Diary 57 (I think I knew your mother)

I was planning on writing about something completely different this week. I was actually halfway done with my column when something happened.

 

I received an email.

It was from a woman named Emily, and in the subject line it read,

“I think I knew your mother.”

 

Now, I have plenty of moms that claim me as their son who played a large part in helping raise me. It’s pretty awesome actually.

But Emily said she knew Joyce.

She wanted to know if I happened to be her son.

She wanted to tell me how my mom changed her life.

 

Every so often, moments of self-evaluation occur for me. They always happen right at the perfect moment. Usually it’s during the times when things are going great and I feel like I have it all together. When I feel like my house is pretty clean.

 

Then boom.

 

What the heck is that smell?

 

Like the Batman signal calling a savior to assist with the problem, a light is shined on the dirty laundry that I’ve hidden in my closet and forgotten all about.

And conviction speaks loudly to me, saying,

“Silly Goose! Baron, don’t be gross, clean that up. You know better than that. Come on.”

 

Just like the voice of a mother disciplining her son out of love.

I remember my mom used to say, “silly goose.”

Then, embarrassed that I’ve allowed the smelly pile of filthy clothes to secretly accumulate, I begin to clean.

 

I have always hated cleaning. I despise it. Especially dirty dishes, but I like a clean house. I guess that in itself is symbolic of why dirty piles of hidden things accumulate in my life.

Honestly a large part of me hates these moments. And even more so, I hate sharing them.

It’s not easy.

It’s strange that the things I talk about with no one, not even myself;

I end up sharing with everyone.

 

And even more strange is that typically the first time I put my thoughts into words they are in the form of a blog post or column for all to read. And the most ironic thing of all is that I learn the most from the things that I write.

 

Writing is my therapy, and many times it takes me reading my own words to listen to anyone. Sometimes the stories I tell impact me the most.

I need it.

So now it’s time to clean. Time to strip down and share some things about me that I’ve only said to a handful of people …

Ever.

Mainly because when I put these feelings or lack thereof into words, they even make me cringe. Because I know they are absolutely true, and absolutely messed up, and the worst part of all is that I don’t care.

 

Well…. until recently, but we will get to that later.

 

This is my dirty laundry.

And it smells really bad.

 

I lack empathy, and grace is often non-existent on my list of character traits.

I feel that loved ones will always care about me more than I care about them. I can walk away from any relationship and not feel bad.

 

My friend Cecily always jokes and says that I have a heart of stone. I just laugh, but it is impossible for me to ever disagree.

 

I store feelings, emotions, and relationships in carefully stacked and neatly organized boxes, ready for deletion when they become what I view as no longer beneficial or can be categorized as baggage.

 

I don’t have one relationship that I feel is not expendable to a point. Some of you who know me are reading this and might be thinking,

“Well obviously he doesn’t mean me. Baron likes me! We’re friends.  I’m not one of the expendable ones.”

 

No. You are.

 

You are expendable. You can be deleted.

 

And yeah that’s messed up. I know that, and I hate it.  But I don’t care really.

And yeah, that’s even more messed up. And with everything I don’t have, I wish I cared more.

But I don’t.

This is the smell that has my house foul. This is my pile of filth.

I view people as beneficial or non-beneficial. And non-beneficial individuals, I view as baggage. Simply dead weight that will only hold me back. So I keep them at a distance and, if needed, delete the little box in which they are stored.

 

And just like that.

 

Poof.

 

Problem solved.

 

I call this “Giving ‘em the axe.”

It’s actually been a very useful skill at times. It’s allowed me to surround myself with only people that are beneficial to my goals.

Like trimming the fat.

 

I know this isn’t a good thing. I know it’s selfish.  But I haven’t really cared. It’s been a formula and way of operating that largely has allowed me to succeed in life.

Deep down I really don’t care if people’s feelings are hurt by me. I don’t care if I offend them. I don’t care about their problems, unless I can help fix them. I don’t care about their opinions.

And I wish I cared more.

But I don’t.

When people who care about me tell me that they miss me, I either simply say, “Thank you,” or I work up the power to lie and tell them that I miss them too. Because that’s the normal thing to say right? I think so.

But truthfully I don’t.

 

I simply don’t miss things.

 

And very rarely do I miss people.

I don’t even know how to explain that, other than the fact that I am so selfishly focused on my own life that I don’t let thoughts of others’ absence occupy my thoughts.

The only person I can truly say I consistently miss is Joyce Batch, my mom.

So yeah, for those of you who read that and thought, “But Baron said he missed me before.”

 

I don’t.

 

I’m sorry. I lied. That’s the truth.

To counteract and balance the knowledge that the way I operate is not ok, I’ve developed a brutal honesty when dealing with people. I do my best not ever to lie, even at the destruction of someone’s emotions.  This allows me to be ok with who I am and how I operate, while at the same time giving individuals fair warning that they will always end up being emotionally hurt more than I ever will. It’s almost like a courtesy warning.

Like caution tape.

In my mind I feel like it makes it a little bit ok if I don’t lie when asked by others if I miss them. But what I’ve learned is that people aren’t very welcoming to the truth when it deals in matters like this, because most people handle emotions emotionally.

 

Because that’s normal I think.

 

But I can only process them logically most of the time, so this always becomes an issue, resulting in unwanted baggage that is not mine.

And this results in deletion.

 

For everything I have an exit strategy.

 

Gosh that sounds awful. I hate it. But I don’t care.

This is the reason I suck at relationships. Because deep down they are never as important to me as they are to the other person. This is the reason I have very few close friends, because the ones I do have must believe that all of what I have explained is true, and then be ok with it …

 

Even though it’s really messed up and selfish of me.

 

That’s why I believe I have the best friends in the world. Because deep down I know I am the worst.

 

And yet they stick around.

 

Honestly lately, I’ve actually desired the feeling of absence, or the true feeling of missing someone or something. I’ve wished that I had something worth not walking away from, even though that thing isn’t necessarily beneficial, and could possibly classify as baggage.

 

Just something that on its own is worth it, even if logically it is not.

 

Something worth not deleting.

Something that is not stored in a box and stacked neatly, with a tag on it that indicates whether it’s beneficial or not.

Something or someone that I trust enough to allow to roam free uncontained.

I’d really like to ditch my exit strategy that I keep for everything and everyone.

But the truth is, I can’t do any of that right now.

 

Because I have to do my laundry first.

And yeah I know, that’s all messed up. It was hard for me to read these words as soon as I typed them. But my fingers keep moving.

I’ve known it for a long time. I know it needs to be fixed.

Largely, it’s one of the reasons I’m happier when I’m single and most peaceful when I am alone.  It’s one of the reasons I am an introvert and enjoy my own company so much. Because when I’m by myself I don’t have to worry about someone else being baggage.

It is the reason I love to write and paint, because both of those things are not constrained to a box.

Those are the things that have escaped.

They are the only things that roam free.

And both are their own exit strategy. They are my therapy.

 

I need them.

They are the few ways that I have ever shown my true feelings and emotions, and the way I am most honest with others and myself.

They are what my soul looks like. And reassurance at times that it is alive and well, when sometimes I become doubtful.

 

The reason this all needs to be addressed is this.

 

I will simply end up being unhappy when it’s all said and done.

I’m not unhappy right now, but it will happen.

I will be successfully unhappy and alone, surrounded by neatly arranged stacks of boxes.

 

And I don’t want that.

 

The issue has been the willingness to acknowledge any of this as a problem, because it has helped me survive up until this point.

And just like that, right when I think I have my house in order; I get an awful whiff of my hidden filth.

 

Fifteen years ago my mom sent me a message. It was carried with care by a special messenger for over a decade, and delivered with perfect timing.

 

Her name is Emily.

And she knew Joyce.

And Joyce changed her life.

 

Come back next week to read how.

 

Blessings,

 

Baron

Posted 11 months ago

 

Diary 56 (It all falls down part 2)

Sorry to disappoint, but no, I did not tear down my home with my bare hands.

No, I did not shed any tears over getting cut.

Actually, everyone else was much more disappointed upon hearing the news than I was.

I wasn’t disappointed at all.

And this is why.

Actually after leaving the Steelers facility for the last time, I went straight to my art studio located on the third floor of my house and began to paint.

And at that moment an awesome feeling washed over me. I remember thinking,

“This is my job now. I’m my boss.”

Pretty cool thought.

And as I moved forward from football that day, the swaying tower crumbled.

And just like that, the least interesting thing about my life was gone.

I learned the dangers of only having one swaying tower a long time ago, and since then I have stayed busy building multiple towers with more stable foundations than athletics.

Because unlike some, I’ve been blessed to understand and believe the truth that football has been a swaying tower ready to collapse for quite some time. In fact, that tower began to sway the moment I first began to play way back in 7th grade at Goddard Junior High School in Midland, Texas.

The reality is that from the moment I ever began playing football, the clock began to tick as to when it would end for me, and over the last 5 years I have done everything in my power to ensure that it would not be my only option.

I refused to ever become crushed under the weight of the rubble of my own creation, entrapped in a tomb of crumbled time, work, emotion, dedication and love, wondering what exactly happened and surprised at the fact that the tall swaying structure eventually collapsed.

Because when you stack and stack and stack.

Eventually.

If all falls down.

“What are you going to do when you’re done playing football?”

I was asked that question frequently while I was still playing, and my response was always, “Continue to do everything that I am doing now.”

And because of that, I have not missed football for a second, because of that I am fulfilled, and because of that I am very happy.

Since I’ve decided to move onto other challenges and goals in life and leave the game of football, I have realized one gigantic truth as to what football did for me that I’m more thankful for than anything.

Because of football I am competitive.

Because of football I appreciate and accept hard work as part of life.

Because of football I began to write.

Because of football I began to speak.

Because of football I began to paint.

Because of football I began to make salsa.

Because of football I moved to Pittsburgh, a city that I love.

Because of football I have friendships that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Many athletes identify with the game so much that when it is gone they are stripped of their identity.

Strangely enough it was the other way around for me, and I thank God for allowing me to see this.

Football did give me my identity in a strange way. But it was never that of a football player. It was as a writer, traveler, photographer, artist, chef, speaker and many other things.

And that’s because I was blessed to see that when you stack, and stack, and stack all you have into one swaying tower, eventually…

It all falls down.

But my towers are many.

Out of all the touchdowns and plays that I made, and things I got to do and see because of football, I am thankful for one thing more than anything else that it did for me.

Football allowed me to walk away proudly from it, and into a life that is better than only being a football player could ever be.

Football and I had a beautiful love affair and an even lovelier divorce.

We have parted ways on good terms appreciating the time we had together, and understanding that our time was limited all along.

From the moment we met, we began to part ways.

From the day we fell in love on the football fields of Goddard Junior High School all those years ago back in Midland, Texas, until our separation; it has been quite the adventure.

Football my dearest, thank you.

Without you I am everything I was meant and made to be, but meeting you helped me get here.

Thank you for the injuries and scars. Thank you for the memories.

You will not be missed or mourned; no tears will be shed for you.

Football my dearest, you are only appreciated.

You were a big chapter in my life with so many stories.

Stories of both triumph and failure.

But at the end of the day, you were just that; only a chapter in my book. And in a strange way deep down I always knew you wouldn’t be the most important one.

Strangely enough my fingers are not sticking to the pages when closing this chapter. It’s quite easy actually.

All the words have been written, and I’m proud of the pages before me.

I am who I want to be, but not who I can be. I am where I want to be, but have many places left to go. I am who I am.

And I am happy.

My old chapter is done. A new chapter starts now.

 

Blessings,

Baron

Posted 12 months ago

 

Diary 55 (It all falls down)

When you build a single earthly thing into all you have, by stacking time, effort, emotions, work, dedication, and love into a swaying tower. That thing will become weak.

And at some point …

It all falls down.

Getting cut from the Pittsburgh Steelers was the hardest thing that I have ever had to go through in my life. It was awful. I didn’t think that it would hit me like it did. I haven’t cried in years but that day I bawled my eyes out like a little baby.

Big heavy crocodile tears.

Tears so big that they had tears of their own.

They streamed down my cheeks and pooled into the corners of my mouth where hopeless emotions canoed without direction.

When I got the call to come meet with Coach T and Kevin Colbert the general manager because I was getting released, I punched a hole in the brick wall of my house, straight through to the outside.  I didn’t even feel any pain because my emotions were running so high.

I think it gave me super human strength or something like that.

Dang it.

If only I could have tapped into these powers throughout the pre-season maybe I would have done enough to make the team!

“I hate you Baron! I hate you. You let me down.”

“But I gave it my all man! I really did, we both know that.”

“Just shut up. Be quiet. You’re a failure. You squandered such an opportunity. You wasted the only good thing you had. Good luck with life now ya bum!”

With the growing intensity of this internal dialogue also came increased superhuman strength. As I stormed out of my house I didn’t even bother opening the heavy wooden door to exit, I simply reared back and kicked that thing straight off the hinges.

I still couldn’t believe this was happening. I was getting fired. I was losing my job.

Again …

And on my day off on top of that!

I was having the one good thing that I had going taken from me. I had put all I had into football and nothing else. And now it was ending.

As I stormed out of my house to my car, I punched the two brick pillars that held the entire weight of my front awning that cover my porch.

With these two powerful anger filled blows, the two pillars disintegrated into dust.  And as I began to walk away from the home that I had just remodeled and finally felt comfortable in, behind me it began to crumble into pieces.

My entire home began to fall apart and collapse.

I knew that my football career, my life, and all my talents were doomed to follow.

Gone.

All the things that I cared about and built were crumbling before me.

And just like the dust cloud that was once my home that sat in rubbles behind me.

All was lost.

I had built a swaying tower. Stacking all I had on top of something with a fairly uncertain base and even more so unstable.

And the thing that I had feared of happening all along, played out in the matter of seconds in the form of one dreaded phone call.

And just like that.

When you stack, and stack, and stack…

It all falls down.

 

Wait.

Hold on.

That’s just how most people that don’t know me well assumed I would have reacted.

That isn’t what happened at all.

But come on guys! You all should know better. You know me.

Come back next week to hear the rest.

Posted 12 months ago

 

Hooves of Legacy (Part 3 of the Fearless Series)

On West Texas sunsets far he rides

Discontent yet satisfied

Rolling clouds they root him on

In the distance courageous songs they hum

Where others feared, The Rider went

To leave his mark, the hill was his

This lofty place, most would have stopped

Atop the hill the pretentious mock

But not the Rider, he quickly leaves

Because he knows what comes with Victory

He knows that Content is on his heels

Where Victors stop, Pride slowly kills

Gloating, lazy, satisfied

They construct a tomb where passion dies

Then willingly they climb inside

Where the top is sealed by the Victors pride

But the Rider knows what few can see

There’s no such thing as Victory

A mirage for those that lack the will

To forever ride ignoring hills

Those discouraged, by valleys dark

Who eye high ground, where they plan to stop

But he is discontent with victory

Because what he pursues is Legacy

On this pursuit he will conquer hills

And valleys deep that strengthen will

But pounding hooves, these never stop

Not in valleys low, or hills atop

Hills become mountains, and strength is gained

And after mountains, canyons await

Forever riding the highs and lows

The Rider learns what few come to know

Guns held high with glowing light

He proceeds into the dark of night

A valley could await, or possibly a hill

Rejoicing mountains, or canyons of tears

Purpose begins when hooves meet the ground

And when hooves won’t stop

Legacy is found

 

hooves of legacy

 

Posted 12 months ago