Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of 2017 Or 2016 Blows

If you would have said to me in January that 2016 was going to be awful I might have believed you.  After all, I hadn’t had a terrible year in a long time, it was probably due.  I guess after so many years of decency the stars have to fall out of alignment don’t they?

If I only had known that when I started hockey this year, maybe I would have waited until 2017 to begin my journey.  Who knows what kind of emotional pain I could have saved myself.  I wouldn’t have saved the hours spent on the road between the rink and my house – it’s at least an hour to the closest rink.

The physical pain is a completely different thing.  An out-of-shape, late thirties, overweight guy who never knew who how to skate suddenly tries to take on the game of hockey with early twenty year olds who have been playing for most of their lives?  That’s a recipe for disaster, especially when I don’t like to lose.  I’m going to do whatever I can to keep up with them even if it means pushing my legs to the point of muscle pulls or my back to strains.  It’s all in the name of the game right?  Besides, that’s why I have insurance.

Of course insurance doesn’t cover the emotional pain.  The times I drove away from the rink trying to patch up that piece of me that broke in half every time I fell trying to execute a simple maneuver like skating with the puck or defending another player.  Realizing that you can’t do something as simple as the basics in a sport is demeaning.  If I compare it to something like basketball it’s like not being able to pass or drop down in the defensive stance.  You might as well pack up your equipment and go home.

With an hour plus drive my mind constantly went through all the things I did wrong.  I asked myself why I did them wrong.  More than anything it was because I simply wasn’t talented enough.  Because I’m starting this sport in my late thirties I don’t have potential, I would have peaked a long time ago.  The window is closed, the door is shut and there is no going back.  Each week I had to accept the fact that if I was going to make any gains, they were going to be small gains – I would never make that leap to where I always wanted to go.

It wasn’t so much an exercise in acceptance of athletic skill as it was starting to realize that my mortality was setting in.  Parts of my body were breaking down because I was letting them.  My mind was struggling to accept the fact that I was getting older.  I never had to look at my deficiencies in that light before.  Then again hockey does bring out weaknesses because it is extremely demanding.  Somehow I was a bit more angry with myself.  Fighting to find happiness with what I was doing but I was trying my hardest not to show it.

Also, I came to realize that it’s tough to be a volunteer, especially when you care about what you are doing.  Some in a community organization find themselves interested in the glory.  If there was a Hall of Fame for these people, they’d be the first to say they were there doing it all.  It wouldn’t matter whether they really made a difference or not.  They just want the recognition.

I’ve been told that I don’t make my feelings known.  I’ve also been told that I make big deals out of small things and I can’t let things go.  When I look at these two statements I have a hard time balancing them out.  In this situation, I had a really hard time with the volunteer organization because individuals would criticize me for stepping up to help when all I wanted was to do right for the children involved.  I’m not worried about getting a prize or getting a pat on the back.  If I have the ability to help then I will help.  I want to be able to contribute so that others can benefit.

However, some don’t see it that way.  They want to take up their stones and throw them because I live in a house that doesn’t look like theirs.

To that end, I say okay.  At some point this year, I accepted the stone throwers.  I wasn’t going to change the way they felt about me.  I wasn’t going to change how they treated me.  What I could do was be the best volunteer I could be and at the same time hand those that wanted to toss rocks some of the shiniest rocks they’ve ever seen.  I might as well polish them for them.  Instead of being mean and nasty to them, why not be polite and smile?  I guess if I’m going to get hit with a few pebbles they oughta be clean.

It’s been a struggle to find that balance this year between the things I feel and how I should feel.  The question is though, “what should I feel?”  Who should tell me what to feel?  Should I let someone judge me for what I feel?  It’s okay for someone to give me constructive criticism but it’s up to me to discover what I really am.  Those things I felt after hockey, those are things that I truly felt.  My feelings are my feelings.  If I wish to express them, sometimes I have to express them.  I started this blog to express them.  If I really need to get something out there I’m going to tell you how I feel.  If something bothers me, you will know about it.  However, I’m not the kind of person that is going to put out a line and say “hey, that new Matchstick Cats book is great.”  That’s why I don’t use things like Facebook.  I’m just not that kind of person.  I keep a lot to myself, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think things.  I just don’t always share because I don’t feel these things are important.

Maybe 2017 will come along and I’ll realize that I don’t suck at hockey.  Then again, I’ll go skate and fall on my face again.  I’ll go stick handle a puck and it will go off to the side.  I’m no Jayson Megna.  I wondered the other day if I put together a group of my favorite hockey players how that would work out.  Somehow I would step on the ice with them and end up breaking something.  Breaking something like my stick or my wrist or my leg.  This is just how things go for me.  Or at least that’s how 2016 has gone.  Maybe the bad has outweighed the good of this year.  It’s not supposed to be that way.  No one is supposed to stare into the abyss and see the darkness.  No one is supposed to stare up in the sky and realize there is more emptiness than stars.

Country music singer Cam released a song this year called Burning House where she reflects on a dream that she had.  The person she is singing to is stuck in the burning house and she goes on to say she’s “trying to take what’s lost and broke and make it right.”  2016 feels like that song where so many things are lost and broke – I hope that in 2017 the pieces come back together.  I hope the north star shines brighter than the emptiness of the night sky.  I can’t take another 2016.