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Sunday, February 5, 2017

I LIVE Right Here...

* I have another blog called "Just One More Shift" which chronicles my somewhat insane journey to play men's hockey this fall for Liberty's D3 team. I wrote this piece on that site a few days ago. It's really worth sharing here. Enjoy.

I spent six years living in my car.
Most of you know this, many of you do not. The more people this blog reaches, the more it might need to be explained. You can always find my story by googling me. I won't go into it here, in depth. The thumbnail is: I was in the mortgage business for ten years. 2008 happened. I lost my entire career and my home. I had to stay in Nashville because my daughter's world was falling apart at her mom's house. (We had been divorced for many years prior to 2008) I couldn't find work there so I slept in my car.
There is a whole lot more. A full book's worth in fact. But this isn't the place for that.
I'm only giving the story as a backdrop. When asked "Where do you live?" it was hard to answer. Sadly, looking back on it, the answer at that time was; "Nowhere." I don't mean I had no place to live. That was true on the surface. But this morning I was thinking about this journey I'm on to play college hockey again at 53. The thought came to me; "You live wherever you are at the time." I'll say it again: "You live wherever you are at the time." The emphasis changes everything. There are people who have beautiful, expensive, expansive houses and they aren't living at all. There are people who might sleep in the back of a Yukon SUV, as I did, and yet they are so alive and so full of life that one might think they have the life of a celebrity.
That's what's at the essence of this blog and this daunting task I have undertaken. I want to live.
I learned the hard way, during those six incredibly hard years, that living, and being alive are two different things. When people ask me where I live now, I answer, "Right here...right where I am." I want to live! I want people to look at my life and see something God did that seemed like it was horrible and painful and terrible and see something good coming out of it. It was all those things. It was horrible and painful and terrible. On the surface, so is childbirth, but the end result is something wonderful: Life.
I'm not attempting this hockey thing for some short range glory or to just gain some sort of fleeting fame. Being the oldest college hockey player in history will certainly lend that on it's own. However, that's not my motivation. I am doing this to live. To look around at the landscape of this place where God moved me three years ago and say; "Okay, what do I have in front of me right now? What am I going to do with that?" That, my friends, is being alive! I work for my alma mater. One of the benefits I get is free tuition for one degree at each level. I have my Bachelor's degree already, so the next step is a Master's degree. I decided a few months ago to pursue my Master's in Communications. It's a natural fit for me. One of the benefits of that is I will be considered a full-time student again. That means, since I only played two seasons, I have eligibility remaining. The opportunity is there. Living means I take advantage of it. I could spend my days getting that degree and not try out for the team. There'd be no shame in that. But in my heart, I want to play one more time. I long to be a part of a team again. I want to smell the rink and feel the excitement of an odd-man rush, and hear the sound of blades cutting through ice.
I don't just want to live here, I want to live. Here.
It's not just hockey. It's life. I have a beautiful guitar sitting in my closet. I enjoy playing. But I haven't taken it out of it's case in two years. I've been too busy. Too busy trying to earn a living.
Is that living, or just being alive? I haven't written nearly enough. I haven't told my story and motivated people. I haven't fly-fished the Tye River and I've been here three years.
I want to play next fall because it's an option. I want to play because it's possible. It's not likely, but it's possible. I used to think that people who said they climbed a mountain "Because it was there..." were out-of-touch hippies. Lot's of things are "there" but we don't necessarily engage them. I get it now, though.
Sir Edmund Hillary failed several times in his attempts to be the first man to climb Everest. One time in particular inspires me. He had lost several of his party in his latest attempt and was called to appear before Parliament to give an update on his progress. He stood before that august group, with a giant map of Everest behind him. He rose to the podium, turned and looked at the map, shook his fist at it and said these words: "You won...this time. But you're a mountain, and I am a man. You're as big as you're ever going to get. But I am still growing!"
That's why you climb a mountain. Or attempt your first marathon at age seventy. Or determine to run at least one mile, every single day for the rest of your life, as my friend Terry Lancaster has, and radically changed his life.
It's why a 53 year old man decides he has one more year of college hockey in him. Because every day when he goes to work, he sees the nicest hockey rink in the entire ACHA and he knows there is a team he might be able to make, and to not try is to not live.
That team is there already. It's not going anywhere. But I might be able to grow enough to reach that summit, and pull on an LU sweater one more time, and plant my flag on that patch of real estate where I am living at the moment.
When people ask me, this time next year, "So where do you live?" I want to be sure that I'm being honest when I say: "Right here. I live, right here."
Here we go!