Blogpost, self-reliance

There Was a Time…

There was a time when I didn’t understand my parent’s (and other older people’s) fixation on where they were upon hearing that Kennedy was shot. It was definitely a historical moment, worthy of remembrance but I just didn’t understand. Now that we are twenty years removed from September 11th, I kind of understand. My life basically split into two on that day. Some of that would have happened without the attack but in so many ways, my present life tracks directly back to that day.

It was one of the oddest days of my teaching career. I got called down to the office at one point in early part of the day. In a conference room, they had the TV on where the students wouldn’t see. I was being given a glimpse of events that I needed pretend were not happening for the next several hours. As the day unfolded, parents started picking up their kids and yet I needed to pretend like nothing was wrong. By the last period, few students were left and they all knew something was up. Something was different.

Perhaps everyone who lived through the Kennedy assassination feels the same way. As if that one horrific event had changed their entire existence. Or maybe it was just the period of my life that caused the splitting. Regardless, it’s there. A scar from a cut that I wish never happened but it did. So what do we with an unwanted past? Do we run from it? Forget it? Or leverage it?

One of the beautiful things that seems to happen around many tragedies is that people come together. Differences that seemed important yesterday are cast aside. Humans have an amazing ability to be the best versions of themselves when things are at their worst. Not because we are special or supernatural but rather it is who we are deep inside. We are born literally through adversity. Any mother will tell you that it is called “labor” for a reason. Unfortunately we tend to shield ourselves from adversity because comfort feels better.

My life before September 11th was largely filled with comfort. This second life has had a lot more struggle and difficulty but it’s made me who I am now. This is not a call for tragedy. It is a call for embracing those hard things that instruct. Not pain for pain’s sake but pain for progress! There was a time when I was afraid of difficult periods, I’m not afraid anymore. Hopefully we’ll meet on that other side!

Never forget! You’re stronger than you realize!

Pete

Blogpost, self-reliance

Mac and Cheesmo

Machismo is defined as “strong or aggressive masculine pride.” It is not widespread everywhere but seems to be more represented in certain cultures. There is probably a bit of it in most areas in the world. In the US, there are archetypes of what a “man’s man” is. People like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne or Sylvester Stallone have portrayed this idea in movies. While I’m not particularly a fan of the overblown male ego, I’m less impressed by the situation that I’m about to describe. The proliferation of “mac and cheesmo.”

I may fumble the description a bit because I just know it when I see it. Mac and cheesmo is the completely artificial representation of toughness or manliness. It seems to show up when someone knows they are going to fail. So rather than stare their inadequacies in the face, they fake an injury, claim an impediment, act like they never really cared, or blame their circumstances. It’s not so much the denial of the failure that is bothersome but rather the posturing that goes along with it. There are theatrics and hysterics that come along with the failure that are completely unnecessary. No one is out to criticize or belittle the person for failing. Somehow they feel that the charade is necessary to save some face but they are only fooling themselves. We can all see through the act.

I suppose it is appropriate the examples of “manliness” were actors because it’s a profession where your role is bigger than your real persona. Each of those men probably had or has weak spots that gets exposed. In life we are all acting on one level or another. We play the role of ourselves each and every day. The question is whether or not we are playing our true selves or some artificial boxed version. Although I cannot speak for everyone, I know when the fake me is on display. It’s uncomfortable and feels wrong. I don’t like it. The reason that I find mac and cheesmo so offensive is that it feigns strength where weakness would have been ok. I’m sure that I’ve been mac and cheesmo myself but now that I’ve got the term, I’ll try to avoid it more.

Between our food, clothing and other things where artificial has become the norm, my hope is that we don’t need be so artificial. If we are consistently being fake, then eventually we’ll forget what is real. I’d like to believe that there is inherent value to being authentic even when it hurts. Otherwise, no one truly ever knows us or even worse, we never really know ourselves. So please do your best to avoid the mac and cheesmo today. The real version of you may not fit in a box and that’s ok!

Let’s get cookin’!

Pete