I never really get too personal on my blog. Firstly, because what I'm having for dinner, how my day at work went, something silly that my cat Mr. Fluffy Whiskers said, or what I'm wearing on Saturday is just not that interesting. Hashtag ... NO ONE CARES! But secondly, I just really don't let people close to me in real life. I keep everyone at arms length. It's a defense mechanism more than anything.
But yesterday I wrote a post about basically not making excuses or giving up, which was challenged by a thoughtful reader. Most post comments whether supportive or contrary usually roll off my back. But for some reason, this anonymous comment triggered something inside me. It really made me do some evaluating. At times I think it's important to gain perspective of someone so you get a clearer picture of why they are who they are. So here's a little about me that I've never shared before, and will probably never again ...
I grew up in a small Southern Missouri town in the 70's. My father left my sister and me after returning from the Vietnam War when I was three years old. He was an alcoholic. I literally physically saw the man about 5 times in my life. The only contact we had from him was about every 2-3 years when we'd get a late night drunk dial where he'd express his profound sorrow, and promise to come see us soon. Guess what, we waited and waited ... but he never came. My mom did the best she could, but unfortunately like many of us, had short comings of her own. Since she was a single mom raising two kids without child support, we were obviously dirt poor. At times we missed meals. We got food stamps for a while, but money was always a struggle. I started working at about age 13, and almost every check I ever earned went to help pay bills. For a few years when I was 8'ish, my mom dated a UPS driver from Appleton City, Missouri named Ken Cross. He was a deacon at his church ... who hated me and was physically abusive with me. He's dead now from old age or something, but I used to pray when I was little that he would die of something horrible and painful. When a man that's not your father ... and the only thing you want in life is your father ... hits you in the face, it changes something inside you. There's so much I could share from those years, but I don't want to embarrass anyone, or bore any of you with the details. And like many of us, I could go through a laundry list of horrible things here and there, and we could sit around and compare battle scars from growing up, but I won't. It all gets a little blurry over the years and sometimes we have trouble discerning actual facts from imagined trauma in our memory bank. For example, there have been allegations over the years of sexual abuse by now deceased family members by other family members, but it didn't happen to me, and I can't confirm them. But looking back, there always seemed to be a lot of drama in my young life.
Fast forward to when I was about 29. I reached out to my father, just so I would at least know the man a little. At that point, I hadn't heard from him in about 12 years. Nothing. When I finally saw him for the first time, I learned he had been in and out of jail periodically, worked as a farm hand and construction laborer here and there, fathered a few other children whom I'd never met, and now lived in a shack with no plumbing and an actual outhouse about 20 feet from the front door, on the bank of a river in Southern Kansas. My father was literally living like a stray dog who'd wandered into a vacant barn to take shelter from the cold. The harshness of his life had grossly distorted the young face that I had only known from pictures. The face that looked exactly like mine. He was nervous around me, mostly cordial, and somewhat repentant, and I'm thankful to this day that I made the meeting happen. But literally about two weeks after the trip to visit him, he stole a motorcycle, took it for a joyride with a woman he'd picked up from a bar, and while drunk ... obliviously ... crashed the bike into a telephone pole killing himself, and murdering the woman as well. I mean there was literally one pole in the middle of this wheat field ... and he hit it. Like it was planted there, just for him. Great legacy dad ... thank you.
The point of the story is that, although it's unfortunately not much different than a lot of personal stories ... you DO NOT know me. You don't know what I've been through, nor do I you. We all have a world of experiences, some super-great, and some dark, that make us who we are. I used to look around my classroom in school and rank how bad I thought certain kid's lives were compared to mine. I was certain I had the worst. I just knew I had the deepest wounds in the room. And all I wanted was my dad to walk through the door. But the pain and struggle taught me a couple of things over the years ...
1. Many, many, many, many, many (can't say "many" enough) people have it much worse than I did.
2. I was NEVER going to let my situation be the reason I failed at anything ... and I was absolutely going to overcome and never use it an excuse.
You can go one of two ways when faced with adversity. Some get crushed under the weight of a broken heart and just never really recover ... which is certainly understandable. But some, after getting crushed, somehow get up. And when they get up, at times they stand stronger and shine brighter than everyone else around them. They know that nothing can hold them back, because they've been through hell and back and came out stronger for it. I choose to be the latter. I learned quickly that not having the support system of a father figure around meant I had to work a little harder, and push myself a little more just to keep up with the other kids. I didn't want to. I wanted to sit around and feel sorry for myself. But I evolved into a person that when anyone has ever doubted me, or put me down, or challenged me, or simply told me I couldn't do something ... I stepped up, took the challenge, and most of the time proved them wrong. I live to prove them wrong. Almost like an 8 year old little boy showing everyone he can make it on his own without a dad.
At times it makes me come across as a little arrogant, cold, and uncaring, which I truly regret. More than anything, that's just deep seeded anger and fear bubbling to the surface. It's simply a survival mechanism. If you read my blog, hopefully you see that overall I try to be a voice of encouragement, and not discouraging. Someone who people can look at and say, "Wow, that old guy really works his butt off ... I think I'll follow his example!" But the anonymous writer absolutely identified something in me dead on, that I really struggle with ... a lack of compassion and understanding of other people's situation. It shouldn't be, but it's one of my biggest character flaws that I really battle to overcome. And it's regrettable that it was so easily unmasked in my writing. You'd think, based on my life's path, I would have a bleeding heart for anyone going through any trial. But unfortunately my reaction is typically, "C'mon ... suck it up ... stop making excuses!" And bringing this back to a running and fitness blog, when I see a perfectly able-bodied person quit, or make an excuse because things get "a little tough", it just runs counter to everything that I am. But in fairness, I should probably mind my own business.
So there it is. I'm obviously flawed, and by no means perfect. In fact, probably more than "a little" damaged. If we ever meet, you probably won't recognize any of this in me ... I've polished it up pretty well. But because of my tough early environmental circumstances, I learned to overcome. I've always written here that I wouldn't necessarily try to mimic my personal drive, competitive nature, or training habits ... but I don't think it's too much to ask to never give up. At times I look around and think we're all simply broken hearted little boys and girls. We all have a story, some happy ... some sad. But I'm a firm believer that what you choose to do with that adversity defines your character, and can take you a long way toward happiness. I had some tough early years, but my faith, belief in myself, determination, and relentless drive have helped make me, me. At times I'm a really good me. But there are still some rough edges that I'm trying to smooth out. And there's still pain from a broken heart that unfortunately reveals itself on my worst days. But I never want to wallow in it or use it as an excuse. I simply want to get up everyday, face what it brings, and to do everything in my power to have strongest broken heart.
... be great today!