I miss the old me…
The kid who got so excited to see a lion at the zoo, he ran toward the cage with gusto, even jumping up on a bench and then leaping over it to get there.
The teenager who could stand in line for hours waiting for venue doors to open, stay on my feet for another few hours with no pain, and then scream himself hoarse at heavy metal concerts.
The man who could wrestle with his wife, both of us laughing ourselves silly, falling off the bed into a hug.
The same man who, years later, could wrestle with his son until both were giggling like school kids.
I used to be so PASSIONATE, man. About music and love. About a killer new song from my favorite band, or a new movie.
I would stay up late into the night, making funky pictures like this one on my phone. Running them through different photo apps until I had the look I was going for.
I then gathered just as much joy out of inserting these pictures into the book of poetry my son, Trey, and I released in 2012 (https://d2jt48ltdp5cjc.cloudfront.net/users/40988/uploads/60c80c59-7789-4df0-8fed-37c143bc2253.pdf).
Oh, and POETRY! I used to write so much poetry. I wrote shoeboxes full for my wife, Laura. Years later, writing poetry is what got me through one of the most tumultuous times in my life, when I was working full-time, attending graduate school full-time, completing an internship at a local prison AND balancing all that with family, surgeries and chronic pain.
I graduated from Drury University with my Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice, but seems I have only written a handful of poems since then.
Speaking of “weird,” I was a weird child. Passionate, yes, but odd. I remember once when it was pouring rain, and I was playing down the street with some of my friends. Instead of running home upon the onset of the torrential downpour, however, I took off my shoes and socks and sauntered home, casually, the rain soaking clear through to my bones.
I just wanted to walk through the puddles with no shoes on. I wanted to feel the water and the mud on my bare feet.
Weird. Mom thought I was crazy, but I hee-hawed all the way to the bathroom to change clothes.
Something occurred to me the other day, however: I am losing my passion.
I don’t wanna walk in the rain anymore. I wanna hide from it.
There used to be so much fire in my eyes, brought on by one of many loves…
The sparkle in my wife’s eyes…
My daughter’s laugh…
My son’s craziness, and later, his drum solos…
And heavy metal.
Yeah, I always had metal.
In this moment of revelation, though, I realized I have allowed chronic pain, fatigue and depression to plunder some of my joy.
Not all of it. I’m not a morose, depressed mess, hiding under the covers from life. Still, in looking back at some of my Facebook profile pics, I realized I’ve gone from this:
Talk about a forced smile.
I miss the old me. That crazy dude who was brave enough to be completely silly with his kids, not caring what anyone thought. That teen who wrote fully nonsensical letters to his crazy Uncle Jim (decades before e-mail), excitedly showing my mom Jim’s return letters, equally insane, only to be met with a quizzical look and a chuckle from her.
That kid who walked barefoot in the rain.
Well, I’m declaring to the world that I am now going to make it my mission to reclaim the old me. I’ve only got one life, and while mine is full of love and laughter, I’ve still allowed a good bit of passion to slip away into the darkness.
I was reminded of this a few days ago when my two-year-old granddaughter asked me if I wanted to go “kill zombies.” Something came over me; I said, “Sure!” and ran into the yard with her, grabbing a limb to act as my “gun.” My seven-year-old grandson and his little sister have been stuck at home in quarantine for a couple months now because of COVID-19, and so HIS games–such as killing zombies–have slowly become HER games.
When I ran into the yard, she and her brother looked simultaneously delighted and shocked.
“Oh SHOOT!” I whispered, pointing toward the north. “I see one, hiding in the trees!”
“Lock and load!” I said quietly. I’m sure she had no clue what I meant, but was smiling at her Poppy, loving every minute of it. “C’mon,” I said, low, “let’s get to work!”
And off we went, killing zombies, man. Yeah, I normally sit on the back patio and just WATCH them play, but this one time, I wanted to join in.
Well, to my grandkids, Joshua and Jenna-Marie, if you’re reading this many years after the writing of it on May 24, 2020, I hope you’re able to tell people, “THAT was when it started! THAT was the day Poppy came back to life.”
But it’s not just pain and depression which can thieve our passion for life. Laura (my aforementioned wife) tragically lost her mom the day before Valentine’s Day two years ago, and says grief had the same effect on her.
You see, my daughter and grandkids were living with us at the time. Thus, Laura felt she couldn’t allow herself to show sadness or grief, since everyone, ESPECIALLY Joshy, was missing “GiGi” (“G.G.” or “Great-grandma”). We all loved her so deeply, and to this day, Joshy still, every now and again, says, “I miss GiGi.”
My daughter and her family bought our house in September 2019, so Laura and I bought another house. Once we were on our own, she at last felt the release to fully grieve.
“I lost myself for a while,” Laura told me this morning when I told her about today’s blog idea. “I just now feel like I’m reclaiming the old me.” A smile crept across her face, and I smiled, too.
Good for you, baby. Proud of ya.
My struggles have not diminished, but I need to change the way I react to them.
“There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” – Nelson Mandela
“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey
“Nothing is as important as passion. No matter what you want to do with your life, be passionate.” – Jon Bon Jovi
Yeah, I know, sometimes I quote the Bible, other times I quote Jon Bon Jovi and Oprah. Whatever works, man.
If you can relate, I challenge you to follow me on the journey to reclaim passion.