‘Why?’ Series: The Change that Led to Be About Change
Things had been building up for a while. It was September 2015, I was approaching a year of sobriety, and coming to terms with many fears that had boiled up to the surface. Where was I going? What was I doing? Why was I doing it? Was this really all life had to offer? Why did it seem like everywhere I looked I was surrounded by people who just didn’t care about the things I cared about? Why was everyone so fake? Why couldn’t people just acknowledge their own hypocrisies? I found it ironic that here I was sober for 11 months, and I’m hitting bottom…again? It’s not supposed to be that way! So…I did what I had never done before, and I accepted my darkness, loved it, and found strength in it. And the funny thing is…it wasn’t some flash of a moment, but rather a practice…a series of physical and mental habits I developed over time, and still practice to this day.
The urge to revert to my default responses was strong, and leading up to my decision to embrace my darkness, I often fantasized about the room temperature shot of tequila, hitting the back of my throat – that first shot always used to just slit the throat of the loud demon on my back, silencing it, even if only till morning. Never mind how everything else became magnified…at least the noise would just shut up for a little while. Yeah…I knew this darkness was either going to destroy me or…REALLY destroy me. But I knew where that train led. Hell, everyone in my life knew where that train led. So…I wrote my most honest song, and I signed up for a half marathon – the latter of which I had never done before. And honestly, I was looking forward to the physical pain I knew would come as a result of training.
I had run a few 5ks here and there, nothing serious. But I knew if I wanted a different outcome from the usual self-pity trips, I had to actually DO something different. So I trained for ten weeks. I had a love/hate relationship with the long runs. I often joked with Lindsay and my friends Joel and Stephon about how the long runs felt like getting hit by a truck…out of commission for the whole day.
The half marathon itself was grueling. Mile 7, running down Davidson Street along the Cumberland. They say it’s scenic. There wasn’t anything scenic about some guy running down the street, hips burning, and hamstring making itself known. I thought to myself “this is nothing like training was.” And then there was the trek into Shelby Park. They said “oh you just run in a ways then turn around and come back.” Let me tell you, watching the people on the other side on the way back, at one point, I thought they must be teleporting from another dimension, because where I’m headed, it’s never-ending, and it’s only getting worse! Finally made it to the turn-around, and I don’t think it was even mile 9 yet. I remember watching people stop to stretch. I should have done the same, but instead my stride that started out as a world class athlete (haha) was now that of man approaching death. But I was too stubborn to stop. Finally made it to the straightaway, and sprinted at what seemed like 30 miles an hour, but was probably 3-5 mph. I finished.
After the race, I was sore for weeks, but I had trained my mind to confront and embrace darkness as a part of me, and harness the energy from it to make myself stronger. This was a new concept for me.
Soon thereafter, I started writing a column for a local newspaper, writing stories about people that influenced our community in a positive way. One of my articles was rejected, with no specific reason or direction for edits for improvement. Like any artist, I was initially angered and frustrated, but I quickly remembered my recent mental conquest.
So I started the blog, Be About Change, with the same premise. I knew I wanted it to have a meaningful impact, rather than simply be just a collection of articles, so I founded the nonprofit of the same name – Be About Change. Why the name, “Be About Change?”
I was talking with a good friend of mine some years back about personal goals and short-term plans, and his simple response to me was, “Don’t just talk about change. BE about change.” At that time I failed at accomplishing those goals, but his words were ingrained in my mind. As a result, the people about whom I write are people that live this way – people that refuse to live passively in quiet observation of our world. People that strive to improve the lives of others. People that act as a resource of empowerment to those around them. People that ARE about change.
I recruited a board of these kinds of people, with diverse backgrounds and experiences, and the same core drive to affect our world in a positive way. Together, we promote expression through writing and raise funds for higher education scholarships for students from low-income households. We’ve started locally in Nashville, and we invite students to submit content about people and/or efforts that make their communities stronger. The point is, although we are not perfect, by focusing on the things that make us stronger, despite circumstances, despite odds, and despite our temptation to give up, we actively create the world we want, through action.
We are here to combat the air of negativity and materialism our culture embraces as a means to distract ourselves from our purpose–and that purpose, for me, is to love. It is to forgive when we have the strongest urges to judge and embrace wrath, and it is to help those our society punishes and leaves helpless. It is to adopt a lifestyle of rigorous honesty that promotes the concept that WE ARE RESPONSIBLE for one another and WE ARE CAPABLE of change, even when confronted with our darkest moments.
I was talking with a good friend the other day, and I presented him with the notion that I believe our dark moments are nothing more than invitations to do something physical or something creative or something for someone else. He reminded me that “often times the root of the darkness is from a reactive state of mind, one where a person is dealing with “what is” rather than “what can be” – if one is actively creating that. Focusing on “what can be” instead becomes an act of will (running) or creating of the self. Thus, the darkness is often dealing with either an outside influence or an internal struggle based on an identity, perhaps created by an outside influence.”
However you look at it, darkness is an opportunity. It is a moment or series of moments, and it is in this moment that we must love ourselves, for better or worse, love those around us for better or worse, and learn to Be About the Changes we seek.
Find out about ways to get involved here.
A note to the alcoholic or addict that still suffers
I wish I could tell you there is a magic solution. I haven’t found one. However, I have found hope, in a world where I was sure it did not exist. If you feel you need help, I encourage you to tell someone. Anyone. You may reach out to me at anytime, and I will listen and/or share my own experiences with you. Please also check out the first link at the bottom under “Spirit.” You are not alone.
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Comments 3 Comments
You’re right…the darkness still ‘peeks through.’ It’s funny…the more I’ve thought about a response to this the more I conclude how darkness must simply be our resistance to an event…rather than the event itself. I’ve also lately concluded that darkness (our “resistance”) is simply an invitation to grow stronger…in much the same way “resistance” training makes us physically stronger. Would not tackling the mental aspects of resistance do the same to our minds?
One thing I didn’t discuss in the article is the close relationship between the mental and physical…and, despite the opportunities found in physical training when it comes to overcoming (or perhaps even suppressing) mental struggle, there exists a very real potential for injury, if the individual is…too focused on escaping the mental aspects. I alluded to it when I said, “And honestly, I was looking forward to the physical pain I knew would come as a result of training.” Although somewhat humorous, it’s analogous to Major Payne saying, “You want me to show you a little trick to take your mind off that pain?” and proceeds to suggest transferring the pain.
It’s funny how the potential for self-destruction remains constant, whether we confront our darkness in “healthy” ways or abusive ways. True, the balance is necessary…or at least sought after. Maybe the balance is in averaging out all the efforts, and not actually some effort measured between 49-51%.
Forgot to click the option to receive notification of any follow-up comments 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for inspiring people to embrace the darkness they encounter in their lives, and to do something with it. What’s interesting for me to think about is the concept of thinking about darkness in terms of gradations, and how, as with so many things, there is a process of transition and slight change.
The process of long-distance running, and the various shades of dark and light encountered within that journey of 13 or 26 miles – before the “finish line,” when perhaps one’s own struggle with darkness is ever so slightly affected: preferably lightened by the persistent work of an “eraser” such as running . . . Or yoga. And similar to the eraser marks on paper, harsh darkness still stubbornly peeks through, making the hard work of an eraser more obvious to some, possibly more frustrating to others…and yet, still others that may not so readily see the pale screams of darkness, possessing a subconscious desire to deny the human necessity of struggle, not realizing the darkness is always there, waiting in the margins of a paper that only seems bright and white, but that only gains more brightness in acknowledging that initially imperceptible darkness.
It’s a darkness that varies constantly, because it IS that journey of life and light. It’s how we choose to use it while running through various terrains and elevations of life, that will help us strike the balance between acknowledging it, using it, growing from it, and healing from it, before applying the lessons of darkness to more aspects of our lives.
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