodramatic. Of course I am. Do I mean it? Of course I do, and of course I don’t. (What, you want definitive from me?)

As I was trying to explain to Corey: The first year out on disability was a steady decline; I never knew when I was going to be stuck in bed for days, unable to do even the simplest task. The next year contained intermittent advances. Yes, I still hurt, but I had more energy. Then several months ago, I felt well enough that I toyed with the idea of returning to work. Then BAM! (sorry, don’t usually yell with caps, but felt it apropos here), I’m hit with one of the worst downtimes I’ve had in quite some time.

It’s as if I’m one of those little wind-up toys that advance a few steps each time the spring is wound and the release button is turned. The boys had those when they were toddlers, and my favorite was the penguin, the way that it toddled.

But I digress . . .

Like the toy, I can only go so far, but . . . Not. One. Step. Farther. To try to do so only messes with the spring mechanism and eventually ends up with the toy being broken and completely useless, except to look at, and who wants a wind-up toy that can only be seen and not used?

“His advanced age, his wounds, his chains . . .
‘Albanian,’ he inquired. ‘Why do you fight
when you could live differently?’
‘Because, Padishah,’ replied the prisoner,
‘Every man has a piece of sky in his breast
and in it flies a swallow.’” ~ Fatos Arapi, Sultan Murat and the Albanian

Sapphire and White (Pixdaus, photographer unknown)

Admittedly, this mood more than likely stems from that overwhelming ennui that cloaks me  from November through February. Hence the blue theme, the ice, the stillness in the pictures.

The reality is that only narcissists and psychopaths are able to go through life never questioning their existence, never doubting themselves—the former because perfection is hard to improve upon (in their minds), and the latter because self-doubt requires a conscience. This isn’t the first time that I have felt myself a failure, nor will it be the last.

Although I have to say that the idea that my life is beyond my control really torques me out of shape. The battle rages on between what my mind aspires to and what my body will accede to, and I simply will not, cannot concede, not as long as I can still find the smallest piece of blue sky to which I can cling, not as long as I can strike a match in the night to create enough light on which I can pin my hopes.

“Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen” ~ David Whyte, from “All the True Lies”

Blue Nature by Gerhard Grasinger (Pixdaus)

Okay. So this post is not unfolding as I had envisioned. Perhaps because my declaration in the first section is a few days old, and I was unable to write about it while it was preying on me the strongest—because of the headache that will not end (I kid you not—28 days and counting).

So I should clarify: I hate the circumstances of my life, those factors that keep me down (physically and emotionally), the elements that seem to be so much beyond my control. I mean, even this headache thing—the neurologist to whom my headache doctor referred me does not accept GW’s new insurance plan. Was I surprised? Not at all. Anything else would have been too easy.

But in the end, under the glaring light of introspection and self-analysis, I realize that I am a tortured but fortunate soul. I think that my friend Alan comes to me in my dreams occasionally to remind me of this. His death from cancer at only 39 means that he never saw his son as a teenager; he never hit those major birthday milestones. And if anyone had a legitimate reason to curse fate, it was him.

As I have said many, many times, fate is fickle, and the very fact that I have been around enough years to repeat myself, to bemoan my fate, and to find the light in the darkness is what truly defines me.

More later. Peace.

Music by Brendan James, “The Sun Will Rise” (could not insert YouTube video as content is restricted, but I really wanted this song for this post)

BRENDAN JAMES – THE SUN WILL RISE LYRICS and VIDEO.

                   

The sun will rise, the sun will save me.
The sun will change me, change the way I feel.
The day will make this heart a fortune
From the fruit of a hundred orchards,
From the water rivers bring.

The sun will rise, the sun will save me
From the night, the sun will change me,
Change the way I feel.

I’ve had enough of the hard and harder.
Times are tough. I’ve drifted farther,
Farther from myself.

I won’t dwell, baby, on my failures.
It won’t help, baby. It won’t bring changes.
I won’t run, baby, when all I want is to run.
I won’t forget the morning’s sure to come.

The sun will rise, the sun will save me
From the night, the sun will change me,
Change the way I feel.
The love I want, the love I need is
Sure to come, is sure to lead me,
Lead me home again.

The light is low, the night is burning.
My head is still but my mind is turning,
Turning ’round again.

If only I can make it through this
Lonely night, if I can do this,
If I can drift away,

Then the sun will rise, the sun will save me
From the night, the sun will change me,
Change the way I feel.

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Tragedy Unfolds in Real Life

 

the-baseball-game-by-g-fitz

The Baseball Game by G. Fitz

The Rueful Story of One Man’s Doomed Dreams

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Goethe 

Right before I hit my writer’s wall, I had planned to write a post about a story that I had read that really touched a nerve with me. It was the story of one man’s lost dreams and eventual suicide, and how all-too-often, people in the public eye, even in a minor way, are treated as commodities instead of people. It was the story of John C. Odom.

john-odom1
Former Baseball Player John C. Odom

Normally, I do not peruse the sports news as admittedly, this particular area does not hold a lot of interest for me, but when I read the headline—”A Tragic End for Minor Leaguer Traded for Bats”—I knew that I had to read more. This story appeared on March 3 of this year in The San Luis Obispo and was picked up by the AP. Apparently, Odom, a minor league with a fast arm, was picked up by the the Loredo Broncos of the United League for the price of 10 baseball bats.

Odom was originally drafted by the Giants as a 44th round pick in 2003, but his inconsistent record caused the Giants to release him in the spring of 2008. The Calgary Vipers offered Odom a job, but because of a 1999 aggravated assault conviction, Odom was not eligible for entrance into Canada.

What followed was a proposition of such bizarre proportions, that it landed Odom with the unenviable title of “Bat Boy.” Jose Melendez, General Manager for the Laredo Broncos, proposed to Calgary President Pete Young that Laredo buy Odom’s contract for $1,000. Young supposedly said that “the Vipers didn’t do cash deals because they made the team look financially unstable.” What Young needed, he told Melendez, was bats, and he proposed releasing Odom for 10 Prairie Stick bats, double-dipped black, 34 inches long, model C243, at a cost of $665 each.

Odom, who only wanted to play, accepted the terms and drove to Laredo, Texas. What ensued was completely predictable: the theme music to Batman, catcalls of “Bat Man,” and “Bat Boy.”

“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail. Without it, nothing can succeed.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

There is a saying that “success is never final; failure is never fatal.” But in this particular instance, I must beg to disagree. It would take someone of tremendously strong constitution to withstand such verbal thrashings. Odom did not possess that constitution. Described by his college coach as more of an athlete with a musician’s heart, Odom at first claimed to be okay with the trade, but by June, Odom was visibly frayed. He went to Laredo Bronco’s manager Dan Schwam on June 10. According to Schwam, Odom came to him and said,”Skip, I’m going home. I just can’t take it. I’ve got some things to take care of. I’ve got to get my life straightened out.”

odoms-tattoo1

Within five months, Odom was dead. According to the medical examiner of Georgia, Odom’s death was an accidental overdose from heroin, methamphetamine, the stimulant benzylpiperazine and alcohol. A tattoo on Odom’s right elbow read “Poena Par Sapientia,” Latin for “Pain equals wisdom.” Odom was 26 years old. He died wearing his pain.

“One meets his destiny often in the road he takes to avoid it” ~ French Proverb

Odom’s teammates did not learn of his death until recently. Such had been his complete withdrawal from the limelight, and seemingly, from life itself.

The ten bats from the infamous trade? They have never been used and are currently in storage. The parties involved in the bat trade insist that it was not a publicity stunt and that it was not done to embarrass Odom.

But consider, at 26, after a shaky start, what young man or woman would not be embarrassed by such a publicized trade? For that matter, what 40-year-old would not be embarrassed? And how helpless would a person feel to know that his fate was no longer his own but instead, was due to 10 baseball bats?

I have to believe that someone, somewhere, at some point, had to stop and ask if this was the right thing to do. I cannot believe, wish not to believe, that the powers that ruled in this decision never had second thoughts on the soundness of such a move. If not, why not?

“What we call despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.” ~ George Eliot

I realize that athletes, in this country in particular, are treated as commodities. Hence the multi-million dollar contracts, the highly-publicized trades, the slaps on the wrist for infractions. The U.S. loves its athletes, but especially its good athletes. Its mega-stars.

But there is a whole other world that many people do not pay much attention to: the world filled with the less than stellar athletes.

Granted, the farming system is baseball’s tried and true method of finding its major league up-and-comers. But it is not a system that allows much room for those players who are different in some way, who do not fit the mold.

One of the best friends I ever had was a minor league player. He had an incredible arm and was blessed with agility and speed. Watching him play baseball was truly like watching poetry in motion, which I have often found to be the case when watching an athlete who is truly, naturally talented. Unfortunately, my friend blew out his rotator cuff and was no longer able to play. I know that that injury cost him in a number of ways, but most profoundly, emotionally, because playing baseball was such an innate part of who Alan was. To be unable to play, unable to fulfill a lifelong dream, was a bitter pill, especially for someone so imbued in the allure of the game.

It would probably be safe to assume that Odom, a player who began as a walk-on with a 90 mph fastball, felt that same allure. Certainly John Odom was not a perfect man or a perfect player. He had his demons. Some who knew him described him as having “black moods,” and an alleged substance abuse problem that he had conquered in the past. So is it any wonder that Odom drowned the “bat boy” persona with pills and alcohol?

odombat002
One of the Odom Bats

Odom will enter the record books as the player who was traded for 10 bats: A man’s professional life equating to $6,650. If not for this heinous degrading of a man’s dignity, Odom’s life and subsequent death would likely have remained in obscurity, just one more cog in the machine.

 

“The pain of the mind is worse than the pain of the body” ~ Publius Syrus

Again, I do not purport to know a great deal about the major league. I always preferred college baseball. But I do know about sports and the inordinate amount of pressure that players have thrust upon them from an early age. Living right next to the neighborhood park, I can sit in my room on any weekend afternoon during baseball season and listen to parents yell horrible things at the players, at their own children, at other people’s children.

The verbal abuse hurled at these children is horrendous. I have heard a father chew his son out the entire way from the park to the car that was parked next to my house because the boy missed a ball. The boy could not possibly have been more than 8 years old.

What does this have to do with Odom? Who knows. I know very little about his family, his background, how he grew up and what kind of support he did or did not receive as a player in the pony leagues that exist in every neighborhood in America.

What I do know is that no one comes out better from being called names, whether that epithet is “you stupid boy,” “no-talent so and so,” or “here comes batman.” Baseball is the great American past time, but at times, the price paid for admission to the game is just too high.

If he were still alive, I think that John C. Odom might agree with me.

(Information for this article comes from the original article written by Ben Walker, AP baseball writer (http://www.sanluisobispo.com/346/story/639018.html).